It’s Been Said Before: Greenhouse & W.i.P. Have Reopened

The news that Greenhouse/W.i.P. has reopened for booziness is welcomed. Although there will be future legal back and forths, for now it can serve its adoring public which includes the fabulous Susanne Bartsch and Kenny Kenny’s Sunday night soiree. Last Sunday it was emails and Facebook messages and texts proclaiming it "on" and "off"… "on" and "off" until that game of musical chairs ended with…"off." I’m not a big fan of Greenhouse; I never go there, but I firmly believe that a club should not be held responsible for the bad behavior of its patrons unless management is either ignoring or complacent. Humans often behave badly… drunk humans more so. Bad behavior is to be expected on occasion. Accountability is important, but it is impossible to expect multi-million dollar investments in tax-generating, job-creating enterprises if a sword of closure hangs over operators’ heads for actions they may not reasonably be able to control. As much as I don’t listen to hip-hop or enjoy hip-hop-heavy parties, I surely recognize its impact on club culture and life in America in general. It is enjoyed by all demographics. The 800-pound gorilla that isn’t really spoken about is whether or not Greenhouse is being persecuted because this is an “urban thing.” A prince gets into a brawl at a chic meatpacking joint and closure isn’t an issue. Hey, this has been said before.

The city is scheduled to rule on a controversial plan to expand NYU’s village campus. According to many residents, this expansion will destroy the character of the neighborhood which has, of course, been a creative cauldron for NYC life as we know it for eons. We’re talking two million square feet in tall buildings with apparent loss of green areas and such. Worse than all that will be the expansion of the population of frat boys and frat girls and the changes their needs will bring. Mom and pop restaurants and quaint coffee shops will be gentrified out to accommodate student-friendly shops like 16 Handles and chain stores.

NYU is a dark force that should be pushed to areas like Wall Street or Brooklyn or Queens. The city has lost so much of its core character and can’t afford to be further compromised. Why do I care? Every few days I walk past the NYU Palladium Housing on 14th Street which once was this incredible theatre that I attended and then operated during my club years. I knew it as The Academy of Music where I saw The Clash, U2, The Cramps, and a long list of etceteras. I hung out there when it was the Palladium – the club – and saw early rock and dance. I operated it for Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager and came back to fill it a few other times for other moguls.

Once, when I was remodeling this beautiful 108,000-square-foot facility, I was prevented from nailing things into most walls or ceilings. I can’t find any official landmark references, but I was told at the time that it was one. It was protected because of its ancient and significant beauty…its recognized importance in design and architecture. I got married to my first wife there. I think it was its only wedding.

NYU came along…needed it …tore it down. The ultimate indignity is that when they built the Palladium Housing, they used the same logo or similar font as the legendary club. It’s fucking Mordor. This too has been said before.

Tonight I’ll be at White Rabbit DJing with a host of wonderful folks at the Tattoos & Art show at White Rabbit around 9 or 10pm or 10 to 11pm…you know how these things go… and, of course, this has been said before.

Is Griffin Done or Just Difficult?

Talk is cheap, but keeping a nightclub operating is expensive. Rumors around town have spoke of the imminent demise of Meatpacking District newbie Griffin barely three months after opening. I’m not a fan of the place and have said so more than a few times. However, as much as I would like the place to sail into the sunrise, I am unfortunately attached to it. Griffin was designed by Lewis & Dizon, and I’m the Lewis guy. My partner Marc Dizon is the strong, silent type and did a great job of making the old PM space seem like a brand new bag. I stayed far away, contributing from our office and an infrequent visit. My presence on the property was limited due to my allergies — I’m allergic to assholes and liars — so I elected to keep my distance while Marc did the heavy lifting. Now the nightlife blogs are predicting death by grifting and incompetence, and I wanted to find out what’s up.

I sat down with a bunch of very talkative Griffin insiders and got some answers. One of the ways that a guy like me can find out how a joint is doing is to chat up the people selling the liquor. According to my guys, Griffin is killing it — sales are consistently high. My source says that, with a few exceptions, Griffin is “selling more per square foot than anybody.” Avenue is a big banger as well. A Cristal delivery was taking forever yesterday, with my gal telling me she stopped keeping track at 25. That’s cases of bottles that go for about the same price as jet fare to Miami for two. Griffin is carrying a weekly nut of about $120,000. They are hitting that mark consistently, and hitting above a 20% profit on sales.

Unfortunately, according to my source, they have been “undercapitalized from day one.” Another source says “making money in the Meatpacking is like shooting fish in the barrel … if you like those kind of fish.” She continued, “Adam Hock and Chris Reda are grifter type guys, and there is no transparency between the partners.” A close friend added to this description: “Chris Reda’s reputation precedes him — he tells each person what they want to hear and blames everybody for every problem except himself … he bets the come as well as the pass.” Still I am told the club is “making money hand over fist” and that “if they spent less time fighting and worrying about each of them stealing from the other and stuck with the business of running the club, they would be doing a lot better.” I asked about the rumors of tipped staff not being paid for months. “They have essentially endured by effectively taking a loan from the staff,” she continued. “I think the waitresses are only two weeks behind now … things are not good, but they are getting much better.”

Debt service and undercapitalization have been major issues. “The long-delayed opening of the space was a major problem … we could really use an infusion of cash,” said one of my sources. He continued, “We’re making our 20% profit, but we can’t cover our construction payback as well as investors, and nobody wants to face this reality. There are lots of scapegoats … everybody is to blame except the owners … we were promised a certain amount of working capital, and there is no working capital.” I asked about mixing of cheap vodka into expensive vodka bottles. A familiar waitress said that she has never seen that. My insider agreed. “It’s not like that, never, it’s just three owners who really don’t trust each other, but they seem to be on the verge of allowing upper management to do their thing. This will result in cost-cutting and better control … sales, thank god, has not been the problem. The revenue is there, and changes are being made to improve the situation.”

Who’s Who in Brantly Martin’s ‘Pillage’?

Author Brantly Martin, once a wonder boy of New York City nightlife, has returned from exile, purgatory, marriage, overseas, and five or six other speculated places armed with a 200-plus page book that’s is the buzz about town. “Which is worse?” a savvy pal asked me, “To be in it or not be in it?” Pillage describes some days and some nights in the life of the model/promoter/owner club set in decidedly non-PG rated terms; there’s more sex and drugs than Woodstock. As I read it, I became increasingly revolted, then jealous, then revolted, then I laughed and was revolted again. It’s a rollercoaster ride through the world of the young, rich, beautiful, and passionately immoral. Brantly seems to have come to terms with his demons. He is actually married to a beautiful Italian woman and lives in Rome. He admits to being the main character of the tome (“Cracula”). He is super hush-hush about the identities of the other characters and wouldn’t give me even one. In this case, the names have been changed to protect the guilty — but I managed to poke my rather cute nose in some of the right places and came up with a few reveals.

The Reverend – Scott Harrison, Brantly’s ex-partner and Water to Africa crusader. Eroneous –: Eric Hower, who used to be known as Fat Eric (until he wasn’t anymore). Shout out to Colleen for making a man out of him. Lark Taker – Mark Baker; how did he find time to actually work? The Fireman – Adam Hock, because the Griffin honcho pisses on everyone.

I did get the names of the models who had drug smoke blown up their cute butts and other humiliating things done to them, but since we all imagine our models as beautiful, pure, and innocent, I decided to be a gentleman and not list their names here. However, the phrase “model behavior” needs to be rethought. I caught up with Brantly and threw him a few softball-like questions. I was sweet — after all the man’s been through a lot.

Why did you write the book? I tried to write a novel for years, but New York City, my profession, my habits, and excuses were more powerful than my desire. I’d bang out 15 pages, 20 pages, just start to understand the voice, the characters, the story, and then … one late night leads to another, which leads to painful days and the draining of creativity. I ended up bouncing around Southeast Asia for four months, first with a friend, then alone in Cambodia, where I wrote every day for five, six hours, and finished the first draft. Then it was back to New York, with a pit stop in Austin, for the rewrites and edits.

Some of the characters seemed to be based on real people around town. Who’s who in the book? To me the characters are the characters. It’s a novel, fiction, a satire. More caricature than realism. It’s not as simple as this character is X and this one is Y. If that were the case, then I suppose I’m Cracula — and I wouldn’t want that. I realize that people like to simplify things, look for shortcuts, find the lowest common denominators. I’m sure there will be some speculation around town about what’s true, what really happened, and whom did what to whom. What’s more, some people are bound to be offended and feel that the portrayal of a character is an attack on them. The truth is the actions, traits, and motivations that are highlighted and parodied as the most despicable in the characters are all part of my opera of failures and mistakes as a man — misplaced ambition, hypocrisy, disloyalty. As a writer, I don’t feel bad calling someone out for their actions and bullshit because it always stems from my own bullshit. The book is fiction, the events are fiction, but the rhythm and emotions are honest. How did you come to work in New York City nightlife? I grew up in Houston, went to college in Austin, and moved to New York in 2000. I showed up with one bag full of clothes, $500, and not one friend. I slept in Central Park the first night, ended up crashing with a friend of a friend for a few weeks (in a depression-era brothel, some of the whores still alive, paying $50 a month, rent-controlled), somehow ended up working in the nightlife. Jeffrey Jah and Mark Baker gave me my first job at Lotus. Karim gave me my first night — Tuesdays at Halo. I have a love-hate relationship with clubs and nightlife. But I have a love-hate relationship with all things, including myself. The one thing I have more than ever, though, is a complete respect for the folks around town who have been working and grinding in the scene for years and kept their sanity. It’s not easy — you know better than me. I haven’t always gotten along with everyone else in the nightlife, but I respect anyone that’s pulling it off (not that such respect is always returned).

Do you see Pillage as a film? I do, though it’s not a dream or a goal. I wrote a novel, not a screenplay. If the right person has the right vision, why not? I wouldn’t want to be involved in the process. I lived with Pillage enough.

I found the book funny and disgusting. What sort of reactions were you expecting, and what has been the feedback? I see it as a comedy. Yeah, even a disgusting one. Being my first novel, my expectations were all over the place. Chest puffing, insecurity, nausea, etc. The first reaction is always to the style. It’s not like most other novels — either in rhythm or formatting. It takes a few pages to get used to. After that, people seem to be responding to the humor, honesty, and visuals. Until last week, I hadn’t opened the book for about six months. I’ll be reading from the book Thursday at the Powerhouse Arena in DUMBO, then Book Soup in LA. on the 12th, and I needed to choose some parts. Jumping back into it after that much time off was a trip. I found the words creepy, sad, vulgar, desperate, and yes, disgusting. In a life with many ups and downs, Pillage was written during the most desperate and hopeless downturn. I think that’s evident. Two and half years later I’m happy, married, and living in Rome. It’s an odd life. What place does literature currently have in New York nightlife? I don’t see it playing a part at all right now. Maybe Pillage will change that. Obviously it used to, from Fitzgerald to Capote to the fellas in the 80s and early 90s. The books seemed to have gotten safer along with the city. Maybe the recession will bring out some fresh voices addressing things other than martinis, high heels, and pseudo-spirituality. If you lived anything close to the way Cracula lives, how are you still here? It is fiction. But … yeah. I haven’t always been the wisest of decision makers. You live, you learn. I’m a lucky bastard What’s next for you? The wife and I are launching a magazine, Grey. The first issue is out in September. I’m about halfway through a book of short stories, I’m really amped for these to get out. They’re in an entirely different voice than Pillage, different style. After that I’m writing a full-on science fiction novel.

After being away from New York for almost a year, how does the nightlife look? Promising. From about 2004 to 2008, there was so much mediocre crap out there. Everyone became a club owner, promoter, or self-appointed superstar. It seems there’s been a cleaning of house, with the veterans surviving. The bottle backlash is a good thing. When I started promoting, text messaging didn’t exist, and not everyone had a cell phone. If you did have a cell phone, it only held 50 numbers. You had to call people at home, have a conversation, then take care of them when they came out. If I did a party, I did the party. There were no “hosts.” And this was just in 2000 to 2002. You and all the folks I referred to were in the game much before then. My point being, it doesn’t matter how many mass emails, Facebooks, texts, or whatever other technology pops up … when times get tough, people want a real experience.

Opening The Gates & Advanced Jameson Theory

imageA handful of posts ago, I reacted with what The Gates’ owners Redd Styles, Danny Kane, and Michael James thought was an iron fist regarding their soon-to-open club. My less than enthusiastic preview supplied a list of what I thought were glaring problems facing the place. These three guys are friends of mine, and my criticism was seen as a betrayal of sorts, but mutual associates pointed out that the analogy of telling a friend they have toilet paper on their shoe is meant to be helpful. I, as a nightlife writer with an editor and a public that need to see me as an honest broker and as friend, felt the need to point out what ailed them. It wasn’t as if I was the only person who noticed this stuff. Most just air-kissed them on the cheeks and said things like “congratulations,” while whispering behind their backs. And the types that revel in others’ failures spoke out loud. And though I’m not that kind of person, I probably spoke the loudest.

I wasn’t going to attend last night’s grand opening because I had other obligations, but I got a text message on my brand new Crackberry that said, “Please come to The Gates, they got the toilet paper off their shoe.” So I grabbed Dave Delzio and headed up. I had five major criticism last time I visited: sound, lights, DJ, cheap upholstery, and location. The first thing I noticed was the major adjustment to the lighting package. Now, the ancient marble and wood paneling were clearly visible. The sound was also much improved. I had spoken with Dan Agne, one of the best sound dudes in town, about the problems of this room. With hard surfaces everywhere, there is a “lot of bounce,” which creates these little echoes — and what you end up hearing is a muddle of sounds. They did a decent job of making it better; the music sounded better as well. Well, the cheap seats were probably still there, but I couldn’t see them because the place was jammed. As far as location there’s not much that can change that. It just means they have to be on point. A long time ago, I had a club, and my main rival was formidable but in a remote location. I attacked this club — yes, I used to attack my rivals — by concentrating really strong promotional events at their best night. I gave away free booze and wrangled celebrities. I did what was called “giving the house away,” in a Cold War-type atomic attack. Maybe I couldn’t survive long doing this, but I was going to take them down and then rise from the ashes to be the last man standing. It worked. By taking away their thunder even for a few nights, I made people think twice before they spent beaucoup bucks on cab fares to this far-away place. If you are in a remote location, you just have to be solid every night, or people will be reluctant to travel. The three amigos over at The Gates will have to be dedicated to providing a consistently good time if they hope to overcome their 26th and 8th location. The crowd was energetic and pretty — I didn’t see one person with toilet paper on their shoes.

Earlier I had attended my old and absolutely older friend Christine Cho’s birthday party. We ate at Charles, a very beautiful West Village restaurant. It’s located where 7th Avenue meets 10th Street and West 4th Street. I couldn’t find it. My assistant pointed out that my problem with locations may be just another sign of my senility. I do have a cure for that though — the summer intern season is near. I stumbled into Charles 15 minutes late. “I swear, Christine, I would have been on time if it was easier to find.” Her table was the gayest in the neighborhood (no small task) and something I loudly pointed out. “It just got gayer,” was offered from someone in the peanut gallery. Rachelle Hruska, my Guest of a Guest guru, squealed, “Look, they have Tanteo tequila,” and I told her I still hadn’t recovered from her BBQ.

Besides, for the last week I have been worshiping at the altar of that demigod Jameson. My newfound fondness of the sticky liquids is not a binge; it’s more of a research project, a sort of scientific journey to make sure my mental files on the effects of drinking are up to date. Rachelle is getting so much traffic on her GOAG blog that I had to look both ways and adjust my rear-view mirror just to chat with her. Dinner was great, but the $2,400 for 10 people wasn’t necessarily recessionary. Nobody was sober enough to check the check, and we regathered outside and took a leisurely stroll down to Greenhouse.

DJ Michael Cavadis, a.k.a. Lily of the Valley, and James Copalla entertained a packed house of revelers. The old-school mix of gays and straights of different generations that so many feel is impossible to find in this era was banging around the basement of the eco-friendly haunt. A promoter type waddled over to me and gave me the obligatory “love your blog” fist-pound hello. He loved the toilet paper shoe thingy and asked me if “those guys at The Gates knew how much of a favor you did them?” I told him I wasn’t sure, but that I had gone tonight, and we were all very friendly, and I liked it. He told me that my story about the Griffin was “spot on” and that two of the owners there, Chris Reda and Adam Hock, were “not getting along.”

A side effect of my Jameson scientific study seems to be a calm, detached, and rather kind view of life, and so I answered, “I hope they work things out.” I was told that Reda was upset at something I said about him the other day, and I told the promoter that “Chris has my phone number.” I’ll go on record that I like Chris and would not hesitate to do business with him again. Sometimes when a few people get together, they form this third personality that doesn’t act like any of the individuals. Maybe that’s the case here. Maybe Chris didn’t mean to say awful things about someone in my life, but in association with the people he chose to associate with — Adam Hock and Stevie D — it was that other personality speaking.

Anyway, it’s all business, and my business is telling it like i see it, or hear it. My firm, Lewis and Dizon (I’m the Lewis guy, and Marc Dizon is the Dizon guy) designed the Griffin. We therefore have an interest in it being a success. From all accounts, it isn’t. It may be that the combination of ownership personalities over there has formed this other personality that has no idea how to run a club. See, all this Jameson science stuff is helping formulate these cool hypotheses! Those guys have way more than toilet paper on their shoes, and no amount of great lighting, sound, DJs, or comfy couches is likely to hide the smell. Griffin is a beautiful product of hundreds of hours of work by my partner Marc Dizon. Marc is quiet, and in this way we are different. So when people say things about him, he is likely to bear it in silence, confident that he has done a great job. His partner, the dude who used to be Steve Lewis, is a bit more vocal. Griffin stinks, and it isn’t the shit stuck to their shoes that’s the problem. It’s the shit coming from their mouths. Was I too subtle, or do you peeps get what I’m saying? Ill be here all week.

Two New Gs & Mother’s Day Wisdom

imageI visited my mom on Sunday and had a real good time, but of course, not a club good time. My mom taught me a few things — like, look both ways before you cross, how to tie shoelaces, and if you have nothing good to say about somebody, keep your mouth shut. Well, I’m sure she’s as right about these things as she was about Jeannie Luvullo and some of my other exes, but it puts her at odds with my editor. Sometimes I’ve just got to say nay. I visited The Gates the other night and was swept off my feet by a bevy of beauties who spent dinner plying me with information and reminders of how much I liked Michael James, who seems to be one of the owners out there. I do like Mike; I don’t like The Gates. I like Michael’s partners Redd Styles and Danny Kane, but I don’t like what they’ve done to the place. The old Biltmore Room (previously Rome) has existed on 8th Avenue between 25th and 26th streets since the 80s. It is a magnificent collage of marble and wood located in the armpit of Chelsea and Clinton — a no-man’s land of cheap stores and restaurants there to service F.I.T. and the city housing. If real estate sales peeps can offer their mantra “location, location, location” to set a market price, I can use the phrase to underscore the problems this joint is facing right from the jump.

The Gates is in a location only my mother would love. The old Biltmore Room got about 3 stars from The New York Times and still couldn’t pay the rent. Rome, a gay spot in the same location, could not get its core crowd to cross 23rd Street. It was like that impassable energy field on Star Trek that kept everyone in the galaxy — the gays just wouldn’t venture that one block north. Faced with this first daunting strike, The Gates’ brain trust did virtually nothing to the place to make it a destination worth the trip. Are they depending on the vacuous memories of models — who aren’t checking anything out but each other — to lure bottle buyers who are so young that they have never seen the place? Although the magnificent marble and wood paneling still remain, the addition of uninspired vinyl furniture, awful lighting, and spotty sound give it a strike two. But the inevitable pitch count will have to wait because I was told at least 10 times that it wasn’t the real opening. The Gatsby-themed event this Saturday night — which baffled a Nick Carraway-type publicist and I as we chatted in the middle of the dim room — was a pre-opening soiree. I hate the pre-opening concept. Open right, or wait until you get it right. Five people told me that more (ugly) furniture was on the way. It reminds me of a story my mom once told me: Two old Jewish women were eating at a Catskills resort, and one old Jewish woman turned to other and complained, “Sadie, you know the food here is terrible?” To which Sadie replied, “Yes, Gussie, and the portions are so small.” If you don’t get that joke, feel free to call my mom. Again, I like the players involved, and I think they are generally liked, so I hope they tweak it and it’s a winner.

The other ‘G-named spot this month is The Griffin. Here “location, location, location” is really in the favor of management. The last time I mentioned The Griffin, I was poked because my partner Marc Dizon was the lead designer on the project, and I was “blowing up my own shit,” and it was “self-serving”. The Griffin is found where PM used to be, right in the heart of the Meatpacking — a location, location, location that dreams are made of. Diagonal from the Ganesvoort and Pastis, The Griffin will enjoy more foot traffic than a podiatrist. However, where The Gates’ management are a crew of nice guys, The Griffin’s honchos are less loved.

Although I enjoy a respectful relationship with Chris Reda, formerly of Room Service, there are many who ask me how. I don’t know Stevie D., (at least by that name) well enough to say anything bad about him, but I do know Adam Hock, and here I will take my mothers’ advice and keep my mouth shut — not without a small observation, however. Adam Hock has the honor of having presided over the last club in the Meatpacking to belly-up, which is PM, the current Griffin space. With a “location, location location” like 50 Ganesvoort, it seems almost impossible to fail there, yet it did. He did. In fact, I can’t think of another club that failed in the Meatpacking — oh, I just remembered one: “G Spot.”