The Man Show: No Girls Allowed in NYC Nightlife

A casual conversation yesterday ended with much confusion and no conclusions. Is New York nightlife one of the last/worst industries for women executives? I went online and read about progress in the workplace throughout America. I read how the disparity in wages and the percentages of women in management is chipping away at the gender gap. Yet in nightlife the opposite seems to be the case. With Bungalow 8 still closed and not likely to open anytime soon, nightlife’s leading lady Amy Sacco is without a NYC base. And with a hundred joints banging bottles and blasting beats, I can’t think of a single gal running a big show. Ariel Palitz has Sutra, a small but very viable offering on 1st Avenue and 1st, and I’m sure my wonderful readers will tell me about a pub here, or a joint there, but progress to the top of the heap seems to be stalled.

Jennifer Worthington was the go-to gal over at Spotlight Live, but things went sour and that place is as dead as Julius Caesar. Nell Campbell was the name and reason to be cheerful over at Nell’s, and Regine was Regine’s namesake, but that was last century and hardly relevant to this conversation. We’re just talking here and, in truth, this thing is going to take a lot more thought and coffee than I got going this morning.

Suzanne Bartsch is absolutely, undeniably the queen of the queens. Her Sunday parties still rule, but it’s one night a week and a New Years, maybe. Where are the women in charge? Sure there are door girls and lots of managers and some DJs and some promoters. I remember when I interviewed Sally Shan, a very nice person who happened to be female and had the audacity to enter the fray as a promoter. The public and other bloggers attacked her with a vehemence usually reserved for peeps like Justin Ross Lee. Maybe audacity was not the right word. Maybe the right word would be “balls.” Maybe they attacked her because she had the balls to try to break through and this ultra-male orientated business, and they couldn’t handle it. Sally is still around, working 8 days a week and has done all right. But she’s usually just one gal promoter among a pack of wolves. That’s hardly a victory for women’s equality.

There are those women behind the men, notably Mary Boudereu, who is the glue that keeps those Strategic Group fellows together. At Marquee, it was Mary that kept all the wheels spinning. Once at Home, Guesthouse and now Greenhouse and Juliet Supper Club, Megan Gaver is owner Jon B’s number 2, 3, 4 and so on. Frankly I wouldn’t talk to anyone else over there. It’s Richie’s sister, Jackie Akiva, doing it and doing it well over at Butter/1Oak. Everybody knows that the distance between being number 2 and number 1 is an ocean. Gals like Voula often think about opening a place, but just fall short. Of course there are the lesbian event and marketing groups which, thank god, are owned by women. But the glass ceiling in nightlife seems as low as a cocktail table.

The exception: PR women are a force in nightlife PR and always have been. Susan Blond and Claire O’Conner (who ran Limelight for Peter Gatien) were trailblazers and are now joined by bevies of bright ladies telling the exciting story for the clubs, keeping them in — and sometimes out — of the papers and handling big events. It is only here that women are holding their own. There are handfuls of relevant women DJs, ie, Samantha Ronson, Eve Salvail, Roxy Cottentail and Rekha, who followed pioneers like Anita Sarko, Jackie Christie, Jazzy Joyce and a small group of others … but the big slots are dominated by the guys. There are the gal bottle hosts, but enough has been said about that and it doesn’t in anyway help the feminist cause I’m beating around.

I’m going to think about the why’s and the why nots and come back to this. In a modern world and a business that used to be so forward, it seems so backwards and plain dumb that more woman aren’t calling the shots. Maybe it’s time for nightlife to get in touch with its feminine side. Maybe it’s as simple as seeing women in a different light. Nightlife looks at the dames as if they are commodities. Promoters are hired to bring babes to toyland. A promoter is often only judged as good as the number and “quality” of the models he can wrangle. Often, I hear promoters say things like “he has lots of B girls while I have the ‘campaign’ girls.” Cocktail waitresses are not thought of as people, just smiley skirts — bait — to lure the big fish. Sometimes they’re the “half-hookers” of tabloid lore. In this atmosphere of objectification, how can a women hope to be respected?

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