Industry Insiders: Jimmy Vargas & Mo Garcia, Liv Life

Making sure the hottest nightclubs in Miami Beach stay that way is plenty of work for Jimmy Vargas (left) and Mo Garcia, but that doesn’t mean they’re not allowed to enjoy their jobs. As the director of sales & marketing and the VP of external operations, respectively, for MMG Nightlife–which runs LIV and Arkadia at the Fontainebleau, and LIV at Sun Life Stadium–they book the talent, coordinate the events, and make sure everything runs smoothly.

That’s a tall order for venues that often teeter on the brink of insanity. “There was that infamous brawl between Joaquin Phoenix and the entire venue, who were heckling him and his hip-hop performance at LIV,” says Vargas, a New Yorker raised in Miami who’s been sneaking into clubs from a young age. (“I have the scars to prove it,” he says.) Garcia, who was “born and raised in the county of Dade,” spent seven years promoting parties in the city before focusing on the operation side of the business. Both men agree that in the world of high-end nightlife, it’s especially important to stay grounded. “People don’t realize that you have to work all day to create the things that happen all night,” Vargas says.

Chatting Up Lil Jon on Irie’s Wild Miami Weekend

The chat was fast and furiously fun. In a stairwell off to side of the summertime madness going down at the pool at Arkadia, DJ Irie, Lil Jon, and yours truly cracked wise, laughed loud, and caused a small ruckus. It was just us three, lensman Presscott McDonald, and ace handler Felicia Quaning. By the time we were finished, there was a break-off crowd of 50+ clicking away as if their day depended on it.

The occasion? Irie Weekend, when stars of stage, screen, and sport show their love for the Miami Heat’s official DJ. It’s all for a good cause, of course (Make-a-Wish), and it takes place in Miami’s hottest spots. Mostly, though, it’s a time for friends to get together again and remind each other what makes the world spin.

This year’s Weekend — the 7th — kicked off at Mokai, woke up on the links at (Melreese Country Club), segued through the Fontainebleau, then spent Saturday afternoon and night back at the resort’s latest great creation (Arkadia). Thursday’s launch was ostensibly private, which on South Beach means only 500 friends can attend. Jazzy Jeff and King Britt were in the booth, Alonzo Mourning (who’s got his own Zo’s Summer Groove coming up next month), LeBron James, Reggie Bush, and the like held court, and the beats didn’t stop till the proverbial break of dawn, despite the fact that a lot of folks were set to hit the links the next morning.

At Melreese the next day the mood was more club than country. Irie managed to mark 18 under par, the best score of the day even though he never left his cart (the advantage of being the host and bribing your caddy). I jest, of course. Irie’s got his golf game down, and so does the contingent that comes out to support him. Among those this year was Lil Jon, who brought along his son, DJ Young Slade. At 13, this with-it kid is already a veteran to many a mad throwdown. And he handled himself as if there’d be many more to come.

So it’s no surprise that Lil Jon was playing proud papa at Arkadia the next day. The Crunk Kingpin has a definite successor to his throne. What remains to be seen is how long it’ll be before the son unseats the father. Right now though they’re working in tandem. Lil Jon brings Young Slade to the party; Young Slade kicks it into overdrive.

Lil Jon is on the road too much to bring his boy everywhere of course. As our fast chat revealed, a couple days before his Weekend stint, Jon was in LA “hosting” a sceening for Lee Tamahori’s The Devil’s Double (“an amazing movie”). A couple weeks before that he was in Brasilia (“it was wild, man”). Next he’s in back Chicago (“we’re doin’ Enclave”), then it’s off to Australia for a full tour (“the first in four years”).

Up close Lil Jon is all smarts and candor. Sure, there’s some of that “Yeah!” that put him on the map, but it’s less boast than swagger. He’s a lean, keen music machine, and he knows he’s got the chops to prove it. Better yet, Jon’s genuine. That’s why he not only showed to support his good friend Irie on his momentous Weekend, but why he took time out to speak to just about anyone who wanted a minute, and why he did it all with such grace and cool. It’s also why Lil Jon brought along Young Slade. And why Young Slade is already living his bright future.

Whether it’s watching Flo Rida rock LIV or chatting up Lil Jon before he does the dizzy at Arkadia, it all makes for one wild Weekend in Miami.

Photos by Presscott McDonald

Helicopter DJs & Electric Models: Hennessy Black Parties Hard in Miami Beach

What is it going to take to get you to try Hennessy Black? How about a renowned DJ performing for a party in Miami Beach while suspended from a helicopter hovering 350 feet above the ocean. Would that do the trick? Because that’s what the world’s largest cognac producer did last weekend at the Fontainebleau to celebrate its latest spirit, and frankly, I don’t know how they could top it. Your move, Courvoisier.

image Hennessy hosted me and a handful of other journalists for a series of events to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Hennessy Black, a cognac designed to appeal to younger drinkers and mix well in the kind of cocktails you drink at nightclubs where the patrons are all sexy or rich or both, and to introduce the 2011 ambassadors of the Hennessy Black Done Different DJ program. It was VIP treatment all the way, from the flight to my 28th floor ocean-view suite to the posh pool cabanas to the bottle service we enjoyed at the nightclubs Arkadia and LIV, and if the company’s goal was to position itself as the brand of choice for nightlife taste-makers, I think they succeeded. Because quite frankly, it was the wildest, most outrageous, and most expensive party I’ve ever attended, and it all but overshadowed and certainly outclassed the Ultra Music Festival, which was going on a few blocks down the boardwalk. By the end, it was clear. If this is what Hennessy Black is about, goodness what a drink! It also raised a few philosophical questions about the nature of product promotion and the sheer power of a dominant brand, but we’ll get to that after the parties.

We convened at the Fontainebleau on Friday night, fortunate to be there on time after a fire at the American Airlines fuel farm at Miami International canceled scores of flights. I checked into my suite, which was beautiful, of course, as the entire resort had recently undergone a $1 billion renovation that included the construction of the tower in which I was staying. Waiting for me in the room was a gift bag filled with all sorts of goodies, including, not surprisingly, a bottle of Hennessy Black. As a spirits columnist, I wanted to sample it privately, unadulterated by mixers and away from the scrutiny of publicists. After all, maybe I wouldn’t like it, and wouldn’t that make for an awkward weekend? So I shook up a couple of shots with ice in the mini-shaker from the gift bag, poured it in one of the two small glass tumblers from the bathroom, and took my first-ever taste of Hennessy Black out to the balcony to sip it while gazing at the shimmering blue water. And it was delightful – crisp, smooth, and well balanced, with a mild sweetness that brought out notes of fruit and honey. It has a golden color and a floral and citrus aroma, and while it’s one of the only cognacs in the world specifically designed for mixing, it also stands up just fine on its own. I swirled and sipped and watched the waves roll in for a few blissful minutes before heading out to dinner.

We had dinner in the garden of Cecconi’s at the Soho Beach House next door, and I chatted with our hosts from Hennessy and MSLGROUP and my fellow writers, who included Chloé A. Hilliard of Vibe, Dana Storm Santiago of The Source, Tyler Trykowski of Playboy, and Jim Shi, a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Financial Times and Huffington Post. As we talked about Hennessy and munched on octopus and branzino, Paul Shaffer, Eugene Levy, and Martin Short sat down at the table next to ours. It happened to be Short’s 61st birthday that day, and his fellow screen legends serenaded him with rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday.” To cap off our meal, we sipped Hennessy XO out of snifters and picked at tiramisu, Key lime pie, and chocolate torte. One could get used to this. image

Later that evening we all went to a nightclub on the property called Arkadia, which involved bottle service – Hennessy Black and assorted mixers – along with sparkler-adorned bottles, leather-clad models, and cyberpunk dancing girls shimmying on platforms while adorned with hundreds of pink lights. The dance floor was packed, the music was pumping, and the low ceiling gave the place the feeling of a basement party on crack. Apparently the club owners have no problem with people sitting on top of the seat backs of the banquettes, putting their feet right on the upholstery. Don’t try that at my place. I also observed that at any given moment, roughly half the people in the club were looking down at their phones, either texting or tweeting or tumbling or stumbling or whatever else the tech crowd is crushing on these days. I conked out early – if 3am is early – and enjoyed a blissful night’s sleep in the suite’s big bed.

Saturday arrived with brilliant sunlight streaming through the sliding glass doors. The pool scene at the Fontainebleau is legendary, and Hennessy Black had rented out a couple of cabanas for relaxing on settees, eating snacks, and drinking cocktails. The pools – there are about a half-dozen on the ground level alone, in addition to one on the 7th floor – were packed with hard-bodied guys and sexy women wearing jewel-adorned bikinis, and they were all splashing in the water, dancing to techno music, and laying in the sun. As Chloé from Vibe pointed out, it was like a scene from CSI: Miami before the body is found.

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At this point, we were given a chance to interview Samantha Ronson and D-Nice, the 2011 ambassadors of the Hennessy Black Done Different DJ program. Samantha was a bit tired from an early-morning flight – she had done a gig at the Borgata in Atlantic City the previous evening – but was doing her best to rally for the evening’s party. She explained how she got involved in the Hennessy Black DJ project: Hennessy contacted her, she tasted the spirit, liked it, wound up inventing a pretty kick-ass cocktail with it while in Paris, and decided to be a part of the fun. But don’t expect any compromises from the New York-born, LA-based music legend. “I’m going to play what I play and drink what I drink,” she said. Fortunately for Hennessy, she happens to be fond of the stuff.

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D-Nice, who, true to his name, is a sincerely nice guy, said that he appreciated how serious the brand was with its nightlife integration, since he himself feeds off the energy at clubs when he spins (“The music follows the vibe”). We talked for a while about his upbringing in the Bronx, his history with KRS-One and Boogie Down Productions, his work as a photographer (he carries a Leica camera everywhere he goes and even took my picture), and his truly eclectic taste in collaborators, including Tom Petty and Kid Rock, before he excused himself to prepare for the evening’s set. Little did we know at the time what that set would involve. I also had a few minutes with Patrick Madendjian, Hennessy’s International Marketing Manager-Premium, who explained that the brand simply sets the scene and lets the artists take it from there, mixing up music much like Hennessy Black mixes more than 35 eaux de vie to craft its signature taste. I can dig it.

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After a blissful swim in the ocean, I showered, donned my only finest Hugo Boss suit, and headed over to La Côte, the Fontainebleau’s outdoor beachside restaurant and club, for an evening of falafel burgers, Hennessy Black cocktails (I’m a fan of the Hennessy Black Xpearience, which is inspired by a cocktail created by the Fontainebleau at Bleau Bar), house music, and one very big surprise. There were models everywhere – passing out drinks, standing on platforms, and looking generally lovely. Samantha Ronson performed first, filling the dance floor with revelers by mixing everything from Jay-Z and DMX to Bob Seger.

image It was at this point that I realized that Hennessy knows what they’re doing with their artist series. Samantha was doing more than just spinning records, she was actually creating a scene, sending a party vibe that worked its way through the open-air club. At one point she took the microphone and shouted to the crowd, “Are you getting fucked up?” A chorus of voices screamed in assent. (Hennessy encourages responsible drinking.) A sweet smell wafted through the air at times: Apparently one more thing that mixes well with the fine Irish-French spirit.

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And then our hosts advised us to make our way to the back railing for the big surprise. I was afraid they’d say “Surprise, we’re not paying for your rooms after all!” The sun had recently set, and we looked out over the dark ocean to see a brightly-lighted object approaching in the distance while the music in the club got louder and louder. What could it be? When it got closer, we realized it was a helicopter ferrying a portable DJ booth attached to it with a cable. Inside the booth was D-Nice, who was performing his set for the party while hovering about 350 feet above the ocean, a dozen or so yards from shore. The music he was playing was beamed to the party and the crowd went nuts at the spectacle. A second helicopter and a remote video camera attached to the booth captured footage that was shown on big screens positioned throughout the club. D-Nice bounced to the music himself, despite being attached to his floating booth with a safety harness. The colored lights shining from the booth reflected off the ocean waves below, and we all marveled at what we were seeing and hearing. Had this ever been done before, we wondered?

At this point, I became a bit philosophical. This started out as a standard – if amazingly opulent – press junket. But it had just crossed the line from marketing into an actual news event worthy of coverage by any journalist. So, on the one hand, I had to accept the idea that it is possible for a company to create news and shape opinion by sheer force of money. After all, how much could two helicopters, world-class DJs, a camera crew, more than 20 models, a big block of hotel rooms, fancy meals, and an entire nightclub cost? I don’t know, but I’m thinking it’s in the millions.

Yet there was more to it than a simple show of cash. The flying DJ stunt – and the artist program in general – was actually a really cool idea. (Here’s a cool video of it.) Hennessy Black wants to be associated with nightlife. Nightlife, at the highest level, is about creating a grand spectacle and reveling in the moment. And I’ve never experienced a grander spectacle and a more sublime moment than watching a major DJ performing for a party from a light-adorned booth suspended from a helicopter floating above the Atlantic Ocean on a warm, beautiful night in Miami Beach.

And so, as the helicopter flew away and lowered D-Nice onto a barge moored offshore, where a dinghy would ferry him back to dry land, I couldn’t help but joke around with Tyler from Playboy about where Hennessy – or any of its competitors – could possibly go from there. Hennessy had thrown down the gauntlet, doubled down, raised the bar, and set a new standard in drinks promotion all at the same time. “What more can we do for you people?” I imagined the Hennessy brand masters saying. “What else could it possibly take for you to try Hennessy Black? A squadron of fighter jets? A submarine? A space ship? Forget it, we just gave you the spectacle of a lifetime. If you don’t want to try our drink after that, have a nice life, because we’re done.”

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But they weren’t done. After the party at La Côte, we all headed to LIV, the mega-club of all mega-clubs at the Fontainebleau. I’d never in all my life been in a nightclub like that, with lights zigzagging across the ceiling, outrageously sexy servers, and a sound system that filled the place with music while somehow allowing you to talk to your seat mate if you wanted to. It was VIP service all the way as we breezed to our table, and within minutes the bottles started showing up. Hennessy Black was on the table, of course, but also Moët-Chandon Imperial Rosé, a fellow member of the LVMH family that I like very much. There was also a high-energy set from DJ Erick Morillo, and, at around 2am, a performance by the Hennessy girls (above) who danced near oversized bottles of Hennessy Black and waved their wings to the music. The music got louder, high-caliber cannons blasted black confetti throughout the place, laser beams shot across the dance floor, club employees tossed handfuls of green luminescent necklaces to the crowd, A-list celebrities mingled with the merely fabulous, and black-leather-clad girls danced on platforms. It was a wild party.

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Eventually, high-flying DJ D-Nice (born Derrick Jones) dropped by our table, and we all congratulated him on an amazing feat. He was all smiles, and, while admitting that he was somewhat nervous about the whole affair, said that he enjoyed every minute of it. I couldn’t help but don my Kanye West shades and get a picture with the man. I wouldn’t normally embrace the rock star look, but it was Saturday night in Miami Beach, the music and Hennessy were going to my head, and it just felt right. I have no regrets.

[Images via Seth Browarnik of WorldRedEye.com, Manny Hernandez, and me]

Midnight Mixologists: Camille Austin’s Toplist

Steamy, sexy, and red-hot: three words that describe Camille Austin, the city where she works, and her signature cocktails. Austin trained under a master mixologist for her gig at haute Chinese boîte Hakkasan at the Fontainebleau in Miami, where the Mexico native lives, works, and pours. The Betty Page look-alike has a flair for all things retro, and she likes her cocktails with a kick—like her White Pom and muddled apple-infused Red-Hot Passion—as much as she likes Luis Miguel. Check out Camille Austin’s favorite places to grab a cocktail in Miami.

HakkasanB Bar at the BetsyBleau BarLIVSra. MartinezArea 31Love HateMichael’s Genuine Food & DrinkThe Florida RoomThe Living Room Lounge

See more Midnight Mixologists toplists here.

4AM DJ Tour Diary: DJ Price Spends Halloween in Miami

As a manager and partner at 4AM DJs, I’m constantly arranging performances, events, and photo shoots around the world. Every day, I get reports back from my DJs filled with the kind of wild adventures I rarely get to be a part of as a desk – rather than a disk – jockey. The people who flock to these stellar international events get to experience the end result of months of prep, but do they really know what a day in the life of a DJ is like? In this monthly column, you’ll hear first-hand accounts of DJ war stories, with photos and videos from the world’s best to show for it. In this second 4AM DJ Tour Diary, you’ll read about DJ Price’s insane Halloween weekend in Miami. Yours truly, Adam Alpert.

Miami has to be one of my favorite cities to play in. South Beach’s energy and excitement for music is among the best in the world. From the moment I walked off that plane and threw on my Ray Bans, I knew it was going to be a great weekend. I’ve been to Miami many times before, most recently this past year for the Winter Music Conference and the 4AM launch party at the Mondrian hotel. You can download our CD recorded live that night here. Also, I was excited to have just received my new indie house mix CD, Dynamics of Moving Bodies Volume 1, fresh of the press to bring with me to give out. I gave out over 500 copies in 4 nights. You can download it here.

This time around I had a full tour booked: 4 gigs in 4 nights. I landed Thursday, October 28th with my best friend and Reason business partner, Phil Bassis, and headed to our room at the Fontainebleau. I have nothing but good things to say about the Fontainebleau. My room was huge and the view was amazing. If you’re looking for a hotel in Miami that you won’t ever have to leave, this is the spot. I started the weekend off spinning at The Wall at the gorgeous W Hotel South Beach.

The club hasn’t even been open a year and they recently renovated it and re-arranged the layout. The new lay out is very conducive to dancing, and the new state-of-the-art DJ booth has been relocated front and center to have a great view of the room. One of my favorite design elements of the room was the custom designed crystal color changing disco ball in the center. That Thursday I was hired to DJ the after party for the launch of Lou La Vie’s Miami Premier Exotic cars. I played an open format set, ranging from hip-hop, rock, and house, and even sprinkled in some of my favorite indie, disco, and ‘80s tracks. The crowd was rocking way past 4am. Thanks to Navin Chatani for showing me a great time.

I headed back to the Fontainebleau for the next 24 hours. Spent the day by the beach, ran into the great hip-hop artist, Pitbull, went jet skiing, sorted through some new music, and had dinner at Chef Scott Conant’s Scarpetta inside the hotel. When we walked into LIV, we knew Halloween had officially started. They transformed the 30,000 square feet into an Alice in Wonderland-themed adult playground. Bartenders were dressed as Mad Hatters, and waitresses like Alice. Someone was running around in a giant rabbit costume. My manager/mentor DJ Jus-Ske had requested that I open and close for him, knowing that I would be in Miami.

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LIV is undoubtedly one of the largest rooms in the country, and was formally an ice skating rink in the Fontainebleau. It’s a nightclub that has the feeling of an arena. The DJ booth is massive, with two banquets on each side, and 2×4 turntables set up (2 mixers, 4 turntables). The club is busy by midnight and you’ve got to keep the energy up. I warmed the night up nicely with an assortment of hip-hop, rock, and house records. Some of my favorite’s of my set were Tinie Tempah’s “Pass Out,” Auburn’s “La La La,” “XXXO” from M.I.A., the new Ting Ting’s single “Hands,” Duck Sauce’s crossover hit “Barbara Streisand,” and I even threw in “Samba De Janeiro” and some Brazilian records to spice it up. The room was slammed, and dancers and performers were dressed in costumes, bouncing around throughout the night. I turned around at one point and Gumby & Pokey were jumping on the banquets behind me. Out in the middle of the room Marty McFly was holding a magnum bottle of Belvedere in the air.

Jus-Ske came on at around 1, and proceeded to tear it down flawlessly. Jus is one of my favorite DJs and crowds love him wherever he goes. In Miami, if you’re a good DJ, the clubs won’t close until 5 a.m. Jus let me finish them off with enough time to still play some high energy joints, check out this short video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OmoOj9LsLQ&feature=email

We woke up the next day and took it easy around the hotel. My manager, Adam Alpert from 4AM, arranged VIP tickets for us to go to the Miami Masquerade Motel featuring the Swedish House Mafia, billed as one of the largest Halloween parties in the country in a 55,000 square foot tent. The Masquerade Motel has been making waves over the summer at Pacha Ibiza as the go-to party every Monday night. They have been mixing talents with an assortment of costumed dancers and performers, and a mind-bending array of visual effects.

The party was amazing. I’ve never seen so many people in unison, jumping around and enjoying the music simultaneously. Some of the highlights of the night was when the trio played their hit “One,” and without a doubt Steve Angello’s “Knas.” After the show, I ran to my gig at Opium Group’s Louis nightclub inside the Gansevoort South hotel. We headed there around 12:30 a.m., as club-goers in costume were pilling in. Halloween in New York is always impressive, but I have to say the costumes in Miami were well-thought out and fun. Louis is a great nightclub experience. Designed like a royal Parisian palace on an acid trip, it’s one of the most exciting backdrops for a Halloween party I could imagine. One of the highlights of the night was when a little person dressed as Napoleon started dancing around on top of the bar and sprayed the crowd with a fire extinguisher. I couldn’t have asked for a better Halloween crowd.

Sunday’s weather was a bit overcast, so we headed to South Beach to check out some shops. We had lunch at La Sandwicherie, one of my favorite lunch spots in South Beach. I recommend the Pate sandwich on a croissant. We checked out the Versace mansion and even some retail, which has gotten better recently with shops including Barney’s and Polo Ralph Lauren within walking distance of each other. A trip to Miami wouldn’t be complete without paella, so we had to get that for dinner. Sunday was October 31st, and I was going to DJ at Coco de Ville, also at the Gansevoort South hotel. The crew at the Coco DeVille is great. Roy Alpert, Tatanka Guerrero, Paulo Cardoso, and Sebastian Puga run the best intimate, dance lounge in the city. I have to say Tatanka and friends had the best costumes I’d seen all weekend as Chilean Miners, including someone dressed as the actual mine hatch and a Spanish speaking reporter.

My set at Coco DeVille was great and included a lot of New York flare: ‘90s hip-hop, reggae, baile funk, rock, and house. Highlights of the night include Kanye West’s new hit “Runaway,” “Fancy” from Drake and Swizz Beatz, and one of my all time favorites, “Juicy,” by Notorious BIG. We crawled out of there around 5, which concluded a very successful Halloween 2010 Miami tour. We headed back to NYC the next day ready for another great week in the greatest city in the world.

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For more info on DJ Price go here.

Our Man in Miami: Basking in the Beauty of Miami Horror

Incongruity becomes me. I drive a ’76 Buick Regal and use a 4G phone. I wear suits and ties where shorts and sandals are pretty much de rigueur. I dig listening to The Archies while reading Nietzsche, and reading Mickey Spillane while listening to Wagner. When most of the land lies down to bed for the night, I rise. When everyone’s hell bent on heaven, I’m among the heaven-sent who descend. So it stands to damn good reason that I’d dig Miami Horror, the nightmarishly-named Aussie outfit who make music so beautiful it hurts. I can’t recall exactly when or where I first came across the name, nor what went through my mind in the nanosecond it took for me to click back and see if I could believe my eyes. Some kinda tragic headline, I surmised. Most certainly, I didn’t think music, let alone a sound so robust it makes the disco it emulates almost pale in comparison. And when I did find out Miami Horror was a man (now a band), I figured he’d cribbed his moniker from a tabloid a la New York’s legendary 3 Teens Kill 4. You know, the kinda front page story that grabs folks by the throat.

Alas, as you’ll read, I was wrong, way wrong. In fact, I was so far off base I may as well have been on another playing field altogether. And when a know-it-all like me so completely misses the mark, well, getting to the core of the matter becomes of paramount importance. So when I heard the man (now band) would be holed up at The Fontainebleau and staging at LIV, I set my sights on a sitdown. And when I found out the man (and band) had barely left the grounds in the two days they’d been in town, I insisted we preface said sitdown with a drive around.

That’s how I found myself playing tour guide for Miami Horror’s main man, Benjamin Plant. The rest of the band had gone to the frolic in the sea, but managers Jerry Soer and David Kirkpatrick were courageous enough to jump in and join me on a whirlwind look at South Beach.

Backed by a monologue that must’ve sounded as mad as the cat in the hat who was uttering it, I pointed out local landmarks like The Octagon, where my French designer pal Daniel Venissac lives in Muhammad Ali’s old apartment, Frank Gehry’s soon-to-open New World Symphony complex, which bookends nicely Cesar Pelli’s Arsht Center across the Causeway, and our once dearly beloved Burdines, Florida’s first department store, which has now gone the way of Macy’s. I took ‘em on a stroll down Lincoln Road, and told of its boom and bust and boom again history, and how it was designed by the late, great Morris Lapidus, the very same mind behind The Fontainebleau. And after a dynamite meal at Rosinella (where else?), I dropped off the now fully-informed trio at Mac’s Club Deuce, the dive bar to end all dive bars, and the one remaining element of old South Beach.

It was while we were breaking bread that I managed to shut up and let Ben get a word in edgewise. Here are a few of them.

It just so happens that both Massive Attack and MGMT will be coming to Miami on the same date. If you had choose one of the two, which would it be? I’d have to say Massive Attack, because I’ve seen MGMT.

Really? How were they? A lot of people were disappointed by their show, because they basically just stand there and do nothing. But that’s exactly what I expected. Everyone else thought that because their music is so unique, they’d have this really crazy show or something. They don’t.

What other of the new crop of bands do you dig? There’s another Australian group called Tame Impala, and they’re pretty much Psych Rock with Cream influence and John Lennon-like vocals.

They’re also from Melbourne? No, they’re from Perth.

Is it something you might wanna remix? They wouldn’t really want a remix, because the music is so organic. There are a couple synth noises here and there, but it’s mostly all guitars, heavy phasers…

What about dance music? This guy Lindstrom from Norway, he has some pretty cool stuff. It’s not that dancy, but it’s that kinda new disco that’s goin’ on now.

You know, I interviewed Calvin Harris when he was in town last year, not that you sound like Calvin Harris, but there is a similar slant. And it always puzzles me how this strange blip in the aural cosmos – ’77 or ’78 to ’81 disco – got a hold of you guys. Obviously you weren’t around then. What happened? Did you hear an old Donna Summer record and go nuts? Yeah, I think so. Pretty much. I tried to keep Illumination influenced by disco, but not really disco. I think what happened was that for 10 years there was this house thing, which was obviously influenced by disco; in fact it’s probably more disco than all this new stuff, just a newer version of it. And that’s where the influence first came from. Then people started looking into house’s influence, and that led back to original disco. Okay, you’ve probably answered this a million times, but where did the name Miami Horror come from? I was looking at visual words. I wanted something that had more depth to it than just a word, i.e with a more visual aspect. Miami was quite colorful. It was probably when I was into more ‘80s sounding stuff, too, so that made it appeal to me even more. Horror was a nice contrast with Miami, and both words together have a lot of repetition, you know, two i’s, double r’s, two o’s. Horror can almost be mirrored. It’s just a visual thing really.

So you didn’t come across some tabloid headline that led with “Miami Horror”? No, nothing like that. It’s just two words that happened to come together really well.

So what do you think of Miami anyway? Well, we’ve seen more in the last 40 minutes than we have in the entire two days we’ve been here.

That’s my fault. Had I known you’d be in town early, I would’ve snatched you up sooner – or at least given you an itinerary of hot spots to hit. There’s always something goin’ on. Next time, for sure. We’ll be back.

I’m gonna hold you to that. Please do.

Top 10 Friday Night Dance Parties

Guys may come from Mars, and women from Venus, but Friday night dance parties are universal lingo. From glittering warehouses to stealth doors at intimate lounges, these slick floors ache for some unbridled dancing debauchery.

Butter (NYC) – Friday night party Whipped is so fresh, most can’t believe it’s Butter. Resident hipster DJs Matt&Maia draw out big name fashion folks like Alexander Wang and the Ronsons and buddy up with special guest DJs like Interpol’s Paul Banks. Mixed clientele harbor a serious need to put on their dancing Miu Mius. ● Cielo (NYC) – New York’s dance addiction reigns supreme. Deep Space house heads maintain the sunken dance floor, which still attracts the pretty people looking to move something.

Avalon (LA) – Headliners and hipsters live harmoniously in this Hollywood dance palace. The multilevel playground draws fist pumpers, dance floor grinders, and A-listers. Timberlake, Timbaland … it doesn’t matter when you’re dancing ’til the sun comes up. ● Circle Bar (LA) – This toe-tapping Friday night hotspot is an LA singles favorite. A dark, circular pick-up spot, delicious for loud beats, dance floor writhing, riffs, and of course bringing someone home. ● Element (LA) – Bottle service and stellar sound system round out this public warehouse club with a private party rep. Handsome variety of the young n’ dumb prevail when it’s not a celeb-fest: Albas, Johanssons, Bartons, plus the men that worship them. ● Space (Miami) – Space often lures in big-time DJs like Danny Tenaglia, Paul Van Dyk, Tiesto, and Nic Fanculli and is definitely not for dilettantes who prefer “lounges” and, um, “conversation.” Since Saturday’s party usually translates to a Monday hangover, it’s only natural this dance haven started a Friday night after hours. Not for the faint of heart, or feet. ● 1Oak (NYC) – Certainly “one of a kind,” Friday night starts off with a lot of stargazing and label watching. When the PYTs finally down enough Veuve, the dance floor goes off, becoming one glittering mass of movers and shakers. ●Bardot (LA) – The LA dance party scene is not complete without a collection of oh-so-elite patrons and at least one stealth door. Surprise guest musical performances and Audrey Hepburn look-alikes make this secret dance den a prime after hours joint. DJ Sweet P hosts the late night Friday, where the packed dance floor goes until 7am. ● LIV (Miami) -Drinks are impossibly strong, outfits are impossibly tight and tiny; impossible not to have a good, wild time. Friday night plays host to some heavy hitting DJs, and special performances by the likes of Kid Cudi — making it easier to party like a rock star. ● Tenjune (NYC) – While Tuesday night is the “hot” night to rubberneck, Friday attracts straight up dancers. Bottle models and dangerously cute co-eds are TJ’s coup; oblivious to anything but vodka tonics and thumping tunes. If you aren’t moving, grab a girl and grind lest you be pushed up against a wall. Posted in Nightlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Industry Insiders: Roman Milisic & MJ Diehl, Style Warriors

They are not your average married couple. The dynamic and outspoken duo that call themselves House of Diehl has a daughter, a party-filled life in New York City, and an avant-garde fashion company. Roman and Mary Jo have redefined the American dream and cultivated their own cutting-edge vision of what life and fashion mean. To them, life is fashion, especially when it’s deconstructed and made into something revolutionary. Roman and MJ have taken their high-energy, one-of-a-kind show, Style Wars, on the road, dazzling fashionistas, style mavens, celebs and plain old party people across four continents. Style Wars kicks off with a whole new season of Scotch Tape binding, safety pin fastening, and jewel bedazzling this November. After watching the duo give a lecture on “how to cheapen your couture” at an event they call Glambulance at 92YTribeca in downtown Manhattan, they sat down with me for a vibrantly colorful chat.

Tell us about Glambulance. Roman Milisic: The Glambulance is about taking thrift-store clothes and turning them into high fashion. Some of the stuff we see on the road during Style Wars because people are doing this around the world in their bedrooms and basements. MJ Diehl: Some people think to shop at thrifts is a problem. No, it’s power.

What is Style Wars? RM: Style Wars is style battle championship tour. It’s a fashion competition. MJ: It’s a live competition. Designers go head-to-head MC-style to create amazing, off-the-hook high fashion in what used to be five minutes, but now it’s four.

How did you guys conceive of the idea for the show? RM: Mary came up with the new process for creating fashion that was called “Instant Couture.” Instant Couture was born out of the deconstructionist idea that there is more than one way to make fashion. This is to make it live and make it reflective of the time and the place where you’re at. And you can pull people up onstage and take off their hat, pull it upside down or inside out and make it something brand new and cool. Style Wars was us saying, “We’ve done this and we’ve done it well. Let’s throw down the gauntlet and see who else can do this.” MJ: Everything has been done, overdone. You want to see another little black dress? Fuck it! The only thing you can do that’s interesting is how we create art, how we create fashion and what the materials we reuse are.

Where are you taking Style Wars this season? RM: We’re starting in Miami on November 4 at LIV at the Fontainebleau. Then on November 7, we’ll be at Don Hill’s in New York. On November 13, you can find us at Opera in Atlanta. On November 18 we’re at Cinespace in Los Angeles followed by Mezzanine in San Francisco on November 21.

What does the winner receive? MJ: Each battle has a different prize. Typically their prizes are better than what we get paid to do the event. We always feel like we should be competing. RM: For the last show we did in London, the winner got a Vespa. We barely broke even. Also, Surface magazine is offering a spread to the winner.

Who have you designed/styled for? MJ: While we’re known for Instant Couture, we rose to fame quickly because of our couture collections that were nominated for awards and won for the Triumph International Fashion award. Our designs have been pulled by Madonna and Gwen Stefani. RM: We’ve done editorials with David LaChapelle. MJ: I think the main thing is, you can’t do fast fashion without doing real hard, long-form couture. We’d already quickly created a reputation for that that was very well respected, but the problem was that it’s expensive to produce your work and get it out there. A lot of my motivation as a designer, even an award-winning one, was create opportunity for great talent and get it out there.

What else does House of Diehl do? MJ: Besides Style Wars, we do buy-order couture, ready-to-wear, and also special events. RM: I’d say that we do events and we do fashion. Let’s not spread ourselves any thinner than that. MJ: We could. You can never be too thin, right?

Who are your favorite designers? MJ: Other than ourselves? Alexander McQueen. There are only a few people out there that do anything worth looking at or worth reproducing. RM:You know I’m always disappointed by? Martin Margiela. He plays the part of “I’m a deconstructionist,” but we throw away every idea he has. MJ: It’s this bullshit game that conceptual, intelligent fashion has to be ugly fashion.

How did you two meet, fall in love, get married, and start a company together? RM: We used to go to events first and foremost. If there was an open bar anywhere in New York City, we fucking knew about it. I was working with David LaChapelle as his editor, and Mary was one of his muses. I was talking to Mary at one of his parties. MJ: We would be at the same events, same parties. RM: Mary thought there was something more to be got from a group of people coming together, and that was the notion of “let’s create something meaningful from a community.” That’s where the community of couture events came about. MJ: I think a lot of House of Diehl is about loving fashion but being bored to shit with culture.

How is being married and working together? RM: It’s interesting. MJ: Working for yourself means you can never quit. You can’t really tell yourself to fuck off. The same thing goes with your partner or your better half. RM: We are our own posse. MJ: The fact that we’re always doing the same things at the same time allows our relationship to continue. RM: Sometimes I wonder how couples can actually do it the other way.

What are your go-to places in New York? RM: We always go back to Don Hill’s because it’s so down-and-dirty. It’s a gritty place where you are just going to have a lot of fun. MJ: Dirty, filthy. I don’t like pretension. I do like the old, classic Balthazar. We got secretly married there. Oh and of course, Blue Ribbon Sushi.

Industry Insiders: Poplife, Miami Nightlife Kingpins

For a decade now, Miami’s citizens have flocked en masse to a party called Poplife. Initially created as an antidote to all that’s tried-and-trite in nightlife, the weekly throwdown blew up into a bona fide event-hosting group. The Poplife principals are Barbara Basti, Jake Jefferson and Aramis Lorie. Basti and Lorie are two of the original four founders; Jefferson came on board after he’d been sneaking into Poplife parties for so long that the other members decided to induct him into the crew. Together, the current threesome have devised some of the most incredible evenings in Miami, from bringing in record labels Fool’s Gold and Ghostly International during the town’s much-heralded Winter Music Conference to one-offs with everyone from Calvin Harris to Black Moth Super Rainbow.

Why Poplife? Aramis Lorie: We originally wanted a party that reflected our life, and so we just called it “Life.” When we went to incorporate, of course, the name “Life” was taken so we thought about pop music and its relation to the underground, and about carrying on from Prince’s 80s song. Mostly we just thought it was a cool name.

Where was the first event? Barbara Basti: It was at Mezza Fine Art in Coral Gables. It was really small, held around 200 people. We had bands perform, DJs. And it was packed. We did it for a year. With the constantly changing artwork and the personable size, it helped us subconsciously form what it was that we wanted to do.

And then you outgrew the venue? BB: Yeah, and we moved to Piccadilly Garden in the Design District.

How’d you choose that neighborhood? AL: It was in an area that was unexplored, and our party was out of the mainstream. Why go to South Beach with everybody else? We wanted something that we could develop on our own in an area that we thought fit with what we wanted to do. It made perfect sense. It had a whole Northeastern feel in the center of Miami. Jake Jefferson: That’s the year I started going to the party. It was 21 and up, so I used to sneak in with one of the resident DJs. I wouldn’t go anywhere on South Beach back then, and neither would my friends.

After two years, you decided to open up your own spot, called I/O. How’d you end up in NoDo (North of Downtown)? BB: We were looking for something in the downtown area; we felt we needed to move on from the Design District. I wouldn’t say it was ideal — if you’ve seen to this neighborhood you know what I mean — but we were still approaching business from an idealistic standpoint, and making do with what we had. We were very do-it-yourself, and this is what we could afford.

How long before you took over the place next door for PS14? BB: It was only a year.

Was that because you needed a separate outlet? AL: People would get hungry, so we thought we’d open a little pizzeria and feed their appetite. JJ: Before it was PS14, it was a late night pizza shop. For awhile, we had a window out back that opened right to I/O next door. People could grab a slice and they didn’t even have to leave the club. You’ve left White Room after a 20-some month stand, and you’re moving Poplife to Electric Pickle this Saturday. What’s behind the move? AL: The reason for our success as Poplife, I think, is we’ve always evolved. We’ve been good at keeping our hand on the pulse of things and just going with that. As opposed to trying to resist change; we walk with change. We had a great run at White Room, but we were due for a move, a different sort of space. BB: Plus we do so many larger events now during the week. Electric Pickle was the perfect way for us to scale back a bit and return to some of the idealism we had when Poplife first began, especially towards the music.

You’ve been doing larger events on the Beach, especially at LIV on Wednesdays. How’d that come about? JJ: Basically, they came to us. The marketing company that handles the club approached us when they were only open Fridays and Saturdays. Both of those nights were doing amazing, so they said they wanted to do something like what we do but with a bigger budget. Jimmy Vargas, the Marketing Director at LIV, reached out to us. We had a meeting, and it was pretty much full steam ahead from there.

But Poplife always seemed to be anti-Beach. Why the switch? JJ: There’s been a shift. South Beach used to only be about tourism; now they’ve realized that they’ve also got to incorporate the local market. Since we’ve got a corner on the local market, they called us.

Poplife also throws “Just Add Water” on Sunday afternoons at Blade at the Fontainebleau. What’s that about? BB: I’ve always really wanted to do a pool party. A fun alternative to going out at night; a place where we could get some sun, see some friends and still hear good music. After we’d been doing Dirty Hairy at LIV for awhile we approached Jimmy, and he said, “Go for it.”

Of all the shows Poplife has presented, you must have some favorites … BB, JJ, AL: Super hard to choose. Mylo at The District, Calvin Harris at White Room, seven year anniversary with Jamie Lidell at The District, Fools Gold at Poplife WMC 2009, and any time Of Montreal or Ratatat have played with us.

Where do you hang out in Miami? BB: Lemoni Cafe. Sandwiches, salads, soups. The food is great, it’s personable, it’s comfortable. And it’s conveniently located. JJ: PS14. Believe it or not, I really do go there on my nights off. Even on the nights I say I’m going to stay home, I come to PS. It feels like home. It’s my Cheers. AL: The Room. It’s a good thinking room. It’s intimate. It’s a place I can run into people I know, have a glass of Prosseco and not be bothered.