GOODNIGHT MR. LEWIS: Actor – NYC Nightlife Legend Wass Stevens on Transplanting to LA

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Images by Travis Emery 

The departure of actor and legendary club doorman Wass Stevens may indeed be a eureka moment. He was most recently seen manning the ropes at Avenue, and has been the main man at virtually every posh nightspot over the last few decades. But New York is no longer the only town with nightlife game. So he’s moving to Los Angeles to help launch the massive Tao Group openings there; Avenue, Beauty & Essex and Tao are among the brands the group believes will dominate the left coast…and Wass is a partner in the group.

A recent article in Time Out citing the 15 Best Dance Clubs in America included only two in  NYC, Output and Good Room (which I designed). Both are ironically in Brooklyn. Tons of operators are looking for places to make wonderful, but hefty NYC regulations and high rents prevent success. Smaller spots thrive, but the Big Apple mega-club experience is going the way of the subway token.

Wass is a throwback to an era when doorpersons were the Tim Gunns of nightlife. Style got you in, not a Black Card and a wiliness to buy bottles. Today they are required to sell those bottles as well as recognize the in-crowd. But Wass will bring his personal celebrity to LA, leaving one to wonder if there is anyone in the game here who can fill his shoes in NYC.  I caught up with him as he scurried to beat the snowstorm. His going away party has been postponed to another night.


Tell me about the move to LA.

My acting career is now at a place where, coming off of Sundance, the premiere of “John Wick 2,” my series “Public Morals,” “House of Cards,” and many of my other more recent projects, my gut told me it was time to take the leap. I’m incredibly excited about my amazing LA team, my agents at Abrams Artists who I absolutely love, my lawyer Ryan Levine, my manager Andrew Tetenbaum who is NY based but is essentially bi-coastal…and I need to be in the Mecca of the film and television industry. For the first few times I was in LA, I didn’t have the credits or experience necessary to really stake my claim. Now I do. When added to the opening of the LA opening of my second home in NYC, Avenue, everything was pointing me westward. Sometimes, especially with those kind of hints, you just have to take your shot…

As your acting career takes off do you see a time when you won’t be doing a door?

With the opening of entire Hollywood block of Tao Group venues, I’ll have a West Coast home base, and a group of friends and colleagues I’ve worked with for years. I’ll be running the door at Avenue LA, so let’s squash the erroneous rumors of my “retirement” here and now; but I’m cutting back to three nights from the six, so that I can truly focus on my acting career; and in the coming year I plan to start producing and directing my own projects. First up is the music video for my band DOG, which will be released in conjunction with our first EP of all original music entitled, “New York City Hustle” – written by me and my bass player and “brother” Alex Valenti. Of course, all the band members had input in the creative process. Its old school, badass rock & roll, with a glam flavor.

What will you miss most about New York?

I’ll miss the pace, its “in your face” quality. When I was last in LA setting myself up for the move, it took 15 minutes to get a coffee – I was losing it! That will take some getting used to. But I’ll be coming back on a regular basis for my tattoo shop Rivington Tattoo NYC, and for acting and band gig. So when I need a shot in the ass, New York will always be here.

It will, yes.

As a born and raised New Yorker, I’ve also felt living anywhere else would be like getting dropped to the minor leagues after playing pro my entire life. I’ve dabbled in other cities, Miami back its heyday when I opened Sinatra Bar, and a few pilot seasons in LA years ago; but I always knew it was temporary. I’ve completely changed my life course several times, law, clubs, acting, and have been thinking, longing to dive into the creative fields that keep me alive and sane: acting, writing and music.

You always look fantastic. Do clothes make the man?

Clothing, more specifically style, is a crucial element to creating your personal “brand.” Not enough people pay attention to details and appearance. Let me be clear, I don’t think that these things “make the man” as you asked; heart, soul, integrity, talent, courage are a few of the qualities that do. But first impressions do count, and that includes how a person presents themselves. As an aside, I’m taking about 5000 pounds of clothes and shoes to LA; so yes, I still think clothes are important.


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