W South Beach Debuts “Entourage Bungalow”

Do you have a money-leeching, attention-seeking, and pussy-craving posse of your own? Are you worthy of the Vince, E, Turtle, Drama, and Ari lifestyle? I know I am — so stand aside Adrian Grenier, it’s my turn now! Miami’s new W Hotel South Beach has teamed up with HBO to give Entourage fanatics a chance to live out their own Queens Boulevard to Hollywood fantasy with the new “Entourage package.” The deal not only includes a personal driver, a luxury yacht spin along the coast, and a personal poolside cabana and jet skis, but also allows a group of four to stay at the “Entourage Bungalow” — three floors with nine-feet-high ceilings and a gallery of rock photog Danny Clinch’s artwork, plus goodies from Grey Goose and Heineken and PS3s galore. All of this is for a mere $5,650 for two nights.

And who ushered these wannabes in to this uber-cool new club but none other than Vinny Chase himself. Last night, Grenier and fellow cast members unveiled the Bungalow at an invitation-only party at the Grove, the poolside garden of the W South Beach. Catch the promotion before it ends in September.

Padma Lakshmi Likes It Hot

She’s been on the cover of countless fashion magazines, once inspired a novel by her ex-husband Salman Rushdie, and (with a little help from Tom Colicchio) has propelled Top Chef into smash-hit status since becoming the show’s fiery host in 2006. Now, add jewelry designer and ground beef paramour to Padma Lakshmi’s growing resume. Her jewelry line debuts at Bergdorf’s today, and she’ll make an in-store appearance on May 8; here, the culinary bombshell discusses sex, burgers, and why she’d rather go naked.

A recent article suggested that you had dreams to build an empire. Is that the goal? If someone else wants to call it an empire, that’s their business. I think only kings and queens have empires. But I’m lucky to have a new jewelry line. It’s a real labor of love, not at all a licensing deal. I’ve put all of my own money into it.

Tell me about the pieces. I’m launching the line at a very shaky time, but I do think people want things of value, and my jewelry is real rather than costume. I’ve always loved to adorn myself with little trinkets and baubles. I’ve designed pieces for myself for a long time and have amassed a pretty good pirate’s booty of vintage and antique pieces from India. The pieces all have some form of movement — dancing on the wrist, ear, and throat, or creeping down a woman’s back. I think a woman’s back is one of the sexiest parts of her body, yet we seldom see that part adorned.

Have you always felt sexy and beautiful? I guess I always kind of felt awkward. I was really tall, and I had a really long neck. I am 5’ 9’’ now and I was 5’ 9’’ when I was 15, and I just felt really gawky. I always stuck out and was always in the back of class pictures. I started feeling prettier in high school, but I certainly wasn’t the girl that every guy went after in high school. I didn’t have a date for my prom. I had a boyfriend and I broke up with him a week before prom. He went to another high school, and I really couldn’t get a date. I wound up going because I won a limousine in a raffle, and then this guy that I didn’t know from Spanish class came up to me and said, “Well, you did win that limousine.” He knew he’d have a free limousine if he took me to the prom.

I’m sure that’s no longer a problem. Ratings for Top Chef jumped 46% after you started on the show. I hope the ratings have reflected how I’ve done my job. If I still looked the way I do but didn’t know about food or cooking, then I would have been replaced. Food is also inherently sexy, too. Did you know Tom [Colicchio] beat me out for sexiest host by the viewers of the show? I’m serious. Just check!

Where did you learn to cook? I learned to cook from the women in my family. All the action in our home was in the kitchen. Gossip was exchanged there, and all of the decisions were made there. Now, I’ve written two cookbooks and still haven’t gone to culinary school.

It must be tough to kick someone off the show each episode. It’s the worst part of my job, to be honest, especially because I’m with those guys from morning to night every day, and I see what they have to go through. They sacrifice a lot. They are away from their jobs and families and homes. They don’t have television, newspapers, Internet or e-mail. They really are passionate about what they do. As difficult as it looks on TV, it’s harder in real life.

Your Hardees commercial has been getting tons of media attention. What has the reaction been like? A lot of it has been very positive. I think it celebrates food, and it celebrates womanhood, and I actually think it celebrates feminism because if you watch the commercial, the last line is, “It’s not just a piece of meat.” That particular burger is delicious because of the BBQ sauce, the onion rings, and the bacon — it’s not because it’s a big fat burger. And I really did grow up with that burger. I ate that burger the whole time I was in high school. Even my mother loved the commercial. She called me up and said, “Pads, it’s so hot and beautiful. You make me want to eat meat!” And she’s a vegetarian!

What about racy magazine shoots? More often than not, you aren’t wearing much clothing. I am very comfortable with my body. And I absolutely think that I look better nude then with a lot of the clothes. I think it’s important for young women to know that you can have a beautiful body after the age of 30. You can be sexy and sensual, and you don’t have to have an anorexic body.

I’d love to hear you describe your ideal man. Oh, it’s great that you asked because I was planning to take out a singles personal ad, but now, of course, thanks to you guys, I don’t have to: He should be tall or at least not care that I’m taller than him; I don’t intend not to wear my heels because of height issues.He should have a quick wit, a keen, wicked sense of humor, and know how to use it to seduce with precision. A sense of humor gets a man farther with me than anything else — make me laugh and I’m yours, but remember that the same joke only works for so long. I like dancing, so I’d love it if he was smooth on his feet, but a willingness to make a fool of himself on the dancefloor is usually enough. Also, I’d like a man who has read a book or two and has done some traveling. I hate piña coladas and picky eaters, but I do love the rain, especially in the summer and in Central Park. He must enjoy spicy food and eating out of bowls and not look at me strangely when I take down a whole bag of potato chips with hot sauce in bed. Rugged, athletic, and being extra nice to my mom really helps, too. Let me know if any good ones apply.

What’s next? I finish Top Chef’s next season at the end of May, and I’ve decided I very badly need a vacation — a real one, where my assistant locks my BlackBerry, hides my design sketchpad, takes away my computer, and screens calls from the Top Chef producers for three weeks. Is Outer Mongolia nice this time of year?

Name three places you like to go to in New York. La Esquina because I like all the tostadas there, and I love the candlelit room — it’s very cozy. I like The Eldridge because it’s always fun and it’s small, I like the music, and I love that it looks like a bookstore from outside. And, finally, there’s Indochine, because I love the food and I love the room and I love the staff. But the perfect night would involve a midnight picnic in the middle of August in Central Park — with a beautiful blanket and candles everywhere.

Isn’t it kind of dangerous in Central Park at night? Okay, a midnight picnic with a beautiful blanket, candles … and two bodyguards.

Industry Insiders: Josh Wagner, Hotel Barman

As regional director of nightlife for Morgans Hotel Group in Miami, Josh Wagner oversees Skybar at the Shore Club, Sunset Lounge at Mondrian, and Florida Room at the Delano. Here, he talks to us about cachaça, Grace Jones shedding tears, and growing a beard.

What are your favorite places in Miami, outside of Morgans properties? The pool at The Standard Hotel is the most relaxing place in Miami, period. There’s an incredible place called Silvia’s. It’s this inland restaurant on the canal where nobody speaks any English, and you can pick your fish in an icebox right there, and they cook it up right on the spot for you. I love the bar at Smith & Wollensky. I like Abbey Brewing Co. because it’s a tiny bar that just has beer and a dart board, and on any night off, there’s nothing better than a pint and a game of darts.

What does “regional director of nightlife” entail? I make sure that we have the proper finger on the pulse of what’s happening. Plus I control the decision-making on anything from special events, music and entertainment, any programming. Anything regarding nightlife or entertainment.

What’s the most difficult part of your job? Sleeping and not being able to find enough time to sleep.

How would you describe yourself? As a gentleman who is calculating and knows what I would like to accomplish in my life.

And what would you like to accomplish in your life? I’d like to have a hotel chain that features great public areas, that has great food and beverage options. It’ll be very much the equation of successful boutique hotels. Then I’ll retire from that, become a politician for 15 years, and teach history to college kids wearing a corduroy jacket with elbow patches and a pipe and a big beard.

Every night, do you jump around between all three places? I spend most of my time at the Florida Room because my office is at Delano, but I bounce around to the three as much as I can.

How do these three spots differ? Symbiotic with the actual hotel properties themselves, each of the properties offers something unique. The properties share certain characteristics that are similar and very distinct to Morgans, but they are also three completely different experiences. Skybar at the Shore Club is a larger venue where you can sit and have a club-like experience in the Red Room, or have cocktails outside in the garden or poolside. You have Nobu and Ago on that property as well. The Florida Room is the smaller, more intimate gem sitting under the basement of Delano. When Ian Schrager built it, the mentality was that we have to build an iconic lounge underneath to follow suit. It’s a Latin-style speakeasy piano bar, and every night, we do live music followed by atypical DJ sets. It’s a very non-South Beach formula of 70s, 80s funk, old-school hip-hop. The clientele at the Florida Room is very mature, and it’s not a forced mentality of bottle service. Any night, you’ll walk down and you can see a performance of anyone from Grace Jones to Perry Farrell. Between all three of our properties, you can really roam and experience something completely different.

How’s business at the Mondrian? The Mondrian is our newest property down here, and the Sunset Lounge is there because Miami has kind of always lacked a place for the people who have a regular 9-5 job. This is a place to have cocktails right after work, or use as a pre-dinner/post-dinner venue for cocktails. The Mondrian is the first hotel built in 40 years on the west side of South Beach, with beautiful views at sunset. We really wanted to create an offering for people to sit and have cocktails and not feel like they’re being forced to enjoy Miami clubland. It’s relaxed and chill. There we have a cachaça bar. Cachaça is what tequila was 15 years ago. We have 60 different types of cachaça, and we infuse 8 different flavors. You can enjoy a wonderful, tropical environment with a properly made cocktail with crushed ice, and anything from cardamom and pineapple to passion fruit and chili. You genuinely feel like you’re on a tropical vacation at the Sunset Lounge.

Are there any personal touches that you’ve added to these venues? The people that work there. One of the things that we really pride ourselves on is seeing people succeed, and for us, it seems that at all of our properties we have our family. You’d experience that when you go there, that there’s someone who cares about their job, and they see their future potential in it. I’m really proud of the teams that we’ve created.

What do you look for in potential employees? I look for people who care, who smile and are friendly. We’re in the business of engaging with guests and talking with people. You have to be a people person. We help create experiences, and when people come out to enjoy themselves at Morgans hotels, they’re looking to make memories, to have positive experiences. I look for staffers who want to help make moments, and we’ve done a pretty good job finding them.

What’s your favorite property? I’d have to say the Florida Room because you never know what’s going to turn up there. Lenny Kravitz designed the lounge, and some of the most intimate moments of live music that I’ve ever seen have been in the Florida Room.

Most memorable experience there? When we had Perry Farrell performing in the middle of the room, surrounded by a cocoon of people … everybody was just completely entrenched in the fact that they would have this man sweating on them. Grace Jones was sitting and crying in front of an audience that she was actually touching in a room that fits no more than 250 people.

How was Lenny Kravitz involved in the design of the Florida Room? Lenny has a design company called Kravitz Design, and the Florida Room is actually their first public project. They created this gorgeous room with Swarovski crystal chandeliers and a $150,000 custom-made Schimmel lucite piano. There’s only three in the world, and the other two are in Lenny’s apartments in New York and in Paris. There are leather ceilings and glass-beaded wallpaper. The place oozes sophistication and intimacy.

What’s going on in nightlife in Miami from a general perspective? Nightlife in Miami is at a major crossroads, and bottle service is obviously dead. It was uncool two years ago. It was a means to be able to gain access and purchase real estate that nobody else was able to buy. But 2009 is the year of the bartender. That guy who used to go out and spend $2,000 on a table is still going out, but now he’s spending $200 at the bar. Places that have great bartenders and great cocktails are places that are not going to see a real dip in sales at the bar. Happy or sad people always like to drink; that’s one thing that always needs to be remembered. The juice in that bottle, that stuff is liquid gold. Go down to Wall Street now, you look at the pubs around Wall Street, and they’re absolutely packed. Those guys are having rough times, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t afford a couple beers at the end of their day.

Industry Insiders: Andrea Pambechy, Leading the Suite Life

Andrea Pambechy is an innovative gal who dove headfirst into nightlife working as a door-girl — before the trend took off. She eventually settled into a position with Suite Dallas, a landmark in the North Texas luxury club scene. Now a partner in the venture, Andrea and Suite recently partnered with BlackBook to host the Belvedere IX SXIX party in correlation with the South by Southwest music fest. She talks with us about Dallas at night, her secret spots, and overcoming typical chick stereotypes.

How’d you get your start? I met my business partner Matthew Giese after returning from my post-college job working for the NFL on the Super Bowl in Jacksonville. It was the spring of 2005 and I was planning to move to Los Angeles, but he convinced me to stay in Dallas to help him with a business plan for a luxury vodka. That plan wasn’t paying my bills, so I put my finance degree to use working for Kyle Bass as he launched his hedge fund, Hayman Capital. I was one of the first three people he hired. Anyone aware of the success that followed Kyle will probably laugh at this next move, but I left Hayman in order to accept a position in the executive development program with Neiman Marcus. I was placed in the ladies shoes buying office working with Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik and other fashion legends. At the end of the day, I knew I wouldn’t be happy until I was headed in an entrepreneurial direction and was lucky to discover this at a young age. I then teamed up with Mathew and Parker Lawson to open Suite in Dallas What’s your position with Suite? I basically run the show. I handle all operations from the door to the tables to the day-to-day paperwork and financials. My main focus is to throw a crazy, fun party every night, where people enjoy themselves and feel like they’re in some other city or country and wake up the next day thinking, “God last night was so much fun.”

How would you describe the joint? It’s always a great party. We have awesome crowds every night, and a very eclectic mix. The design brings back 70s discotheque and a stage-performance feeling. Like a present-day Studio 54. We brought amazing DJs from all around the world, starting with A-Track for our grand opening, Z-Trip, Jus Ske, Graham Funke and Spider.

Any other nightlife ventures? I always envisioned my time in nightlife as a gateway to design, real estate development, and more hospitality. Like the career of Andre Balazs. I have an immense respect for him and the art direction that goes into his projects. He always stays true to the original character of his places and you can feel it in everything he does. I’d love to work the commercial real estate angle with hotels, residential and more nightclubs and restaurants. I hope to split my time with projects all over the world managing a design-driven private equity fund. I’m heading to Sao Paulo next month for inspiration.

What are your Dallas spots? My favorite place is The Zodiac for lunch at Neiman Marcus. There’s also a store called Forty Five Ten that brings in some of the most amazing lines of anyone in the country. They have great lunch there, and no one knows about it. I also go to a little hole-in-the-wall dive bar called Cosmos. Who are the biggest contributors to the Dallas scene? I’d have to say the late Stanley Marcus of Neiman Marcus and the Nashers. Stanley Marcus brought several designers including Coco Chanel to the United States for the first time. The Nashers are responsible for the Nasher Museum and NorthPark Mall, which is architecturally one of the most amazing shopping centers in the country.

What are some positive trends in the hospitality industry?Do you see anything negative? Probably people getting into the nightlife industry for the wrong reasons. In Dallas particularly, there are places going up right and left with no character whatsoever. Customer service is compromised, and it’s just so obvious. How is it being a female nightlife entrepreneur in Dallas? When Suite opened, I ran the door myself, and I ran a hard door. I didn’t have a huge space, and I always thought it was important to have an eclectic mix. It was crazy at the time for a girl to be running a door in Dallas, much less the club. Doors were typically operated by giant security types, and I was the first to break that trend. A few years later, every club that opens has a door girl with dark brown hair. Funny how that happens.

Industry Insiders: Danny Clinch, Rock Star Photog

Danny Clinch’s images of rock stars, his travels, his life, and everyday events will adorn the walls of the new W South Beach opening in May 2009. An excitable Clinch talks about these new opportunities, his style of work, and the photos he’s about to unveil at the new W.

What’s your job description? I photograph musicians for the most part. That’s how I make my living, and I do some advertising work. I did the John Varvatos campaigns, which I’m really proud of. I also do a lot of album covers and album packaging and publicity. It’s a great gig — I can be as creative as I want because there aren’t really any rules working with musicians. I like to photograph on location or go to a situation or atmosphere and photograph. I make concert films and documentaries and a couple of music videos here and there.

What are you working on now? John Varvatos’ wife has always been a curator of art, and we were talking about this project that she was working on at the W. She wanted to see more of my personal work, like images of records and trapezes and surfboards and things that were more personal and not necessarily musician-oriented. They wanted to use my art work for the entire hotel. Then we started to go through more of my work, and they decided that in the rooms … they would stick with more abstract images that were not about the subject, but more about the photograph. They also decided to use my large photographs on the landings of the elevator. Each floor will have just one large photograph. For that, we tried to pick things that were really portrait-oriented.

Are you happy about joining forces with the W? Yes. I think that it’s all about publicity and promoting yourself in the sense that it’s like a gallery show. Art Basel in Miami has become an institution down there. There are people from all over the world who show up and will be staying at the W during that time. I made some photography books around 10 years ago, with old photos of mine, and they’ve offered to put these books in the hotel as well. It’s an opportunity to promote myself. To really boil it down, it’s a great opportunity for me to showcase my work somewhere where there are people who can afford to buy gallery prints.

Are these books available anywhere else? You can get them at the Morrison Hotel gallery and at John Varvatos stores. These books are pretty cool for music fans. I did the second book around the concerts the Beastie Boys put on for Free Tibet. I photographed everything around those shows.

Is this the first time you are showing your work outside of rock stars? In the gallery shows that I’ve had, I would display images that might not be of a celebrity. It might be their hand or the back of their head or something where it was not quite so obvious. This was my first real opportunity to get people to recognize my personal photographs. It will open my work up to people who maybe aren’t big music fans. Although I can’t imagine someone not being a big music fan — because that’s my life. There are people who don’t really pay it much mind, so it’s an opportunity to tap into another market.

Where are your favorite places? If you ever go to Nashville, go to the downtown strip there. Around lower Broadway. There are a couple places, first is Tootsies Orchid Lounge. People like Hank Williams and George Jones and all those old country guys would walk from the Ryman Auditorium across the alley. There’s also Roberts and The Bluegrass Inn.

Photo: Danny Clinch Photography/Levine/Leavitt

Industry Insiders: Naeem Delbridge, Rhymes with Eldridge

The former partier and now keeper of The Eldridge door on how to get in his über-exclusive spot, the worst kind of bouncers, and the allure of Cameron Diaz.

How do you react when random people try to get into the Eldridge? I’m usually nice in the beginning, but if they keep trying, I start to get annoyed pretty quickly. If you’re not on the list, I’ll usually let you in if you’re really funny and make me laugh. If you’re one of these guys that likes to throw around a credit card, then … probably not. When someone says, “What do I have to do to get in here?,” it drives me crazy.

Where do you go out? I really like the Waverly Inn. I love the atmosphere, and it’s easy to get reservations. I also like Butter. They have a good menu. And GoldBar. I just like the atmosphere — it’s really pretty, and it’s relaxing. Not too dark.

How often do you work? I work Wednesday through Saturday and all the other days I’m tired.

So, you can never party yourself on the weekend? The only day I can go out is Sunday. Or after work, usually I’ll go to 1Oak. That’s one of my favorite clubs.

Who do you look up to in your position? One of them would be my boss, Jason Lawrence. I really admire the way he runs The Eldridge, and I like his integrity. He also makes work a lot of fun. Also, Scott Sartiano. I like how professional he is, and I see him when I go to 1Oak and when I go to Butter. He really welcomes his guests and always takes care of you.

Why does your last name seem to be so similar to the name of the place you work? It just happens to be that way. I was born to work there.

Anything you hate about bouncers and doormen? I would say over-aggressive bouncers. It’s a little creepy, but we have a great bouncer. He’s a really big guy called Big Mike.

What is something that people may not know about you? Ever since I got this job, I look at going out differently. I use to be really drunk all the time, and now I can see it differently, more like work. I see what’s going on at other clubs, and I see how they work. Usually, I’d just be wasted all the time.

What’s on your radar? My favorite thing to do is working out. It relaxes me. I try to go every day, or sometimes twice a day, if I have nothing to do.

Do you see yourself doing this for a long time? I haven’t thought about it in the sense of the future. You only think about it day by day. From here, the next logical step would be promoting parties and party planning.

If you weren’t doing this, what else would you be doing? I would actually be working for my boyfriend’s company called Art Wing. It’s a photo agency that specializes in fashion, still life, and celebrity photography. They actually shoot for BlackBook. I would just be a photo agent.

Favorite night at The Eldridge? I would say the most random nights when you’re expecting not to have fun. The right staff is there, and you have fun together. The staff at The Eldridge is so cool. Its like going over to your best friend’s place every night. They’re young, they’re fun, and they just want to know a lot about you. They all take their jobs seriously, but they’re very chill about everything. Everybody’s there to have a good time but to work too. It’s very balanced.

Who were you most excited to see at the club? Lindsay Lohan. She’s so nice. She was gracious and said thank you for everything. She was shockingly nice. So, all the stories that you hear aren’t true. Last time she was here was when Samantha Ronson spun for a fashion week party. When she’s in town, she definitely stops in.

Who’s your dream guest you’d like to see at the club? I’d love to see Cameron Diaz there. I think she’s a great personality and would be a great image for the club. And she wouldn’t let me down by seeing her in person.

What’s your favorite night? I would recommend people to come either Thursday or Friday. It gets too crowded on Saturdays, so on Thursday or Friday you can probably run up to the DJ if you want and request a song and dance around with your friends.

Photo: Chelsea Stemple

Stars Come Out to Fête Valentino (& His Dogs) @ MoMA

Last night at the MoMA, while the aristocracy of the fashion and entertainment worlds trailed in and out of the star-studded premiere of Valentino: The Last Emperor hosted by Quintessentially and the Gilt Groupe, the designer’s pooches stole the show. While only there in spirit — Valentino’s six pugs, Molly, Milton, Monty, Margot, Maude, and Maggie — were the hot topic of the evening.

Not a real surprise, given New York’s ongoing pug obsession. The event marked the end of the designer’s 50-year fashion career, with the premiere of a behind-the-scenes documentary of the competitive and glamorous life of Valentino and his partner Giancarlo Giammetti. “The pugs are the costars of the film,” claimed director Matt Tyrnauer, who followed the designer around for the final two years of his career to shoot the film. “There’s a scene in the movie where they’re making a $100,000 dress, and the pug walks out from underneath the dress, so yeah, they kind of got in the way, but in a good way,” added Tyrnauer.

All of the celebrities who had worked with Valentino said that while a bit spoiled, the pups are quite adorable. Victoria’s Secret model Karolina Kurkova proudly claimed that the dogs took a liking to her, but was sure to mention that, “They’re really not nice to everybody.” Gwyneth Paltrow, who made her grand entrance arm-in-arm with the designer, admitted that while the pugs were, “kind of mean,” she insisted that she still loved them. Her daughters remained undeterred in their quest to befriend the pampered pups, who have their very own limo to escort them to the airport in accordance with their jet-setting lifestyle. Other boldfaced names at the event included Anne Hathaway, Claire Danes, Martha Stewart, Agyness Deyn, Hugh Dancy, Selita Ebanks, Jason Wu, and Chanel Iman.

On the fashion front, Valentino — with his old-Hollywood charm and trademark orange facial glow — declared, “I’m not touching fashion anymore,” but added with a smile, “just dresses for high fashion or ready to wear.” The “retired” designer is devoting a great deal of his newly free time to designing costumes for the theater. He also claimed that this documentary was an accurate depiction of himself. “They took almost every detail of my life. When I’m in my house, when I speak with my people. I never was a person who showed off my private life very much, and all of a sudden they were there filming. Sometimes I didn’t even know they were behind my shoulders.” The director had a different recollection. “You’re walking around with cameras, lights, and microphones, and you’re in the way, and Valentino is someone who wants something when he wants it, and doesn’t want to wait around. So we were getting screamed at a lot, but I put it in the movie because that’s who the man is. Valentino is very nice, but he’s a fashion legend, and you don’t get there by being all sweet and polite all the time.”

Industry Insiders: Mazdack Rassi, the Milk Man

Mazdack Rassi, founder and creative director of Milk Studios, talks about Milk’s big plans for expansion on the West Coast. The new studios will open on May 1, with soft openings between May and June. The facility will be fully operational in June.

When did you hit it big with Milk? We came up with it ten years ago. We started basically as a rental facility, and over the last five years, we expanded more into a proper media company where we do more creative things, create more content, and are more involved in the creative process. Our goal was never to sort of be a space that was for rent or a rental mentality, but more of like to create a creative space and a crossroads for film, fashion, television, and art. We’re about seven divisions now.

Why the need for another huge Milk Studios in Los Angeles? In the last three to four years, there’s been a big trend in our business in New York where we’re working more with celebrities than with models. The main reason is because they’ve sort of started taking over the magazines. Today, to think about a major magazine with a model on the cover is something that’s so outdated. In the last two years, what’s been happening with our campaigns is that more and more celebrities are encroaching on that business, and they’re all here in Hollywood. The greatest modeling agency in the world is now Hollywood. And it’s not a trend — its something that’s going to stay. Celebrities and their agents are much more open to doing high fashion, covers, and campaigns than they were five years ago.

How does the new space compare to the 80,000 square feet of Milk Studios in the Meatpacking District? We took over the Technicolor studios in Hollywood, which were originally built in 1947. It was part of Paramount Studios, and we’re completely retrofitting it and modernizing it. We took it down to its concrete shell, and now we’re rebuilding from scratch. There are some parts that are original — like the soundstage — and we’re restoring these things back to their original glory. We get very involved in the community and our surroundings. This area reminds us of the Meatpacking District ten years ago.

Who have been some of your favorite clients to work with in New York? So many people. From doing an exhibition with Mike Figgis, who is the award-winning director of Leaving Las Vegas, to having Terry Richardson doing a shoot in our studios. He is always incredible and unique. It’s also amazing working with young photographers like Alexi Lubomirski. Watching people grow into these wonderful positions is a great gift. When we started at Milk, we didn’t know who the big photographers were. We just knew all the assistants. They were the same age as us, and we had the same sort of ideas. Those kids now have come to a point where they’re in charge, and they choose Milk as their home and their hub. We feed of that energy.

What are some of your favorite places to go to in New York? My favorite bar in the city is Rose Bar. One of my favorite places to eat is Macelleria in the Meatpacking. And another bar would be the Brass Monkey.

What about LA? The best breakfast is at the Beverly Hills Hotel at the counter downstairs. I think that’s in the basement. Then there’s this amazing restaurant I went to last night, and I would definitely go there again, called Cecconi’s. The bar I like most here is Winston’s.

Jason Denton on Bar Milano’s ‘Teca-Support

imageA little over a week after Joe and Jason Denton’s eight month-old baby Bar Milano closed its doors in light of the bad economy (or rather, not pulling the crowds in), it reopened as an additional branch of resto hit ‘inoteca, the popular and affordable panini-pressing factory downtown. Jason recently sat down to talk to us about a rough past month, the exciting changes he’s made, and what the future holds in moving forward with the reanimated version of Milano.

How have things been? Much better. It was a rough January.

Really? Well, you know, I’m just not used to not being open. We just kind of felt like — with the timing of everything, and the restaurant –that we needed to make a change. And it was a good change. We closed January 31 — that was our last night — and then we closed for the month of January and the first two weeks of February. We took out the carpets and laid hardwood floors, and farm tables, and a chandelier, and just kind of ‘inoteca-fied it.

How has the new place been? We’re having a lot of fun with it. We feel really good about some great responses, and you know, it’s the same menu as downtown — a lot of the signature dishes — and then plus, we’ve added a few new sections on the menu. We have a little section for pasta, which is just really, really simple pastas, like, spaghetti al olio. There’s a little panette, with pesto, and potatoes and beans. And then, we also have another little section called “Spiedini,” which are Italian skewers. So we have things like scallops with Jerusalem artichokes, or octopus and potatoes, or sausage with broccoli rabe and peppers. And yeah, we’re trying to keep it cheap. I think the price ranges for bruschettas are $3, and then it goes up to the average main course around $12 to $13. So it’s much more price-effective than Bar Milano was.

What’s the customer feedback been so far? I think so far people are really, really happy. I work the door every night, so I can greet everyone and see the reactions, and I feel like it was a good move. People always seem excited.

Any more changes to come? Well, right now, we’re just open for dinner, from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. every night — we serve food ‘til 3. And then in about a week and a half, we start delivering. And then we start lunch on April 1.

Is Bar Milano being missed? I don’t think so.

No? I don’t even remember it anymore [laughing]. I blocked it out.

What can we expect at the new ‘inoteca? We have a lot of fun things going on with the cocktails. We basically have some of the drinks that we had before, but now we’ve created a pretty cool little cocktail book that has around 40 cocktails. Classics and everything. And where on the old menu, we had drinks that were from $13 to $17, all our specialty cocktails and everything are $10. I think you can expect a lot of fun — it’s a new location — and you can mix great cocktails with a great selection of wines by the glass, and some new dishes from ‘inoteca. Also the ‘inoteca downtown is only for parties of six or more, but uptown, due to its size, we are talking about 20% of the restaurant we reserve out. So we still have tons of walk-ins, but if someone wants to guarantee a reservation, they should go online to OpenTable, or make a regular reservation.