YOU ARE SO LUCKY PARTIES ON AT ALDER MANOR
There are always New Yorkers who will lament the state of nightlife in the city, yearning for the kind of unhinged debauchery mostly understood through photos of decades past. But several times a year up at a mansion in Yonkers, hundreds gather to relinquish the routine of daily life for a night of fervor and abandon. “What we all strive for in this is creating a moment of catharsis,” says William Etundi Jr., co-founder of You Are So Lucky, the event production group that is intent on making the most fantastical nights a reality. “It absolutely is sensory overload.”
For the last couple of years, Etundi and his You Are So Lucky partner Kevin Balktick have hosted parties at Alder Manor, a 72-room historic landmark in Yonkers. Despite the isolated setting and secretive approach to the event, You Are So Lucky is a legal event, though Etundi didn’t start his career that way. “When I was twenty producing events, it was about creating a moment and a lot of the events were free and illegal,” he explains. “We took over subway trains, took over the Brooklyn Bridge for a huge event, took over the entire Coney Island Boardwalk, so it’s always been about the experience for us.” His most famous party, Danger, ran from 2001 to 2010. “These events I used to do were these massive-scale warehouse events that were like a mash-up of art and performance, and just crazy bedlam. It was kind of like Burning Man smashed into a warehouse.”
Somewhere along the way, Etundi began to feel the redundancy and tedium all industry types experience at one point or another. But for people in nightlife and production, the allure of creating a new experience is always there. “[Kevin an I] both stopped for a few years when it felt like stuff got less interesting. The big warehouse parties were kind of coming to a close in our eyes,” he says. “We got a little bit bored with being out of the game, and came back in. And that’s when You Are So Lucky was born.” Etundi didn’t simply want to rekindle the glories of past events; his parties had to mature with his outlook. “Now, in my thirties, I’m like, ‘There’s something we can do now that combines the incredible æsthetic of what we did in the past within a legal framework, and that can still be interesting. And it took me a little bit of growing up to really appreciate that.”
The most recent event was Halloween, which Etundi wants to be an annual fixture at the mansion. It was the perfect opportunity to experience the offerings of You Are So Lucky (the “best weekend in NYC, hands down” according to Etundi). A quick walkthrough of the property exposes viewers to various scenes of revelry. You can walk into one room to find a performer offering to bathe you in rose petals, walk into another which has been co-opted by guests looking to fulfill their own amorousness, and walk into yet another room to find a crowd gazing on an artful (and explicit) bondage performance. No one ever knows what they’ll get, and many will go through the night without encountering any of that, if that’s the experience they choose (by one AM, many resign themselves to the basement dancefloors). “You’re not stepping into a theater show, but you are stepping into an idea that has a bit of a narrative to it,” Etundi says. “And the more that you explore, the more that narrative is going to pick up.” As the night progressed, the theme of “Temptations and Consequences” was apparent, with some form of sensory indulgence in every corner of the manor.
Elaborate costumes are expected for a Halloween party, but guests tend to be liberal with their outfits regardless of the occasion or season. “People come so prepared, their look is amazing. People are really going to all efforts to make this a magic night, not just for them but for everyone around them,” Etundi says. Much of that stems from the event’s “Burning Man” connotations—it’s not affiliated in any way, but many of the guests are “burners” who bring that mentality to the mansion. Many are content to simply dance around bonfires in the yard in elaborate costumes and robes. It’s there that guests are required to come in with an open mind; this isn’t the type of downtown fashion event where people are so often posturing and posing. Part of the experiencing is embracing the camp to the point where it’s no longer a consideration, and it’s the one thing that always amazes Etundi: “I’m surprised that people aren’t jaded; people are so willing to be into it. The non-jadedness is so refreshing.”
At a time when creative communities and festival culture can feel overwrought and even commoditized, it’s a challenge for brands to evolve and meet demand without sacrificing their original intent. But by focusing on the experience, Etundi doesn’t have to worry about those external factors too much. “It’s nice for us to see that that’s become this desired thing in the public eye, and is now economically sustainable, but for us it’s still about creating this thing that we think is engaging and interactive and amazing.” It’s why You Are So Lucky has become such a famously desired destination for a few weekends every year, and it couldn’t exist at a better time than now. “This city is so intense, the politics of the moment is so degrading,” he explains. “To come out with a bunch of people and have an incredible, beautiful, and completely cathartic explosion of energy is something we all need, and these nights are made for it.”
For more information, please visit YouAreSoLucky.com.