Tribute to the Late 230 Fifth Owner and Nightlife King Steven Greenberg

Man about town Steven Greenberg has passed and I’m going to put my two cents in. I’d put in three but I have a feeling, if he could, he’d scold me for overpaying. Over many years, Steven was a friend, mentor, and a go-to-guy when I needed a big brain and an honest answer. He was always more than pleased to help. A couple of years ago when I was putting together some nightlife community thing, he advised me about the people I was dealing with and why it would fall short of my expectations. He was unrelenting, unforgiving, and spot-on. I was in too deep to go back, but his wisdom had me prepared for the inevitable.

We were meeting in the office at 230 Fifth. Various managers and other thrill-seekers came in to pay homage, get approval, or just bask in his light. He stopped every now and then to answer a phone call on the company line. He told potential patrons about the place, how to get there, how much things cost, what to expect. I can’t think of another owner who would have done that. He loved this world created by him…himself, away from the pack, out of sight and mind of most of the club community. He made more loot than anyone but demanded I wouldn’t tell. It was a Thursday around 11pm and he asked someone to show me what they had grossed so far. The numbers were unreal. We walked around and I saw gigantic bars with yuppies five deep banging down drinks under the light of the Empire State Building. He catered to a crowd that wasn’t chic or fabulous or newsworthy. They dressed from work or similar to it. I imagined they would go home and take off the white shirt and put on the colorful shirt and be ready to go. He fired a DJ while I was taking a tour. The offense? He put on a hip-hop record. He wanted none of that. It was a room with a view, the best view, but only one viewpoint: his.
 
He had been that rich guy behind the scenes for eons. Secretive and charismatic, sometimes appearing in the tabloids for doing something flamboyant like nixing a Gossip Girl shoot which was to have Chuck Bass and the Empire Hotel claim his 230 view as his own. He fired the Apprentice before they could use his space. He was involved in some SEC scandal. He rode in his very own limo with his very own driver and the it-girl of the day enjoying the night he loved so much. I knew many of these girls, many people do. I more than once hinted at the nature of the relationship and was always told something like, "he never laid a hand on me, it’s not like that." I met him at a sushi bar in Midtown. He was with an educated Asian woman who did something fabulous and he took over my evening. My date became his new friend. He wanted to know all about her. He asked and asked and she told and told. He knew all about her field and told her he knew someone and he could help connect her. He ordered for us and introduced us to the owners and built up our importance as if we were the king and queen of Siam. I never saw a bill. He was going to meet me about something important and I’d see him at some opening tomorrow and he sped into the night. His energy was boundless. His mind curious and insatiable.
 
Everybody knew him or at least recognized him. At Madison Square Garden, one night I sat in some good seats at a bad Knicks game. He was in his great seats. His white frock made him easy to spot, even in the crowd. He rose and started to walk up the aisle and the Garden camera showed him on the big screen and everyone cheered. He was Ben Franklin to some. The Quaker Oats guy to others. That quirky rich guy to the envious. Someone asked me yesterday, "who’s going to get all his money?’ I replied, "surely not you."
 
When I ran things, he was behind the scenes only popping up at meetings a couple of times. I once asked my direct bosses at the Palladium, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, who he was and got "he owned the parking lot next door" or once "he was the landlord." Other places like the Roxy or Gramercy Park Hotel or the rooftop of the Ganesvoort had him doing something as well. Owning, leasing, controlling, making money off…sometimes it was more clear than others. It never mattered to me.
 
He was a friend. When he called me, whatever time it was, no matter what I was doing, I dropped everything. Time with him was precious to me and no, there will be no more. Susan Anton an old club buddy, now a natural healer, alerted me to his passing. Kelly Cole, an old friend on the West Coast, heard it but couldn’t confirm. Anthony Haden-Guest called me for confirmation. I called 230 Fifth and identified myself as an old friend and writer for this magazine. I got a "we can’t speak to that at this time" response. I pressed on as I am, after all, sort of press…I asked the nice lady, "I guess if it weren’t true, you would be saying something like… that’s absurd!" There was silence on the phone and so I continued my full court press. "Is this silence like the silence in All the President’s Men where you are saying "yes" because you aren’t saying anything and not hanging up?" She repeated the party line "there will be no comment at this time." I called Anthony and told him what had happened. We agreed it must be true. I gave him the number and he gave it a try with his impressive name and accent. He told me he must have gotten the same lady as I did and got the same answer except she had added for "legal reasons" to her "no comment" mantra. Anthony wondered about that. I told him that it’s a three-day weekend and maybe they’re worried they don’t have a valid liquor license if he’s officially gone.
 
The news was confirmed on Facebook with old soldiers Bill Jarema, Robert Roth, and Eytan Sugarman leading the charge. Steven was dead. My great friend Christie, living now in an exotic land, reminded me that Steven had introduced us on the steps of the Palladium’s Michael Todd room back in the day. We are life-long friends and we remembered Steven’s part in that. Others called in short stories that they made long. All agreed he was a character. We are all a great deal poorer for his passing. We have lost a zillion stories which, even if retold, will have little meaning without him. His illness was a secret to many. His death was sudden for us and way too soon. It screams at me about my own mortality. I have lost someone who rarely said no to me and when he did, the advice and lesson learned made that no a yes. His eyes lit up a room. Nightlife was a toy, a board game to him that never bored him and that he almost always won. I apologize for this article being a bit everywhere and maybe a little confusing but maybe that describes Steven Greenberg perfectly.

New York: Top 11 Places to Pick Up a Summer Analyst

Wall Street interns. Every summer they swarm the city, claiming everything from Tribeca sublets to Upper East Side dive bars as their own. But no matter how hard hipsters roll their eyes, there’s absolutely nothing we can do till Duke summons them back for pre-season. But it’s not all bad: no one has more fervent support for the monogramming industry, and in a few years it might be nice to visit their private islands, or at least their downtown lofts with outside space. So follow the smell of Axe to these spots to find a Bud Fox of your very own.

Dorrians Red Hand (Upper East Side) – Burger joint by day, fratastic by night.

Automatic Slim’s (West Village) – Freaky people dancing to a mélange of Blondie, blues, and rock ‘n’ roll.

Brass Monkey (Meatpacking District) – Irish hospitality amid MePa monkeyshines.

Brother Jimmy’s (Union Square) Citywide chain delivering weathered wood and BBQ. “Put some south in yo’ mouth.”

Brinkley’s (Nolita) – Gastropub heir to Bar Martignetti is more Christie than David.

Butter (Noho) – Celeb hang has surprising longevity of Monday night party. High-test hotties and much meticulously tousled hair.

230 Fifth (Union Square) – Hang in a garden chair on the roof deck with your favorite teeth-grinding I-banker. Viva the ’80s, baby!

Turtle Bay (Midtown East) – Relive your college years in Midtown; keg stands not included.

Joshua Tree (Murray Hill) – Young Murrays reminiscing about the MTV they watched in their short-pants days.

The Windsor (West Village) – Gastropub ambitions at this posh, Brit-accented sports bar.

Beauty & Essex (Lower East Side) – More beauty than Essex, as former furniture shop draws a flock of pretty people.

Gossiping About the Gossips: One of Many Farewells to ‘Page Six’s Richard Johnson

Last night, Jason Binn decided to get in on the action bidding Richard Johnson farewell (he’ll be leaving Page Six for a News Corp endeavor) by hosting a small going away party for the gossip icon at 675 Bar in the Meatpacking. To be honest, I’m not even sure if it actually was Binn that hosted the bash (it might’ve been Niche Media), but that was the story I heard most amid the many stories being bandied about by the crowd, which was comprised of employees and friends of the New York Post. It was a small gathering, which might have made someone like me, who has no real affiliation with the Post, feel wildly out of place. But they’re a quite crew – a friendly family of enfant terribles, charmers, and story-tellers, which made it easy to get caught up in their special brand of raucous fun. And, between all the fond Richard Johnson memories I overheard, I also learned a little bit about the changes that lay ahead for the Post gang.

The Girls “The Page Sixettes,” one former columnist noted as Emily Smith, the new heiress to Richard Johnson’s title, posed for a photo with Six gossips Tara Palmeri (previously from Washington Examiner) and Stephanie Smith (from WWD). “It’s tough right now because there are only three of us,” Palmeri noted.

The News Corp Gig Richard will be heading to Los Angeles with his family to join News Corp’s iPad ‘Newspaper.’ News Corp announced plans to distribute a “national digital newspaper” as a paid app on phones and iPads in August, and now we know who will edit the digital endeavor. You know who else will join? It’s rumored that former Sixer Chris Wilson, targeted for his off-beat ideas and experience with Front of Book funnies at Maxim, has come on board as an editor. No one had answers for the following: What it will be named, when it would officially be released, and whether or not it will work. “It’s worth a try!” was the general consensus. One thing that was shared: the video is going to be awesome.

The Party Someone joked that Richard “would need to rent out Madison Square Garden” for his official going-away party, but this gathering was filled with friends and former colleagues of the scribe. Paula Froelich popped in for a minute and shared this gem with former reporter Corynne Steindler: “I remember Richard once at a late night summer party. He was going down a twisty slide in his boxers, with his legs in the air, and screaming like a 5-year-old child.” Nick Denton, Chris Tennant, Steve Garbarino, and 230 Fifth owner Steven Greenberg bid Johnson adieu after 25 years of editing Page Six. At the end of the evening, a small group hung around with Johnson and decided on the best piece of advice Johnson had ever given them about doing their job well. “Richard said, if you’re extremely hungover from the night before, you have to dress better.” Richard agreed. “I could have bloodshot eyes, but if I was wearing a nice suit no one would notice anything but how nice I looked.”

(The photo of the young Johnson via The Daily)

NYC Try Outs: Natasha Huang’s West Coast Sensibility

It’s always intriguing to watch a former West Coast denizen make their way in the Big Apple. Their itineraries have a slightly sunnier edge, quite literally. They seek out roof tops and tiki bars, their drinks are sweeter, their style is fashionably laid back – they’ve mastered that whole California-cool thing that’s a stretch for the native New Englander. Natasha Huang is of the West-turned-East school. A native of the Bay Area, she graduated from the University of San Francisco and worked in health care for hospitals before moving to the city as the Director of Marketing for Encore Magazine. Shortly thereafter, she struck out on her own to start a company: NH Media. As an entrepreneur in the PR field, Natasha is often out and about, raising her public profile and collecting business cards with the best of them, while still maintaining her distinctly relaxed, and, let’s face it, friendly West Coast nature. The places she’s deemed her favorites reflect her sunny disposition.

Name: Natasha Huang Professional Resume: I own and run a social media public relations company called NH Media, where I work in the fashion and social media arena in one of the greatest cities in the world. One Word to Describe Nightlife in New York City: Infinite.

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City Loves • Favorite lunch spot: Mamoun’s Falafel or La Esquina. • Favorite dinner spot: DBGB. • Favorite nightlife trend: Rooftops and tiki bars. • Drink of choice: KGB – apparently it’s orange vodka, soda, splash of orange juice, and a slice of orange. • Meal of choice: anything raw – oysters, tuna tartar, sushi, beef carpaccio. • Favorite group of people to bump into: housewives, socialites, fashionistas, diva’s, models.

City Loathes • Nightlife trend: Anything with a line or cover charge. • Drink: Cosmo or Sex on the Beach. • Meal: Baked Mac and Cheese. • Group of people to bump into: Fist Pumpers, girls who can’t walk in high heels, hoochies, club promoters.

Her Hotspots • Monday: Salud. • Tuesday: HighBar. • Wednesday: Le Bain. • Thursday: Ulysses. • Friday: 230 Fifth. • Saturday: Hudson Bar @ Hudson Hotel. • Sunday: Pastis.

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• Wouldn’t be caught dead here: Quo, Marquee, Greenhouse. • For special occasions: Per Se or South Gate. • Brunch is usually: Bagatelle.

Rooftops, Gardens, and a New Summer Solstice Opening: Café Colette

Yesterday, June 21st, was the worst day of the year for vampires and nocturnal creatures. The longest day of the year started with sunrise at a ghastly “you better carry sunglasses in your pocket or purse” 5:24am and ended at a “how can I eat dinner while it’s still bright out?” 8:31pm. Of course, it’s all downhill from here, until December 21st, when we see the weak winter sun at 7:16am and let it go at 4:31pm. At a friends-and-family lunch at Café Colette at 9th Street and Berry, I spoke to my friend, super model Alex Linquist, about a trip he’s making to Stockholm where it’s basically daylight all summer and darkness all winter. How can there be a nightlife when there is so much daylight?

The summer brings extra heat to a club’s bottom line. Besides the traveling regulars and the weekend Hampton escapees, there is the added pressure of a shorter night. This time of year we only get 9 hours of night out of a 24-hour day. These are long, hot, muggy days, and they can be very physically taxing. People often opt for dinner and then home, with their flat screen, air-conditioner, and cool sheets. An added dilemma is the emergence of the rooftop party during the day and at night. With romantic views of our metropolis, this back-to-nature approach to nightlife and a few brave stars are taking a huge chunk of loot from customers’ wallet. 230 Fifth Avenue, with the Empire State Building looming, has dominated this scene for years. The emergence of the Rooftop at the Ganesvoort hotel, and, of course, the roof at the ultra chic Standard, leaves joints with no view—let alone no windows—hurting. Many outdoor places are compelled to close their roof top spaces relatively early, and there is a buzz about legislated limitations and industry standards. But for now, a proper rooftop soiree is the answer many club patrons are looking for.

Regular clubs sometimes get a late night rush from the early closing of nearby roofs or backyards, but they are only slammed for 2 or 3 hours this time of year, and must squeeze as much loot from their patrons as possible during the brief window. My design firm is in conversations with 4 different ownership groups about developing roof projects for next year. The development of outdoor properties will accelerate until it becomes passé, or is stopped by city agencies, who seem determined to stop everything.

For me, I’ll accept a little less night and a lot more brunch, for now. Café Colette offers me yet another inspiring place in New York’s most inspired borough, Brooklyn. I’m now in BK at least 3 nights a week, and sometimes 6. It is all things to all people, and as I look around Manhattan, I’m hard-pressed to find places that get me through the night. I know I’m a little late—my friends are relentless with their “I told you so’s,” which is always countered with a few “better late than never’s.”

Manhattan just doesn’t provide me with as many reasons to be cheerful. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great place to visit, but I don’t think I want to live here anymore. My friend Julie Park has a piece of Café Colette. She is currently cross commuting from her downtown apartment but will make the move as well, eventually. She has worked everywhere from La Esquina to the Maritime to the Thompson L.E.S. She hooked up with my man Zeb Stewart at Brooklyn’s Hotel Delmano and Union Hall, and that was that. They brunched me on Sunday as they put the finishing touches on the place just before they unleashed it on the public.

Julie was gushing over her “baby,” asking everyone about everything, making it just right. Zeb pointed to a vintage fan that was the inspiration for the design. The place is fabulous, with a stamped tin ceiling, concrete bar face, and zinc top. They clad an old fridge in zinc as well, and polished molded concrete for the tables. We bathed in some of the 900 minutes of sunlight sneaking through the southern window. We ate everything they put before us and had amazing Stumptown coffee and flourless chocolate cake at the end. Zeb brings a winning smile, enthusiastic conversation, and a love of collecting classic cars to his joints. Julie brings systems learned from Serge Becker, Jason Pomerantz, Eric Goode, and Sean MacPherson. She knows her shit. Café Colette is wonderful and it is now officially open.

Summer Nights: Changing of the Guard

A game of musical chairs is being played by most of the major promotional entities as the summer roof season is upon us. While the highly successful 230 Fifth will still dominate this market just as the Empire State Building dominates its incredible view, some places remain unsettled or don’t have a clear opening date due to a myriad of problems. Highbar is getting a quick polish, while the roof at the Stay Hotel is still under construction. Mixed reports come from Cabanas and The Park, and the highly-touted Above Allen will finally get to open its windows amidst hopes that the sound spill doesn’t disturb too many hotel guests and nearby residents. Daemon O’Neil, Rose Bar’s patient, sweet, and very good-looking door guru (not to be confused with Damion Luaiye), is packing his clipboard and heading over to the Bazaar Bar at the upcoming Trump Soho hotel. The economic downturn, a weak dollar, and a laundry list of safety issues make travel abroad a lot less attractive this season. I hear reports that Hamptons summer rentals are sluggish, yet the Surf Lodge in Montauk is riding high.

I caught up with super duper and uber owner/outdoor space promoter Jeffrey Jah of 1Oak and other fabulous places, and he told me he was bringing back the “changing of the guard” at Groovedeck at Hudson Terrace this summer. “With Groovedeck, we’ve assembled an insane team from Bijoux (Dimitry and Francois) to Pavan and the 1Oak team. We’ve booked the Hamptons Magazine summer kick-off party as well as Lydia Hearst hosting the last International Film Premiere event.” I asked Jeffrey how the whole outdoor summer club thing started for him.

It’s pretty simple … the first real outdoor parties were “Groove on the Move,” with Mark Baker and I back in the early 90s, moving from the Central Park Boathouse to Tavern on the Green, and then permanently at Bowery Bar with Eric Goode and Serge Becker. There really were no other outdoor parties; then in 2000, I moved to Pier 59 Studios and created the deck with Scott Sartiano and Richie Akiva — that’s where Remi Laba and Aymeric Clemente were given their fist taste of club promotions. They were low-level maitre d’s. In 2003, we were forced to move it to BED (the same team), and then they tried to get smart, and Baker, Remi, and Karim sold them on a cheaper deal without the 1Oak crew, but they were done after four weeks. We missed two seasons, and we’re now back at Hudson Terrace.

I asked Jeffrey if the problems with international travel these days, the weak dollar, and pandemic diseases would keep people closer to home. “Yes, the economy will keep people here. New York is the capital of the world. What’s more important is that Europeans will venture more to America with the weak dollar and get more value for the buck. We will see a lot of Euros this summer. New York is resilient, we’ve seen worst times apres 9/11. People want to blow off steam, and if the product is good, they will come again and again. A lot of people are not taking houses in the Hamptons this summer because institutional money and jobs evaporated over the last half of 2008 and first quarter of 2009. Hence I’m betting that we will see a much stronger city summer.”

I also asked Hudson Terrace co-owner Michael Sinensky about the economic impact. “If you can build one of the nicest venues in New York City, people will come out to escape what’s going on in the world. In this economy, you have to really service the customer and think outside the box to keep your patrons entertained, happy, and feeling satisfied enough that they’ll come back. I don’t think it’s all about having the best promoters and DJs and strictest door anymore — I think that’s a formula to stay open 6 to 12 months. Hudson Terrace wasn’t built to follow the models-and-bottles formula and meet their steep table minimums. Instead, we’ve taken pages from our other successful eating and drinking establishments such as the Village Pourhouse, Sidebar, and Vintage Irving, with offerings like pitchers of sangria and margaritas.” They’re pitching a happy hour concept from 5-7 p.m. I’m proud to say that Hudson Terrace was designed by my partner Marc Dizon.

The roof parties and a stop-start economy will get us through the heat of summer. An added value is that outdoor parties are generally blessed with quieter music, as sound travels and Manhattan gets more crowded by the minute. The music played in most clubs theses days — especially the clubs catering to these particular crowds — has stagnated. The isolation of Hudson Terrace and Jeffrey’s commitment to play it a little forward should educate a crowd to new tastes. Steven Greenberg’s 230 Fifth bans hip hop altogether in favor of mostly rock fare. This space is the highest-grossing joint in New York nightlife history. I know only a little about music made in this century, but I do know this: The crowds I DJ to these day are growing, and my CD collection isn’t. I play almost an entirely rock set, and there seem to be a lot more people interested in it than a year ago. Oh, if you want to hear me DJ or toss an egg or discuss clubdom, I’ll be at 38 Howard Street off Broadway tonight; I go on at 12:30 a.m., right after the bands.

New York: Rooftop Bars for Today’s Game of Hooky

imageIn case you haven’t noticed, it’s not snowing today. Why are you at work? Join the rest of Manhattan, feign pink eye, and sidle up to one of these rooftop bars prime for drinking through your afternoon. So maybe a couple are located in the slice of purgatory known as Murray Hill. One may even be inspired to take an expedition all the way up to the uncharted territory of “The Heights.” The interesting locales make for a simulated weekend get-away. But really, the pickings are slim, as many outdoor restos and bars await a more stable spring climate to roll out their cabana boys. These easily accessible, non-members-only outdoor oases are confirmed to be fully functioning today, just in time to help out with your Saturday morning hangover.

Sushi Samba 7 (West Village) – It’s too late to jet down to Rio for the weekend, and this Latin American/Japanese fusion restaurant won’t make you feel like you’re there either. But it does have a spacious roof deck with views of the West Village, bountiful caipirinhas, and a good-looking crowd. Not to mention a staff of roofdeck enthusiasts; upon confirming their deck would be in full swing today, the hostess squealed with excitement and said she couldn’t wait to dance up top. Indeed.

Rare View at the Shelburne Hotel (Kips Bay) Perfect happy hour spot to hop to on your way home. Perhaps by the 4:30 p.m. opening, you’ll be too blurry to notice the young Murrays talk about internships and diet tricks. Worth your time just to enjoy the view, which boasts both the Empire State and Chrysler buildings. ● 230 Fifth (Union Square) – Go as early as you can, so you can leave just as early. The roofdeck offers expansive views and will certainly take your mind off of the i-bankers doing blow in the bathroom. After sunset, things just get weird. ● The Heights Bar & Grill (Upper West Side) – Nothing will have you feeling like a college kid skipping class more than this margarita haven. Nothing will have you thanking your lucky stars that you are no longer a college kid skipping school more than this Columbia rooftop either. Retractable roof and tequila might make the jaunt uptown worth your while. ● Mé Bar (Garment District) – For those not into status, the 14th-floor roofdeck of the Garment District’s La Quinta Inn offers amazing Empire State Building views; the rickety old terrace brings the boardwalk to mind, giving us another way to think about La Quinta besides sleazy trysts. ● Bookmarks (Midtown East) – Skip the book-in-Central Park gimmick and go straight for the booze. At the very least you can feel bookish as you sip literary cocktails like Hemmingway’s Papa. ● Salon de Ning (Midtown West) – Daybeds for watching the sunset, lychee liqueur for forgetting about it later. Thirties Shanghai accents will have you feeling as if you’ve taken that trip out East you’ve been talking about. Midtown corporate types chatting you up about wealth management and the Mets will bring you back to reality. ● Red Sky Bar & Lounge (Murray Hill) – The real draw is the drunken girls who flock in throngs to the year-round rooftop every Thursday for ladies night. But, like this list confirms, the pickings are slim, and this rooftop will do just fine for an outdoor Bud or cosmo.