At first, it may seem like an odd fit: the street wise Ruben Rivera from the block, manning up at the door at the very non-street club, Juliet. Juliet Supperclub is a home run. The old opera/area space on a forgotten factory/gallery block in Chelsea was never supposed to happen. Jon B., the crafty, never-say-die, owner was trying to get rid of the space and couldn’t find a buyer, so he went for it and created one of the most financially viable places around. Jon B. (who will never be known as John “A”—and likes it that way) brought in big time player, Bon Vivant and international man of mystery, Mark Baker, celebrity chef (and my pal) Todd English, ex-Norwood superhero Artan Gjoni and his usual cast of characters to brand his West 21st Street restaurant/club. Jon, at Mark Baker’s insistence, added an unusual cast member… Ruben Rivera. Mark and Ruben worked together at Mansion. Shattered dreams often result in life long friendships. He wants to use the connections he’s made at the door to be an actor. He’s been doing that since 1994 when he appeared in Carlito’s Way with Al Pacino.
Ruben is the consummate team player since high school, when he played point guard for St. Nicholas of Tolentine. The last NYC nationally-ranked number 1 team featured all Americans: Malik Sealy, Adrian Autry and Brian Reese. Ruben used his court skills to get a ride at the University of California Bakersfield. I spent a year in Bakersfield in one night. It’s a very strange place in the middle of nowhere that smells of cattle and oil and is far away from the Bronx in so many ways. Sometimes the best education you can get is seeing what you had and what you never want first hand. At a very young age, Ruben hung at the hip hop clubs in the Bronx and downtown that his mom warned him about. She came looking for him one night. “Anyplace your mom doesn’t want you in must be cool,” he remembers. It was Cuando one night and Car Wash the next, forgotten joints that made icons out of Krs 1, Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie and the Melle Mels of the world. He came down to my joint the world on East 2nd Street where I was trying to do something real.
How did you start doing the door? You started my career. You gave me my first official door. Mark Baker brought me to Juliet. Jon B. wanted someone else. They gave me a shot, and now I help run the place. Same thing happened when I was at Mansion. I care about my job and the venue first before my ego! If I don’t let a person in it’s never personal always for the better of the venue. I also respect the fact that, yes, I am an employee and no I’m not the shit just because I’m the door guy. The door doesn’t make me the person I am.
You and I often talk about respect in our work and in our lives. How does respect figure into your door gig? How do your street chops affect your thought process at the door? Yes, we always talk of respect; that Nate Archibald story you told me is classic. Respect on the court and on the streets. On the job…when did it become cool to pester the door man once he’s already denied a person? I never understand people that stand there for hours. I remember when I would go to a place if the door guy deaded me, I would just walk away. Most of the time a door guy sees you come back again and again and you don’t get in but your always respectful and never cause problems you’ll eventually get in. I know that’s how I operate. Cursing me out will dead you for life. Everywhere I work.
What’s it like working with Mark Baker and Jon B.? Mark Baker works a room. Most promoter types don’t work the room, they horde their girls at their banquette which is like a fortress. Some of these club people show up with their resumes. If you need a resume you suck. People know who’s who. Jon B. is a huge customer service person. He knows how to take care of people. He’s very revenue-driven and a great business man, so he generates tremendous revenue. Our Thursdays are making tons of loot. There are too many clubs right now. The business is oversaturated. The promoters know that if you, as an operator, don’t want them and their crowd, then someone else will. The crowds in general are less classy. It isn’t like the old days at LIFE or Centro Fly.
I went to Juliet once and you were on a break. They had some new guy at the door and he was giving me attitude. I tried to tell him I used to be Steve Lewis until the security guys told him to open up. What’s up with the new jack door people? Some of these guys haven’t paid their dues. The get hired cause they look good in a nice European suit but they have no clue what’s going on. They don’t know who’s who. They don’t know respect or that respect makes the place. The people don’t know them and they don’t know how to handle some &X#@ outside.
How many night’s are you at Juliet? Everyday but Monday. We’re not open Monday. If they open it, I’m not working. I need one day off
What’s your overview of New York nightlife? New York Nightlife is changing right before our eyes. Only the creative owners will survive. Soon money won’t buy your way in like the heydays of New York when fashion, music and energy matter. Coolness! Thanks so much Steve for everything. You’ve been tremendously helpful in my life. That’s real shit. You’ve taught me and continue to teach me the stuff I need to survive in this business.By the way did I tell you that Nate archibald story was classic?
We’ll keep that story to ourselves.
Tonight marks the one year anniversary of Music Maestro…Please! One of my favorite go-to’s. I caught up with Jennifly Green and asked me to tell me all about it.
“We started this event, because no clubs or parties ticked all the boxes for us. We wanted to create a platform for the unsung heroes of music, hence the name Music Maestro…Please! i.e music that you do not hear on the radio or in most clubs. We want to bring back ‘80s NYC where Larry Levan had the amazing paradise garage parties, and it really was about the music without the pretense. We play classic ‘80s boogie, along with disco, rare groove, funk, electro and progressive sounds, with an added flavor of UK soul. The idea to create a London-meets-New-York vibe. Every month we include a special guest DJ, tonight is Waajeed (Platinum Pied Pipers) and Jillionaire, spinning along with Jennifly and Vincent Oshin. This monthly affair is now one year old and is becoming a favorite party in New York City for people who are over the models and bottles and top 40, and who just want go out and hear good music and dance, dance and dance. It’s at subMercer”
A late night text from a ‘player” over at the always fabulous Provocateur: “Justin Ross physically thrown out after sneaking in through hotel service garbage control entrance”. Mr. Lee’s Facebook status eludes to an earlier part of the story “JRL needs the names of the two women who run the door at Provocateur…”. A pal confirms, “He got turned away”. I thoroughly enjoy Justin. He’s so much fun.