For many, the summer means long romantic walks on the beach, working on tans, and romance under the stars. For me, it’s long walks on hot concrete sidewalks looking for furniture and fixtures for places opening in the Fall. It’s getting a tan as I lean against scaffolding while sipping a coconut water, escaping a 100-degree job site. It’s summer in the city with my constant companion, a fly swatter, as the only creatures that want to sleep with me are mosquitoes. It’s even too hot for baseball, and although I tried to get into it, I find soccer—or whatever they call it—to be a colossal bore, punctuated with moments of extreme excitement. It’s exactly like my second marriage. I rushed home for the 4th as I was invited by my friend Matt DeMatt to view the fireworks at Lucky Strike Lanes. Alas, traffic and obligations wouldn’t allow me to get there. I viewed the rockets’ red glare at Greg Brier’s Highbar. I love the Highbar crew: Greg, Holly Roberts, and the staff have seen me through the best and worst of times. DJ Tommy James played an incredible set of Independence Day themed music in sync with the explosions. It was surreal and sublime.
Tomorrow night I will be co-hosting Matt DeMatt’s birthday soiree over at Lucky Strike. I used to bowl fairly often—I was good at it. I bowled a 253 one Sunday afternoon, had my own ball and everything. Back in the day, when I worked on that Club Camel program, we sponsored club leagues on Monday nights over at Bowlmor on University Place. We brought in DJs and celebrities. Clubs bowled against each other with shirts advertising their joint’s name on it. It was pitchers of beer, french fries—good ol’ American fun. It was also nothing new, as some club god of a previous generation had done it in the early 80’s. Matt took it to another level with Nightstrike in the mid nineties, which still reigns at Bowlmor.
Club people are restless. They are looking for something more than the whole “model drops the bottle and then we throw napkins in the air” shtick. The fall will bring change to nightlife, as operators looking for competitive edges will surely make changes. The long-legged doll with the sparkler in the champagne bottle will no longer be confused with real fireworks—real pizzazz. The music must morph, as there’s certainly new stuff out there. Owners must push the envelop musically, and embrace new sounds, as only a few joints are pushing anything but the scripted sounds of handsome lads that “play” a DJ, rather than get a day job. Entertainment may be in order: the experience must grow. While bowling certainly isn’t anything new, it certainly is fun, and fun is what I believe the people will be looking for, come fall. The Box led the way, and it’s contribution cannot be underestimated, but it’s act eventually seemed desperate or forced after awhile, as it didn’t progress to a level above the shock-schtick. Still, it was new and it was embraced. It got an “A” and a “$” for effort. It still delivers, and I believe it provided a glimpse of a future where club entertainment moves beyond the Serrato, the napkins, and the sparklers.
What is happening at Lucky Strike for your Birthday, Matt DeMatt? Every year I think about not doing my birthday party, and then I start getting phone calls in May that makes me realize my party is not only for me, it’s really an event where all the nightclub owners, employees, hoteliers, and restaurant people want to go, so they can have an enjoyable place to see each other, tell stories, and relax. It makes us all feel good about what we do for a living. Last year I had my birthday at Gaslight and it was a collage of old and new friends. This year I have teamed up with Lucky Strike to create a very different kind of event. I have felt for quite some time that clubs in the city have taken on a Starbucks mentality. As a result, I enlisted some great talent from the 70’s and 80’s, through today, as well as some unique talent like magicians, burlesque acts, and dancers to create an event reminiscent of Studio 54, mixed with a carnival-like atmosphere. Dean Winters will be hosting and Mark Kamins, Freddy Bastone, and Eddie Baez will be DJing, as well as some up-and-coming DJs. Gerardo Velez, 7-time Grammy nominated percussionist who played with Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock and collaborated with David Bowie, Sir Elton John, and many others, will be playing percussion alongside the DJs. Melle Mel and Randy Jones will each be performing a medley of their hits throughout the night. A video montage will be shown with over a 100 pictures of the friends, celebrities, and good times I have had in my life.
What is your role with Lucky Strike, and how will you change what’s going on there? Lucky Strike is a beautiful and unique venue that I really feel will be able to give people a lot of things to break up the monotony of the club business. The staff is young and fun, the management is talented and there to help. I was contacted by the owner, Ethan Hunt, to try and do something new. He was aware of the fact that I had named and started Night Strike at Bowlmor Lanes in the 90’s, and that is still going on today. Every Wednesday, we will be bringing in special DJs, acts, events, charities, as well as theme nights. The basic science is to give people an affordable night, where the norm is not the norm. We start with $15 bowling all night, as opposed to $10 per game, and pool table discounts, great music, in an upscale nightclub atmosphere, with reasonably priced food and drink.
What else are you working on? I am working on bringing a theme night event to Atlantic City with Harrah’s and Caesar’s. I am collaborating with Dr. Nick Kardaras, former owner of Mr. Fuji’s Tropicana, in writing a treatment about two guys from Queens that get drawn into the nightclub business. The story line will reveal interesting characters, true-to-life events, and life-lessons learned. I am an investor in Wodka, a triple distilled vodka. I had hoped to be a fabulous salesperson for them when I made the investment a year ago, however my back injury has kept me from that. As a result, my partners, James Dale and Shu deJong, use me as an “ambassador” when needed. They have been wonderful in keeping me involved, despite my back problems. I am Co-producing a Theatrical Concert with Gerardo Velez, entitled Woodstock–You Should Have Been There. My Uncle Neal, who founded Scunci, always told me he would not come out of retirement unless there was a billion-dollar opportunity. He has found a very unique and patent-pending advertising tool that I have also invested in. The product is an interactive advertising mirror that displays any message or brand until it is engaged by the consumer which triggers the image to instantly convert to a traditional mirror. My partners and I at Gaslight, G2, and Gaslight Pizzeria, are looking to expand upon the Gaslight name with additional locations in the near future. I have formed my own company, The DeMatt Group. We help start up or in-need restaurants, clubs, etc., with everything from menus, to traffic flow, to back office setup. We provide cutting-edge designers, industry expediters, marketing expertise, and additional tools needed to be a success. I believe you follow your dreams and help people and (Karma says) money will follow. I have great relationships and respect from people I have worked with in my industry, and will use those lessons learned to help people help themselves.
You’ve been around for eons. What were the best of times and what can be done to bring them back—or are the ‘best of times’ really here now, for a younger generation? I want to bring back club courtesy, and make everything I do in night life friendly. The night life scene has never been more ready to get some new infusion of ideas and energy—the baby boom is in full swing! Not people trying to push bottle service while sacrificing the crowd and any chance of fun. Your designs, for example, have given club owners the ability to have a unique quality product, but if they prostitute the crowd so that anyone who buys a bottle gets in, and the others who get in are promoters who get everything for free, why do it? There is no creativity. We need to incorporate great lighting for movement, good music, and excellent service with a nice blend of people. The nightlife is here for all generations and the best of times are ahead of us.
Photo Via DarbCU