DJ War: Uncle Steve Takes on Goliath

Hey loyal readers. If you’re expecting something deep or profound today, pick up the Post. Your humble hero is a bit out of it. When you reach my age, and you’ve been out all night, you get the hangover without the ability to forget what caused it. Lady Astor once said, “One reason I don’t drink is that I want to know when I am having a good time.” I had a good time last night. I got to participate in full contact DJing with the legendary Mark Kamins at my favorite place in town not owned by Erik Foss, subMercer.

Mark is an old friend, and for a guy with a ginormous ego he can be quite humble. He rarely talks about himself with his mouth full of food. He has had a brilliant career although being my DJ partner last night may be the low point. If you go to Wikipedia, they’ll tell you he “is a New York club DJ. He is best known for helping launch the career of one-time girlfriend Madonna by presenting a demo to Seymour Stein of Sire Records. He also produced her first single “Everybody” in 1982.” It goes on to say he has worked with “controversial performance artist Karen Finley and projects for Tommy Page, David Byrne of the Talking Heads, Ofra Haza, the Beastie Boys, Sinéad O’Connor and UB40.”

You could add a hundred etcetera’s to his resume. He was definitely one of the first international DJ’s, and to this day works all over the world. What it doesn’t say is that he is one of the most beloved and respected people in the scene. Last night he joined me at subMercer where we did a ping pong DJ set. I played 3 and then he played 3. I told him I was going to go easy on him…I lied. As he was playing, I was having pretty girls ask him where the bathroom was, or I was loudly telling old jokes about his old age to the DJ booth crew. It was “he’s so tired that when he goes to the airport they make him check the bags under his eyes,” or, “he’s so tired his phone number is 1-800 dial-a-mattress,” or, “Mark is over 60 and still doesn’t need glasses. He drinks right out of the bottle.” The entourage of a dozen DJs and DJ groupies were roaring and he got a little distracted. DJ Justin Strauss would whisper in my ear the name of some incredibly imagined but obscure song, and I would tell Mark, “Omg, you played that! I was going to play that!” He was shocked that I knew it, as like 100 people in the world who don’t DJ would know that track. He was looking at me and alternated between laughter and annoyance at my antics. He became very aware that we were in a war. I was relentless and when he got distracted and made a boo boo I offered my assistance. “Mark, do you need help with the equipment?” We laughed and laughed and the dance floor stayed full. We’re gonna do it again.

The crowd at suBmercer was charged and super hot. Gabby Meija plied me with bottled waters and diet cokes until I had to leave the room and she could play a few tracks. Tariq Abdus-Sabur then took over and we all relived the last 25 years. Richard Alvarez, the door keep extrodanaire, mesmerized me and mine with tales of yore and yonder. On another note, Damn DJs get hit on…even bad ones. I had my girlfriend with me. Bringing your girl to a DJ gig is like bringing a bottle of jack to a wine tasting–it’s overkill and it kills your game. But alas, I am a loyal cuss and she just laughed at my suave moves. A curvy woman way out of my league told me she loved my set and I told her I loved hers as well. Another asked me for my number and I told her it was 1-800-dial-a-mattress. She didn’t get it and she’s the type who is used to getting it. It was like that–subMercer is sexy.

Okay, back to my job. I hear from dubious sources told over loud music that there’s moves going on over at the Los Dados space in the Meatpacking, that the 205 Christie space which has been available for eons is being taken by the 10th Street Lounge guys, that Le Colonial Elizabeth Street is fighting a losing battle over rent. The addition of the Keith McNally offering Pulino’s on Bowery and Houston has landlords in the area salivating and rents skyrocketing. I hear Mr. McNally tried to take over the hair salon next door but they said no. I hear that long-legged, long time club promoter Caron Bernstein has (with a little help from her beau Andrew) given birth to a baby boy. They named him Jett and he will surely grow up to be a heartbreaker.

When Caron’s modeling career began to wane she hit me up for a bartending spot at LIFE. I asked her if she ever bartended and she said sure. I, being the skeptic that I am, asked my head bartender to keep an eye on her. An hour after the club opened I asked him how she was doing. He told me she asked him what went into a vodka cranberry. In time she learned that one, but little more, and she was never behind the bar much, just flitting around the club and flirting, and she was never on time and wanted to leave early, but made as much tips as anybody. She was treated “special” because she was always special. Caron Bernstein is hot, charismatic and owner of the best bellybutton I’ve eve seen, and now she is a mother and we love her. Diane Brill, club mother from a bygone era, is celebrating her birthday at a private place. Club royalty from that day will pay homage. Alas, sasa Nikolic’s request for me attend Eric Milon’s 55th Street offering, Covet, last night, could not be honored due to my pleasure at subMercer. I promise to dig out my passport and venture uptown soon if they’ll take my rain check. I am routing for Covet’s success as I believe Eric Milon has the right stuff to make something swell.

Industry Insiders: David Rabin, Mr. President

New York Nightlife Association prez and Los Dados owner David Rabin on re-opening the legendary Lotus, commuting to Moscow, and suckering his partner into doing his other job.

What are you up to these days? We are re-doing the Lotus space, though we don’t know what to call it yet. We’re doing it with Mark [Birnbaum] from Tenjune. Just yesterday we got the plans for Double Seven in New York, which we’re trying to re-open on Gansevoort Street near Los Dados by the end of the year. I don’t know if I believe it myself …

And we’re working on a restaurant in midtown with Jeffrey Zakarian, who is a terrific chef and a great guy. There’s going to be a Double Seven-ish bar on the second floor. So to answer your question, I own Los Dados, and we have three or four things that should open within the next six or seven months.

That’s a lot. It’s too much! I think what’s going to happen is we’re gonna get hit with a sledgehammer around December through March and have three or four openings and hope that we can hold up. But we’re lucky because we have some great people to work with.

About four things happening at once. I’m not as nervous at [the former Lotus space] and Mark and [his partner] Eugene [Remm] have a huge part to play in that. So I’m not concerned. They are very hard workers. I just think that it’s a lot at once. So we’ll see, hopefully it’ll work out.

How did you get started in this business? Ah, sort of an accident. I was a real estate lawyer with a few entertainment clients, and my partner Will Regan was a Wall Street guy. We went to college together. Neither of us were too happy in our respective fields. We kept running into each other in the late 1980s at Nells, MK, and whatever, and we realized we knew a lot of people [in the industry]. Our first place was Rex’s from 1990 through 1992. So that’s where we cut our teeth, a place that people remember very fondly. Cause it was very organic, very pretty, with a lot of our friends from the music and fashion worlds. So [the public] decided that was what they thought of us.

One night I was at Rex’s, and Taylor Danes decided to sing. And she was very big at the time. Yeah, people jumped in with the band, it was great. And people dancing on tables. And upstairs was the club, and we learned a lot of lessons there — like making sure you have a big enough bar, an actual bar, to service the amount of people you’re going to have in your place. That was one of our problems with Rex’s, because nobody could ever get a drink. It’s nice to be popular, but it’s better if people can actually purchase something.

So after two years of Rex’s, we went to work briefly for Peter Gatien at Club USA for about a year, which was quite an education in a hit club. We went from a place that held 200 people to a place that held 2,000. And we worked with some of the best guys in the business, from Peter to Steve Lewis to people who really had a lot of experience. And then we got plucked, serendipitously, to be the consultants for the first Western-style nightclub in Moscow. And we commuted back and forth to Russia for two years. We took turns going there, running a place called Manhattan Express, which was the first large-scale Western designed and Western-run nightclub and supper club in Russia. Three years after communism fell. So it was an incredible time to be there. We had a two-year stint in Moscow.

When we came back and did Union Bar, which is [to this day] a nice bar for people between 25 and 35 who aren’t necessarily into the [trendier] nightlife. And it lasted. We sold it a few years ago to some younger guys, but it’s still open. So it’s been open from 1995 until now. It’s 15 years old, and we had it for about 9 years. So I guess we created a good thing there.

In New York City, that’s a big deal. It’s a long time. And then when we had Union Bar we stumbled across the Lotus space, which was a strip club closed by Giuliani.

And you partnered up? With Mark Baker and Jeffrey Jah. [Will Regan and I] were already both married [and because of that] we had not been in the middle of the nightlife scene for some time. We thought it would be great to have two guys who were sort of at the top of their game.

And Mark and Jeffrey had been just coming off of the club Life. Exactly. They were running Life, and it worked out very well. I mean, Lotus ran for eight years. We suffered through 9/11 because we were only 13 months old when that happened and very much on the upswing. We were one of the only games in town of this size and we were about to go into Fashion Week, and of course that’s a ridiculous thing to say in comparison to what happened to people, but … Somehow we stayed open, but we were severely damaged because people just were not in a celebratory mood for a long time, understandably. And we inched along, changed the menu from fancy Uptown kind of French to what we call urban Asian street food.

Tell me about being the head of the New York Nightlife association since it started. Yeah, yeah, unfortunately I am! I’m the only one willing to take the job. I’m trying to sucker Mark Birnbaum into taking the job from me. I don’t know if he realizes it yet!

Free Margaritas at Los Dados

imageFeliz Cumpleaños, Los Dados! We can’t believe it either, but it’s already been a year since chef Sue Torres’ resto started slinging tacos and salsa all over New York’s Meatpacking District. To celebrate this milestone in this brutal market, Los Dados is offering free margaritas to any intrepid soul who mentions the fact that they’re in the know about the anniversary. Good through September 16.