Dean Winters is living that dream. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, he was a NYC bartender pursuing an acting career. He worked all over town and everybody knew him. He was and still is one of the good guys. In the mid ‘90s he broke out big with numerous TV roles. His Ryan O’Reily character on Oz had me tuning in for years. His Johnny Gavin on Rescue Me kept me glued to the set. Now, because of a TV commercial deal that he almost turned down, he is recognizable to everyone. He is Mayhem, that Allstate gremlin of a man that shows us how dangerous and unpredictable our world can be. He knows a little about that. He had a near-death experience in June 2009 that left him little short in some areas but certainly long in experience and self-awareness. He has always been a friend and supporter of mine, and when he sent me the following e-mail, I gladly gave him this space to tell us all about it:
"Hi, I’m a big supporter of The Heroes Project and I’m excited to finally share the campaign we’ve been working on. I just launched a Wish on Facebook Causes to support the organization. The funds raised will go toward The Heroes Project’s upcoming Indonesia climb with US Army Retired Sgt. Noah Galloway who lost his left arm above the elbow and left leg above the knee in an IED attack in Yusufiyah, Iraq. You can check out the Wish page and donate here. This project is near and dear to my heart so I’m trying to get the word out wherever possible. Any love you can show on Facebook or Twitter would be greatly appreciated! Thanks, Dean"
How did you get involved with The Heroes Project?
I was introduced to ‘Big Tim’ Medvetz by my L.A. family Richard and Laurie Stark, creators of the Chrome Hearts dynasty, a couple of years back. Tim and I immediately became fast friends. He had been a bouncer at Hogs ‘N Hefers back in the day and a former Hell’s Angel. A number of the Angel’s had been on Oz and I had bartendeded in the clubs so we had immediate common ground. The guy is built like a brick shithouse: 6’5" at around 250lbs – the kind of guy you want on your side, no matter what. Cher, who is also a member of the L.A. family, was an early advocate of The Heroes Project as well, so all of their passion for this project was intoxicating. Having a climbing background as well provided this whole experience for me to be a no-brainer.
What can people do?
People can simply go to The Heroes Project website and donate 10, 20, 50 bucks, any amount helps really, to help fund Tim’s next climb. It is Tim’s sole mission to help restore the confidence in America’s finest young soldier’s after they have suffered these debilitating injuries, by getting them to face their worst fears realized and helping them to climb these peaks all over the world. Watching these young soldier’s summit with prosthetic arms and legs has been a life highlight for me. I’m hoping it will be for other folks as well. Like so many others, you were a bartender in NYC chasing a dream to be an actor. I guess nowadays you are recognized as “that Mayhem dude.” Tell me how you worked at being an actor, your breakout, your career, and where you are going? Also… do you miss bartending sometimes?
I have had a very rewarding and a very peculiar career, one that I could never have come close to predicting. I have been fastidious to a point of nausea by trying to remain a NY actor. I like L.A. but only for a quick wind sprint, but I also realize that that is really where the business is so I am planning to spend more time there in the future. When we did Oz, which was the first drama series on cable, it was so raw, in-your-face, and new that I think we were all scratching our heads when it was over and thinking “now what?”
Tina Fey and every single faction of 30 Rock has been an absolute gift to me; that cast is one of the fiercest casts in the history of television. So with Oz, 30 Rock, Rescue Me and Law and Order: SVU, I have been spoiled in NYC. Everyone in this business knows that to be spoiled as an actor in NY is the Holy Grail. When Allstate first came to me with the Mayhem campaign, I was reluctant. My smartass answer was no because I became an actor so I wouldn’t have to put on a suit and sell insurance. My dumb ass. My managers – Bill Butler and Sandra Chang – quickly steered me in the right direction. I’m lost without them, and this campaign has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. One of the smartest decisions anyone has ever made for me (wink*). The sheer talent behind the people at Allstate and Leo Burnett (the ad agency out of Chicago led by Britt Nolan) is mind boggling. The creativity in the campaign is beyond what I would ever have expected.
As for bartending, I worked in 17 bars and clubs in the ‘90s. I do miss it sometimes. The music back then – the actual clubs – nothing like that will ever happen again in NY. You can thank the real estate market and a few no-fun politicians for that. With bartending came a certain amount of power and control – two things I am missing in my career these days. It was fun to be the captain of a crazy ship every night, never knowing where your actual destination was or where you were going to possibly be shipwrecked. Wouldn’t trade those days for anything.
I still run into you on occasion at a club or an event. Where do you like to go and what is it about the night that still draws you to it?
It’s always a pleasure to run into you Steve. I feel like I’m not the only one looking around wondering “what happened?” It’s different now, yes, but you have to admire the moves these young guns have made. Richie, Scott, Jason, Noah, Satsky, Ronnie, The SL crew. I mean I remember when those guys all reported to you. Now they have legitimate empires. Very impressive. I’m an old house-head and that music is slowly disappearing into this new horrible cesspool of dance music. You couldn’t fuck with the likes of Junior, Danny, Frankie, Little Louie, Victor, Boris. And sometimes they all played on the same night at different clubs around the city. Insane. I’ll dip into Provac or Pacha for the house. Ritchie, Scott, Noah, and Jason seemed to have pinned down the baby giraffe crew.
God bless Amy Sacco and David Rabin, true warriors if there ever were any in NYC. David was actually the first club owner I ever worked for, back at Rex. I’m also real happy in my hood. A pint of Guinness at Ear Inn suits me just fine these days. Don Hill was a very close friend of mine and his passing rattled NY nightlife to the bone. I truly miss that man. NY is NY though; it is the greatest city on the planet, nothing even comes close. I am very proud to be from here; I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.
The holiday season means higher-than-usual tourist density in New York City, and naturally, that spike in traffic is due in no small part to your own eager friends and family, who descend on the city for an authentic, fairy-lighted experience of the Big Apple in winter. But after a day at Macy’s, an evening at Rockefeller Center, and a dinner somewhere “New York-y,” as per their request, where do you, their trusty tour guide by default, take them for a night on the town? Here are a few crowd-pleasers that will still earn you some street cred, whether that crowd involves your boyfriend’s distant Uncle Larry, Mom and Dad, long-lost friends who’ve emerged from the woodwork, hard-to-impress rubberneckers, or your old high school mates. A comprehensive list of the best yuletide boîtes to celebrate the new year – and the best of NYC.
Bars with Games Good For: Who doesn’t like to indulge in the nostalgia of old-school games, especially this time of year? Whether you’re with a raucous bunch of old friends, have a score to settle with your Mom over ping pong, or need to take the focus off a conversation with relatives you barely know, these bars offer distractions and can make for a festive time. Bar 675: Basement rec room goes for casual chic with Jenga, cards, and board games. Earn extra points from sceney friends, who will be thrilled to tell the folks back home that they hung out in the Meatpacking. The Diamond: Brooklyn bound? Beer makes shuffleboard so much more fun at this Greenpoint joint. SPiN: Table tennis for mom, and the fact that it’s owned by Susan Sarandon will appease cousin Name Drop as well. Barcade: Are your friends from the Midwest looking for “authentic Brooklyn?” Watch their wide-eyed wonder as they take in skinny-jean gangs playing thumb-cramping faves like Frogger and Tetris for an authentic 25¢ a pop. Ace Bar: Skee-Ball bar pleases the kiddies and anyone else who likes bare-bones décor sprinkled with bits of pop-trinket nostalgia from your childhood. V Bar: Siding with the gaming snobs of the world, this spot is best for your Princeton-alum brother (who happens to be a chess genius). Café and wine bar stocked with NYU grad students, chess and Scrabble battles, and a nice selection of beer and wine.
Next: Cozy Fireplaces
Cozy Fireplaces Good For: Catch up time with people who came to really enjoy holiday spirit in the city. Rose Bar: Have friends or family more interested in being around artists than actual art? For example: I once took someone here who fawned over what he thought was a Warhol (he read about it in a city guide) loud enough so that he was sure Neve Campbell, seated a table away, could hear. It was a Haring. Rubber-necking friends aside, the velvety banquettes and giant fireplace are a cozy departure from the winter weather courtesy of Ian Schrager and Julian Schnabel. The Lobby Bar at the Bowery Hotel: Wood paneling, stuffed animal trophies, and twin oils of hunting hounds give off an English-manor-library vibe. Can be a headache to get a good spot, which are usually reserved for “hotel guests,” monied travelers, and pretty hipsters. Try eating at Gemma first and brown nose your server for a spot by the fireplace. The Back Room: Semi-secret spot for those wishing it was still Prohibition. They’ll get a kick out of drinking their $11 cocktail from a mug. Employees Only: High-class weirdness, with a gypsy psychic at the door and stellar mixologists to determine your fate. The smell of the fireplace and the sight of all the handle bar mustaches will really transport your visitors. Highlands: Décor is pub-meets-hunter’s-lodge, with stuffed deer on brick walls and salvaged woods. Cozy, and it exacerbates that whole “New York Melting Pot” idea. Savoy: A townhouse in the middle of Soho with a fireplace as the festive cherry on top. Shoolbred’s: Scottish pub parlor warmed by actual fireplace. Ten brews on tap. Scotch, natch. It’s Highlands for the East Side set, with a low key (NYU students) crowd.
Next: The Oldest Bars in New York
The Oldest Bars in New York Good For: Skip these precious spots if you’re with a crew that couldn’t care less about anywhere that doesn’t have a VIP list. Otherwise, impress friends and family with the storied, often quirky backgrounds of some of New York’s oldest watering holes. Bridge Café: Opened in 1794, old but not musty. Looks like the site of a nautical murder mystery and is rumored to be haunted by ghosts of sailors and whores, like your parents’ bedroom. Ear Inn: Classic New York-on-the-waterfront feel, minus Marlon Brando, but with plenty of coulda-been contenders. I’ve seen a Soprano in here. McSorley’s: Born in 1854, and perhaps the most renown bar amongst the younger members of the Historical Society, this beer-chugging joint sees tanked fratboys, the cirrhosis crowd, and, after a court order, a few ladies (in other words: no women were allowed until 1970). Sawdusted floors, dust-encrusted wishbones, and loads of cats make this a very special place, indeed. Delmonico’s: Quenching your bloodthirst since ’37 -1837, that is – your parents will appreciate the air of refinement this joint still exudes, not to mention the supposed hauntings. Mahogany wood dining room with glowing chandeliers is the ideal noir-glam setting for steakhouse staples and a bustling bar separate from the dining room.
Next: Mixology Bars
Mixology Bars Good For: The mixology trend is widely known across all towns and townships, so let your slightly underage cousin Timmy learn firsthand just how delightful muddling, zesting, and spicing can be. Just about anyone who doesn’t limit themselves to wine coolers will appreciate the craftsmanship and ambiance. Apotheke: For those who want the back alley as much as they want the absinthe, welcome to Albert Trumer’s quirky school of cocktail science – this former opium den has been transformed into a medieval apothecary by the Austrian mixologist. Bonus: it’s in Chinatown. The interior is antique-sexy, with warm lighting and super-friendly bartenders. PDT: Oh, this is good. Through a hot dog joint you’ll go, and then through a phone booth, where you’ll have to say some secret something-or-other (though they’ve grown lenient in their older age) before you take your dumbfounded guests back to a room with a diagonal slat ceiling, de rigueur taxidermy, and a glowing bar. Note: Make a reservation earlier to get a good seat and smooth entry. Little Branch: By far the most talked-about speakeasy, this West Village spot boasts no signage unless you count the line out the door during peak hours. Retro cocktails served with cool swizzle sticks by tall drinks of water. Go on the early side of a Sunday night to chat up the mixologists and catch some jazz. Mayahuel: The cocktail connoisseurs at Death & Co. built an agave altar. Intimate confessionals, stained glass, and communal pews evoke a Mexican mission. All tequila, all the time, with all the bells and whistles to render previous tequila blow-outs null and void. Death & Co: Dark and polished, this cocktail den packs in a lively crowd. Bartenders in suspenders and vests serve up expert cocktails, and clearly love what they do (they don’t take of their vests when they get home). Great spot for just about anyone who can appreciate such a scene. Cienfuegos: Cuban rum bar from Mayahuel/Death & Co vet seduces with pink couches and sugarcane.
Next: Impressive Hotel Bars
Impressive Hotel Bars Good For: If your guests really “wanna see stuff,” like mine usually do, guiding them to impressively-designed hotel bars around NYC—usually the crown jewels of the hotels themselves—will go over well. Here are a few that leave a lasting impression. Bemelmans Bar: It’s classic New Yawk! Located inside the Carlyle, this timeless upscale New York City bar near Central Park draws bold-faced names, many of whom your out-of-towners could care less about. They will enjoy the classic cocktails and gilded ambiance. Hudson Bar at Hudson Hotel: If your guests approach things like rock music, sushi, and democrats with trepidation, this bar on acid may not be the place for them. Shrek-green lights illuminate the escalator, there’s a chandelier the size of a Volkswagen, the floors glow, the chairs seem to float—except for the tree stumps—and the whole thing makes you feel like you’re living in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s that cool. The Waldorf Astoria: Ah, the sprawling impressiveness of the Waldorf – the stuff salads are named after! Three bars, four restaurants, and Jazz Age overindulgence. A certain spirit abides, especially during the holidays. Jane Hotel and Ballroom: This place is for your visiting sorority sisters – leave the parents at home. Dual bar spaces decked out with Edwardian charm, as befits the hotel’s 1908 origins. Posh couches, leafy palms, tortoise shell ceilings, and an ancient disco bar all made better by the creatively-dressed PYTs. Plunge Rooftop Bar + Lounge at the Gansevoort Park: This hotel bar sort of looks like the New York in the Sex and the City movies. It’s slick and arty, with shinning angles and scrumptious views of the Empire State Building. Stoke your vertigo with windows in the terrace floors that look straight down on distant midtown traffic. Your guests will feel so very modern. The Standard Hotel: So this is the place with all the naked people? Depending who you’re with, I’d say a stroll around the grounds with a stop at the bar in the hotel’s Standard Grill will be enough. Unless you’ve got some young model/socialite family members, why waste family time on rubbernecking at Boom Boom? The Ace Hotel: It has a curious cheeky quality to it without being a tourist magnet. The Lobby Bar is reminiscent of an all-American library, with Ivy League reading-room tables, a bar serving up Old Fashioneds and the cult favorite Porkslap Pale Ale, a vintage-style photobooth, and a massive, tattered American flag on the wall. Bring people—not sheeple.
Next: Editor’s Picks
Editor’s Picks Our editors are often tasked with selecting the perfect place for their cousin Sarah’s college roommate’s mother, who’s coming to the city for the first time. Here’s where they like to bring their special holiday guests this time of year. Chris Mohney: Pegu Club. Great place to take any out-of-towner who likes a good drink. Still some of the finest cocktails in the city, and now that it’s been around a while, almost always chill enough to easily find a spot without worrying about crowds. Ben Barna: Fatty Cue. It’s good for anyone, really. Except maybe vegetarians. It’s got the kind of vibe you can only find in Brooklyn, and the kind of unique cuisine you’ll only find in New York. Also, it’s a restaurant meant for sharing, so that’s fun. And the drinks are as good as the food. I’d like to just bring my bros, but it’s expensive, so I take my parents as well. Megan Conway: The Good Fork in Red Hook. I’d like to take my parents to visit this historic, less-trodden waterfront neighborhood. This cozy restaurant offers inspired grub in one of the more unique pockets of the city. Nadeska Alexis: The Dove. It’s a well rounded place that’s chill enough for friends, and I’ve been there with adults and have not been embarrassed. Fun cocktails too. Victor Ozols: Rudy’s. It’s a really lasting, authentic experience that stays with someone. Cayte Grieve: Oyster Bar at Grand Central. For New York newbies and friends and family who haven’t spent a lot of time in the city, the Oyster Bar is one of those bars-slash-attractions that sort of kills two birds with one stone. Grand Central? Check. Getting Grandma drunk? Check. All done with old-style glamour.
Next: Around Rockefeller
Around Rockefeller Good For: Sometimes you just gotta give the people what they want: A Disney-fied version of the most wonderfully commercial time of the year! While your skating, shopping, and taking photos around The Tree, you might as well ease your sensory-overloaded nerves with some family vodka time. Rock Center Café: Tourist magnet, priced accordingly, and you will wait accordingly—yes, even the early birds. Perhaps it’s best to skip the food and opt for a toast instead. Perfect before, during, or after a spin around the rink. Watching wipe-outs with the fam never felt so corporate. The Modern: Danny Meyer’s unabashed flamboyance for air-kissing culture whores. It’s at the MoMa, kids, so take only those who desire such a scene. If you’ve got yourself a crew outfitted in suits and ties longing for a culture cocktail, here’s your promised land. 21 Club: It’s so famous! Free parking if you show up before 6:30pm, if that tells you something about the demographic, but only the locals and culture snobs will take note. Skip the steaks and head for the scotch with the people who’ve read about the place or heard about it in hip-hop songs. Morrell Wine Bar & Cafe: Here’s a cozy place to get warm after running with the masses around Rockefeller. Please remember that other people longing for a night cap will also be directed to this wine bar, which boasts over fifty well-chosen wines by the glass and 2,000 bottle choices on the menu.
Bars should either be super old, like the Ear Inn, or super new, like that Swervewolf Pulpería spot down in Tribeca. Have you been? It’s the bidness. Just opened a few weeks ago, and you should definitely go. Oh wait, it actually closed last week. Let’s go drink mind erasers at Katrinau instead – you know, that new Cajun-Polynesian cocktail bar in Inwood. I think it opened 8 seconds ago, making it new and exciting. Shall we?
You, the website-reading public, and New Yorkers in general, really like new things. As do we, especially when she’s in town for the weekend from Rio and heading home on Monday. But when it comes to going out, people have very short attention spans. Which explains why sites such as this one are constantly on the hunt for the latest and greatest spots. The public demands it.
Swervewolf, the organization I’m mixed up with (think Scientology with more money meets North Korea without a sense of humor), cannot and would not compete with BlackBook in this field. This is due to a very real fear of BlackBook overlord Chris Mohney, as well as the fact that I don’t remember half the places I go to, making writing about them that much harder. So I’ve decided, in the name of all things new and novel, to create temporary venues lasting for a brief and intense period of time. This is my promise to you, the now-loving public.
To that end, fresh off our rosé dome in Burningwolf, we set up Pulpería de Don Swervewolf, the 12 day pop-up in Tribeca loosely anchored around Fashion Week. The goal was to replicate a pulpería, those Argentine Pampas watering holes of yore that featured old Dutch genever guzzling, yerba mate drinking, Malbec sipping, guitar playing, and other wholesome gaucho activities. We then tricked some chic New York startenders from the likes of Dram and Death & Co. into working at the pulperia. Everything was – like all Swervewolf experiences – completely on the house. Keeping cash around makes the Swervewolf operatives a little nervous.
So, Swervewolf hereby promises to continue bringing you new and even newer places to congregate and make merry, always keeping the drinks flowing and on the house. If you happen to be in Iceland this week during the Airwaves festival, look for the most mobile bar ever created, the Swervewolf Elf Rock, popping up in a hotel room or Geyser near you. And come Halloween, we’ll be back in New York for a five-day voodoun bar downtown. We not only guarantee that it’ll be a new venue, but that there will be models sacrificing live chickens in the name of Baron Samedi.
Check out a little compilation of the pulpería above. Until then, enjoy that hot new spot down the block, and keep on Swervewolfing.
It’s hard to stand out in a city populated by naked cowboys, that screeching guy who wears bird feathers and bells in Union Square, and Mike Nelson. But when the ships dock in New York for Fleet Week and its annual Memorial Day celebration, the Coast Guard and Navy mariners dressed head-to-toe in their white, starched uniforms aren’t exactly subtle. That said, a handy how-to on nabbing seamen might be helpful. (Full disclosure: They’re everywhere!)
● Rusty Knot (West Village) – This nautical-themed watering hole is practically on the Hudson, and it has the best dark and stormy mix in the city. Worst-case scenario: You won’t meet a sailor, but there’s an aquarium filled with blowfish! ● Old Town Bar (Flatiron) – Once a safe haven for Manhattan’s old-world editors, this creaky, dark den of drink now serves the best clam roll in the city to the weariest of Navy-gazers. Plus, there’s a man who lives off of the upstairs eating area, and I’m almost sure he’s Cap’n Ahab. ● Ritz Bar & Lounge (Hell’s Kitchen) – Think Village People, not necessarily seamen proper, at this HK schooner-adorned, dimly lit meat market. (On your quest for Fleet Week friendship, expect multiple “seamen” puns from the gay patrons here.) ● Legion (Williamsburg) – There may not be any boathouse boys here, but this East Williamsburg staple has three-dollar “Atomic” pints of beer — and a White Castle across the street. ● Cubby Hole (West Village) – No longer the sanctuary for casualties of the Beatrice Inn door policy, this anything-goes shrine to Madonna and 90s divas will most certainly attract a don’t-ask-don’t-tell group of Fleeters. ● Ear Inn (SoHo) – A late-late-late night restaurant sure to reel in a few Sway castaways looking for cheap, unfussy beer. ● Spring Lounge (SoHo) – There will be no shortage of men in white here. Its microbrewery beer menu is almost overwhelming, and it opens at 8am. ● Don Hill’s (SoHo) – No longer home to Leigh Lezark and her asymmetrical crew of merrymakers, the eponymous venue now has room for the nightlife aquatic. In keeping with the nautical theme, Hill’s will house a live performance by Pisser tonight. ● Central Park Boathouse (Upper West Side) – Overlooking the park lake, the Boathouse is a healthy, hearty mix of geriatrics, homeless passersby and, yep, sailors! Order the swordfish or snapper with melted cabbage. ● Blue Water Grill (Union Square) – http://bbook.com/guides/details/blue-water-grill Part of the Dos Caminos family of restaurateurs, Blue Water Grill employees tweet about the goings-on at their seafood emporium. A sample: “memorial days menus have been finalized- watermelon gazpacho, jumbo shrimp skewers, main lobster, jonah crab boil, tons of sides, etc etc,” and, “recently saw former presidential candidate mike dukakis for what seemed like a formal business dinner with 10+ people, wife was there too.” Ships ahoy!
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Happy birthday, Boss! BlackBook executive editor Chris Mohney is a cringeworthy 38 yearsold today! [You’re certainly right on the cringing part. -CM] He spends his days supervising the efforts of trained monkeys (fellow blogger Ben Barna and myself), strenuously trying to avoid any events that would call for either of us to be shot dead. After work, Chris goes home to exert influence on The Littlest Mohney to be nothing like us. But we want to take him out to celebrate! So: where do you take your married, with-child 38 year-old boss out for his birthday? Answers after the jump.
10. Old Town Bar (Gramercy) – The once semi-hard drinking destination of New York media-ites now sees the likes of strollers in it on the weekends. Family friendly! 9. West Side Pistol Range (Flatiron) – Okay, so they don’t serve booze, and you shouldn’t (really) show up wasted. But assuming Chris never gets to take hold of the outraged-blogger-monkey takedown scenario, he could always pop a few rounds off in fantasy here. 8. Per Se (Columbus Circle) – Thomas Keller serves up one of the priciest, most legendary meal in town to a select few every evening. No shot in hell of this happening, Boss, but a nice pipe dream no less. 7. Zum Schneider (East Village) – Beer bar Chris had a get-together at post-work last week that neither Ben or I could make it to. We are dicks, but at least we now know Chris likes this place. 6. Ear Inn (SoHo) – Favorite watering hole of BlackBook resident tech madman/Director of Development Dan Murphy, who uses this place as his office-outside-of-the-office. Possibly the only way we could get Dan to attend any kind of social function with us would be going there. 5. Rick’s Cabaret & Steakhouse (Midtown West) – Friends of BlackBook Media, the ladies at Rick’s incidentally hold media types who work on the web side of print magazines in high regard. Yet another way for Ben and I to get away with spending the least amount of money. Send him your finest matron! And some red meat! 4. Damon: Frugal Friday’s @ TOM (Flatiron) – Actually a feasible dining option, right down the street from BlackBook HQ. Damon’s the cheap-o version of Craft, from which it stems: haute small plates, single-digit prices. We could afford Chris a few bar snacks, but unfortunately, it’s only open on Fridays. He’d have to take a rain check. 3. Corner Bistro (West Village) – Because they love us there. 2. Xunta (East Village) – A place Chris actually enjoys going, according to our masthead. We might be able to work with this. 1. GoldBar (Nolita) – Location of this evening’s BlackBook party, at which we’d be able to afford Chris a drink (due in no small part to the open bar we’ll readily be taking advantage of). Chris would be there, but he’s got a grown-ass-man life to attend to on a Wednesday night, unlike the rest of us alkie createns. Maybe next time, Boss.
Nightlife impresario Dirk Van Stockhom on his new venture at 98 Kenmare Street, being a 13-year-old English playboy, and why Sudan is the new global hotspot.
Where do you go out? I am very much a bar/restaurant guy. I go to Rose Bar … when I can afford it [laughing]. Milano’s on Houston. My favorite place in the whole of New York is the Ear Inn on Spring Street. It is the most classic bar because they don’t give a damn. It is full of regulars and some of the most interesting people. You also do see models and actors, next to regular people. It is no bullshit, great drinks, great food. The owners are two of the nicest people in the world. It is a real community bar. Big supporters of the arts. Don’t tell anyone though, it will spoil it [laughing].
What is your newest project’s name? The restaurant on Kenmare doesn’t have a working name yet. The lounge will probably just be 98 Kenmare. There will be great cocktails. Now for me with any place I am a part of, like the one on Kenmare Street, it must be accessible. In other words I can’t charge people $16 per drink in that neighborhood and not expect people to raise eyebrows about it. You have to get value for money, and you have to deliver. It will be a restaurant/lounge. The restaurant will be on the ground floor, and we’ll have Italian food with a hip cocktail lounge. When I say hip, I don’t mean because of who is behind the place. I want them to go because the food is good, the service is good, and the ambiance is good. If you have all those things, you don’t need to coerce people to go. They will go because they feel comfortable. We’re looking to open in the spring.
How did you start in this business? I was raised in a very small village called Suffolk in England. There was a pub in my town that, believe it or not, was the coolest pub in the whole county. It was run by a guy called Steve Chick who was probably in his 20s. He was the coolest guy, always had beautiful women, drove Jaguars. Every Friday and Saturday night the place was like an old school disco. People would come from miles around, from all the other villages. At a young age I started a service parking cars on my road and charged for the service. I actually made decent money at it. I was the richest 12-year-old! From that I met Steve. I would come in during the week to stock bottles, help in the kitchen. He had a really good restaurant too. Thinking back on it, that was probably my entry into the business. That’s what attracted me to it. Steve would take me in his car and drive me around. I was a 12, 13-year-old kid surrounded by these beautiful women and leading an interesting life that perhaps a 13-year-old shouldn’t lead.
You worked at Life also. Being the general manager of Life was challenging. Also I became the host/maitre d’ in the Sullivan Room. Then I also did the door at Bowery Bar for Mark Baker and Jeffrey Jah. After Life I managed Float, which was probably the most popular place I ever worked. Float was the first place that had that bottle service/European mentality. Everyone was like, “Uptown? You are out of your mind!” My response was all these kids who come downtown live uptown; the trust fund kids. We made $160,000 a week without promotion. It was a huge amount of corporate business. Then I went to Miami to open Crobar and then back to New York to open Crobar here. I became known as an opener. Then I opened Bed and was back working with Jeffrey Jah and Mark Baker, Richie Akiva and Scott Sartiano. Then I was supposed to open a restaurant/bar with Michael Ault on 27th Street, and that didn’t work out. That was a crush. But then Jason Strauss and Noah Tepperberg brought me out to Vegas to run the marketing for Tao. Tao is a monster business. It is phenomenal how they run it — they are businessmen. They work their asses off. Then I got the call to help open Mansion, four days before they opened during Fashion Week this past February.
Clubdom has moved away from the artistic people. Clubs were social clubs for artists who didn’t belong to places like Soho House or Core club. Society had deemed they weren’t worthy of belonging to those type of places. From a community point of view, that’s what nightclubs were. It wasn’t so much about making money. Then there were the businessmen who strive to be part of that scene. People saw there was marketing value to be part of a high profile venue. An investor was guaranteed entrance into these places and be surrounded by beautiful women and celebrities and hold court like a king with bottles of champagne. It became a marketable commodity to close deals. So many deals were done over a bottle. During our time in this business, there was this trend that everyone had their celebrity friend and that person became their representative in the nightlife. Those relationships were made over a crack pipe — sorry. They were forged over drinking and cocaine until all hours … over tons of cocaine. If you wanted to have that celebrity at your place or have their event, there you had to deal with that person. So the whole business started working that way.
Is there a city that is doing it better than New York? A friend has said to me we should move to the south of Sudan where they put up shacks in the middle of nowhere with a boom box and homemade beer and these guys are making a fortune. Those guys have got it down. Screw the other cities. A boom box and a tent and you too can make money [laughing].
Where are you going out tonight? I want to check out Chloe 81from a design point of view. I will probably stop by the Eldridge because I like Matt Levine. Anyone who would give me an Eldridge card is OK in my book [laughing]. I also might stop by Little Branch. That’s more my pace these days. I also really like Bongo.
You really do go out! Yeah, but I am done by 10 p.m. I don’t sleep in the way I used to, but I also don’t work ‘til 4 a.m. anymore, either.
Telling your story from beyond the grave is a bitch. You’ve gotta sign scrolls of release forms, and be put through an infernal vetting process that culminates with a hellish (it’s really the only word I can think of) interview with Beelzebub himself. “We musn’t meddle with the order of things,” he told me. No idea what he meant, but his serpentine voice repulsed me, so I nodded my head and million-dollar-smiled him, and here I am at my old job, in one final performance, to tell you how I lost my life to this shitty economy (and alcohol).
10:00 p.m.: Finally out of work. Have a hot date with my Brazilian supermodel-cum-intern. She’s got pricey tastes, so we start at Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle. We’ve been dating for two months (still no sex), and this is our special place. The Madeline drawings on the wall remind her of her childhood, which we talk about a lot. I have an Old Fashioned — one of the best in Manhattan, a celebratory drink of sorts — and wait for my beautiful girlfriend to arrive.
10:20 p.m.: She’s still not here.
10:50 p.m.: She arrives with a real-estate mogul holding massive investments in Dubai (look for BlackBook listings, coming soon!). She tells me that a) it’s over, and b) she lied about liking Madeline. I head downtown.
11:22 p.m.: My friends are all partying at Beatrice Inn. One of them sees my pathetic Facebook status update and calls to cheer me up: an unnamed Ronson is doing blow off of a bartender’s tie. I head down there to be with a happy crowd of beautiful, artistic people.
11:40 p.m.: Rejected at the door. Pants not tight enough. I head to the Corner Bistro to sulk with other Beatrice rejects. They are unfathomably ugly and regular. Pints of McSorley’s are cheap; down four, gorge a cheeseburger, which is a better idea before I eat it. Dulls my buzz. I need somebody to talk to me. I ask the Elderly Bartender how long he’s been working at the Corner Bistro for. He responds: “Three hours.” My wit has been stymied by a geriatric. I hate myself.
12:00 a.m.: I am outside having a cigarette, my last one, gazing longingly at the Beatrice, when BlackBook executive editor Chris Mohney sends me a BBM: “Sorry Foster, we let u go. Teh media/economy sux. Also, ur American Visa (both company-card and citizenship-wise) is fucked! LOLZ.” Looks like I’m going back to Canada. I begin to cry.
12:38 a.m.: My other media friends — who’ve also been laid off — are predictably drinking at Botanica. There are former Gawker editors, Radar editors, and Cosmo girls. I thought this would make me feel better, but being surrounded by unemployed yet somehow still self-satisfied writers has made me realize how pathetic my sad media life once was. I order a specialty ginger drink. Or three.
1:30 a.m.: Scene at Botanica is growing stale, and the $1.75 ATM fee suddenly matters. Talk of where we should go next. Some suggest Beatrice, others suggest Beatrice. Following a vote, they all go to Beatrice. My barista roommates are having drinks at Little Branch, where they know the bartender. I go with the intention of finagling some free mixology. Instead of cab, I walk. The horror.
1:45 a.m.: Finagling successful. One Queens Park Swizzle, one Moscow Mule, my final taste of the New York high life. Fuck, I’ll miss it. We talk about sex. I omit my layoff from the conversation, unwilling to tell them I won’t be paying rent next month. So this is what the housing crisis feels like.
2:21 a.m.: Roommates head back to Brooklyn, I do not. Stumble through the West Village, buzz is no longer a buzz. More like a loud howl, too strong for the cold to kill. Upper lip numb, swearing at myself out loud, perfect. No money for cab, forced to go somewhere near and cheap to be around fellow scum. Ear Inn it is.
2:30 a.m.: I discover newly former coworker at Ear Inn, a regular there (again, scum). Nostalgia persuades me to buy him a drink. Asshole probably knows about my situation already but still lets me buy. He sips, I down.
3:20 a.m.: Asshole isn’t an asshole after all. Next three pints are on him. Officially the most I’ve drank in one night. He goes to the bathroom, and I send a text to three girls of interest. “Wher are youp.” Two don’t respond, one writes “in bed.”
4 something a.m.: At Mars Bar, don’t know how, but do know why. To drink. But first must snort, then drink more. Moby taught me that. Mars Bar denizen is convinced I’m Ben Affleck. Offers to shine the rims on my Escalade for money and praises me endlessly for “tapping J-Lo.” Blackout. Good night.
Glimpse the city as it was before fauxhawks, metrosexuality, and that internets thing.
1. The Campbell Apartment at Grand Central (Midtown East) – Former private office hidden in GCT with flapper-clad staff delivering expert shakers. 2. Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle Hotel (Upper East Side) – Named after Madeline creator Ludwig, whose murals enliven one of Manhattan’s classiest drinking experiences. 3. Ear Inn (Soho) – Geek-boy film crews and UPS workers in their fly brown shorts both agree on super- old, super-dark tavern.