A Love Letter to Lit & The Box

I was weak from Fashion Week events when Lit Lounge owner Erik Foss texted me late last night to head to The Box, which was celebrating its anniversary. Erik told me it was their sixth. Six years in nightlife and remaining relevant is no small task. I cannot think of a more vibrant place than this. I often say that NYC is devoid of great clubs, but not lacking in great nights. Spaces are so consistent with their programming and crowds as to flirt with boredom. Sure, the pretties might be here or there, and the bon-vivants may flock to this or that joint, but few do more than sell booze and spin the same music as the next place…few push the culture forward.

The Box has its ups and downs, but it is one of the few places I will go to without knowing what’s going on. I know the crowd will be mixed and often daring, I know that the experience will entertain me, push my buttons and occasionally my limits. I heard it was packed with a great crowd. Congrats.
Erik Foss and Lit are also nearing an anniversary. On February 22nd they will turn 11. Now that’s an impossible number. Lit is my go-to spot. My favorite place. It too can fluctuate but, then again, who doesn’t. I know when I tell the cabby 2nd Ave. and 5th St. that I will find fast friends in a great room, and the music will not be the same ol’ same ol’. There might be an art event in the Fuse or a band downstairs, and Erik will be there or Dave or bartenders that I know and respect. For me, it’s a family affair. I will not be in town on the 22nd or I would help DJ at the celebration.

I DJ at EVR on Wednesdays, and it is refreshing to see the place grow. Nice people, nice place. Its 39th Street location brings in a crowd that is well-heeled but  non-yuppie. They are the hipper side of the working set. Club types gather, and models and hipsters pop in too. I highly recommend it. They have been running mostly afterwork hours, but now they are opening for late night and getting a solid base. 

On Tuesday I was privileged to DJ at BlackBook‘s Fashion Week soiree. It was soooo much fun. I got to hang out with the reigning Miss New York USA , Joanne Nosuchinsky, who visited me in the booth. Joanne is one of the most charismatic people I have ever met …and that’s a statement. She is energetic, sharp, beautiful, fun, and way cool. Her in-it-to-win-it attitude will take her far, and I’ll be rooting for her to win it all at the big pageant  The event was held at Toy, which always puts me in a playful mood. 

The staff is amazing. You start with door icon Fabrizio Brienza, who is so fashionable and fabulous that you can easily forget he has a heart of gold. I described him to a single girl on her way to Toy as about 6-foot-3, extremely handsome, intelligent, polite, and with a heart of gold. When asked if he was single, I said I didn’t really know, and she said "it doesn’t matter; he was probably too busy saving babies or the earth itself." It’s like that. Inside every manager, owner, waitron, maitre d’ is someone outdoing themselves to make the experience wonderful. 

It’s been an exhausting week and I better run off to get a fabulous present to complement the bodega flowers I’ve already offered. If I’m not here tomorrow, you will know that I succeeded in getting the perfect Valentines gift…or didn’t.

Industry Insiders: Fabrizio Brienza, Signor West

Mr. West’s exuberant Italian door person Fabrizio Brienza on looking marvelous, not being a crackhead, and how he selects New York sexpots to cross his velvet ropes.

Where do you hang out? When I don’t work, I never go out. For me, it’s like going to the office on a Saturday. I don’t want to do that. I live in Tribeca, and I go this little Italian place called Capri Café. It’s very low key, but they are my friends who run the place, and they cook just like my mom. So I go there all the time. I like the Tribeca Grand sometimes. For places to go out, I like the Box and Rose Bar. I like places that are a little bit underground and not commercial at all. I like to hide sometimes. I don’t like to be in the club with all the club people all the time. I like to be the opposite. Low key. For outdoor bars, I like the rooftop at the Gramercy Hotel.

Who are two people that you admire in the nightclub industry? I admire Suzanne Bartsch. I really admire her. She used to do my parties when I worked at Pivali (a club in New York). And I admire her because she’s the real deal. Nobody can do a party like Suzanne. Her parties are guaranteed to be incredible. I also admire of course, the people I’m working with now — Danny Devine and Jus Ske. They’ve been in the business so long, and they know what’s up. I admire Danny A, because he is a great promoter. He really knows everybody in town — in the entertainment business, in every business.

How would you describe yourself? I think I’m pretty unique. I don’t really like to describe myself. I’d rather other people describe me. What am I going to say? That I’m the best? No.

How are you different when you’re working? When I’m working, I always put up a show. I try to be the idea. It’s like being on stage. I like to dress up. I like to look different. I like to look like I’m in a movie. I wear a big fur coat and suits. I think the look of nightlife is everything. It’s a superficial world. If you look good, you are good. If you don’t look good, you’re not good. The sound and the visual are everything in nightlife. Visually you like to see beautiful people and with sounds, you always love to hear good music. I try to give people these two things the most.

What is one thing that people may not know about you? That I’m not a crackhead.

What is one positive trend that you see in the nightlife industry now? I think that in the moment of recession, it’s a good time to be creating and doing something different. Because I think that’s what the nightlife is all about. I hate the corporate parts — they all look the same. I like the edgy stuff. I like when people take risks, and people are leaders and not ships. I like when people open up their clubs, and they want to do something different that’s not all about the trends. They know that a trend isn’t going to work, and they’re never going to be original. I think that now is the time to create art. Nightlife is an art. So to me, the more original you are — the better it is. Respect yourself, don’t be afraid, and have fun with it. It’s not like you’re murdering anybody. I like when people express themselves, and I wish they expressed themselves more. Especially in New York — it’s supposed to be the best city in the world. I would like to see more crazy people out. Crazy good, crazy fun. It’s not like the nightlife is corporate work. It shouldn’t be like Meryl Lynch. I would like to see more free minds and free-spirited people doing whatever they feel like they need to do.

What’s the crowd like at Mr. West? Mr. West has a very nice crowd. Upscale, cool people. Lots of models, some industry people, lots of hipsters, some celebrities. A very cool crowd.

If someone came to the door at Mr. West who wasn’t on the list, what would make you want to let them in? First off, I’m just gonna look at the fashion. If her fashion looks good and she’s stylish, that’s enough for me. Cool, stylish, dressed like she knows what’s up. If she’s beautiful — done. That’s all I need to know. Then if she’s like a serial killer once she gets in, that’s her problem. To me, if someone looks good, that’s enough.

What are you doing tonight? I’m working. Unfortunately.

Photo: Chelsea Stemple