Simsbury Native Writes About His Friendship With Lady Gaga

Brendan Jay Sullivan befriended Lady Gaga in New York in 2006 when she was a go go dancer struggling to become known as a singer and he was a bartender and DJ struggling to become known as a writer.

Sometimes these days, reporters writing about the pop superstar call Sullivan, a 2000 graduate of Simsbury High, to ask him about the old days, looking for a good quote.

He's done that and doesn't want to any more. "I'll explain perfectly how a song came about, the meaning behind it. ... If there's a love song and I tell the love story, they're looking for blood," Sullivan said. "They want to print the drama, they want the breakups, the heartbreak, the double crossing, the two faces. And then they'll put it in my quotes. It's embarrassing.

"So much ink gets spilled over this girl in vain. It's lies, it's trauma, gossip. I had an opportunty to set the record straight in my own words," he said.

So Sullivan has written a book, "Rivington Was Ours: Lady Gaga, The Lower East Side and the Prime of Our Lives" (It Books, 352 pp., $11.98), which officially went on sale recently.

Lady Gaga is now world famous. Sullivan doesn't see her much anymore, but he sent Gaga and her parents copies of his book before it was published. He didn't expect or want a response, but he got one anyway from Gaga: "She loves it," Sullivan said.

Sullivan isn't doing too badly himself. He's a globe-hopping party DJ. "I go to Dubai, Paris, London, California, militaries, colleges, all over the place," he said.

Still, since he was a teen, he's wanted to be a writer. Sullivan, 31 — the son of Peter and Peggy Sullivan, who now live in Walden, N.Y. — had a Hartford Courant paper route as a boy and dreamed of writing for the paper.

He made it into the Courant, first as the subject of news stories, when he fought school-paper censorship at Simsbury High. Sullivan began contributing stories to The Courant when he was 17, and during summers when he was attending Kenyon College in Ohio studying linguistics and gender theory.

After Kenyon, Sullivan lived briefly in Chicago and then New York, where he was a DJ and tended bar. He was not working as a writer, but he didn't want to get rusty, so he wrote a little every day, in addition to keeping a daily journal about all the things he did and all the people he met.

Lady Gaga Book

That habit of writing down his experiences when they were still fresh in his mind helped him years later, when he wrote an article in Esquire magazine about his old friend Gaga, and then decided to expand it into a book. But he didn't write it just about her. "The only way I could set her in the scene was to show how she was just another person," he said.

"The scene" was the Lower East Side. "Rivington Was Ours" was named after the street in that Manhattan neighborhood where Sullivan, Gaga and their crowd hung out. Sullivan's story begins when he is nursing a broken heart and he meets Gaga, whose real name is Stefani Germanotta. He wasn't going by his real name either. He had been dubbed VH1 because he was a DJ.

Among the bartenders, DJs, dancers, singers, bands, party girls, drug dealers and scenesters, all of them night owls, Sullivan and Gaga became fast friends and confidantes. They were never romantically involved, but a few times pretended they were to make their significant others jealous.

She shared her dreams and her demo tapes with Sullivan, and he read her his unpupblished work, and they supported each other's ambitions. "When you're young and you're an artist, you need to find one fan or one reader. When you find one, it steadies you, it's your rudder," he said.

It's wasn't just their shared aspirations that made them bond instantly. Sullivan writes about the night they met:

"How do you want me to put you in my phone?"

"Gaga." Her eyes sparkled like two disco balls. "Put me in your phone as Gaga."