By Marianne Hagan
When Steve Rubell swung open the doors to Studio 54 in 1977, he ushered in the era of doorman-cum-despot and transformed the burgundy velvet rope into a source of terror. Cerberus, the three-headed watchdog that guarded the entrance to Hades, comes to mind. Nightly, he would hurl ad hominem criticisms at the anticipants on the wrong side of the rope—clever ones like, “You’re ugly!” or “Go home and change your clothes!” He gleefully separated the sybarite-aspirants into two groups: those who would be granted entrance and those who would go home with their dance belt between their legs.
Thirty years later, enter Angelo Bianchi. This 30-year-old first generation Italian–American is doorman and partner for the newly reincarnated Beatrice Inn. Every night, regardless of weather, he loyally stands his post outside the West Village establishment, always impeccably clad in a suit and tie. “My grandfather was a classic old-school gentleman from Naples. He dressed with great care no matter what the occasion—a fedora, a three-piece suit, cufflinks, the works—even if he was only going out to buy groceries,” the Staten Island native explains. “That definitely left an impression.”
Before he began manning the ropes six years ago at various New York hot spots, he “worked in film, dabbled in journalism, and spent time in L.A., but had a Woody Allen–like reaction and quickly returned home.” Bianchi insists he’s doing what he loves. “This is not just a job for me, it’s my vocation. Paul (Sevigny, part-owner) was generous enough to make me a partner, and there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.” The only thing he’s missing by working the nocturnal door is “a good night’s rest.”
Given that the Beatrice Inn is located at the former site of a Prohibition-era speakeasy, one might suspect there would be some unwritten rule to gain access today—a wink, a nod, a friend’s name, or a codeword, perhaps? Bianchi assures there isn’t. “Every situation, night, and person is different, and I approach each accordingly.” Alas, not everyone who hopes to gain access to the intimate joint will have their wish granted, but Bianchi’s benevolent brown eyes and soft-spoken diplomacy are evidence that civility does, indeed, still exist.
Photography by Paul Costello