André Saraiva probably has an absurdly high number of frequent flight miles racked up on Air France due to his Transatlantic flights back and forth from Charles de Gaulle to JFK. After all, he is the man responsible for creating the crème de la crème of Paris nightlife and for being a co-owner of Beatrice Inn on this side of the pond. In Paris, Le Baron is one of Saraiva’s most famous lairs — complete with saucy red velvet walls — for coolest of the cool set. In addition, he also owns a spot in Tokyo, several outposts scattered about the City of Light and hosts “Le Baron Party” down at Art Basel Miami. And let’s not forget his respected skills as graffiti artist.
Monsieur A, Saraiva’s stick-figure character in hot neon pink, made a grand appearance in the United States for a Belvedere Vodka campaign. Recently however, he also linked up with Quiksilver — one of the biggest surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding apparel companies. Quiksilver turned 40 years old and in honor of the iconic brand’s birthday, it held an all-out blockbuster bash at the Grand Palais. Yep, that Grand Palais in Paris built circa 1900, complete with a gothic-like glass dome. Saraiva was commissioned to paint all around the venue and created a handful of limited edition surfboards. We caught up with the impresario amidst the chaos of rampant skateboarders inside the historic local — also found out a bit more about why he and Quiksilver came together and his opinion of what’s currently happening in the wee evening hours.
How did the collaboration with you and Quiksilver happen? I had met one of the guys from Quiksilver and had also been wanting for a long time to paint some surfboards and work with [surfboard] shapers. We had some friends in common and the guys from Quiksilver invited me to Biarritz, France — it’s one of the best surf spots of all of Europe — they have their shapers and their workshop there. So one day, I worked with a few of their shapers there, stayed for a week working on the base of the boards…painting on the glass on the boards. So that’s how it began, with me painting only a few unique pieces and boards for them. I spent time with them…we’d work in the morning and the afternoon and at the end of the day we’d go and surf together. It was really an amazing time.
What are you doing for Quik’s 40th Anniversary in Paris? Quiksilver is doing this big event here at the Grand Palais. It’s this really old school, amazing place, where normally big Chanel shows take place. It’s really interesting and an amazing thing to have something that’s more street culture being part of the Grand Palais. They asked me to paint a bit all over the walls, in the skatepark and on the ramps. It’s fun to be part of this project.
Do you have any plans to do additional collaborations with Quiksilver on its clothing collections? No, it’s more the unique pieces…that’s the project that I really loved, working with the old school shapers where every board is unique. That’s the beauty of the surfboards, they are all handmade. They are all special down to the size, the balance, everything is unique for each person. That’s what I really like to do.
When did you first start to get involved in nightlife? Since I escaped from home when I was 12 years-old! I used to go out at night and go to clubs. I couldn’t go home when I was kid, because when I used to go out, I would lie and say I was staying at some kid’s place. So, I used to sleep in the clubs until the first subway was open and then go home and then say I was sleeping over at my friend’s place. So yeah, since I was a kid! Nightlife was really a part of graffiti, so I would paint at night too….
It’s synonymous…. Yeah, it goes together. The night is more than a time and place; it’s where I always felt free. It’s where and when people are more open minded.
When did you open your first club? I was organizing rave clubs in Paris at the end of the eighties and early nineties and was always organizing concerts and was always just into music. I had to organize them because I had to have a place to listen to the music I loved! Because, there weren’t places in Paris where could I hear it. Then one day, with one of my best friends, we decided to build a place where we could go…where we could have our music, our club. My crew, my music and the people in bands that I love. So, we made our place for our people and that’s how we started Le Baron.
What’s the biggest difference with Parisian and New York nightlife? There is a simple difference between New York nightlife and Paris nightlife. In New York everything ends at 4am and in Paris everything just begins at 4am. We’ll go until 7am.
When do things close down in Paris? We can go after hours…there are lots of places to go. Still tough, still dealing with noise and with neighbors, but there are still places to go.
You have a vested interest in Beatrice Inn. As we all know it’s been closed now for quite some time. What’s happening? Yeah, but Beatrice is coming back soon. We all want Beatrice back…it’s going to happen.
In New York, it seems that places just get closed down left and right. Everything is controlled. Let’s go back to the roots of New York. A place where artists can create and be in the city…where they can go and show their ideas.
Right now, how many spots do you have? Le Montana, Le Baron, Moon…a lesbian bar. Soon, Beatrice is coming back. I’ve been working on the Boom Boom Room with Andre Balazas — doing consulting on art direction. We have a club in Tokyo called, Le Baron Tokyo, a little bar with dirty French karaoke that I made with my friend Marc Newsome. A few restaurants, a few hotels…different little things.