Who the hell is Philip Iosca?
Well, I'll tell you.
I'm sitting on the lobby floor of the Ace—just dubbed the most "original new hotel" in America by The New York Times—at the edge of the biggest coffee table I've ever seen (it's a repurposed fire door). Across from me is one of the Ace's eight "cultural engineers," Iosca, who, at the age of 25, looks exactly the same as he did on the night I met him: Aug. 30, '04. I don't remember the date, but he does, because it's the same night he started dating Pink Martini's bandleader, Thomas Lauderdale.
"That was such a strange night," said the reed-thin, well-mannered, bespectacled Iosca. I'll say. That was the evening I'd interviewed Thomas, at Le Happy, on the eve of Pink Martini's last album release (their next album is due in May). A friend, there to meet Lauderdale, took offense at something I'd asked Thomas, and started an argument with me. And then the Dandy Warhols' Courtney Taylor-Taylor sat down at our table. And, oh yeah, Iosca was there, too.
"It was like a weird show where everyone made a guest appearance," says Iosca. "While everyone else was arguing, I kept thinking how nice it was to spend time with Thomas."
Even though he's got that famous boyfriend now, the same one who's toyed with the idea of running for mayor, there's more to Iosca than being a "first partner." In fact, it's not that far of a stretch to say he's Portland's latest gay ambassador.
New Jersey-born, Iosca spent his formative years in Portland (at Catlin Gabel) and later graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design. In town and done with school, he met Thomas.
"That's when I joined WK12," said Iosca, who worked on such diverse projects as Farm Aid and Wordstock for the advertising agency's ultra-exclusive finishing school. It was there he met Jeremy Pelley, another WK12-er, and together the two became a de facto design team, eventually working their way into the Ace Hotel. One of Iosca's main contributions as a "cultural engineer" for the environmentally friendly, local-centric Ace is a cool Pendleton woolen blanket, featuring a local typeface and the Thompson Elk (the big statue that stands in downtown Portland), that now covers the beds. He also helped on other design elements, but refuses to take credit for any of it because he sees the endeavor as a collaborative process among everyone who worked on it. "It was my first real job," said Iosca. "That was cool."
What's also cool is that for the next two weeks you can still catch his taboo-ish artwork at the Guestroom Gallery (4114 N Vancouver Ave., 284-8378). Iosca has designed—as part of a group show called "Paper Chase"—a group of paper-chain collages made out of images he yanked out of gay porn magazines. And, oh, he was just hired as marketing director for the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art.
Thomas, you really know how to pick 'em.