Jezebel’s Henry Stimler Reveals His Casino Royale-Themed Gala & Favorite Bond Girl

The previews of The Great Gatsby have me totally psyched up. Leo as Gatsby is a big ZOWIE! for me. Baz will understand. I’ve read Gatsby a zillion times. I relish the eternal optimism of the lead, his romance, his insane quest. The parties in Fitzgerald’s great tome – which attract all types, and devolve into the impure-ist bedlam – are the model for my events. The rich hobnobbing with the dressed-up peasants, the debaucherous under-classes worked well for me. Nowadays, nightlife is more segregated. Slumming isn’t the norm for the well-heeled, as most opt for mingling within the same class. The top spots thrive on big bucks and exclusivity as opposed to inclusivity. There are exceptions to this rule: usually the fun night at the usually boring joint. The hoi polloi have been banished to Brooklyn and they thank you very much. 

At Capitale’s Casino Royale-themed gala January 26th with Henry Stimler (Jezebel) and Seth Greenberg (Capitale) at the helm, the price of admission is $125, separating the men from the moochers. Capitale,130 Bowery at Grand, is the perfect setting for such an affair. The building was designed by Stanford White who was murdered by a millionaire who learned of an affair between the architect and his model wife which predated the marriage. Stanford White designed the house where Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzgerald attended those lavish parties that inspired him. Stanford also designed the Arch in Washington Square Park, The Players Club Mansion on Gramercy Park. The old post office on 31st and 8th and tons of other places. He was the epitome of the American renaissance of architecture. His murder at the hand of Harry Kendall Thaw was the "trial of the century.” Capitale is there to behold. Its beauty, timeless. Its ability to host great events, legendary. I think this is an event of Gatsby-esque proportions. J. Bond and J. Gatsby are great icons. 

This Saturday, the Casino Royale Gala will attract the best. There will be gaming tables and a live symphony orchestra and sexy singers who will perform every Bond song. There will be a late DJ set by Antonio de Angelis of Pacha Ibiza. Aston Martins will be parked outside. Shaken not stirred martinis will be  served by gold painted ladies. It’s a costume party and attendees are encouraged to come as their favorite Bond character. They have provided this link for all info and costume concepts. A full 20 percent of ticket sales will go to the Tunnel to the Towers Foundation in support of Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. A VIP table for five people goes for $2,000, for 10 people $4,000. There is a $50 ticket after 12:30p.m. as well. Their last event, “Midnight in Paris,” was all the rage and this looks like tons of fun.

I asked Henry Stimler a few questions.

What will guests see when they attend?
We are going to create a world of all things Bond, from being greeted by Miss Moneypenny, to tarot card readers, gold-painted ladies, Bond ice sculptures, full band, different singers performing all 22 Bond-themed songs, and of course a casino with amazing prizes.

What will they hear?
Well, the band will play during the gambling etc., then for the after party we are flying in Italian DJ Antonio De Angelis with DJ V to spin from 1am to 4am.

The reason for the Bond theme: is it just because it’s plain sexy?
It’s more than sexy, it’s iconic. I love Bond, and think everyone has that fantasy, the opening scene of Dr. No sitting at the table, lighting a smoke, and saying that immortal line, “Well, here you can embrace it, grab your best tux, strap on a Walter PPK (fake on please), and pull off your best ‘Bond, James Bond’ to a beautiful women, and the place will be full of beautiful Bond girls.

Why January 26th?
It’s my birthday on the 28th, so I kinda rolled with that weekend.

What have you learned from your previous event, Midnight in Paris?
Midnight in Paris was a smashing success. Everywhere people went that night, they ran into flapper girls. I ended up at 6am in a top hat and tails and the door guy asking me "what the hell’s with all the 1920s outfits tonight?” New Yorkers embrace themed parties it seems. We put on a big production –  but this one is bigger.

It’s you, Seth Greenberg, and who else?
We always have a team of people, such as Yana Tara, Michael Heller, Gary Quirk, Vito, Matt Esstes, and Vanessa Gil, but it’s just me and Seth for promotion.

Your restaurant Jezebel is providing "bites." Tell me about bites and, while you’re here, Jezebel. Who goes there? Has the kosher cuisine crossed over, and been embraced by non-Jewish patrons?
Jezebel has been a trip. We are seven months in and it’s going great. I think it’s really been embraced by people. You get such a huge mix of people, it really is the melting pot that is NYC. On any given night, you can have your table of 5 Chabad dudes sitting next to two football players with their girlfriends, next to a table of models, then a rabbi and his wife on a date, next to some huge financiers next to Russell Simmons. We have a great new chef, Chris Mitchell, formerly of The Breslin. He is just great.

For Bond, we are going to do a mix of Goldfinger food and Bond-inspired snacks. It’s gonna be very cool and super delicious.

Ok, ok, ok, who’s your favorite Bond? Who’s your favorite Bond villain and your favorite Bond girl?
Sean Connery, hands down, for favorite Bond, the girl in The Spy Who Loved Me, and Goldfinger as my fav Bond villain: "I don’t expect you to talk, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die." Classic stuff.

Get my column in your inbox before anyone else by signing up for the biweekly Good Night Mr. Lewis email blast. 

This Week’s NY Happenings: Downtown Music Festival, SakaMai, KTCHN

FRIDAY: Rock & LoHo At Downtown Music Festival
The Lower East Side’s music cup runneth over as Downtown Records brings a second year of the Downtown Music Festival. The venues are a greatest-hits package of below-Houston spots. Mercury Lounge hosts Teengirl Fantasy, Cake Shop has Beach Fossils and Trash Talk, and nine different acts will take the stage at Tammany Hall. Even swank event space Capitale is in on the groove, hosting L.A.’s Black Hippy. The spaces are all intimate, so get your tickets quick.

The Downtown Music Festival runs Friday, May 10th and Saturday, May 11th, at venues like Cake Shop (152 Ludlow St., Lower East Side). To learn more about the bars, click on the listings in bold above.

NOW: Shuck It
The Lower East Side is your oyster tonight, as SakaMai lays on a “Shell & Sake” tasting. Take a guided tour through six sakes, expertly paired with a dozen bicoastal bivalves.

Shell and Sake starts at 6:30pm, tonight, May 6th, at SakaMai (157 Ludlow St., Lower East Side). Tickets are $75. To learn more about the sake bar, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.

WEDNESDAY: Killer Instinct
The Out NYC’s house restaurant KTCHN kicks off a monthly dinner-and-a-movie series with a screening of Basic Instinct. They’re injecting some Rocky Horror, too—when Sharon Stone deploys her ice pick, you’ll find a Jack & Coke in front of you.  

Basic Instinct at KTCHN (510 W. 42nd St., Midtown West) starts at 7pm on Wednesday, May 8th. Prix fixe dinner is $49; wine pairings are an additional $25. To learn more about the restaurant, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.

Know every inch of this city by checking out BlackBook’s NY City Guides

Downtown NYC Festival Adds New Acts

With just under a month to go till the Downtown NYC Festival kicks off on May 10, two-day passes are already sold out, but $75 one-day tickets are still on sale. The event spans great venues including Mercury Lounge, Bowery Ballroom, Angel Orensanz, Pianos, Cake Shop, Tammany Hall, Element, Capitale, and Rockwood Music Hall—and features some of the hottest emerging bands.

New additions include Andrew Wyatt (of Miike Snow) and hipster-fried R&B pioneer Autre Ne Veut, as well as Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire, who is likely worth seeing for the name alone. They will join such performers as Purity Ring, Earl Sweatshirt, d’Eon, Sky Ferreira, Ducktails, Beach Fossils, and the endlessly funky Teengirl Fantasy.

The festival will be hitting some other cities with modified lineups, but you know they won’t be as good. Though who knows? Some magnificent crooner might come aboard in the Vegas leg of the tour.

Industry Insiders: Tony Hudgins, Owner of Capitale in Washington, D.C.

Running a successful nightclub in Washington, D.C. requires a different formula than it does in New York, and nobody knows this more than Tony Hudgins, owner, along with partners David Chung and Ki Jun Sung, of the new Capitale on K Street. To cater to his intellectual crowd, Hudgins takes a relaxed approach to the door. "We don’t try to make people feel like they’re not important enough to get in until we decide they are," he says. "It’s a bit of a twist on nightclubs." It is indeed. We chatted with Hudgins to get the lowdown on his pinstriped background and food truck fetish, along an only-in-DC cocktail called Taxation with Carbonation.

 

Where are you from and how did you get into the nightlife business?

I’m Washington, D.C.-born. I didn’t come up in the nightclub or restaurant business. I was a lawyer, and I’m now a recovering lawyer. I was a criminal prosecutor for nine years, and a local government attorney for about three years. I was working in Arlington County as a commonwealth attorney and saved my money. I got together with a bunch of friends, and we were doing a lot of traveling. At the time there wasn’t a robust nightlife component in Washington, D.C. We’d go to New York, LA, Miami, Montreal, places like that, and we’d come back and long for bars like they had. So we pooled our money and opened up our first nightclub with my business partner, Sherif Abdalla, and that was Play Lounge. We took a minimalist approach to it, on a shoestring budget, and did really well. We had a lot of media people looking for places to go. We had all kinds of celebrities coming through, Jamie Foxx, David Beckham when he first came to the city to play against D.C. United. It became a hot place. I’m the first person to tell you that our success was more luck than knowing what we were doing, but we cut our teeth there.

What happened next?

We wanted to open a bigger place so we sold our interest in Play and moved across the street. We thought the city was lacking an upscale sports bar and lounge, so we opened up a place called Public Bar that’s still there, a three-story with a rooftop spot that had a sports component but turned into a big nightlife atmosphere after dinner. It took off and worked out really well, so we decided to take on another project.

Which was …

Which was Capitale, which we opened in the former K Street Lounge space. We were familiar with the K Street Lounge, which had been around a long time. Everything was stark white or dark and super modern, but kind of cold. It was all promoters, and open four or five nights a week. So we looked at that and felt like something was lacking in the DC nightlife scene. The nightclubs here are great, but, quite honestly, some owners are overreaching a bit in terms of the nightclub atmosphere and what they’re expecting from the clientele here.

What do you mean?

It’s still Washington, D.C., it is very much an intellectually-based community of people. They’re smart people. DC residents might go to Miami or New York or LA or Las Vegas and be willing to spend a lot of money on a night out, but they’re doing it because they left to go engage in that atmosphere. I think a lot of people who opened nightclubs in Washington, D.C. over the last four to six years thought that the same guy who will go to Vegas and spend $1,500 on a table will come here and spend $1,500 on a table. Quite honestly, living here, working here, and even having the money to do that, it’s just not the mentality. We felt like there needed to be a nightclub that met more directly with the clientele, a nightclub that’s considerate of the fact that it’s not a travel destination city.

Sure it’s a travel destination.

Yes, but people don’t come here to party and engage in nightlife. That’s not to say that certain people don’t do it when they travel here, but that’s not their primary reason for coming. When you go to Vegas, even if you’re there for a conference, you’re still planning your nights out around where to eat, what show to see, that kind of thing. People don’t come here and do that. They come to a conference, or because they have to do something on the Hill, or some business with the law firms and consulting firms that are here. It’s a hopeful afterthought that they’ll find some good nightlife, but I don’t think they plan it that way. And so we opened Capitale.

How is Capitale different?

Our clientele is a lot of people who live here and this is their backyard. They want a nightclub that fits with the idea that this is their backyard. What that means is, people don’t want to walk up and be cajoled into buying a table, or needing a better guy-to-girl ratio, or we’re going to make you wait outside in line so we can build up the crowd and make it look like a hot night even though there’s only ten people in the club. So we changed some things. Personally, I was getting tired of the super-forward, hyper-modern look. I wanted something a bit more classic, something that looked as if it had been here for a long time, even though it was brand new. It would look warmer, more comfortable, more inviting. We were trying to do something comfortable. A little Harry Potter, a little library, a little mansion.

And then there’s Happy Hour, right?

Coming from a restaurant/bar perspective, happy hour had become important to us. It’s a significant stream of revenue, but most nightclubs don’t focus on happy hour at all. They’re a 10pm-to-close business. I tell everybody who works for me that I pay rent 24 hours a day, so I’m trying to get as much as I can out of those 24 hours. We feel that there’s a gap to be closed for a lot of nightclubs in the business district where we are. We’re in a building where we have (law firm) Reed Smith above us. There are law firms on every corner of the street, and there are very few after-work options for the people who work there. We’re also right at the end of the budding 14th Street Corridor here, one of the fastest growing restaurant and nightclub communities in the city. Stephen Starr is opening a restaurant here, and we’re excited about it. So we changed some policies.

What did you change?

We don’t do a cover on the weekends, we do a relaxed dress code on the weekends, we do a one-in one-out policy on the weekends to try to put off this fear people might have when they walk up and they see velvet ropes and go into this immediate trepidation of, Oh my god, am I going to get in? Will my friend get in? We try to make it a bit more open. We don’t play any games or make people feel like they’re not important enough to get in until we decide they are. It’s a bit of a twist on nightclubs.

It certainly is.

I’m sure people in Las Vegas, New York, and Miami wouldn’t run things that way, and we do mix in other nights that are promoted. We let the promoters, at our discretion, treat the door more like traditional nightclubs. But outside of that, we control the business on Fridays and Saturdays by ourselves. We promote Saturday on our own. And happy hour is very important.

Food trucks play a role, don’t they?

We found what we think is an exciting concept for us, we call it the Mobile Kitchen concept. Again, coming from a bar perspective, food is a necessary component of happy hour. People are not going to engage in happy hour very well if they don’t have anything to eat, and we don’t have a kitchen. As we were doing the renovation, we realized that we’re across the street from a really great park, Franklin Square Park, and down the street from another park, McPherson Square. The food truck scene is really hot here. A lot of people pack the park for lunch. So we’ve started a rolling partnership with a handful of food trucks. We have an open door policy. You can walk out, get your food, and bring it back in.

Taxation with Carbonation Photo

Tell me about the cocktails.

We worked with Marco Maffeo Robinson on our cocktail program. We asked him to give us a hybrid menu. We still focus as a volume place, so we’re not going to do flair-type cocktails. But we have a lot of interesting ideas, such as custom sodas for cocktails. Marco does custom sodas of different flavors. Vanilla soda, cucumber soda, that kind of thing. They’re premade and come out of those pre-charged bottles, like a seltzer sprayer. It’s a straight mix over the alcohol. Whether it’s gin, bourbon, or vodka, it’s a quicker, faster component, but still an original cocktail. Another component where the soda fits in is with table service. With traditional table service, your options are alcohol or champagne, juice of some sort, tonic, and soda. But we can transfer the custom soda to the table. Now you can have a cucumber-flavored vodka and soda, or a vanilla-flavored vodka soda that isn’t based on a vanilla-infused vodka. It’s custom and done right at your table. There’s also a signature cocktail called Taxation with Carbonation (blood orange juice, lemon juice, vanilla vodka, simple syrup, basil leaves, sparkling mineral water).

What else do you have on the horizon?

We’ve got a new gastropub opening soon in the Dupont Circle area called the Gryphon. It will be focused on food. We’re working on it, more on that soon.

What do you do to relax when you have free time?

I went to college to play soccer and I’m still kicking the ball around sometimes.

[Hudgins photo: Alfredo Flores; Cocktail photo: Vithaya Phongsavan]

[Related: BlackBook Washington, D.C. Guide, Listing for Capitale, How to Party Properly in Washington, D.C.]

How to Party Properly in Washington, D.C.

I earned my hangover by partying like a rock star. It made sense to recover from it like one, too, so I nursed my self-inflicted wound in the most baller hotel room I’ve ever stayed in at the W Washington D.C. hotel. They call it a "Wow Suite," but the expression my wife, Jenn, uttered when we walked in began with the word holy. Wow Suite 606 had a dining room table, a curved couch, a trippy chandelier, red LED lighting, two flat-screen TVs, two bathrooms (one was like a spa), a bar, and a massive bed. It was a corner suite, with views past the Washington Monument all the way to National Airport on one side, and the U.S. Treasury on the other, with the White House just beyond it. Supposedly there are snipers on the roof of the Treasury that keep a close eye on on the hotel’s windows. I didn’t notice any, but if they were there, I hope they enjoyed the show, as proper hangover recovery requires a holistic approach. Here’s how we got there. 

The Setup

What ended up being a weekend of serious and successful partying started innocently enough. We wanted to carve a mini-vacation out of the requisite family Christmas visit to Northern Virginia. I cashed in a bunch of reward points from my Starwood Preferred Guest American Express card on the room for the weekend (the upgrade was a pleasant surprise) and looked up a couple of nightclub contacts in DC. Just like that, two New Yorkers became temporary residents of the District of Columbia for 48 hours with no responsibilities other than feeding our own ids. And so we did.

POV Cool

Point of View

Our first official stop after unpacking was P.O.V. Lounge, on the top floor of the hotel. The point of view up there was even more striking than from the room, with a breathtaking panorama of the city as the sun set on the winter solstice. We toasted the deep freeze with tumblers of Blackstrap Snap (rum, ginger, fresh-squeezed lime, blackstrap molasses, nutmeg) and Washington Apple (bourbon, fresh-pressed apple, maple, smoke, Pork Barrel Aromatic Bitters). The world didn’t end, and our wild night was just beginning. Like the W itself, P.O.V. is a chic yet comfortable space. A large, high-ceilinged barroom is designed with views in mind, both of the city and the comely staff. Booths by the massive windows are low to the floor, while some interior tables are elevated, ensuring that your gaze never rests upon an unpleasant sight. I’ve not been everywhere in town, but I’m reasonably confident in saying that if POV doesn’t have best sunset cocktail experience in DC, it’s easily in the top 5. During the warm weather months, the large outdoor area must be sublime.

Bubbles

Upon returning to the suite, we noticed that a bucket of ice containing a bottle of champagne had appeared. Pop!

Lost and Found

And then we took a taxi to a fun and fancy steakhouse called Lost Society, where we met Tony Hudgins, owner of the new nightclub Capitale (our next stop) and a couple of his friends. For those who love steak but crave a bit more style than the corporate-card set can handle, Lost Society is a great choice. It’s trendy like some sleek Soho tapas joint but a thousand times more satisfying, food-wise. My steak was a perfect medium-rare, my wife’s scallop entree was flawless, and we massacred the fried Brussels sprouts side. The music rose, the conversation got louder and weirder, several rounds of shots appeared, followed by dessert, which included some gooey, decadent chocolate thing that the table went nuts over. The celebrations were well underway, and there were more toasts to surviving doomsday, until it blissfully passed as a topic of conversation. A quick stop at the bangin’ bar scene upstairs got us even further in a party mood (e.g. more shots).

Capitale Photo

Venture Capitale

It was time to finally head to Capitale, so we piled into taxis and giddily watched the ropes part for us. Tony and his business partners opened Capitale a few months ago in the space that formerly held the K Street Lounge, and it’s a sensory overload in all the best ways. A Hogwarts-meets-Hollywood aesthetic (oil paintings and book-lined walls) gives it a smart, cultured vibe, but the thundering sound system and lightning-fast bar staff keep the energy level sky-high. Good thing I’d heard about the massive tilted columns dividing the room in advance, as things were starting to look a little sideways to me by that point. A bottle service setup appeared and I helped myself, though on reflection I’m not sure who it belonged to. But we were all having fun and Jenn was looking sexy and we danced and drank and talked to strangers as you do at a proper party until one of us had the good sense to grab a taxi back to the hotel. My memories of Capitale, hazy as they may be, are of a fun, lively spot with great music, a young, attractive, multiracial crowd, dynamite drinks, and cool, interesting decor. Recommended for anyone wondering if DC knows how to party. (It does.)

The Hangover

I woke up first at around 6:30 to go to the bathroom and drink some water, then slept blissfully until 10:00. Jenn was still asleep when I got out of bed and explored the scene. Our clothes were scattered across the room. A container of fancy pretzels from the minibar sat open on the table. My head pounding, I texted Tony to see if I had anything to apologize for (all clear), then pulled on my outfit from the night before and headed out to get some air. I came back a half-hour later with a hangover-busting haul of coffee, juice, Gatorade, and some crepes from some nearby creperie. Jenn got up and we drank coffee and munched on crepes as warm sunshine filled the room. I crawled into the shower, still feeling awfully grim but enjoying my hangover, and turned the dial until warm water flowed from the rainfall shower head. Over the next 20 minutes, I must have done every position on the evolutionary chart until the purifying waters and fancy soaps, gels, and shampoos finally brought me to back to modern homo sapien. Jenn went to the W’s SWEAT fitness center for a run. I took a nap, then another shower.

Keytar

The Recovery

By about 2:00 in the afternoon, we were mostly recovered, and realized that the day was getting away from us. With more dinner and nightclub plans ahead of us, we had just one opportunity to do something cultural with our time, so we could tell people we did something other than party on our trip to DC. (Basically, we needed a cover story.) We bundled up and headed into the cold, walking past the Washington Monument and heading to the Smithsonian Museum of American History. Let me tell you, it’s the best place to walk off the remaining pains of a trenchant hangover. We saw the Greensboro lunch counter, the Emancipation Proclamation, a soul-crushing pair of shackles used for child slaves, Abraham Lincoln’s top hat, Dorothy’s red slippers, a stoneware rum jug, Kermit, and a U.S. Army Jeep from World War II. I took a picture of Jenn standing in front of a keytar.

Back At It

We’re beer enthusiasts, so we had dinner at a beer-centric restaurant called Birch & Barley, which we loved. Our waiter, Carl C., was extremely well-versed in all the different varieties of beer they had, both on draft and in bottles. We ordered a cutting board of charcuterie, which included various different pork products from a whole pig they butchered in-house, and was delicious. And we were delighted to be able to order four-ounce pours of a bunch of different beers. It would be folly for me to recommend any one in particular, just tell your server what kinds of beers and tastes you like and they’ll sort you out as Carl sorted us out.

Heist 1

Thieves in the Night

Soon it was time to hit another nightclub, a posh spot called Heist. Heist used to be called Fly Lounge, but it’s been redone spectacularly to resemble a hideout for jewel thieves. Heist is the brainchild of partners Timothy Sheldon, Patrick Osuna, and Charles "DJ Dirtyhands" Koch (all three with interesting and varied backgrounds, look them up), and it’s a rather small room, comparable to something like Mister H in New York. But whereas Mister H has decor reminiscent of a Shanghai speakeasy in the 1930s, Heist is all about modern luxury with a soupçon of international intrigue. Design details beg to be dissected over a cocktail or two. In various recesses of the space you’ll find a collection of stolen art, a teddy bear stuffed with diamonds, and a suitcase with handcuffs attached to the handle. The bar itself is riddled with bullet holes. Closed circuit TV footage of actual robberies plays on a continuous loop on three small monitors. A gold-dipped water buffalo skull hangs on the wall behind the DJ booth. (Of course it would be the height of irony if Heist itself was robbed, but they’ve probably taken that into account.)

The result is a fascinating subterranean spot to sip a cocktail like the Gold Rush–whose flawless ice cubes sport beveled edges–and feel a bit dangerous yourself. We were among the early shift, drifting in at around 10:30 to chat with the owners. The real spenders started showing up at midnight, as Dirtyhands brought the beats (Biggie mixes, among others) and young women wearing short dresses served trays of vodka shots in crushed ice as sparklers lit their way through the silvery darkness. Heist seems to draw an upscale, sexy crowd of bottle buyers who love good tunes and ample eye candy. Compared to Capitale, which was a big-room blast of high-wattage fun, Heist is a more intimate environment, a chillout spot for the city’s coolest cats. Both are perfect when the night calls for them, and either would thrive in New York City, competitive with the sleekest spots in Manhattan or Brooklyn. As the crowd at Heist grew wilder and sequins and stilettos started slicing through the dance floor, we took our leave and scooted back to the W in yet another taxi. (DC has ample cabs, at least downtown.)

What Happened?

Armed with a late checkout, we slept in again the following day, sipping coffee and snarling as the mood struck, finally packing our bags and heading back to the real world in the afternoon. It was officially a whirlwind weekend of food, cocktails, music, dancing, socializing, danger, fun, and even some culture, and looking back from a week’s distance it’s impossible to pick a highlight. My recommendation: for lack of a better itinerary, do DC like we did: W Hotel – POV Lounge – Lost Society – Capitale – Smithsonian Museum of American History – Birch & Barley – Heist. You’ll love it all. And to my fellow New Yorkers, I heartily recommend Washington, D.C. as an easy weekend getaway. It punches well above its weight entertainment-wise, yet has a wonderfully laid-back vibe. And the hangovers are spectacular.

[Related: BlackBook DC Guide; listings for W Washington, D.C., P.O.V., Lost Society, Capitale, Birch & Barley, Heist]

Washington, D.C. Opening: Capitale

Think K Street in D.C. is populated with government lobbyists intent on convincing lawmakers to gut financial and environmental regulations to benefit their corporate clients? Well, you’re right, but it’s also becoming a damn fine place to grab a drank and shake ya ass. Classing up the K Street corridor is the new Capitale, an upscale lounge from nightlife empresario Tony Hudgins and partners. It’s whimsical and weird, and has a massive portrait of Keeping Up With The Kardashians star Scott Disick on the wall. What else do you need? 

Well, drinks for one. They’ll be served in abundance from a massive 40-foot bar, which also features four 55-inch TV screens that will presumably play Redskins and Nats games, as players from both teams have been spotted here already. The Hogwarts-meets-Hollywood motif extends from the art deco lobby to the Great Hall, where four tall brass columns lean precariously like the Tower of Pisa (or perhaps you’re the one leaning precariously like the Tower of Pisa) and hidden, leather-bound library books give you a decent excuse for being there, you hopeless intellectual. Local rapper and MIA pal Wale might be bending an elbow next to you.

Capitale is located at 1301 K Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20005. For more information, check out the BlackBook Guides listing

Nice Guys & Womanizers: Nightlife Morals

The twins Derek and Daniel Koch of meatpacking’s MPD just celebrated their birthdays. I can’t remember which one is older, but when I talked to the Baskin twins the other day they told me that the twin with the bigger head is usually the eldest. You figure it out. A little while back, I highlighted the Koch dynamic duo as “the next big thing” in clubland, and I’m still thinking it’s true. Some disagreed, but it’s easy to talk about people doing it well in the present, and quite another to recognize the tools that will mean success down the road.

I was talking to a major hotel player yesterday, who said, “That’s what we do,” when talking about hiring or recognizing budding talent. The Koch twins aren’t exactly new to the scene, and are doing quite well right now, but I see them owning this town in just a short while. My track record on this sort of “predicting success in nightlife” thing is pretty good. Quite a few of the major players in this town were brought up through my joints. Some have forgotten where they came from, but I haven’t.

For many, working in nightlife was the best way to get away from where they came. Some were selling buttons and some were tending bar or picking up a few extra bucks at night as promoters. Some were just chasing skirts before they realized they could make a good living. Most were simply trying to be something else, have a good bar rap, or were just throwing a birthday party for a friend before I lured them into the evil empire. If I’m going to get blamed for so many things, I’ll take some credit too.

Micah Jesse, who I also anointed in that article, will be celebrating the 4th anniversary of his celebrity-centric blog, MicahJesse.com, at The Box next Tuesday. The Box bash will have Hennessy Black as a sponsor with Marla Joy performing. Micah, of course, invited his friends and those who have helped his career. He thanked the helpful in his mass invite: “In some way, you have helped me grow over the last four years. You either offered up your invaluable insight/advice, or gave me a good spot on the carpet, or believed in me when I was just getting started, or helped spread my message of positivity—and for all that (and more!)—I am thankful.” It’s a super nice gesture, and shows the kind of thought that will take him to the next level. He added “When I started MicahJesse.com in April ’07 as a college sophomore, I had no idea that it would (or even could!) lead to all of this…” Jordon Fox was the third predicted winner. He is killing it over at B.E.S. and is being courted all over town. All four are nice guys destined to finish first.

Arty Dozortsev, hot off another diner success, is pushing his Sant Arturo wines—this time at the Darby. He is inviting his pals to Capitale for a birthday private dinner for Seth Greenberg this Thursday. The gala will be in the Peter Tunney room of the brilliant hall. Capitale was designed by the great architect Sanford White, who was whacked by a jealous husband back in 1906. (Recently, a mansion he designed was sentenced to be whacked to make room for a half dozen less fabulous places.) It was all in the news, as you recall, because it supposedly was the inspiration for The Great Gatsby. Baz Luhrmann is readying a new movie inspired by the tome.

Like Capitale, the mansion was the location for innumerable celebrity-packed parties. Sanford White’s work helps define our city. He did the Main Post Office building on 8th avenue, the Arch in Washington Square Park, and many others. His death should be a lesson of some sort. Not sure what that lesson is. Maybe it’s to make a lot of money, be famous and have fun, die young and beautiful—or at least desired—or don’t do any of that ’cause you’ll get in trouble. He used to lure young women to a circular mirrored room with a single swing hanging in the middle. They would disrobe and then carry on. One day, a young model (yes they had them back then) who had a swing/fling with the architect got married to a rich and powerful man. That man couldn’t live with the thought that Sanford White had exploited his bride, and decided that Sanford shouldn’t live. He shot him in the face, and a jury didn’t convict him. They thought Sanford got what he deserved. Promoters and designers beware.

I’ve known Seth Greenberg, the birthday boy and owner of Capitale, since his Boston days when he had M-80 and 10 other places—including the super chic restaurant Mistral. Seth is a living testament to that “nice guys finishing first” theory. I will attend his birthday bash, and while I’m there, I will look up at Sanford White’s deliriously magnificent ceiling of ornate moldings and stained glass, and cross my fingers and count my blessings.

On another note, I am saddened by the spectacle surrounding Lawrence Taylor. His fall from great heights is a lesson as well. Convicted of sleeping with an underage prostitute, it underscores the problems of successful men following their dick to their doom. Clubland is so full of these types. Lawrence loved the nightlife, and was frequently seen at hot spots around town where all were happy to see his big smile, and of course big bankroll. When I saw the news my mind flashed back to a night when he arrived at my joint, the Palace de Beaute, where the PetCo now sits in Union Square. He was with O.J. Simpson, and the two hit the bar upstairs hard. They were surrounded by admirers, including the dames. After getting them situated I went back to the door to tighten things up, as it was real good inside, and I didn’t want to blow the vibe with too many more people, and wanted only A-listers to get past the velvet rope. Three girls showed up asking for the football greats. They were hot, but decidedly suburban. I told them to wait as “I didn’t know if the guys were still here.” I walked up to the great players, who were now surrounded by female greatness, and asked if they wanted the suburban girls to be let in. They looked at the girls surrounding them, looked at each other and said “Nah’ at the same time and laughed. The suburban girls never got in, and the football giants eventually met their demise via other girls. I’ll let you write your own moral to my little story .

Where I’ll Be for Halloween

It’s time to get Halloween serious and dust off my Elvis costume. For at least 15 years I have been Elvis. Not the skinny young one used by the U.S. Post office in the early ‘90’s for white envelopes, but the fat old one they used for bulk mail. The first time I put on my white sequined suit with the wig, the shoes, the bangles, and the sunglasses, I could feel the King’s energy in my veins—it transformed me. As Elvis, I have hosted many a costume contest, and sung on the subway to thunderous applause. I have walked in the parade and had a zillion photos taken with babies, girlfriends, and tourists. Each year I add a little more padding, and the wig gets a little more gray, as art imitates life. Last year, I added real freeze-dried flies to the wig, but the schtick is getting a bit old and it may be time soon to bury the old codger. This year Elvis will appear two more times: as I DJ as him at the Hudson Hotel’s monster soiree with my pal Paul Sevigny, and as I jet out to LA for the actual night of Halloween, a Standard Hollywood gig. Should I just wear the costume on the plane? Will they let me board if I decide to?

When Halloween falls on a Sunday, many celebrate on the Saturday before. The big gig at the Hudson on Saturday has something seriously delicious in each of its hospitality spaces. London-based new wave/electro-pop duo La Roux will DJ in the Hudson Bar space. I’ll be right beside them with Paul in the Library. 4AM will host Hudson Hall with their elite DJs Jus-ske and Jesse Marco on tap. Good Units will have Suzanne Bartsch doing her annual Halloween Party, with Patricia Fields hosting and a bevy of downtown’s glitter crew. It will be a fabulous night for all, and with its mix of cultures, possibly the closest thing in a long time to resurrect the ghosts of Halloween clubs of yore. Also on Saturday, the gorgeous, fabulous, and famous Tinsley Mortimer will set the tone at Horror on the Hudson, a monster bash on Pier 92. With its 75,000 square feet of floor space and super-star DJ Mel Debarge, this event is the in place for the crowd who has everything. I expect lots of rented costumes and hand held masks. If that isn’t enough try Porn Star Halloween at SL, or the EMM group’s other party at Tenjune, with a live set by Slick Rick. Devo is at the Hammerstein. Every joint in town will be banging. There will be a million house parties to boot. Getting a taxi will be a nightmare.

image

And that’s just the pre-October 31st happenings. DJ extraordinaire Jeannie Hopper is getting into the mix with a boat-bash at the Chelsea Piers on Thursday. Has Sunday become a redheaded stepchild for the week of events? Will people actually have energy, money, and a clean costume come Sunday? To the purists, its all about Sunday, and it all starts with the parade. Joonbug has taken over Capitale and its 40,000 square feet, and will judge costumes and such, but I believe there will be a little less Halloween this year than usual. With work the next day, and so many things happening all week, costumes will be a mess and pockets a bit empty.

Halloween is a great windfall for clubdom. It’s a mini New Years Eve without the crash of the first week of January. These days, big ticketing and promotional companies like Joonbug and Club Planet rent out all the joints in town for New Years Eve, and sell tickets using e-mail, text messaging, and on-line lists numbering into hundreds of thousands of interested parties. Their clientele are looking for a sure thing on the big day, and use these companies to design – and define – their festivities. The clubs do well in this agreement mostly because the energy normally used in promoting this event has gone to these people, and they can work on the all-important Christmas season. Their efforts are focused on ways to make money during the chill of January. New Years Eve, unlike Halloween, kills all things clubby for days before, and days after, as people spend it all in one big blast or go away on holiday. Halloween brings much-needed revenue for the entire week leading up to it, and doesn’t kill the next week completely. What happens in costume stays in costume, and people quickly return to their normal routines. Unlike New Years, the Christmas season and all of its expenses is far off. For these reasons, I believe that Halloween is the biggest night/week in clubland. For the first year in two decades I will not be in town to enjoy it.

‘Bored to Death’ Creator Jonathan Ames Gets Steamed at the Russian Baths

Russian Bath on 10th St., Friday September 17, 2010, 7:30pm “Don’t lose your key,” the real Jonathan Ames says from outside the women’s locker room of the Russian baths on 10th street in New York’s East Village, where I’m changing out of my clothes. We’ve convened at the baths to talk about his HBO show, Bored to Death, the second season of which premiered last Sunday. “It’s really important that you not lose it.” I hang the wide beige rubber band with the key attached from my wrist. The show is about a Brooklyn writer named Jonathan Ames, who moonlights as an unlicensed private detective. And while the Jonathan Ames of the show explores the underbelly of life in New York—as the real Jonathan Ames does in his essays, so too the fictional characters of his novels—the real Jonathan Ames claims the Jonathan Ames of the show shares his name but isn’t him. “I don’t feel connected to my name. I don’t know who I am,” the real Jonathan Ames said in an interview for Big Think. “I’m so confused as to my own identity.” The Russian baths are a network of saunas and steam rooms. We have two bottles of water. I cough. I say I’m a little sick. He peels the plastic off his water bottle to differentiate between them. “This’ll be good,” he says. “You’ll sweat it out.”

We go into the Turkish sauna first. It’s like a small amphitheater of wood benches rising up four levels. We sit on the top bench and sweat. I’m in yellow plastic slippers and a robe, which is sleeveless with large, loose armholes, belted the waist. The real Jonathan Ames is in black shorts and yellow plastic slippers. He says he’s been a little worn down recently, though production for Bored to Death ended in June. When it is too hot for me in the sauna we break.

I ask him how much control he has over the show and casting. As Creative Director, he says, he has control over every aspect of the show. As a writer, he shares responsibilities with a team, but he gets a “pass” on each draft of an episode. I ask him if working on the second season was more difficult than the first. He says it’s always a challenge to make it better, that it’s almost “animalistic” — the way it never ends, the challenge of improving the show. When he says “animalistic,” it reminds me that he frequently uses Darwinian language in his writing.

On the creator’s blog for the show, I read that the real Jonathan Ames’ great-grandfather came to this same bath, and that nothing makes him happier than coming here. Once, while meditating in the baths, he wrote for his blog, “I felt this overwhelming gratitude for everything in life.” The feeling inspired a scene in Bored to Death where Ted Danson’s character, George Christopher, says he has a moment of unexpected and overwhelming gratitude for everything in life right before he gets a herpes blister.

In the Russian sauna, a monk’s cell of dark concrete walls and tiers of wood-slat benches, half-nude bodies lie prone or mill around in the heat. We go to the top again, where it’s hottest, and sweat sitting side by side.

The real Jonathan Ames rests his elbows on his knees, clasps his hands, and drops his head, bobbing it gently from side to side. His torso is trim and toned. From time to time, he rubs one hand then the other over his head. He is quieter than I had imagined he would be. In interviews I’ve seen of him, he’s histrionic. Here, he is subdued. Then I remember reading that he changes his personality to match the personality of the person he is with. I don’t think I’m being quiet, or at least, I wasn’t when we first entered the baths. But words feel useless here. The real Jonathan Ames looks at the floor, sweating, maybe calling on inner wisdom.

When I watch the show, I look for hints of the real Jonathan Ames that I have observed in his essays and novels. There are some similarities between the real Jonathan Ames and the Jonathan Ames of Bored to Death, who’s played by Jason Schwartzman. The real Jonathan Ames is the author of eight books. His first was the novel I Pass Like Night (1989) and the second—published nine years later—was called The Extra Man. In the interim, the real Jonathan Ames struggled as a writer; his publisher rejected one of his novels. He went back to school to get his MFA at Columbia University and taught night class at the Gotham Writers Workshop. The Jonathan Ames of the show is also a struggling writer who has had his second novel rejected and who teaches night class. The real Jonathan Ames wrote about his childhood neuroses, sexual fetishes, and his unusual adventures for his column at The New York Press—for example, the time he tried to attend an orgy but couldn’t get in. The Jonathan Ames of the show, in his capacity as a private detective, visits S&M dungeons, flop houses, and explores the sexual inclinations of other character’s, like polyamory. (The real Jonathan Ames has never done any detective work, private or otherwise.) Both Jonathan Ameses have engaged in amateur boxing. The last book the real Jonathan Ames published, in 2009, was titled The Double Life is Twice as Good.

“You ready?” Jonathan Ames scoops a bucket of cold water from a stainless steel basin and pours it over me. It is shockingly cold and my blue cotton robe is drenched. He pours freezing water over himself.

We sit off to the side on a bench in the corner, in front of which there is a thin geometric mat. “I sometimes do sit-ups on that,” he says. “It looks very monastic,” I say. He says it’s “austere.” He speaks carefully and his voice is deep and sonorous. I cough. He leans away a little, smiles, and asks, “How sick are you?”

A blond, short-haired woman in a black one-piece and necklace walks in. Her name is Laura and she works at the bath. She and Jonathan greet each other. Laura sits down on the mat and hugs her knees. She looks up and says to Jonathan Ames that they must not have been feeding him in LA—he looks too skinny.

The real Jonathan Ames says he’s brought Jason Schwartzman to the bath twice and that he always tries to turn people on to it. “Jason Schwartzman was my first and only choice,” he says about casting the show. “I considered, briefly, playing myself, but I knew that Jason could do a better job of playing me.” I notice a large man with his head wrapped in a brown towel standing over another man, hitting him repeatedly with branches. The second time we go to the water basin to pour water on ourselves, the real Jonathan Ames says, “You can do it yourself now,” as if he’s taken the training wheels off my bike.

image

Before it was a show, “Bored to Death” was a short story the real Jonathan Ames published in McSweeney’s about a writer who decides to be a private detective and puts an ad on Craigslist offering his services. When an HBO producer approached the real Jonathan Ames about working on a project, he suggested basing a show on the short story. It wasn’t the first time he’d pitched a show to Hollywood executives. “I had done some Hollywood pitching over the years,” he says. “I wrote and acted in a pilot for Showtime based on my memoir What’s Not to Love?” Pitching, he says, is, “not unlike oral storytelling,” which he’s done a lot of over the years. He had a one-man show called Oedipussy at PS122 in 1999, and has performed with the live storytelling organization The Moth.

We’re taking sips of our bottled water by a pale blue dipping pool, which Jonathan Ames says is too chlorinated for him to use. Four lightly dressed women have covered their faces and bodies in mud, which is cracked and green, and are laughing and lined up in a massage chain next to the pool. “Let’s go up to the roof,” he says. “Do you have your key?”

The roof feels like a country club. It’s warm and quiet. The light is gentle. There are hard wooden chaise lounges with thin mats and neck rolls for good posture. Jonathan Ames sits on one and points to the chaise in front of his. “Why don’t you take that one?” I lie down in my wet robe and open several small towels, placing one over my chest and stomach.

“Yes,” says Jonathan. “Cover yourself up good. Like this.” I look back as he’s putting a towel over his shins. He puts several more over his body, and says, “You can even put one over your head.” He pulls up a brown towel smoothly over his face and drops it. “But then you can’t see the view,” he says from under his towel, “which is also nice.”

I lie back and put a towel over my face. It’s too hot. I pull it down and look up at the sky. It’s deep blue and framed by a dark green fringe of trees behind the white wood walls, beyond which two stars are visible. “Let’s go eat something,” Jonathan Ames says after twenty minutes. “Then we’ll sweat some more.”

The café at the bath house has faux-wood tables, wood-paneled walls, and vinyl covered chairs. Jonathan Ames has a brown towel wrapped around his head and several towels draped around his shoulders. He seems to be accruing towels, and with a head covering—he is almost always wearing some kind of head covering—he seems more comfortable. He has ordered herring and sliced red plum tomatoes. He suggests I get a lemonade. He seems happy and talks about the Omega 3s in herring. I think about how his amateur boxing nickname was “The Herring Wonder.” I cough. He lifts his towel playfully and protectively over his mouth. There are only men in the café area. A couple of them behind us are speaking Russian.

I ask him if he’s ever been to Russia. He says he’s been to St. Petersburg. He taught a workshop there. He roomed with George Saunders. They are friends now. I ask what that was like, being in St. Petersburg. He says it was “raucous.” I ask him what he means. He gets vague. I imagine Jonathan Ames and George Saunders at an outdoor market buying nesting dolls. Later, he tells me he can’t recall any outrageous adventures, but that George Saunders is a “very kind and sweet man, a Buddhist with a sense of humor…. I probably had hang-ups about sharing a toilet with him—I have hang-ups about sharing toilets with all people.”

In the Turkish sauna Jonathan Ames lies down and says I can lie down on the bench beneath his. I open my eyes and Jonathan Ames’s elbow is jutting over the edge. I open them again and Jonathan Ames is doing sit ups. I open them a third time and he has gotten up and is sitting at the far end of the bench. We alternate between the Turkish sauna, the Russian sauna, and taking breaks by the dipping pool.

The next time we enter the Turkish sauna, a young man looks up and asks the real Jonathan Ames how the show is going. “I haven’t seen any billboards,” the young man says. “Are you not doing that this season?”

“I’m not sure about that,” says the real Jonathan Ames. “I’ve seen one in Times Square.”

Premiere of Bored to Death. Skirball Center for the Arts, Tuesday September 21, 7:30pm The real Jonathan Ames is on the red carpet with a tall blonde woman. There’s a large light flashed on him. He is talking into a camera. The Jonathan Ames of the show, Jason Schwartzman, is further down on the red carpet, also with a bright light flashed on him.

At the bottom of the stairs inside the theater is comedian Todd Barry, who’s talking to a group of people. He pulls his hand off a woman’s shoulder and points back to her as he walks away. “We’ll talk later,” he says. I catch him on his way into the theater. He is very friendly with a deep and smoldering voice and long eye lashes. He was on one episode in the first season—“Take a Dive!”—in which he had to wrestle the Jonathan Ames of the show for a bottle of Viagra. “I had never done any stunts before,” he says and smiles. “It’s not like I was jumping off a building…. But they pad you up and stuff.”

Jonathan Ames is on stage in a sharp blue suit giving an introduction. He’s not wearing a hat of any kind, which is unusual, I think. He says to the audience that he’ll probably never get married so this is like a wedding for him. He thanks HBO for giving his parents (Florence and Irwin) naches (which he pronounces “nu-kus”). He says in Yiddish it means “parental joy.” “Now I’m going to do three hairy calls,” he says. He says it’s a sound he and his friends would make on the playground when being attacked by more normal children. He walks downstage and puts one hand by his ear and holds the other one straight out by his side. He makes a sustained one-toned vocal expression for six seconds. It sounds like a siren.

The first two episodes of the second season of Bored to Death are screened. In one, the real Jonathan Ames has a cameo. He is nude but for socks and a yarmulke. He claims his parents did not recognize him in the cameo.

The lights go on and I see a man with curly gray hair and a large digital film camera talking to Jonathan Ames. “That man has been filming Jonathan for like ten years,” says author Stephen Elliott. Sometime during the screening, Jonathan Ames put on a camel colored golfing hat.

Clem, a friend of mine from school, is talking to Ted Danson. He’s holding a recorder up to Ted Danson, who must be six-foot-four, I think. I wonder what Clem is asking him. I spot Jason Schwartzman, who’s standing with friends by the corridor to the bathrooms.

Jason Schwartzman is not much taller than me and is delicate with fine features and longish hair. He’s in a gray suit and has a small toothbrush mustache that, I later discover, he had grown for a film and decided to keep. As I approach him, several expressions appear on and leave his face in quick succession—welcoming, warm, questioning, grateful, patient, possibly fearful. He lifts his eyebrows. I think he might be trying to decipher whether I think I’ve met him before. I say I’m writing a profile for BlackBook and went to the Russian bath with the real Jonathan Ames. He says he heard about it and asks how I liked it. I point out that there seemed to be lots of models at the baths. “That was not my experience when Jonathan took me to the bath,” he says and laughs. His wife, fashion designer Brady Cunningham, comes over. She is a petite, pretty woman with long hair in a ponytail. She’s pregnant. The man with the camera closes in on Jason Schwartzman.

Afterparty. Capitale, 10:00pm There are many comedians at the party—Todd Barry, John Hodgman, Jim Gaffigan, Horatio Sanz, Jack McBrayer. Pool tables and bottles of wine bear the Bored to Death logo at Capitale, a cavernous beaux art former bank in Lower Manhattan with Corinthian columns, pilasters, and vaulted ceilings. I have a Brooklyn Cyclone—a specialty drink with gin and honey. Over us is a glass skylight. I ask Clem what he asked Ted Danson. “I asked him who inspired his character,” he says. “Jonathan Ames says it was based on a combination of George Plimpton and Christopher Hitchens,” I say. Hors d’oeuvres are being passed around. Scallops on puff pastry, grapes stuffed with goat-cheese, and mini pizzas. “Hey,” says another friend. “Those mini pizzas are just Bagel Bites in disguise.”

“My dog has diabetes,” says comedienne Jenny Slate, who plays the girlfriend of the Jonathan Ames of the show. She’s in a small black dress and is accompanied by a man in glasses, her comedy partner Gabe Leidman.

“How do you know?” I say.

“He peed all over me,” She says. “Then all over the apartment.”

We head into the main room, which is outfitted with tables along the walls like something out of Caligula: Rare and smoked meats, pastas, salads, crudités in large silver serving dishes. The real Jonathan Ames, still in his camel-colored hat, is surrounded. The man with the camera is moving slowly around the cluster of people, the camera resting on his shoulder.

I eat roast beef with horseradish sauce at a tall white-clothed table near a portrait-photo booth, outside of which is a small table displaying sado-masochistic paraphernalia. I put on a black fingerless glove with silver studs. “I saw Jonathan’s parents go in the S&M photo booth,” a friend says. Heather Burns, who plays Zach Galifianakis’s girlfriend Leah on the show, is leaning against the bar. She says it was great working with Jonathan Ames. “He’s an open person, and understanding of people’s faults.” I see a bottle of Bored to Death chardonnay next to Heather Burns. I put it in my bag along with my studded glove.

Ted Danson looks like he’s leaving. I stop him and tell him about the Russian bath. Ted Danson leans over a little and says, “Did he take you up to the roof to smoke pot?”

“No. Did he take you up to the roof to smoke pot?”

“No. Absolutely not,” he says loudly.

“You can smoke pot at the Russian bath?”

“You can do anything at the Russian bath.” He smiles, bows slightly, and walks out.