Village Voice: In Defense of Ultragrrrl

The most controversial figure in New York’ s music scene is sitting in a T.G.I. Friday’s on West 34 th Street, eating some disgustingly delicious fried food. Sarah Lewitinn, the blogger, published author, DJ, VH1 commentator, and a&r rep known professionally as Ultragrrrl, is five foot one, with chin-length, bobbed brown hair (the previous color, purple, is long gone), and looks not one iota like one of “the most influential people in music,” as New York magazine dubbed her last year. She doesn’t look like the kind of girl who’d inspire bloggers and Internet denizens to hate her with a passion so great they create message-board threads with titles like “I Want to Shoot Ultragrrrl in the Face.” Nor does she seem like one of the “50 Most Loathsome People in New York,” as the New York Press once dubbed her.

For now she’s just a normal girl digging in to a heart-attack-inducing meal—crispy green-bean fries and a fatty Tuscan portobello melt. She sits with the singer of Permanent Me, one of the signees to her new label, Stolen Transmission—the Long Island pop-punk band has just played for 2,000 people across the street at the Hammerstein Ballroom, opening for Fall Out Boy. There are two hours to kill before the headliners go on, so we eat our greasy food with relish.

When we head back to the venue, she looks for a kid in need of a ticket. She has an extra, and wants to make someone’s night. She eyes a teary blonde teenager who’s outside the front door crying hysterically—either she just got kicked out or the guards won’t let her in. Looking like a teenager herself, Lewitinn, slightly disheveled in a black-and-white polka-dot dress, mussed-up hair, and smeared eyeliner, takes up the cause; Lewitinn tries to convince the authoritarian security guards that she’s not some desperate girl trying to get a stranger backstage.

“I work for the label,” Ultragrrrl says, pointing to her all-access pass.

The security guard’s stern expression doesn’t change, and the blonde becomes more despondent. Lewitinn continues to argue. “But why? Let her in—this is a legitimate ticket. I work for the label.” She thrusts the ticket into the girl’s hand.

The guard gets more annoyed with each pleading cry from both ladies, though, and for a second it looks like nobody’s getting in. Reluctantly, Lewitinn gives up, and we leave the teen to her own devices as we head inside.

“I used to be that girl, up in the front row, jumping up and down,” Lewitinn says a little wistfully. “Now I’m in the back.”

But the farther back she gets, the closer she gets to the spotlight herself. Ultragrrrl now has to sell records with the same enthusiasm and magnetism she once used to sell herself.