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.

Industry Insiders: Rochelle Gores, Winning Big at Arcade

Rochelle Gores, owner of Los Angeles boutique Arcade, on working long days, saying bye bye to boho-chic, and the year of expansion.

Where do you go out? I love Foxtail, a new club in LA. Cut is a great restaurant that I love to go to for a good steak. One of my favorite restaurants that I’ve been going to for like 18 years is Mistral. It’s in the valley. The owner is Henry. I actually really like 1912 in the Beverly Hills Hotel. It’s very casual and just a nice bar to go to.

What’s your favorite aspect of owning Arcade? The buying, obviously, is one of the greatest parts, because that’s the product, and that’s the branding of the company. I am constantly overseeing the big picture and how it’s going to grow. Last year’s focus was creating the boutique, and this year, it’s launching it into doing private label and possibly into another boutique and growing as a brand. I’m really excited about that.

Who are two people that you admire in your industry? There have been so many great women in my industry. Obviously, Coco Chanel. She was the first one to put a woman in pants, and the first person to put a bag over the shoulder as opposed to carrying it in the hand. I look up to her for innovative ideas. Donna Karan is an amazing businesswoman. Stefani Greenfield from Scoop is amazing in the aspect of retail and buying. And then, my father Alec Gores on the business end.

Trends you love in fashion? Color. People are really into bold color in fashion and accessories. People are loving accessorizing everything from earrings to bags to necklaces and layering things. I think my favorite trend is going back to femininity and sophistication. And going back to that 1920’s woman.

Trends you hate? I’m really liking what I’m seeing because it’s going away from boho-chic, which I really didn’t care for. I really like where things are going. That is what Arcade is all about, feminine, womanly, beautiful, a sophisticated, very ladylike look.

One thing that people may not know about you? I work 18 hour days. I think that may shock people.

What are you obsessed with right now? I’m getting married in May so I’m obsessed with my wedding. The ceremony will be at my dad’s estate in Beverly Hills, and the reception will be at the Beverly Wilshire. I’m getting my dresses made by Herve at Carolina Herrera. I am also obsessed with the jewelry collection that I do with Neil Lane. We do these diamond letters. I wear my “R” every day, and the girls in the store wear the letter “A” for Arcade. It’s called Neil Lane for Arcade, and all of the pieces are one of a kind. I’m excited to expand with him.

What’s on the horizon for 2009? This is the year of expansion for me. I’m looking to expand through online selling, doing my own brand, and opening another store. I’m looking to expand into a larger empire.

What’s your favorite item in the boutique right now? My bathing suits. They’re fantastic. I have all Brazilian bathing suits. I have Rosa Cha, I have Lenny. And we’re one of the only places in LA that sells them.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure? Buying cosmetics. I’m very girly in that way.

What are you doing tonight? I’m in New York. We’re going to Charles on Charles Street, and then to Bijoux and Southside.

Industry Insiders: Unik Ernest, Nightlife Philanthropist

Unik Ernest, owner of Merkato 55 and Bijoux, blazes the path from Haiti to South Beach to New York nightlife don, stays grounded in a world where champagne bottles could feed entire villages back home, and dishes on his hot Art Basel party and the star-studded Inauguration Day event he’s cooking up in Washington DC.

What are some other places you like to hang out at in New York? Cipriani Upstairs, I like to go there. Sometimes I go to Pravda, because I live next door. I like to go to the gym. If I’m not working out then I’m listening to music. Or I’ll travel to Paris, to Hotel Costes, Plaza Athenee. I go to Barcelona a lot, but mostly I just like to walk around and not go out that much when I’m there.

What are some other places you like in the rest of the world? I like Brazil. I like Argentina. I stay at the Faena Hotel in Buenos Aires. I love London. I enjoy the south of France, from Cannes all the way to St. Tropez. Sometimes I’ll drive from Monaco to Milan. So pretty much that’s it.

Do you do events and parties all around the world? Definitely. In Paris we did a Diesel a party a few years ago. I just did a party for Ungaro this past Fashion Week. Sundance we’ve done events. We did a party for Lionel Richie in London after his concert. I took my friends out [after the concert] to a friend’s home, and it was like 100 people, really nice. I did a party in Cannes for the premiere of Ocean’s 13. A party for Denise Rich in St. Tropez on a boat. I did a beautiful party for aSmallWorld in St. Tropez at somebody’s house, right next to Club 55. I’m going to Miami for Art Basel [this week]. I have a party there, and David Bowie and Naomi Campbell will be showing up for that. And I’m doing the election party in DC on Inauguration Day.

Tell me more about the Washington DC event you are organizing. As we all know, this is the most historic event in America in many, many years. An African-American guy in the White House is incredible. I’m putting a committee together with, John Legend, Spike Lee, Usher — many people will be involved in the event, and it’s going to be very VIP. It’s going to be two nights, the night before Martin Luther King Day and then on Inauguration Day, a closing party to celebrate the inauguration of our new president.

Are you inviting Obama? Well, I am working with a lot of people in his camp, but I’m pretty sure he’s going to be busy! Then again it’s going to be something really meaningful. So we’re going to do something like New York invades DC, tastemaker-meets-celebrities-meets-politician party. It would be great to have Obama there, but I doubt it. I’m being realistic. He’s the President. He could have come to my party two years ago more easily I think!

Where did you get your start? South Beach, Miami. For four years I was a bar back, and when I would finish working, I’d go out almost every night in South Beach. So one of the club owners, whose partner was Mickey Rourke, asked me and my friend Dimitri [Hyacinthe] if we wanted to do the Wednesday night party. And I didn’t have any idea about promotion — I used to just go party. So next thing I know, we were doing the party, and the party was packed. What I did was I took to the street and just told everyone to come to my party, and it worked.

Yeah, pre-text messages. Old school. Yeah I didn’t have a fax machine, I didn’t have any technology, it was pure hustle. It was based on if people liked your personality or they liked your energy, and they just show up. And it worked. We did the party for like a year and a half, two years, and at one point I said to myself, “What am I doing in Miami?” Every day you wake up, go to the beach, and then you do the parties, but there’s nothing to show for it — there’s no career, there’s no tomorrow. So I said, you know, I’m gonna go to New York. I always had this thing for New York. It’s the place to be. So I said, you know what, let me give this a shot.

So my boy — who’s a big talker, used to be a promoter at Nell’s and Supper Club [in New York] — and he said, “I’m running shit in New York. If you guys wanna come, I’m gonna put you up, and I’m gonna put you under my umbrella.” So basically when we came here, because we were from Miami, we were already kind of ready, because of the way it works with the model scene. The season [in Miami] is over in like April or May, then everyone clears out. By the time we came to New York, everyone had already come here. So when we were getting on the street, we would come up with the most beautiful girls. We had our first New York party in June. By September, we had a big party going at Tilt on Varrick Street, where Culture Club is now. We had Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes. And eventually we had [the Wednesday night party at] Serafina in 1999/2000.

You guys owned Lafayette Street. Exactly. It was a dead street besides Indochine. I was already doing a massive party at Chaos on Wednesday night, and my business model was Bowery Bar, so I went to Serafina restaurant [on Lafayette Street] and decided to do dinner in the front and take the back room and turn it into a lounge. We did that for two years, and it was the most successful party seen to this day in New York. That party pretty much gave us the recognition that we needed to move to ownership. Even back then, Serafina wanted us to be partners with them, but we weren’t too sure. Then we got the offer from my previous partner at PM. He told us he had this space in the Meatpacking District, so why don’t you guys come in and be partners and we’ll help raise the money and we’ll help do the concept together. PM lasted for like five years. And when our lease was almost up, we got a good offer to get out, so we sold the lease, and kept the name if we ever want to do PM again. That’s what happened, then afterward we move to Merkato 55.

How did you get involved over here? The landlord always liked us. When the previous place was open, they weren’t doing good business. And the owner asked Aramis, our door guy, if we wanted to take over the place. Since we had to sell PM, we had to do something right away. Basically we came in, and we were looking for people to partner up with, and thinking about what kind of scene would be good for this place, what kind of concept we could do here that would be different, so we came up with the idea for African.

How did you get in touch with Aquavit chef Marcus Samuelsson? Marcus was looking at this place too at the same time as us. But Marcus didn’t have money to put into this place, so we brought Marcus in as a consultant. He gave us the concept. So we went ahead and did this place. It is challenge to do something at this time, of the year especially with the economy. We’ve been getting a lot of good response, people calling from all over the world to see us here. So we’ve got a great lounge downstairs [Bijoux], and we use it for events, and also for people to come and relax. It’s been good.

You have the rights to PM? Are you gonna try to do it somewhere else? Yeah it’s been less than a year since PM has been closed. We have another space that we own, and we may take PM there.

Who are some people that you admire in this industry? I love the guys at Serafina. I love what they have accomplished and their brand. Paola Pedrignani who was gutsy to take Amaranth over to the Upper East Side. Of course you have the old school guy like Ian Schrager. Anybody in this business wants to become like that guy. He set the bar so high, so if you eventually want to become a hotelier or own a resort, you definitely have to look at the blueprint he’s laid out for all of us.

Is that a career path you see yourself going on? I love my business, to be honest. Sometimes you get tired, because you have to work at night and during the daytime. Anybody who has to work at night has to work during the daytime. You have to entertain people. I wake up early in the morning to make sure everything is prepared for the day. In the afternoon, I have lunch meetings, book events, preparing for like two or three months from now. And at night, people want to see you. My friends are like lawyers, doctors, they have a tough day at work, they want to let off steam out. So I have to see them, which means I have to be there at night. I stay till like 4 a.m., but sometimes I sneak out at like 2. But that can take a toll on you. You can call me 24 hours a day. If I can’t talk to you, I just won’t pick it up, but you never know who is going to call. I know sometimes you have to make time for yourself and your family. But if you choose to be in this business, you are married to it. The good thing about me is I don’t drink and I don’t do drugs. But if you are on this schedule everyday, it doesn’t matter if you drink or not, it’s still tough.

Is being sober a big advantage? Oh yeah, 100%. I’m sure there are some people who are smart, they can drink, do drugs, then drink coffee and they are still good at what they do. But I feel if you have a clear mind, your thoughts are more together. But besides doing nightlife, I have a charity, so that gives me perspective.

Tell me more about that. I took a school in my country [Haiti]. There’s 172 kids to be exact, and we give them a meal every day, as well as all the materials they need for school, including uniforms. The organization has been around for one year, and it’s called Edeyo. It means “I will help them” in Creole. So we have two big events coming up, an art exhibit by the kids, to enjoy some of their beautiful art. We have some photographers and other artists giving us some beautiful pieces. So we’re doing that here on December 9. And also in January, we are doing a big event on January 8 with Milk Studios, with Nigel Barker, who went with me to Haiti and we took pictures. I came from Haiti to America to having this good life to throwing all these parties and all these dinners. If you come from my background, forget about anything else, you have food and a roof over your head and anything else is just icing on the cake. There’s people right now, all over, that don’t even have anything to eat. I always tell people I’m not doing this thing to get recognition, I’m not doing it for gratification. I’m doing it because I came from that situation. I’m the guy that’s lucky.

Known Associates: If someone knows me, they know I am a solo guy. So whenever I can take time out by myself I gotta do it. But the people I do business with are Francois who is a guy I met in Miami, and he came to New York to start working for me. My brother Kyky [Conille] who is my partner. Dimitri Hyacinthe, my partner. Michael Pradieu is the co-founder of the foundation. Those are my core guys.

What are you doing tonight? I’m going to cook at home. I love to cook. I’m making rice and beans probably like with veggies. I love to eat out, but when you have your own place you have to eat food you cook yourself. Just to get ready for the night you have to cook at home. So I’ll do that and then come to Merkato 55 to work.

Industry Insiders: Derek & Daniel Koch, Day Party Entreprenueurs

Derek and Daniel Koch are 26-year-old brothers and purveyors of one of New York’s hottest day parties: Saturday brunches at Merkato 55. They explain the logic behind a day party, the transition from college wrestling to nightlife artistry, and the ubiquitous nature of French toast.

Point of Origin: We were born in West Virginia and raised in the Ohio Valley area, about sixty miles west of Pittsburgh. There were a couple thousand people, it was a very small town. It was a village. We were at Ohio State University for two years, we were on the wrestling team, and we didn’t want to wrestle anymore. We wanted to move to a bigger city, try to reposition ourselves.

It was really weird transitioning — we were two athletes, but we were very artistic guys who wanted to search for a better life without having to go to school for something. We didn’t know what we wanted at that moment. We were 20 years old. Like everybody else, we needed job(s) to pay the bills. At the time, we were living in Brooklyn, and (Daniel) happened to be in the right place, at the right time finding a job via Craigslist at this little bistro on the Upper East Side — 69th and Madison, it’s still there, called Le Charlot — Derek walked in and asked for anything they had open, and (the manager there) told him to come back. Derek was put on the schedule, and I was waiting tables for, I don’t know, a good year. And the first week, he was waiting on Robert DeNiro.

The History of the (Day and Night) Day Party: We worked a few years separately — one at Le Bilboquet, one of us at Le Charlot — then we said, you know, we want to have more fun. Bilboquet looked like the place to make more money, have a little bit more freedom. We wanted to work together. (Daniel) left Le Charlot and went back to Bilboquet for about a year. The idea was for Aymeric (Clemente) to get Daniel back so we could do our Saturday brunch, which, Aymeric was the maître d’/manager of, who taught my brother and I everything we know, but Daniel and I were the servers. There were two waiters (us) and we’d be serving a crowd of about 200 people, (so, we did the Saturday brunch party) when the place only fit fifty.

How do your day parties work? We start the party at noon. It’s a brunch, it’s food, it’s a restaurant. At about 3 p.m., the music picks up, the crowd starts demanding more drinks, the lights are going up and down. By four, when it’s high-time, people are dancing on the tables, the music gets loud, and the weather outside is beautiful, it’s still light outside. By 5 p.m., well, the hours just turned back. So, 5 p.m., it’ll be dark, but it’ll still be daylight in the restaurant. It’ll still be like, okay, it just went from day to night, and ultimately before the clocks change, we take the party to Bijoux at 5 p.m. The party doesn’t stop until 10 on Saturday, but that’s all word of mouth. We don’t market that, we don’t send emails. At 6 p.m., most of these people don’t want to go; you have to kick them out because the restaurant’s open (at Merkato 55) for dinner service. So, you have to reset everything. When you’re there and you’re hanging out, you get on the mic, like, “okay, it’s 5:30 …” We turn the music down, you start hearing the music down on the ground, and everybody starts running downstairs. So, it starts in the day, it finishes at 8.

Who goes to day parties? This is a European market — for example, the Bagatelle clientele is about 90% European, and their DJs are great. We offer something a little different. We have mostly house music but, for a while, we’re playing everything. We have a 55% European, 45% American clientele. The American friends of ours are all starting to catch on to this St. Tropez-like vibe.

Industry Icons: Philippe Delgrange (of Le Bilboquet), who’s a huge part of this interview, by the way. He would definitely be our industry icon. Philippe Delgrange took us under, he’s like a second father, he would sign for our leases, we went to his house upstate; he’d be the guy, like the family man, that we’d eventually want to be some day — he’s our mentor. Just: everything. Other people: Frederick Lesort, Rich Thomas, Robert Montwaid, Aymeric Clemente, Patrick Cabido, Nicolas Barthelemy, Javier Vivas, Jordan Wheat, KyKy & Unik.

You guys work out of an office eight hours a day — what gives? Well, we’re licensors. We’re marketing, we talk to our clients, send them emails thanking them, we do tracking reports…anything. To produce a party at this stature, at this level — people are coming into your place and spending top dollars — you have to put forth the time to make it really work and to execute it and to make sure they had the ultimate experience. It doesn’t just come down to marketing. Also, you have to offer promotions, you have to make sure the music’s right, the lighting’s right, there’s things that you have to keep in order: the tuna’s not right, the ballroom is too small, et cetra.You can’t stretch yourself in this business. You really have to take a party, focus on it, and make it the best party of the week. We want to give that experience. That’s where you can grow, and your company can expand. You can be notable for that experience.

Give us the hard sell on Saturday brunch with the Koch brothers at Merkato 55. We’re mixing the music. It’s more friendly. There’re no egos. We have seating outside; our menu’s completely different from (the competition, and Merkato 55’s typical menu). We have American, we have burgers on the men; we actually have brunch items, too. We have French toast.

French toast at an African restaurant? We consolidated with our chef and said, “listen, we need to take some items from your dinner menu, from your brunch, and from your lunch, and combine them.” Yeah, French toast. French toast, everywhere.

How is it to work with your brother … all the time? We’re partners. We do everything, we don’t miss a beat, you know? We get each other’s emails, we’re constantly working together. If you had two people like you who had to do the same thing two times as hard as anyone else, it’s almost — the trust is there. The hardest part of being in business is finding a partner, and we found a niche. We like what we do, and right now, we’re having more fun with what we’re doing than we ever have.

What’re you guys doing tonight? There’s a little an industry party on Mondays at La Zarza. That’s our only other gig. We don’t email, text mail market, we just show up and have a good time. It’s fun for us. It’s an industry night. Something for people who’re in the business. La Zarza on Monday nights. Hands down. Saturday night was an all-nighter; Monday comes around and before you know it …

Is there ever a night where you guys don’t go out? Yeah. There’re six nights a week (laughing). The whole idea was to not get back into the restaurant business so fast and furious because, we actually enjoy our nights. (Derek) has a girlfriend, we’re office guys. We get things done during the day. We like going to events, to charities, stuff like that — stuff that we could never do before. To tell you the truth, you won’t find us in a club Tuesday, Wednesday … You’ll find us maybe Rose Bar on Tuesday, maybe Gold Bar on Wednesday, but if it’s got a club name on it, you’re not gonna see us in there. There’s a lot more to life than going out and getting shitty. You know, if you’re in the office the next day busting it out until four and you know that everything’s ready to go come Saturday because you put your time in … Put it like this: you can get a lot done going out before midnight.

Industry Insiders: Reka Nyari, Genie with a Bottle

Foreign-born bottle-service diva Reka Nyari on why men with ties buy $5,000 bottles at clubs, inventing a nightlife resume to avoid the pole, and parlaying industry connects into a career in photography.

Where do you go out? I go to Beatrice or Rose Bar. I also will still go to the bottle service places to see my friends. A lot of my friends still work in the business. They work at Cielo, Bijoux, and Marquee, so I will go to see them. I also will go with friends to Schiller’s and chill and have wine. A friend has a table at Bungalow 8 every Thursday, so I’ll go sometimes.

Where did you get started in the industry? I started in the business about six or seven years ago. I needed a job that would only be a few days a week and make a lot of money because I was doing art, painting, and photography. I wanted to support myself by working weekends and doing my art during the week. I thought about what could I do and decided bottle service was it. It was either bottle service or stripping, and stripping is definitely not for me. PM was the place that was making a lot of money. I called and went in and met with [owners] KiKi and Unik. I had modeled and went in with my modeling portfolio. At this point, I didn’t even know what a dirty martini was. I didn’t drink. They asked where I worked, and I made up places in London because I had just gotten back from living there. I just picked it up really fast.

At first they had me seating people, which is no money really. So I said I would leave, and they put me on the floor after that. I did really well and had fun [partying] with the customers. They had teams at PM, a busboy and a waitress. They put all our sales each night on the screen. It was really competitive. It would say: Reka $3,000, Nicole $5,000 — and I wanted to make as much as Nicole. Certain nights, the girl who sold the most got a bottle of Dom or Cristal champagne. The customers would ask me want I wanted to drink. We drank so much champagne it was coming out of our ears. When people were waiting outside, we would raise the table minimums [to $5,000]. It was a really good time for bottle service. After about a year, sales went down. I think Cain opened and took a lot of the bigger spenders. So some of the better waitresses left too. Marquee was also doing really well.

You have always done bottle service? Yes, as a waitress, host, and door person. I was at PM and Cielo the longest. But it was Movida that made me want to quit the nightlife business. I liked working at the door much more than working inside, where you have to deal with the drunk people more. I made most of my connections at the door. I even promoted a Sunday night party at Home. At that point I was going out seven days a week. I was just out. At one point, I felt that nightlife was my industry, and thought I would open my own club. I was 25 or 26 and thought, “This has to be my career, I am too old to start to do anything else.” I had only modeled and done nightlife and didn’t have a resume for anything else. It’s hard being a woman in nightlife. Most of the men are sexist. They don’t treat you with the same respect they do the men. I always got in trouble because I was very loud and telling them off. I wasn’t afraid to say you’re wrong, and I’m right, and fuck you. Some of them loved that about me, and some really didn’t.

But when you go out, do you go to bottle service places? Not really, not anymore. I like places without bottle service better. If you are going to a club that is packed and you can’t get in, and you want to get in, it is a great way to buy real estate. You get a table, you get to sit down, you don’t have to wait in line. If you have the money. It is nicer than going to the crowded bar. Yet it has killed a lot of the spirit of nightlife. The artists and funkier people don’t go cause they don’t want to spend $2,000. It has mostly been investment bankers spending that kind of money.

So where do the artists go out? I think in Brooklyn now. There are great art parties there. They have $2 beers, and its about meeting interesting people. It’s a cooler crowd. They have potluck parties where everyone brings food and booze. It’s a good time. It’s not about spending lots of money. People will even lose money to throw a party. Places now are not built to have a good party, they are built to have as many tables as possible for bottle service. They hire promoters to bring in models and cool kids who would never go to these places unless they where getting free bottles.

Someone said to me they can look around the room and see which table is free and which is paying. Of course, of course. The four guys with ties are paying. They are paying to sit next to the table of six models who are getting it all for free, and as soon as their bottle is empty, they leave to go somewhere cooler. Think about it. My friends on any given night have a choice of five places to walk into and have a table and free drinks in the main area, and other people wait on line to pay to do it. It’s hard to get my friends to go even when it’s all free. You’ll get a phone call, “I have a table and bottles at Bungalow, come over and it will be next to such and such celebrity,” and you’ll think, “I don’t feel like it tonight.” Yet there are people dying to go. The promoters now invite you to free dinner first, too. It’s fun to go once in a while, but it’s just not as fresh as it used to be. I think to myself how much money could a place make when I look around the room and see promoter after promoter.

How do you think they stay in business? I think they have a lot of investors and good corporate events, holiday parties. They rent the space for a few hours, spend lots to be there, and then have to leave tables when they are turned over for bottle service later. They get furious, but if the place is cool enough, they will come back anyway.

What else are you doing now? I am a photographer. I do editorial, catalogue, CD covers. Kiki De Montparnasse is one of my clients. Without nightlife, it would have been much harder for me to get my photography going. I met so many people in fashion that liked me as a person that once I reached out to them for business, they gave me a chance. I don’t regret working in nightlife at all

You are not from here right? I am half Finnish and half Hungarian and have lived in Helsinki and Budapest and lived for a while in London.

Is there a place you feel that the nightlife is better? Uruguay is the new cool European Riviera. Miami still has its wild moments during Winter Music Conference. Manhattan nightlife is just different now. Brooklyn has funkier parties. You could almost say that nightlife in the city is for tourists, bankers, and real estate guys. It has less soul. Also the regulations and enforcers are hurting the scene. They tried to ban bottle service at one point because they said it contributes to people drinking too much, ‘cause they want to finish their bottle.

Photo: Reka Nyari

Industry Insiders: Mory Traore, Model Magnet

“I Hate Models” promoter Mory Traore waxes on why his parties have the most runway talent, ditching the police force, turning shit into gold, and how to combat corruption in Africa.

Point of Origin: I’m from Guinea, West Africa. Came to New York as a student and got a criminology degree from John Jay College. Then I was working for New York Department of Investigation for about seven months until I realized it wasn’t something I wanted to do. Basically it was a military organization with hierarchy, orders — not the kind of place I function well. I didn’t have freedom. I’m really creative and I couldn’t use it, so I took off and went to Eastern Europe and traveled. And I thought, “OK, when I go back to New York what am I gonna do?” I was in Romania on a train at night writing these things down and I said, “From here on any job I do: no stress. What makes me happy? I love to party. I love beautiful girls. I love to travel.”

I wrote all this down. And I said, “All these things here are things I have to get paid to do. That’s the only way to get a job that makes me happy.” So I started model scouting. I was calling agencies and traveling and telling them if they wanted to pay my travel costs, I will bring you people, then we’ll sit down and figure out the rate or the percentage. So that’s how I got started.

So right around that time, I started promoting a little bit at the club Life. That was the first night I did. I told Steve Lewis, who ran it, that I wanted to start promoting, and he said, “Are you sure?” He told me, “I think you can do it. You know so many people.” They were just paying me per person at first. I know myself. I always do this kind of thing. I want to prove myself to people. I make people depend on me. Once you do so well that their night depends on you, then if you leave, their night is nothing, and you can ask for anything. And I always get it. No promoter gets more than I do, because I know exactly the value of what I do. $1,500, $1,000 is not what I do. What I do is I sell you an image, and this is the image you pay me for. I turn shit into gold. I used to do places like Arena, Air (where Kiss and Fly is now). Tenjune. Places like that. You talk to people at Tenjune, they’re gonna say its because of Mory that they got to this spot. This is what I sell.

Occupations: Right now I do six parties Tuesday through Saturday. I work five nights and one of the nights is two parties. Tuesday’s at Tenjune, Wednesday at Kiss and Fly, Thursday at Tenjune again. Friday at Highbar first, then Bijoux later that night. And Saturdays in the Hamptons at Lily Pond.

Are you at all your parties? Always. My main principle for myself is I have to be there. Unless I’m traveling. That’s another concept with working in a group because most clubs are stealing people that work with me cause they want to break me. Like Ricardo that used to work with me. Or Justin Melnick, or Nicky P. All these guys were working for me, and they come and take them away thinking they’re gonna weaken me. But it’s like the Africans say: If you want to kill the snake, you have to cut the head, not the tail, cause if you cut the tail it’s just gonna regroup and go on. And now what I did is I have a big team of about six trusted people. My brother Fontaine cause nobody can take him away. [Some Italian promoters] work with me now to replace the Italian element in Ricardo. I met them in Ibiza, saw them working, so I know they know how to do things. I just had to train them in the New York style.

What is that style? I know you have a big model crowd. What sets your party apart? What we do is not just the models, it’s a fashion crowd. We do focus more on that. Most promoters have a little circle of models that they go around with, but we go for the quantity of the quality. We try to get the most model girls. A lot of them.

Would you say you are the king of the models in New York? People say this. People tell me I know more models than anybody else. But I don’t know because I don’t go to other parties to make a comparison because most of the time I go to my own party. Because if I’m having my own party one night, I won’t go to another person’s party that night. I think about it the reverse way. What am I gonna think if I’m at my party and I see [a rival promoter] at my party? I’ll think, “Their party probably sucks if they are at my party.”

So of all the parties you’ve done over the years, what’s your favorite? That little shitty place Suede. Friday was just insane over there. And also Air.

Was the Suede party with Danny A? No, he was doing another night. We never did the same night together.

Do you ever work with other promoters in conjunction on the same party? I usually tell the clubs — cause we charge them a lot of money — if you want to hire other people, that’s fine, but you don’t need it because not only do we bring the models, we bring the bottles, you know. And we have all the regular [people], the masses. Like the text messages I send. I have three thousand numbers in my phone.

Those texts (which are quirky, slightly absurd, and often include the word “model” in some way) are pretty memorable to say the least. Who writes them? I do! (laughing) I just think about regular things, certain things you read or something and turn it around. Someone says something funny, you twist it around. You’ll have a conversation, and I remember it and write it down. I have a little book where I write them down.

Do you have a backlog of texts? Yeah.

Do you recycle them? Rarely, because people remember them, so I try not to (laughing). I had a book full of them before, and I lost it in Cannes. I was so pissed. I had so many because I was on vacation, so I had time to write a lot of them.

What other places do you like to hang out? I know you said you don’t go to other peoples parties necessarily. I go, usually when I have to. Because sometimes the girls want to go to another place if they don’t want to go home. I party for basically work, and of course I have fun and I enjoy it, but when I don’t have to party, I try to go home and sleep to conserve my energy. Especially when you work six parties a week!

Projections: I have a party in Milan for Fashion Week with Muse magazine, and then my birthday in Paris for Fashion Week with Major Model Management. And then we have a party for “I Hate Models.” We made 900 T-shirts with the “I Hate Models” logo, and we’re gonna give them to all the models to wear.

Tell me about the model dinners. It’s usually mainly models that we invite. Again, we do the quantity of the quality. We try to invite anybody that wants to come, but they gotta be models. We can have like 40 or 50 girls. We get 50% off, and we pay for it. We prefer to pay … it’s better than the regular model dinner.

The girls already eat 50% less. What’s 50% of a salad? Exactly. It works for us. When you have these buffets, people don’t feel special. It’s like you’re a cow. I wouldn’t want to come to a dinner where someone invites me, and someone just puts some food on your plate in front of you. We tell them we want the menu. We know the models don’t eat that much, so we get the menu and get 50% off. We’ll pay for it. Sometimes it’s a lot, like two or three thousand dollars, but we think about the future. All the girls that go out with us know the things we do are really good — it’s not shitty things or low-quality stuff.

How is your relationship with the modeling agencies? Good relationships with most, but a lot of the agencies don’t want their girls to go out. So we have relationships with the girls directly. With the agencies, we’ll do special parties, special events. Some bookers will call me once in a while if they want to go out, and they bring some girls. But we don’t depend on the bookers.

Side projects? When I was in Africa last time, and I go very often, I started looking at the possibility of starting a charity. There have only been two regimes since 1958, both very corrupt governments. Corruption is institutionalized. So even if there’s a new regime that’s very conscious of [eradicating] corruption, and it took 50 years to create that culture of corruption, it’s going to take another 50 years to deprogram that culture. I think the path to development is Internet and technology. It has to come to everybody, like it did in China, or Eastern Europe, or India. That is how you get into the global market, so you don’t have to go through the government to get things done. It’s essential. So I’m looking to work with a company to start bringing computer technology to my country because I want everyone in the whole country to get on the Internet, for people to see what’s happening in the rest of the world, so people will be empowered. So that’s something I’m looking to get involved with.

What are you doing tonight? Kiss and Fly. So you want to kiss and fly tonight? You might fly away with a girl.

One Night in Bijoux

As a general rule, it’s important to avoid Meatpacking District lounges when in New York. But in the course of a night out in Manhattan with certain types of folks, chances are you’ll find yourself negotiating swarms of aspiring Carries, Samanthas, and Señor Bigs in that charming, cobblestoned little district out west. So when our friend Tamsin Lonsdale, who hosts these delightful social gatherings all around the world for people with better manners and wallets than ourselves, extended an invite promising a “sneak peak” at a new joint called Bijoux, we soldiered west with a crew of our favorite bar-hopping delinquents to inspect the goods.

The exclusivity thing was promised from the get-go with a clever La Esquina-style, through-the-kitchen entrance (Marcus Samuelsson’s Merkato 55 is above). Down the candle-lit stairs and once inside, they definitely pulled off the sexy hideaway look. Thumping beats, ample, dark leather couches, shady paintings of scantily clad chicks on the dark brick walls, a low-slung ceiling studded with framed mirrors, and one ridiculously ornate crystal chandelier, hung extra low. Oh, and also a fog-covered well, which we assume was probably required by zoning laws. It all combined for an opulent, smoky, dare-we-say soft-porn effect, as if you’d stumbled into the Sultan of Brunei’s secret lair, minus the harem of Latvian girls (which are of course kept in a separate room further down). And while we debated whether this added up to being the MPD’s new Double Seven (unfortunately defunct) with a group of tall, adamant blondes, we were all a tad puzzled by the new hotspot’s complete and shocking lack of one thing: mimes. But then, out of the smoke, two hands emerged. These hands were desperately trying to push a wall. Only there was no wall. Or had the wall in fact been rendered invisible by some magical force? In no time, the pesky mime was tossed into the club’s foggy well by the upset, drunken crowd. With that issue resolved, people sipped their fruity something-tini’s and watched the Meatpacking District’s Marcel Marceau try to climb to freedom on his invisible rope. We stood by and took pictures.