Predictions About The Revamped Marquee

I will be attending Marquee on Wednesday to see what I will see. I expect a Vegas-style club geared toward electronic dance music (EDM), with a room to dance and a room for corporate clients to have events. In the early stages, I consulted on the layout, but I’m not involved in the design now. I designed the first incarnation and a couple of reduxes since. The late, great Philip Johnson got involved at the last minute in the original design and added greatness to my humble offerings. It may have been his last project. Over the years, Jason Strauss, a partner, would ask me how I ranked Marquee in the all-time list of great clubs. I usually had it down around number 25, but with the caveat that time will tell. This latest redux says that Marquee’s story has not been fully written. It certainly dominated its decade and it certainly wasn’t all about black cards buying bottles, although that is a great part of its legacy.

Marquee took bottle service to new heights. It was a huge part of the bottle-model, table-service revolution that went global. Yet, there were hipster nights with Wednesday’s so-called “rock night” lasting for 6 or 7 years. I remember feeling great joy while sitting with Paul Sevigny and friends in the mezzanine. Marquee was fun. Celebrities came as often as sparklers on bottles. Over the year, the paint faded and the luster of it all moved to other venues. Many didn’t even realize it was still there. It was always making money, living on reputation and remembrance and professionalism. Tao Group or Strategic Group or whatever the corporate name at the time built other icons like Avenue and Lavo and PH-D and, and, and…and the crowd moved there. And then they built a club in Vegas, and the Marquee brand was reinvented as the highest-grossing joint ever. It even had an outpost way out in Australia.

As the 2000s meant bottle service, the 2010s are all about EDM. Marquee NY will be a hub, a routing point for the organization’s big name and DJ packages. Marquee NY will belie the slogan, “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas.” To some extent, a Vegas production-marketing-big club experience will settle on 27th and 10th. A nightclub pro told me yesterday that he believes it will dominate. He feels it will redefine the whole scene. So I guess in a few years I’ll call up Jason Strauss and utter a single word, a number like “9,” and imagine the smile on his handsome and successful face. Congratulations to Noah and Jason and Mark and Rich and the other Rich and Andrew and Wass and all the players to be named later. To all the players who work so hard and make it look so easy.

Tonight I will scoot down to Mister H at the Mondrian Hotel Soho to visit Louis Mandelbaum on the occasion of his birthday. I know Louis as Louis XIV, his DJ moniker. We teamed up on New Year’s Eve at Marble Lane, also owned by those guys up above. Louis will DJ and host, and a good time is ensured for all.

The New Marquee: Believe The Hype

While the folks in Washington DC struggle to raise the debt ceiling, the good folks of Strategic Group have literally raised the roof on the redone Marquee which opened last night. The roof is now 30 feet high, which is unheard of. The front wall is dominated by a 24-foot LED screen which flashes and pops and keeps the energy up. Costumed go-go dancers did their thing on elevated catwalks while EDM banged on. I said it before and I’ll say it again (probably a few more times): Marquee in New York City dispels the adage, “What Happens In Vegas Stays In Vegas.” It also knocks down another common saying: “Don’t believe the hype.” Believe the hype people; Marquee NYC is built for speed, sound, and sight lines.

Literally everyone in clubland was there to see what has been hyped as the next big thing in clubland. It seems bigger than before, as volume will do that, though the capacity hasn’t changed. I spent my time chatting up club royalty like Jamie Mulholland, who has had great success with Caine, GoldBar, Surf Lodge, and all sorts of excellent etceteras. Noah Tepperberg tore away from his table of gorgeous jet setters to give me the $5 tour. We posed for pictures on the way.

For the most part, they stuck with the floor plan I helped devise around a year ago. There was some furniture that wasn’t on the plan but Noah told me that’s going since it will be a big room for dancing. shows, and events – with considerably less seating than the Marquee design that was so successful before this latest incarnation. Noah thanked me for my minimal effort, recognizing that I have always had a special attachment to the venue which I helped design a long time ago, in what feels like a galaxy far, far away.

Alacran Tequila honcho Artie Dozortsev chatted me up about his White Mezcal Tequila bottle and the pink bottle he’s hyping for Valentine’s Day. A percentage of sales of Artie’s hot product will go to a variety of breast cancer awareness charities, thus defying another old adage… nice guys can finish first. I hung with Bill Spector and Richie Romero and Paul Seres and Pascal and and and…. I stopped to congrats co-owner Jason Strauss who was herding a bevy of beauties past the door bureaucracy. The staff was brilliant and helpful. Some dude once said, "you can’t go home again.” Baloney! I went to Marquee last night and It felt like home. 

Being the nightlife veteran that I am, (for those that don’t know, I used to be Steve Lewis), I went to Strategic’s other hot property Avenue to see how it was faring on a night when everyone was at their new elsewhere. Avenue was packed with an eclectic crowd. Sam Valentine, a big-haired rocker, hosted a table that wasn’t aware of the hoopla 10 blocks up 10th Avenue. The programming of those who wouldn’t know about Marquee or who dance to the beat of a different drummer…er DJ… was an act of professionalism that should be noted.

Avenue was doing business, maybe not as usual, but busy. Let’s just say it was doing business as unusual. Strategic’s great minds brought in folks to pack the place while most of their efforts and their a-team were occupied with the Marquee opening. To a visitor unaware, it seemed like a great club night. I did a walk through 1OAK, which was gathering steam and ready to embrace the late-night crowd that it always gets. Marquee’s revelers would surely be packing booths in an hour or so. 

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Marquee’s Jason Strauss Celebrates His Birthday

My editor Bonnie Gleicher will return tomorrow or the day after from her hiatus, which has me producing these mini posts as to not tax the resources over at BlackBook. The peeps covering her butt there have been grateful. As I was sifting through the email blasts that connect my desk with the rest of the world I paused at the one titled MARQUEE NEW YORK UPCOMING EVENTS. It talked of a very special event this very night, "A Very Special Birthday Celebration For" partner Jason Strauss. This is always a special event replete with sparklers, pretty women, and napkins tossed in the air. In past incarnations of the ever-changing Marquee the place would be packed with everyone who knows everyone… the special set, the monied, the beautiful…the In-Crowd. A big time DJ would entertain all. That part is still true as the very special Chuckie has been tasked and "The" crowd will surely come .

A very special part of the post offered tickets and reservations with a click of my mouse. I clicked. For $25 and an agreement to arrive before 12:30 a pre-sale for females would give you a leg up. A disclaimer about proper ID and "fashionable clubwear required" seperated out those that won’t get past the door guardian. In a day when bottle buyers are competed for by everyone and as the mentality of table service has spread to every nook and cranny, Marquee relies on big DJ’s, the cashier booth, and pre-sales to hit its fiscal marks. Jason Strauss is fabulous. Marquee is refreshingly different and if I wasn’t entertaining the crowds at EVR and then DL tonight with my DJ skills I’d be there to pat Jason on the back and reinforce him with a "Happy Birthday" and a "You’re very special to me"

[Related: BlackBook New York Nightlife Guide; Listing for Marquee]

Jonathan Schwartz Talks South Pointe, This Summer’s Hamptons Destination

There were a few times this winter when the summer seemed as impossibly distant as an Oscar for Tom Cruise. I still look for patches of tough snow when I walk the puppies through McCarren Park, and yet here we are, less than 2 weeks away from the summer season. The big news on the Hamptons party circuit is the redux of the Tavern space in Southampton as South Pointe. Leading the charge at South Pointe is Jonathan Schwartz, a one time promoter who has often been associated with Noah Tepperberg, Jason Strauss, and The Strategic Group.

I (and many others), simply assumed that Jonathan was just fronting for the big guys, but I am told that is not the case at all. I asked Noah about it and he told me, “I love John and think he will be one of the future players in the Hamptons scene, but because of his sometimes affiliation with me, my partners, and our venues, we have already been linked to his venture, which I’m sure you can understand bothers us since we have nothing to do with it.”

Noah continued, saying, “After 15 years, me, Jason, Strategic Group, Lavo, Avenue, and Marquee are finally not doing anything nightlife related in the Hamptons this summer.” Noah and crew had been doing the Steve Lewis-designed space, Dune, for four years with Matt Shendell but have dissolved that partnership. Matt decided to keep the name and that has led to rumor and speculation. Noah tells me that they are “concentrating on our Vegas and NYC hotel venture.” The Dream Downtown is getting close and I am promised a tour soon, so I’ll keep you posted. Noah emphasized how much he loves and respects Jonathan and wishes him the best with this venture.

After sorting that out, I caught up with Jonathan Schwartz and asked him about South Pointe.

Tell me about South Pointe and how you become involved. I’ve spent the past four summer seasons overseeing marketing and hospitality at Dune nightclub, also in Southampton, so my experience and knowledge of Southampton nightlife is of the highest level. However, towards the end of last season at Dune, I noticed that my friends, clients, and industry peers seemed to be looking for something new, so in January when Gordon and Erik von Broock, along with Stephen Tedeschi approached me about coming on board as a partner/owner to steer the ship for South Pointe , it was time to take the next step, ownership. Can you explain the transition from being in promotions and marketing to owning a slice? It’s 1am on a Tuesday night and I’m sitting in the office gearing up for South Pointe’s Hamptons debut on Memorial Day Weekend and for my birthday party in just 2 days (to be celebrated at Lavo NYC with two of my favorite DJ’s, Steve Aoki and Jesse Marco, where I expect 1,200 to 1,500 to show up). As I sit, going through staffing, sound & lighting, graphic design, contracts, budgets, DJ line ups, celebrity calendars, and special events for South Pointe, I realize that in just ten days I will be opening the “go-to” spot in the Hamptons for summer 2011 party goers.

You seem confident. Why? The team we have developed is a “Dream Team.” With nightlife veterans Randy Scott and Jamie Hatchett running VIP operations—the top image hosts on the East Coast—and my partners the Von Broocks, Ben Greiff, David Marino, Stephen Tedeschi, this will be the freshest Hamptons experience offered in years. This is a music-driven venue, boasting the best DJs from around the world and New York City. If the DJ is king these days, then South Pointe is home, boasting the world famous DJ talents of Avicii, Calvin Harris, Max Vangeli, Funkagenda and many more while also keeping the New York State of mind with local staples such as David Berrie, Jesse Marco, Ruckus, Jus Ske, and The Chainsmokers.

How did you get involved in the hospitality business? Prior to the South Pointe venture, I spent many years coming through the ranks of the nightlife hierarchy—so to speak—to get to the Pointe where I am today (pun intended, ha). Growing up in New York and Alpine , New Jersey, I always had an interest in hospitality such as fine restaurants, nightclubs, and concerts.In college, I would do holiday parties through out the year such as Thanksgiving Eve at Serefina and Lobby. Then in the summertime, I would take over venues and throw weekly events, which my friends would attend while home over the summer months. When I graduated from college in 2005, I began working full-time on my events, taking pride in breaking sales records in different venues across the city, leaving owners impressed and wondering who this new, young entrepreneur was.I caught my first break when I was hired at Aer by Eli Jafari to help run promotions at the Meatpacking hotspot. Following our run at Aer, I also ran Manor in Meatpacking, which is where I met many of my peers. After a year, I left Manor to take on the promotional directing role at Arena in Midtown, which was new territory. The venue was a huge success, and to date, one of my fondest moments in nightlife was when we had Kanye West perform his new single at the time (“Stronger”) before it was released. People went nuts, the venue was packed, and I was responsible on that evening for the best party in New York. I realized at this moment that I was on to something special.

What was your role within The Strategic Group? My promotions had grown from my closest ten friends, to one thousand people following me per night. Arena went on to be sold which is when I found my new home where I have spent the last three years as Director of Marketing and Promotions For Noah Tepperberg, partner/owner of Hospitality power house Strategic Group, Tao Group, Lavo Group, Avenue NYC, Marquee LV and Marquee NYC. Working day in and day out with the likes of Noah has shaped me into a business man, rather than just a promoter with a work ethic extending 20 hours per day. Now, I look to take these years of experience, work, and drive back out to Southampton and create a brand in South Pointe that can hopefully be rolled out as part of a bigger picture plan.

image South Pointe exterior

Rocco Ancarola Has That Boom

The party for the ages happened last night for partner Jason Strauss at Lavo. It was a can’t-miss birthday party that, unfortunately, I had to miss. Jason will forgive me. He is an emperor now, but I knew him when he was just beginning his journey. I can’t imagine what heights he will attain. To the envious club promoter-types who wish they could be king: know that a lot of hard, smart work and sacrifice come with the crown. Happy Birthday Jason.

I was invited by Jason’s long-time partner Noah Tepperberg, and the newest member/partner of the Lavo group, Rocco Ancarola. Rocco also invited me to the 19th Anniversary of Boom, that Spring and West Broadway restaurant hangout. I was one of the few he could invite that was there and is still around. Rocco always wins the award for “guy most likely to throw napkins up in the air.” I think he invented that. The nicest guy in the biz, Rocco and I chatted about Boom, and what it all means.

What is Boom today, and how has it changed over the last 19 years? Boom’s concept was a global menu of original dishes from around the world—not fusion food! it was the first restaurant of its kind, back then. It won a lot of awards, including the prestigious John Mariani Esquire Award for Best Restaurant in the USA. Boom was written up by every major publication in the world. I introduced world music to the ears of my clients, I chose waiters from all over the world, and the uniforms changed periodically, influenced by Africa, India, and so forth. I had people dancing on tables and taking their clothes off during dinner, it was insane, and soon after everyone in New York was trying to do the same. Since I left to do other places, things have quieted down at Boom, but business is still booming!

The menu has changed from the global to all Italian. It still features live bands, and Boom has survived through many snow storms and September 11th—when downtown was a ghost town. So it’s a real pleasure and great satisfaction to see this institution still alive and kicking!

How did Boom start? Boom started as an Idea in the late 80’s when I was living in Los Angeles, pursuing my acting career. I was cast by Oliver Stone in “Wall Stree.” Then Madonna cast me to play her father in the award winning video directed by David Fincher. Even though acting was my calling ever since I was a little boy, the passion of the restaurant world followed me around it was in my blood. I missed New York, so I invested in my idea and built it in Soho, which was my favorite place in New York—an area with very few restaurants. And so Boom was born. What are you up to these days? I was a founding member of the Pink Elephant club and since it closed. I opened a gastro pub called Rabbit in the Moon, but I have since had a falling out with a partner and his family, so I resigned. But I was approached by my friends, Marc Packer, Rich Wolf, Jason Strauss, and Noah Tepperberg to join them, and partner up with them at the new Lavo, so i came on board as a Partner.

There I run my successful Sunday night party (started at Boom back in the day) at Lavo, and I have given it a new flavor and new name. It’s called “Riviera Sundays,” and it’s a take on the Italian Riviera of the 1960’s. Movie stars of that era hung out in these chic Italian restaurants, and enjoyed fine dining with fun music. So I have a DJ playing old Italian & French hits from that era, and I have a live Gipsy Kings style band (which originated on the French Riviera) to entertain the guests while they eat dinner.

Jason, Noah, Marc, and myself have been friends for a long time, and we have always talked about doing something together with Jayma Cardoso (my favorite ex-girlfriend). I think the future is bright. I just hope I can one day give back to them what they have given me now.

I will still pursue my acting dream, and my directing dream. I have a new movie coming out called “Cathedral Canyon,” and I am busy writing a script based on my Mom and Dad’s love story. I will play my Dad. After playing Madonna’s father, I might as well play my own!

Lavo New York Coming Soon, Will Not Miss

Lavo is coming soon. It looms as a game changer. Located on 58th Street right off Park Avenue, it is, as far as I can tell, the first joint to be conceived in Las Vegas and then land in New York. The big world of nightlife keeps getting smaller and the diversity narrower. These club/restaurant combos that are all the rage cater to increasingly identifiable crowds with service and style to please anyone. Lavo figures to be a place where uptown money, Europeans, and Upper East Siders can enjoy downtown and Vegas levels of service right in their back door. Tao, right across the street and owned and operated by much of this same crew, has been one of the top-grossing joints in this country since its inception. There is money in those hills, heights, high-rises, and townhouses north of the traditional club/restaurant world, and this crew will be cashing in.

It was in this space that Au Bar, the seminal uptown boite, offered thriving bottle service when most of today’s club operators were sucking on a bottle of milk. Whether bottle service was “invented” by myself, David Sarner, Michael Ault, or Jeffrey Jah is an argument for the bored. There is no doubt that the Euros and the Asians did it long before it was perfected into an art form and a way of life. The Lavo space has operated under many names, including The Grand (which it wasn’t), and has always managed to get people from the club world to migrate up, or service them if they found themselves nearby. Lavo and Tao are oases of chic in a neighborhood where people live in hamster habitats, dormitories for slaves, or in the grandest of homes. The Upper East Side set that will flock to this new and fabulous offering traditionally eat and party at the mediocre restaurants, bars, and joints at hand, but travel to the heat of downtown when they want to really play.

The new team is a who’s who of NY and Vegas nightlife, and I think it would take an hour or so to sort out the number of spaces they operate between them. Off the top of my head there are the Tao Group properties in Vegas and in New York, Lavo Vegas, Stanton Social Club, Avenue, Marquee, Surf Lodge in Montauk, GoldBar, and more I can’t think of this early in the day. The advantages of operating multiple properties are many, but as the science of cloning has not kept pace with this group’s expansion, delegation of responsibilities is an issue. They like to grow their management from within and reward loyal employees with security and big paychecks. They operate a machine that appears to be fun and loose and state of the art. I was given a tour of the soon-to-open Lavo New York by Noah Tepperberg, Jayma Cardoso, Jason Strauss, and Rich Wolf, and it was a learning experience, a classroom most club operators would love to have sat in on. It was Nightclub 101 mixed with modern theory. They have the basics down pat: bar locations, flow, visuals, and they will bring a level of service that will be embraced by patrons who demand the best and are willing to pay for it. They make it look easy. Lavo can’t miss.

This is a natural. Bottle service in this part of the world has been going on for a long time. Jayma, You have done Surf Lodge, GoldBar, Cain, which are kind of downtown-meets-uptown places. Tell me what your strategies are? How are you going to get your crowd to this location. Jayma Cardoso: I always believe that if you put a good product out there—the right energy, the right team, which we obviously have, you build and they come. We’re not trying to reinvent uptown or bring in the downtown crowd. This location helps. There is no competition. There’s a market here that is waiting for us.

When you were at these other places, the uptowns and the Euros and the South Americans were mixing with the downtown crowd, because that’s what clubs do, but up here is it as necessary to have that mix, or is it better to have a purity and let this exist as an uptown, South American, Euro crowd? Is that more of the strategy? Is the downtown crowd less important here? Downtown doesn’t go uptown right? Jayma: Why not? Rich Wolf: I think downtown finds itself uptown often. Sometimes you’re uptown and you’ve gotten done with dinner, it’s 12:30 and the thought of schlepping a dozen people downtown and dealing with the door is like, Let’s just go home, as opposed to, We’re having dinner at Tao, let’s just go across the street to Lavo. I grew up on the Upper East Side and have been living with Tao for ten years now. There are clubs that are old, clubs that were here a long time ago. You have world class people staying at the Four Seasons hotel across the street, and they too want to go out. I think people from downtown will find themselves here more than you might think.

This is the Tao group, and I don’t want to get into who has what, how the partnerships are layed out, but the partners here have lots of properties. It keeps going. Noah Tepperberg: We have about 50 places, we don’t even know where construction is anymore.

But the places people know, how do you not step on each other’s toes? Marketing-wise, Noah, how do you use it as an asset to have all these places as opposed to having every place competing with each other? Noah: People don’t go to the same place every night. So if a friend of ours comes to Avenue one night, the next night they go somewhere else. Someone goes for dinner at Stanton Social one night, the next night they want to try something different, they go to Tao, and if they want something different they go to Lavo. If someone wants to go to GoldBar on a Tuesday, they go to GoldBar. The idea is to give our customers, our friends, our following, a menu of places to go. Wherever they go, they know they can get the same service, the same hospitality, the same recognition, the same rewards for being loyal. For us, this is just one more property inside of a great portfolio of great properties and again, people don’t go to the same place every night.

I bet Jason’s pretty happy I didn’t ask him that question. Jason Strauss: No, the one thing I would add is that we’re very specific about creating different experiences, different cuisines within our restaurants and different experiences within our nightlife venue. The experience at Avenue is a very different experience than what is happening downstairs with regards to music, dance floor, size, across the board. How do we not cannibalize each other? We are very specific in giving different experiences to the same audience.

It must be very useful sometimes, the fact that you can tie up a DJ pay him a little less but feed him a whole week. You actually did this with promoters at Marquee. You gave them contracts exclusive for two or three years and they’re loyal to you, you own them in a way. So with DJs, you can take a DJ and put him in one spot here and one spot there and feed him for a week. Noah: I think in Vegas we can do that, but the DJs that play at Lavo are completely different than the DJs that play at Avenue or at GoldBar, and if we use hosts, they’ll be different than the ones that work at Avenue. Everything can be centralized through the back of the house, but a lot of it is location specific. Not all of it is across the board, not all of it can be shared. I think the key though, is that we have different restaurants. We have Asian, Greek, French, downtown shared food, Italian, downtown hipster—we have a place that’s hip-hop and rock, we have a place that’s going to play European dance music, and it’s all a totally different product.

Another thing you can share is lawyers. Lawyers have certainly become a very important part of nightlife society. It’s very hard to run a nightclub without a lawyer. Rich: We do that across the board—Lawyers, accountants, all types of professions. We’ve established relationships years and years in the making. In twenty years, we can call them up and say we need a contract and they bang it out. We don’t even need to tell them anymore.

The Emperor’s New Column

Each morning, as I coffee my way to awareness, a blank Word doc stares at me. There are mornings, as I’m sure regular readers and editors understand, when I have little to say, or no time to say much. Sometimes it’s a matter of, “If I don’t have nothing nice to say then don’t say it,” while other mornings, the great story I went to sleep with wasn’t so great in the light of day. Yes, that does describe my dating before Amanda. Sometimes I have nothing to say because I promised not to say anything, even though the other blogs are all over it. As a designer involved in some projects of interest, I can often only read about what I’m doing, as non-disclosure agreements gag me from telling you the truth. Because of my schedule getting a half dozen joints open in September and another six ready for construction, I have internal debates that go like this: “Eat or write,” or “Sleep or design,” or “Breath or…” Well you get the idea. My desk is a heap of unopened envelopes, piles of notepads and gadgets with voices on them, half-empty cereal boxes, wood, wallpaper, stone and glass samples, and a very large cat.

Today I am meeting the players over at Lavo NY. I will sit down and chat with Noah Tepperberg, Jason Straus, Jayma Cardosa, and Rich Thomas. After the ”oohs and ahhs” and “how nices” and other obligatory wonderment at seeing a grand place for the first time, we will all sit down and chat. Part of that discussion will be about how they market their joints so that they compliment—not compete with—each other. Lavo principals also include Rich Wolf and Mark Packer. Who works where/owns what is too complicated to get into at this time of the day, but besides Lavo NY, these people operate Lavo Las Vegas, the Tao entities in NY and Vegas, Marquee, Stanton Social, Avenue , and some others. Not stepping on each other’s marketing feet is a great feat.

Part of the solution is defining the space for a specific type of crowd. From all reports, Lavo is being built for the Euro set and Midtowners. It could probably thrive just on the overflow from Tao across the street, but will most likely be defined as a playground for the jet set. Top tier organizations with multiple venues strategize how to not only secure the piece of the pie they are familiar with, but also how to secure compatible crowds. Moving and feeding multiple promoters, DJs, and management, from one venue to another, saves money. The ability to bring crowds common to one place to a soft night at another one of your properties spells success. The Tao Group will certainly not want to loose the Euros and South Americans that frequent Avenue, but will want to service them better at a joint built just for this crowd. At Avenue, the very fun Tuesday nights curated by Paul Sevigny have added enough diversity to legitimize the place for some downtown crowds without scaring away the base of monied players found there every night. The change in programming on Tuesday does “turn off’ some people, who avoid that night but come on another. This helps the venue last longer, as patrons don’t burn out so fast. I wonder if Lavo will have a night where downtowners will feel comfortable. The old adage is that downtown never goes uptown, while uptown will “slum down.”

In days of yore, clubs were often built to be populated with an exclusive but diverse crowd. Today, specific spaces service specific scenes. Spots today are often run by successful promoter types who parlayed the investment capital of friends and clients into small lounges, restaurants, or clubs. Most of these people hang with like-minded pals and rarely delve into other habitats where “different” types party. Diversity in nightlife is commonly missing. The addition of the two house haunts I mentioned yesterday will not change anything. Clubs like these—and Pacha and Cielo—don’t often acknowledge that music other than house is legit. With the exception of Webster Hall and Marquee and a couple of other joints, I am hard pressed to think of a place with more than one viable dance choice. There isn’t a place where diverse music on different dance floors mixes with people from all walks mingling and making each other tingle. The Kenmare is the best at mixing the crowds, but its music is not as diverse, and it is intimate and conversational rather than grand. 1Oak often offers musical diversity and crowds from different cultures, but it’s one medium-sized room. Every time I read about someone talking about bringing it back the way it was, I watch them build something for the way it is now. I think that’s a good idea, actually, as the mixing of musical genre’s, different classes of people, different sexual predilections, and different views is a job for a great operator. Although there are a few people out there capable of going this route, these respected fellows seem to be un-inclined to do so, or satisfied servicing their own core crowds. It could be done,,,but I’m not coming out of retirement.

Industry Insiders: DJ Reach, Beat Boy

Semu Namakajo, a.k.a. DJ Reach, is Manhattan’s very own household name when it comes to the world of nightclubs. Bringing his gift for musical mish-mashing to haunts across NYC, Vegas, the Hamptons, and Miami, Reach is best known for being one of the nicest dudes in the biz — just ask any club owner in town. In a city where the sincere have dwindled down to a mere few, this New York native brings nothing but the realness in his music as well as his life. That’s because the music undoubtedly is his life.

How’d you get your start DJing? I was one of those people who saw the craft and got the fever for that cool activity when you see somebody at the nucleus of the party, who is able to dictate the direction of the vibe for the night. So, whether you were coming in from having a hard day at work or celebrating the greatest day of your life, you’re at the mercy of the DJ. I thought that was so powerful. It just drew me in.

The first place you DJed? It was at a junior high school dance at the Cathedral School on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and I literally had a couple of records and cassette tapes. I went back and forth from a boom box and one turntable that was my brother’s.

What about your first paying gig? I don’t really remember my first paying gig. I feel like I should. It should be like when you go to one of those bodegas and they have the dollars on the wall. I should have my first paycheck on my wall.

What’s your weekly line-up? Tuesday’s at Brother Jimmy for an after-work party followed by late night at Southside. It’s a down-low hipster spot. Wednesdays I do Avenue, which is a sceney spot and all the celebs are there. That’s my image night. Thursdays I can’t even reveal. On my Twitter, I call it the “secret spot.” So, you have to follow me on Twitter to find out about it. It might move around a bit. Fridays I jump on a plane and I go to Las Vegas to spin at Tao, which is like doing a concert every week because 2,000 people come together under one roof, and the DJ booth is right in the center of the dance floor. If I’m not in Vegas on Friday, then I’m at the Hotel on Rivington. On Saturday’s, I’m anywhere from Vegas to the Hamptons at Dune. You can catch me all over. Miami at Fontainebleau, maybe I’m in London … who knows?

Who do you look up to in the business? Because I have a marketing company as well called Big Picture Marketing Group or BPM, plus I’ve been a promoter and a DJ, on the business side I look up to Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss. They’ve been like mentors to me, as well as big brothers. I’ve worked for them for seven or eight years now since the very beginning of Marquee to the number-one grossing restaurant and nightclub in the country, which is Tao Las Vegas. On the DJ side it would be DJ Stretch Armstrong. I used to stay up way too late taping his late-night show, and then I ended up interning for him.

You also DJed on a late-night show for Carson Daly. What was that like? TV is totally different from any nightclub experience because so much is scripted and planned out, and there are retakes, and even though you’re in front of a live studio audience, there’s still a general path that your producers want you to follow. Carson is such an amazing and generous guy. He really loves music, and he gave me some creative license to play what I wanted to play as long as I stayed attuned to the general vibe and atmosphere he had going on. If it was Gwyneth Paltrow and she was talking about growing up on the Upper East Side in a townhouse and how she used to listen to the Beatles, I might play some Beatles songs and go into commercial with that.

What’s your favorite kind of music to play? I’m known for my musical palette, my repertoire, and it’s just a variety. I don’t want to use the term “mash-up” because I think it’s played out. I play the music that is representative to the soundtrack of the lives of the people who are in my generation. I play legends like Michael Jackson and Kurt Cobain and Jay-Z. But it also includes anyone from The Cranberries to M.IA.

Does your line of work get you lots of ladies? It has its advantages. It’s a testament to the fact that you are in a category of performers, and if you do what you do well, you could be a rock star. You could be somebody’s hero, whether it is for just one night or for actual love.

Does it get annoying when people make requests? It opens you up to a challenge. If someone wants to hear Ritchie Valens, I have to figure out how to blend that in with Nas. I have to be like, “Okay, let’s try it.” Sometimes it’s annoying as hell.

Where do you go out? I’m such a foodie. You’ll catch me at La Esquina, Blue Ribbon Sushi. I also like hole-in-the-wall places for having beer and wings like Brother Jimmy’s.

What sort of negative trends do you see in the business? A lot of trends people tend to say are negative, I see as positive. They say, “All the DJs now use lap tops and Serato, and it takes away from the creativity and the craft of using vinyl.” I have 10,000 records in my house to this day. I’ve gone to the deepest, darkest crevices of record shops around the world. I value all of them. People think it’s limiting to have all the same music all download-able. You have to challenge yourself as an artist and as a creative thinker. You have to decide how you’re going to put it together and how you’re going to let your identity show despite the fact that everyone has access to the music.

What’s your dream project? It’s a project I’m working on right now. I’m approaching my 30th birthday, and every year I throw a huge party. All of my friends as well as celebs show up. We’ve had a thousand people come in the past. This year I’m taking 30 artists that I respect and have influenced me in some way and asking them to pick 30 songs, one per artist that has impacted them in the past 30 years. It will be a compilation of 30 artists who have influenced me and the songs that have influenced them during my lifespan.

Industry Insiders: Wass Stevens, Duke of Doors

Striking a commanding pose atop a dimly lit balcony overlooking his newest nightlife venture, Wass Stevens keeps a critical eye on the imaginary crowd that will fill Avenue later tonight. Soon enough, the empty stage will be overrun with a new cast of characters hand-picked by the discerning doorman himself. “It’s kind of an innate skill,” Stevens says of his work at the door. “I read people to know is they are going to add or take away from the vibe once inside. Like acting, people are all about facade once the sun goes down.” Though he orchestrates atmosphere at Avenue and the landmark club Marquee, by day he studies lines and tries his luck at movie auditions (and he’s still mum about his recent spot of trouble with the law.)

Stevens is earning his keep as an actor (he recently appeared in The Wrestler alongside Mickey Rourke and on ABC’s Ugly Betty), but has no intention of trading one life for another. “When I could support myself as an actor, what I loved became my primary source of income — and being a doorman became a love again too, not just a job. That’s what renewed my interest in this whole business.”

Some people are saying now that the current state of our economy is helping the nightlife industry. The one good thing about bars and nightclubs is that people always need a release. And essentially, going out for a couple of drinks is a relatively inexpensive way to forget about your life for a couple of hours — depending on how many drinks.

Does that have anything to do with the size of one’s pocketbook? I think what has happened is that people save up the big blow-out days for the weekend. So instead of going out every day of the week, and especially in the summertime, the early days of the week are very popular … people are blowing it out on Friday and Saturday, and in the city on Thursday. The concept of bottle service has taken a bit of a beating.

You once said that you hated the direction bottle service was taking the club industry. Yes, and so for me, Avenue is a step back to a time in the nightclub industry — nightlife industry, lets not say nightclub — that I loved and which is kind of representative here. It’s a step back to the lounge times.

You wouldn’t say this is a club? This is not a club, it’s a lounge. I mean, I think inherently the definition of a club is dancing, and we don’t have dancing. It doesn’t mean people aren’t having an insane, great time, but there’s not a specific set dance floor, and the music is a little different, and the vibe is a little different, and we are a restaurant.

I’m not sure if many people know that Avenue is a restaurant. I think the term we’ve been using is gastrolounge. We have a full menu, and it’s kind of smaller portions. I’m very pleased that we were able to step back into that kind of time where it was not specifically about how much you could spend in a place and that gets you entry … but more about what you brought to the overall vibe of the room. You know you don’t have to be a black-card-toting person to really create or help a room — most of the time those people don’t anyways. It’s good to have a place for people who are just artists and may be struggling and just really cool people. And so it’s easier when you’re not as focused on generating bottle service to have that type of mélange.

But this is going to be quite a bottle service-type place, no? Well, you know one of my specialties, as I’ve said before, is I kind of adjust as the business adjusts, to perfect what is necessary. I am very good at generating table and bottle sales; I don’t mind that it’s not the main purpose of this place. And there are still plenty of people who are appropriate for a room like this, which is very, very difficult. The door policy’s very difficult.

What do you mean by “difficult”? It means that it’s very difficult to get in. This is not an “I’m buying two bottles, let me get in” kind of place. This is a place where if you can get in then maybe you can get a table. But it’s not about how much you’re going to spend first; it’s about how much we want you in the place. At Marquee we kept the door policy very rigid as well … it still is … I mean, I’m still there two days a week, as well as here. But a lot of places had a door policy that was solely, you buy two bottles, then you’re in. I would never be affiliated with that … that’s not what I would want to have anything to do with.

In what capacity are you involved in this place? Well I’m part of the team which is run by Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss. Every place that we do, we do together. And the degree of involvement varies according to the place, and my involvement in this place is greater than it was in the last, and it will be increasing. I think I’m gonna leave it at that … I kinda think I have to keep it that way. But I’m their main guy.

Avenue seems to be opening during a change in New York nightlife. There’s a paradigm shift in which people are finding out what patrons want, and they are trying to recreate that. Take Beatrice — everyone is hoping to fill that void. Yeah, this shift happens every ten years or so. Having a couple of decades worth of experience, it feels that way to me. Now, we’re going back to the lounge vibe, which is great because the rooms are not as big, which means the overheads are not as big. And you can keep the clientele very high end. And in order to do that properly, you need to have the experience. And to know decades worth of nightlifers. And what’s great about this phase is that we are drawing people who have not gone out for ten years. Some of the people who used to hang and go out often in the 80s and early 90s kinda disappeared from the scene, and because of what we’re doing here, they’re coming back. And it’s very exciting and very cool.

So it’s going to be the cross section of generations. It’s a cross section of generations, genres, socioeconomic types … it’s a cross section of everything. And it’s an exciting time and an exciting place to be a part of it. When it’s a smaller room, it becomes a much more family-type feeling.

Table-hopping, and seeing some of the same faces … Exactly. And people are kind of in it together. Everybody indirectly knows each other, whether it be artists at this table and socialites a this table and models at this table… you know there’s a certain group in New York city that kinda frequents similar places, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a struggling painter, you may know this multimillionaire model who had 47 contracts. They all kind of meet each other, so it’s very interesting. And the more restrictive the door, the more friendly people are inside because they all feel like, “OK, they’re sitting next to me, they must deserve to be here.” It’s not like they’ve bought their way in. And so it creates kind of a less stressful environment than, say, a nightclub.

Would you say that there was or is a golden age of nightlife, and if so, when would that be? There’s never a time when everything is good about anything in this world. And like any other industry or business or fad or fashion, it’s cyclical. So there are peaks and troughs. People don’t want to hang out in a place that’s not fun and not good and not comfortable. It’s like anything else. I don’t care how great the crowd is … if it’s disgusting, it’s going to get tired.

You’ve come from this industry and made an acting career. Did you have a goal set before you started acting? Was getting involved in the nightlife industry part of your plan? No I actually got into the nightclub business as a bouncer so that I could pay my way through law school. I needed a gig that didn’t conflict with classes and with my afternoon law job, but I still needed to pay the bills.

So, the idea you had growing up was you wanted to be a lawyer? Well, actually I don’t know if that was my goal growing up; I wanted to be a professional hockey player. After college, I didn’t really want to go to Wall Street like everybody I knew. Palladium was my first New York City gig. Growing up in the disco era and that whole thing, there was a glamour to it that I really liked, and I always liked the bouncers because I was an athlete and worked out and I was big, and those guys seemed to get all the girls, so it was a glorified position, you know? To be able to meet women and fight and get paid for it and be in that atmosphere, it seemed like a perfect gig.

Would you say that doing the door is a talent? As a doorman, reading people is probably the most important thing. Remembering is very important, knowing everyone is very important, but being able to read someone who is a potential regular or someone who deserves to be in the place, someone who is not gonna cause a problem, even though you’ve never seen him before, is incredibly important. I think it’s kind of an innate skill, as well as being an actor. So I’m able to see through and read people and understand what’s going on underneath the façade and really see what things are grounded in. People are all about façade once the sun goes down.

What acting projects have you been able to put this particular skill to use? I was in The Wrestler, with Mickey Rourke, and that was a great project to be involved in. And I have several movies coming out soon, one of which is called Brooklyn’s Finest, which was directed by Antoine Fuqua, with Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke, Ellen Barkin, and Don Cheadle. Antoine is a director who likes improvisation and realness, so he hires people who live the life of the characters that they’re playing. I’ve never been a cop, but I kind of understand that underbelly, and that side of New York society. And I now have a reoccurring role on Ugly Betty as “Mystery Man.”

What was your first big acting break? The first big break was probably Nixon with Oliver Stone.

When, between law school and Palladium, was the point in time where you said, “Well, I think I’ll try this acting thing.” I gave up practicing law to open up a place in Miami. When I came back, a woman that I was seeing kind of suggested that I start acting. She introduced me to her coach, and it became a major focal point for my life. I mean, the club business was still my primary business, but my love was the acting. And it finally got to the point where I was able to make the acting the primary focus. When nightlife became not necessary, it actually became more fun and took on a different light. When I could support myself as an actor, that just changed everything. What I loved became my primary source of income, and this became a love again, not just a job, and that’s what renewed my interest in this whole business.

You’ve become known as having impeccable taste. Is this sort of costuming for your job, or is your sense of fashion apparent all of the time? There are certain sides. There are certain things that I think a man should do as far as personal style, and so I live by those rules that I have set for myself. There’s a consistency to the different genres. For instance, I’ll never leave the house without a pocket square if I’m wearing a sport coat. I like very high collars on my shirts, so I have them all made. I like French cuffs, and I like monograms. Every shirt I own has a monogram, and every shirt has French cuffs.

What are some brands that you like? Where do you shop? I like YSL suits, and Paul Smith all of the sudden is a newfound love of mine, which I’ve been buying up like crazy. I love Brioni sport coats.

Let’s talk about your toys. This is what you’ve been spending your paychecks on. Cars, motorcycles, espresso machines, and watches.

What is your watch? I love Panerai.

What is with this Espresso obsession? It’s such a cool thing. There’s a subculture. It’s absurd! There are like 200,000 websites with blogs about people who are obsessed with espresso. Notice how I say “espresso” and not “expresso,” which annoys the shit out of me. It’s really fun, it takes a really long time to perfect and pull the perfect shot, but I think I’ve got it down. I’ve got it down to a science.

What kind of bike do you have?

A BMW Cruiser. Yeah, the James Bond bike. I ride everywhere. I ride in suits and loafers. I ride in leather. I’m not one of those weekend warriors who has to wear the garb to get on the bike. I use my bike every day, rain or shine. Though I also have a little Italian convertible; an Alfa Romeo. I mean I could have bought a Prius and been green. But why would I want to do that when I could drive a little hot red Italian sports car? You still get from A to B, but I’d rather do it with style.

What can you say that you’re most proud of? That I never conformed. That I did it my way. Cue Frank.