I’m not sure how to pronounce the name of the flat iron restaurant Ilili. I don’t know the origins of its name. Alls I know is that I had dinner there the other night with publicist Kelley Blevins and a special friend, and it was great. I’m not sure if my blog readers read BlackBook magazine as well; I have an article in there every month. I and all the other people associated with the magazine are asked each month to list their current favorite hangout. My entry from the August issue was “Nightlife Correspondent Steve Lewis Ajaxx (NYC).” Ajaxx was the rooftop restaurant/lounge my partner and I were designing for Greg Brier at the Stay hotel in Times Square. It’s Tokyo 2050 graffitti design has not seen the light of day due to tip-toeing by economy-influenced decision-makers and all sorts of bureaucratic bureaucracy.
These staff picks are done way in advance, and Ajaxx was due mid-June. Getting things open in this town is not easy, and Ajaxx’s reality will be next spring. I’m offering Ilili as my substitute pick. I spent an evening having the most wonderful meal amongst trendy adults — a group that more and more new establishments are catering too. Hotel Griffou was refreshingly age appropriate for a an old codger like me.
I worked with Kelley Blevins at Palladium and Tunnel and Spa and Life and all my good joints. He used to be a promoter-type person, but his PR-based approach brought great events and fabulously frocked people to the fray. He has consulted over the years with companies like Dolce & Gabbana, Emporio Aarmani, H. Stern, Bulgari, Diane von Furstenberg, Salvatore Ferragamo, John Varvatos, and architects Ricardo Bofill and Alison Spear. Back in the day he was working for that fabulous lolipop company, Chupa Chups, and we had them coming out of our ears. He promoted several hotels — 60 Thompson and Cooper Square in New York, the St. Augustine in Miami, and Gregory Peck’s Crescent Hotel group based in Los Angeles, among others. Kelly is one of those movers and shakers that the public rarely hears about, even though they’re aware of the brands he’s pushing. He invited me down with a fervor. He believes in Ilili and made a believer out of me.
The joint is beautiful. Architect /designer Nasser Nakib’s design stunned me. Rich woods, soft lighting, and an innovative pattern that repeats on the walls, floor, and ceiling has raised the bar for future Lewis & Dizon projects. Chef Philippe Massoud brings a modern Lebanese cuisine that made me full but not stuffed. There were so many things to choose from, such an assortment of flavor and texture, that I hardly got a word in over dinner — and that rarely happens. I even had a glass of wine, and I never do that. The large dining room with ceilings that must be 16 feet high will host parties like few rooms can. Phillipe had many a moment at joints I ran, and he has an eye and an ear for sound systems. Ilili has a great one, and I can’t wait to attend a special event. I don’t write many puff pieces; I have walked by Ilili about 2oo times without considering it. Now if you’re looking for me, you know where I’ll be.
The tragedy of the Cameron Douglas arrest is playing out as predicted. The story seems to be that the addicted spawn of stars turned to selling some to use some. He had been cut off from the family money, but the need for speed remained. A person close to the action told me “he hasn’t made a rational decision in years.” It’s the same old story — a fight for love and glory, then a hard crash to the pavement as three of his street associates ratted him out for a softer ride. The only question remaining is whether the feds want him to lead them to his sources — rumored to be California-based — or will they just let the media frenzy of a trial be a great deterrent for America’s youth. A long sentence in a bad place could be their plan. If he is lucky, they will ask him to give up his supplier in return for a lighter punishment. Supporters offer that he’s “not a violent guy” and that “his addiction is a disease best dealt with in a facility for people in need of treatment.” They say “he shouldn’t be held responsible” for the inevitable need to deal drugs as a result of his long-term addiction.
Yet despite the addling affects of drugs, there is no doubt that Cameron knew what he was doing was wrong and absolutely illegal. He also knew he had choices. Cameron was born with a silver spoon that could keep the Hotel Ganesvoort — where he was busted — in cutlery for a century. My source tells me that the family strategy was to “let him bottom out as everything else had failed,” and “no matter what we tried, he continued to hang out with those lowlife friends of his, and look what happened … they got busted and ratted him out.” I was asked why I didn’t recognize him right away as I surely knew him. I answered that he was heavy and ghost-white, and there wasn’t a great deal of life in his eyes. He used to have a light in those eyes. It used to sit just in front of his eternal sadness. Now I’m afraid sad is all that’s left.