Actor-turned-restaurateur Osvaldo “Oz” Gonzalez and his partners managed to transform a run-down mansion in Buenos Aires into one of the city’s most distinguished spots to grab drinks (or a foxy Scandinavian). Witty, charming, and well-versed in the city’s art scene, Gonzalez can usually be spotted roaming the building, where he’s apt to know at least half of the clientele at any given moment. In 10 years of Milion—an eternity in a city known for its tumultuous economy—the sprawling Parisian-style mansion has seen decadent attic parties, countless art shows, and live performances by Juana Molina. More on the story of Milion after the jump.
On the beginnings of Milion: I’d been working as an actor for six years, doing TV and theater. There had come a point where I felt I was going to become a public employee on television. When I was almost 40, I said no, and went to work as a cashier at Club 69, which belonged to some friends. Silvina, my business partner, who was a Club 69 partner, calls me on the phone one day and says, ‘Diego has this house, we’d like it if you’d come to work with us.’ I said, ‘No! I’ll be a partner.’ I was living with Carla Peterson, who is an actress friend of mine, and had no money. It’s not like I planned on being a restaurateur at 40. It just happened, and I adore that. This place taught me that freedom doesn’t have to do with money. I didn’t have money. I lived here alone for eight months, when the house was in semi-ruins, and it was fantastic.
On the building’s lengthy history: When we first saw the space everything of value had already been sold and all that was left was the history of the house. There were newspapers from 1913 until 1992, it was like the history of the world. Articles on Nixon and Watergate, travel diaries from the twenties that said, ‘Well I’m in New York, in truth it’s very boring, I’m going to Buenos Aires.’ Wow! What was the world like? New York today and Buenos Aires tomorrow, during the Belle Époque. The other day, someone came in from London. Her grandmother was married to one of the original owners and she’d visited the house as a child. In London, she’d heard about Milion through her friends. When she came in, she realized it was the house she’d come to when she was little.
On the house’s energy: It’s very magical, super powerful. I think the protection that it has with us is because we love it very much. Sounds like a movie about the house that talks, doesn’t it? But it’s got a lot of love. I think it has the energy of having been inhabited by only one family, and it’s rare to find that in Buenos Aires. They’re all remodeled like schools and banks.
On handpicking DJs and musical criteria: There’s Lea Lopatín, Lea is more of a rocker, but I think he has a very elegant touch when it comes to playing music. I met this guy called Monsieur Julien, who sent me a set and I found it so exquisite. You also do things I like, I met you here through friends, you brought me a record. When I play music, I say I’m a musicalizador. Right now, I’m very very crazy with everything that comes from Denmark, Sweden. I hate the term “dance,” and when DJs say “I have dance music.” “Chill-out” is another term I hate. I don’t like playing the dance music typical of the clubs in Miami, those cheap clubs. I detest that. It has nothing to do with the house.
On the resident cat: Emilio’s a mix, a street cat with a Siamese cat. He lives here, he grew up here, he’s loved here. He protects the house. He gets on people, he gets on the bar. He’s the most loved among all the people working here.
On the clientele: Everything good about Milion is love stories. Many people marry here. They fall in love, marry, they have children. Then they split up, but oh well, it’s okay. Milion is very much love, it always was. I have a large gay audience and I have a large foreign audience.There will be a couple of boys holding hands next to an elderly couple. I like to see Finnish women six feet tall at the bar. Europeans die when they see the house because in Europe, there’s no place like this. Because the rent is impossible. It’s incredible what it would cost. The media over there always treated us better than the local media, too.
Favorite spot besides Milion: A club I visited in Prague that was marvelous. It was like an old-fashioned house, I went three times. There were people dressed seductively, and they would sometimes offer you fruit. It was gay, but there were a lot of boys and girls who weren’t. That was great. There was the bar and then you’d move to the next room for dancing, then you’d go and there was a porno movie theater and it had one of those mazes that lights up. The name is indecipherable. It’s like Cjwklskzyk, I swear. I want to look it up, but it’s a whole lot of consonants all together.
Other pursuits: Apart from Milion, I’m making a project with pornographic photos.
Translated by Christine-Marie Andrieu Photo by Oz Gonzalez