Mark Baker on the Return of Times Square’s Liberty Theatre

This Friday, a list of top-of-the-line owner/promotion types are throwing a bash at the newly restored Liberty Theatre in Times Square. This Gangs of New York bash is a Halloween party with super star DJs Felix the Housecat, Behrouz, and Sneak entertaining what figures to be a massive turnout. I took a tour of the old theater and talked to Mark Baker and designer Ray Trosa about the space and its future use.

I asked Ray a few questions, which I will post in a couple of days, as my wonderful friend Mark Baker demands center stage and all the attention.There’s going to be some typos and names spelled wrong, as Mark was talking faster than a speeding bullet and we just couldn’t keep up. He’s very excited about this project and therefore so am I.

Steve Lewis: I’m sitting with Mark Baker at the Liberty Theater. It’s a really old Times Square theater now being renovated. I know I’m not going to get a word in edgewise, so I’m just going to ask Mark Baker pointblank: what the fuck are you doing here?

Mark Baker: Hey Steve, I love this. Every couple of years when I have to reinvent myself you and I get to have a chat and I’m always happy.

SL: You get to chat I get to listen.

MB: You get to listen, and I’m always happy that neither of us has a piece of glass in front of us and a monitor behind us. So, here we are, and once again the face of New York nightlife is undergoing an immense change. Over the years you and I have seen so many trends, whether it’s big clubs, small lounges, dance music… but what I think what’s fundamentally different this time around is that the big house DJs — the big Kascades, David Guetta’s etc — who used to just play for a big commercial crowd at big commercial venues, now have a following within the art and entertainment community. So, instead of going to a big club with big DJs where everyone has big muscles and gold chains, you have now a beautiful hip, world traveling crowd, from Bali to Burning Man to New York now, where these big DJs are playing venues. This summer, when I was trying to move on from Juliette and Greenhouse, and we were getting ready to open The Double Seven, which you know now has opened, and is quite spectacular, and quite unique in a sense that you can’t buy yourself a table at the Double Seven. Admittedly, we probably won’t be making as much money as some of the other venues. We’re not banging people on the head for bottles; it’s a more sophisticated crowd. It’s a little bit older, people are enjoying coming to the lounge, seeing good friends, and the crowd is amazing. Basically people can talk to each other and converse. In the middle of the summer I got a call from Ray Trosa, who said, ‘you have to come look at this place, it’s fantastic, it’s near Times Square.’ And I said, ‘yeah, sure… I’ve seen every space in this town.’ But Ray was pleasant but persistent, saying: “Dude, you really have to come see this space, it’s spectacular.’ I said, ‘How big is it?’ And he said ‘It’s really really big.’ So then, of course, I got flashbacks of Mansion and that whole scenario, which, you know, you and I discussed a long time ago. Right?

SL: Uh huh.

MB: So basically what happened is that I eventually got up here, and when I walked through the door, and I walked into the Liberty Theater, my knees buckled: holy fuck. Really, you can’t imagine seeing this place for the first time and what went through my head when I saw it. And what happened was that I was asked if I would come on board as the marketing director and the booking director of the Liberty. My past few years of almost exile, I will call it, to commercial club land, all of a suddenly came together and made sense with a combination of The Double Seven, as a home of my upscale, slightly older clients and friends, and this Liberty Theater event space, where we could do spectacular one-off events, similar to the stuff we used to do at Cipriani, except we just have a new home now. And this space just fits perfectly my return to fashion as opposed to being out there in commercial club land. SL: So you’re not going to be doing a weekly here or anything like that…

MB: Oh absolutely not.

SL: You’re just going to be doing events, high end events. And this coming Friday, you have a Gangs of New York party with a lot of high end owners, promoters and stuff like that. Tell me all about it.

SL: Since my generation of club-owning, from the Lotus days and all that, a lot of the owners have moved up and done hotels, but the new generation of club owners, you know, they’re great. They’re very business savvy, they definitely know how to make a dollar, that’s for sure. But I generally feel that New York nightlife has been segregated. Each club has its own clique, and the relationships between the club owners is not what it used to be when we were younger. When we were younger there was a bit more respect. Sure, it was competitive, but it was not as aggressive as it is now. Again, all respect to the owners for protecting their territory and getting their people in, but I got to tell ya, I think the general public…. well, the best events we’ve ever done is when all the owners get together to do something. When I saw the liberty, I saw an opportunity for that to happen. It’s a continuation of a lot of the clubs who are now booking these major DJs,but they’re completely overpacking the room. What’s going to happen is that you’re going to be able to have what I always dreamed of having at Mansion, which is a large venue, full of amazing people, listening to a big DJ. And that’s what’s happening. With the Liberty, what we’re going to be able to do is…. Look, I mean Provocateur did a big event with one of the Swedish house-master guys at Capital. That was a Provocateur event at a big venue. There was a huge line that was crossed, in terms of New York nightlife, which means that club owners with brands, are stepping outside of their venues, again, like we used to do years ago, but in this day they’re doing it with big DJs. The Liberty Theater couldn’t be in a better place at a better time with a better person driving it. I see and understand where it’s going.

SL: Now, I personally think this is because the dollar’s so weak, Euros are spending more time in New York. Especially at this time of year. By October, most Euros would have fled home as well as the South American’s But with a weak dollar we have so many of these types spending more time in town,in the past the music didnt matter as much to the homespun American crowd as most of them, couldnt tell the difference between the bad guy and the good guy. But now the crowds seem to know,they go educated as they got exposed to the worldclass circuit Dj’s .and the Europeans always knew and demanded better MB: Eurotrash, as we call it, has definitely been a driving forcein club-land, on and off.

SL: It’s driving retail, and I think it’s driving the clubs.

MB: I agree. Look, New York seems to be thriving right now… apparently there’s a world crisis going on but I don’t see it in our clubs or venues. But I think New York has always been about the mixture of uptown, downtown, straight, gay, east side, west side; you had all your elements under one roof. I think a lot of the clubs now really are quite segregated…

SL: specialized.

MB: Okay, specialized, we’ll call it. But I think that once in a while, to have the opportunity to put everyone together…and I know that I wouldn’t have been able to do this eight months or a year ago, the names that I’ve put together for this event…

SL: Let’s hear some of those names

MB: Ronnie Madra, Richie Akiva (Mark rattled off 20 names too fast too catch)… All the guys from 1OAK and Darby, you have Remy , Eric and all those guys form Bagatelle, you have Unik, Kiki, Dimitri from Low Key productions, Alon Jibli, Mark Bau, Ruben and Noel from Rogue Nights…

SL: On and on and on…

MB: What we’ve done is put together these support groups; the hottest, hippest, sexiest people in New York on our support committee, and look… everybody is just hearing about this Gangs party, it’s going to be amazing. They all love the thought of us coming together, and we love that for one night, people get to be number one, in dress, for the best party, and New Yorkers love Halloween.

SL: You’re not just a promoter, you’re also a producer. Let’s talk about the production of the events.

MB: It’s huge. There’s twenty thousand square feet here so that’s got to be decorated, got to be filled, even though we obviously have a great shell. We have a hundred and twenty people on the night, performing, acting, jugging, being a part of the show. You won’t even know who’s part of our production team and who’s in costume. I can promise you something spectacular. Felix the House Cat is playing, Behrouz is playing, DJ Sneak is playing… there’s another sexy little element that’s going to be a party within a party which I won’t tell you about, you’re just going to have to discover it when you get here.

SL: So how do you get tickets? How do you get invited?

MB: By invitation only, to call one of your Gang Leader Representatives on our invite.

Hamptons Godfather Mark Baker on the Upcoming Summer

Personally, I’m a Hamptons Shmamptons kind of guy. I must admit, I have spent many a winter weekend in Montauk beach-combing and walking puppies, but the mayhem and traffic and insanity of the “season” always left me limp. This weekend, I will absolutely enjoy the empty city. Mark Baker, however, will not. The nightlife guru has been “Hamptoning” when most of you were riding in the back of the car in children’s seats, spitting up on yourselves. Mr. Baker, with his James Bond-ish manner, is getting his game plan together, and is ready to shine this summer with his new club, Elm.

You are the godfather of Hamptons nightlife. Tell me your Hamptons history and how the scene has changed over the years. Godfather or grandfather, I definitely have been running clubs and events for longer than most. I should have had a mansion on Meadow Lane by now, just for my long-time service in the Hamptons. Seriously though, there has been a change regarding nightlife and the whole scene in general. In the early days of Conscience Point, our venues were outdoors on the water and it was a lot more relaxed. Everything seems to be so serious these days. I think people should take a deep breath and just enjoy the beauty of The Hamptons. You just have to find those little places, where you can breathe in the nature. Club-wise, I think nightlife got stale—same shit, same venue. With the opening of The Elm, our fabulous new Southampton venue, and Beachfest, the brunch and beach party at Gurney’s Montauk, and all the events we are organizing around the Hamptons, we hope to inject a little spice into the scene. And PS, when I did the first Model Celebrity Beachgames at Gurney’s in ’94, Montauk was a “little village at the end of the island.” How times have changed.

How about the competition? Will revelers be popping from place to place more than ever, or is there more of a brand loyalty thing? There have been the same 4 or 5 venues forever in the Hamptons, and every year a different NYC operator comes out and takes one for the summer. EMM at Lilypond and Jonathan at Tavern, and Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss are absent this year. As I am the Godfather of club owners, as you put it, you know that I welcome any and all venues in the Hamptons. There is room for everyone, and the ones that are the best and most fun will prevail. Having a New York operation can help or hinder, as I believe it can limit your client base. I have assembled a huge team of top guys including, the Koch Brothers, Rocco Ancarola, Alex Martini, and David Sherman, to participate in all our Hamptons fun activities. I really think that the business as a whole has become too serious and negative. Everyone should just work hard, but relax and give the public what they want, which is a good time, not club bullshit and politics.

What are you driving and what is the house you are staying at like? Come on, you know the answer to that one. For the winter I have my mountain bike, and for summer it has to be the triple black 430 F1 Spider Ferrari, with some devilish modifications that will blow away any motorcycle or car. And thanks to Ferrari Maserati Long Island, I have a black two-door Rolls Royce Ghost. I am not that wanker with a flash car. I love to drive at 2am in the city, roof off, music blaring, at a speed most definitely over the speed limit. As far as my house, no after parties anymore. But last year we had a gorgeous mansion on the water near Sag Harbor, and I think it is necessary if possible to just be in nature. The old Hamptons farm line feel is hard to find, but Sagaponack still has the magic.

With rents, insurance and other costs paid for the full year, plus operating costs, including costly housing for you and staff, and other factors like fickle weather and 15 or so weeks to cover these costs, can you make money out there ? Opening any business in the Hamptons is hard work. The locals are continually screwed every year by all the operators. The Hamptons community is gun-shy, and operators need to understand the positive and negative impact venues have on their community. Venues are normally rented Memorial Day to Labor Day, and you have fifteen weeks to make your money. It sucks for sure. Money has never been my primary motive for doing this stuff. I love the Hamptons and have friends for twenty years in every department there. My special friend from Southampton police department has regular horror stories relating to venues and irresponsible operators. We have to respect their communities. Inject money and jobs for the locals in the town, and you will find a much more respective partner in the community.

NYC Nightlife for Japan: Lavo Tonight

With the world seeing its horrible future unfold every day on TV, many are choosing to bury their heads in the sands of Charlie Sheen and American Idol gossip. Others have chosen to try to help. This horrible crisis makes me worry. If anything, the Japanese seem better than us at most technological things, and if they can’t get a handle on this, then what will happen when one of our own nuclear reactors suffers a similar “glitch.”

The fact that their equivalent to Con-Ed is running the show, trying to save the country, makes the whole affair seem comical. Somebody “better” might need to step up before our seafood becomes see food, radiation making it glow in the dark. But shaking your fist in the air, or leaning out the window and shouting, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore,” isn’t going to help. A whole lot of people will be gathering at Lavo tonight to raise some cash and awareness. I am on the host committee. I urge you to come to Lavo to discuss Charlie Sheen and American Idol while sipping cocktails and participating in an amazing raffle of donated goodies. Please join us in showing NYC love for Japan!

Date: Tonight Tuesday March 29th Time: 7-10 PM Location: Lavo, 39 East 58th Street Details: Cash Bar/Food Music: DJ MSG on Decks Charity: David Raleigh and F. Stokes will be MC’ing the raffle! Tickets are $20 each, winner must be present to win. The raffle will take place at 9:15pm

Raffling Off: – Pair of U2 tickets for Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at the Meadowlands – Takamichi Hair: haircut with Takamichi himself – Kristian Schmidt, Photographer: photographic print of your choice from his galleries up to 60″x40″ -Yogaworks: 3 month regional membership – Uhuru Interiors: 3 hour interior design consultation – Lucky Rice Festival: pair of VIP tickets to Lucky Rice Grand Feast – Sundown Ski and Snowboard: Salomon down jacket – Men’s – Slice, the Perfect Food: 2 passes for a 3 hour pizza making class – Juliet: dinner for 4 including champagne up to $500 – Mekong: dinner for 2 up to $100 – Salvor Projects: silk-screened scarves (unisex). We have 3! – Chelsea Piers: Multi-Sport Passports. We have 2 sets of 2. – 2 x 4: Prada Libro, limited edition book/documentation of Prada’s entire organizational creative output (not publicly available) – Areaware: Limited Edition Strida folding bike (1 of 20 made). This prize will be shipped to the winner. – RJ Raizk, Artist: Hand drawn pattern printed on Aquarelle rough paper, with natural pigment application and silver and gold leaf by up and coming artist RJ Raizk in collaboration with Vance Brooking – Kria Jewelry: Single Silver Vertebrae on natural leather bracelet – Keetja Allard Photography: photographic print – Bellino Fine Linens: Italian-made, 400TC percale, 100% Egyptian cotton, queen sheet set (including 2 pillowcases). Light blue. – Konstanze Zeller: Haircut by noted fashion hairstylist Konstanze (Available on Saturdays between noon-3, at The Drawing Room.) – Six Scents Parfums: Richard Nicoll Series Two fragrance – The Mondrian Soho: One night stay at the Mondrian Soho plus 2 complimentary drinks at Imperial No. 9. – BoConcept: Package consisting of: various home accessories, a complimentary in-house consultation, and a $200 gift certificate redeemable at either Madison Ave, SoHo, Chelsea, DUMBO, & UES stores. – Hudson Clearwater: dinner for 2 up to $100 – Mick Rock: 11″x14″ photograph of David Bowie in Kabuki attire designed by Kansai taken in the UK. 1973. C-type color print. – Yummus Hummus: gift certificate for $40 – Kiln Design Studio: copper and enamel bowl – Rick Swanson, Master Super Slow Instructor: 3 personal training sessions. – L’Effrontee: Necklace by Apartment A’Louer. Brass and resin – IAMAMIA: 1 x 11 necklace. Brass and leather – Betel: gift certificate up to $100 – Clear Designs: 5 hours of personal organizing services – Dusaneye: Hilde women’s sunglasses – Selima Optique: sunglasses. We have 4 pairs – men’s, women’s, girl’s and boy’s – Abycastle Abyssinians: Abyssinian kitten from a national winning boutique cattery

We are asking for a $20 minimum donation at the door (larger donations are most welcome). All door and raffle proceeds plus 10% of bar and food sales from the event will be donated to Doctors Without Borders. All donations are tax-deductible and there will be forms available for those wanting a receipt/acknowledgment.

If you cannot attend in person and would like to donate directly, we encourage you to go here to donate.

CO-CHAIRS: Benjamin Dewar, Lelaine Lau

HOST COMMITTEE: Miki Agrawal, Radha Agrawal, Keetja Allard, Mark Baker, Belinda Becker, Tyler Breuer, Jayma Cardoso, Danielle Chang, Lily Cho, Kevin Crawford, Michelle Forrest, Tegan Gaan, Veronica Gledhill, Lauren Grafer, Erin Hawker, Kelly Hulbert, Alex Jeffers, Suzanne Koshnoodi, Steve Lewis, Leonard LoRusso, Emilio Mesa, Sakura Moriya, DJ MSG, Yvonne Najor, Takamichi Saeki, Cristina Salazar, Amber Senn, Mami Shirakawa, Amanda Young Shortall, Ali Smith, Katia Tallarico, Sasha Tcherevkoff, Fernando Tormena, Tom Trowbridge, Liz Vap, Vegas, Arden Wohl, Derek Yamada, Hikari Yokoyama.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has sent medical teams to support the government-led earthquake and tsunami response in Japan. They are running mobile clinics and conducting needs assessments, which will determine the full scope of their response. Please note that Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) typically does not earmark funds for specific arenas of operations, instead using unrestricted donations which allows them to provide rapid and targeted care to those areas most in need. Our donation will be unrestricted.

Mixing & Matching: Mark Baker & Juice Press, Todd English & Plaza, New DJ’s & Lit

The long delayed Camille Becerra restaurant on Orchard and Rivington is nearing completion. It’s amazing how fast the pieces come together once the bones of a place are in order. Upon completion of the wiring, the plumbing walls are closed up and the installation of finishes is a relatively short process. I felt very satisfied with the feel of the place as I left it yesterday afternoon. I headed to the Juice Press on 1st and 1st to reboot. A crowd of the beautiful people surrounded club god Mark Baker, who is hawking the place. It’s a win-win for the newly svelte Mr. Baker, who gets paid and fit with the new gig. Afternoon informal juice parties with familiar club gods, celebrities, models, and bottles filled with healthy nectars, have become common. I’m obsessed with the watermelon juice and kale chips. I’m going to live to be 100.

Mark and I chatted about the progress over at Double Seven and “doing this and doing that, “ and weekend plans. He told me how Juliet Supper Club’s own personal “Romeo” chef Todd English has moved on. According to master Baker, Todd is slammed with that food court thing at the Plaza Food Hall, where he will curate all sorts of exotic and trademark cuisines. Mark told me the separation was without anxiety for any of the players.

“It’s all good and friendly, an amicable separation. Todd’s busy schedule and new venues made it unrealistic to continue, so new chef Mario Tolentino takes over and opens this week. It’s world street cuisine and grill. A new direction for Juliet that compliments the super success of the club portion.”

I could never see Todd at Juliet. The environment just didn’t seem to suit him. I hear his name constantly associated with this project, or that, and half the time, when I turn on the flat screen, they’re hawking pots and pans with his name on it. No tears need to be shed for these creatures of the night: Juliet is packed with the crowd that they want and Todd has plenty of places to hang his hat. Best of luck to all.

I was stuck in late meetings as everyone was trying to get all the business done yesterday and get out of town early today. I missed the Carlo McCormick ”NYC-Shred” opening at the Perry Rubinstein Gallery in Chelsea. The exhibit, which will run until late August, is a group show of collage-based works. Carlo and I have been pals since the stone age . He is very much a part of that loveable Paper Magazine crew, and his vision is always worth checking out. I caught up with my crew at the nearby Moonstruck diner and was struck by how bad it really was. The food was OK, but the overall experience was similar to a prison mess hall. The after-party at Lit featured DJ’s Fancy and Dimitry. Erik Foss thinks they could be the next big thing. They had the hipster crowd in a frenzy. It’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys or a club filled with bottle whores and frat boys. I headed to Kenmare to wish my own personal dashboard Jesus, Paul Sevigny, a happy birthday, but alas he was still over at his party at Avenue. Happy birthday Paul Sevigny, who along with Nur, are the Obi-Wan Kenobi’s of nightlife: our only hope

Mark Baker’s Got Juice

Club icon Mark Baker is best known for running A-list joints and hanging with the fastest of crowds. His following is a “who’s who” list of jet-setters, trendsetters, celebrities and the beautiful. His club history is a “where’s where” of the best joints in 20 years. He is currently the go to guy over at Juliet Supper Club.What many don’t know about Mr. Baker is that he is an athlete too. Those used to seeing him tool around in a Ferrari don’t realize that back in 1978, he was the European skateboard champ. Mark has joined up with my man Marcus Antebi to open up a small outpost of healthy satisfaction called the Juice Press on 1st Avenue and 1st Street. Here you can offset the jet-set lifestyle, including all the stress, bad intakes and imbibes of nightlife. According to Marcus, their juice can even cure a hangover. I caught up with this dynamic duo and asked them a few questions about the venture.

Mark ,how do you know Marcus? MARK BAKER: I’ve known my dear friend Marcus for 15-odd years. He’s real New York, and even without the head-to-toe tattoos, the guy’s a badass. Skater, surfer, skydiver (with bare fucking feet), he even packs his own chute. He’s soft-spoken, but don’t let that hide the intensity and seriousness of this man when he puts his mind to something. So when some months ago Marcus approached me — after seeing my new healthy lifestyle — how could I resist such an offer to partner up in an amazing new business to spread healthy living to all my toxic friends and supermodels.

How did you get educated on the liquid revolution, including cleanses? MB: He explained in detail the concept of the business — juicing taken to another level, none of your street crap that has no nutritional benefit whatsoever, but the real deal with a proper balance of natural and organic goods that create a full program … or just a daily dose of stuff that makes you feel and look good.

Besides taking care of your mind and body, what is your role here? MB: My job is to translate this detailed process to a sound bite and message that can be carried to the thousands of New Yorkers who lead a hectic and stressful life with only enough time for a quick fix really. And yes, we will be delivering for those who can’t make it downtown.

I guess the big question is: does it work? MB: For the short time I have been drinking the juices, it’s unbelievable how the right ingredients and combinations can make you feel and look so much better and help with everything, from lack of energy, digestion, proper weight loss, detoxification … I mean, if you really think about it, you wouldn’t put shitty diesel into a Ferrari right? So why would you put anything but the best into your body?

You have been a nightlife operator for eons; isn’t that sort of a disconnect with selling a healthy lifestyle? MB: Some may think it may be strange that someone in the middle of the nightlife scene would get involved with something as healthy as this, but I mean, that’s kind of the point. This juicing lifestyle helps maintain the insanely stressful and unhealthy nightlife. So what better role model could there be? I just want to spread the good word because it really helps.

When can I get some? MB: The Juice Press will be open shortly … Marcus is there 24/7 and is always ready to educate anyone who wants to listen. The products are great, no bullshit, and I guarantee will help change your life for the better, or just refresh you on a hot day. I’ll let the product speak for itself.

Marcus, why is juice press so special? MARCUS ANTEBI: The Juice Press is a centrally located organic cold-press juice, smoothie, salad and raw sandwich take-out place. We designed our menu to genuinely make people healthier. We don’t use any refined sugar or soy, and we use organic live produce!

Why is it important to “press”? MA: We are focusing on the cold-pressed juice because they last in the refrigerator three days, as opposed to centrifugal rotary- blade juicers. This shelf life allows us a far-reaching delivery service and the ability to create 7- to 9-juice-per-day cleanses. We deliver your daily juice needs, and you keep them cold and drink them throughout the day.

What does this do for me? MA: Our formulas are revitalizing and rejuvenating. Not only will gain control over your weight if you follow our programs, but you will rebuild the cells of your body, repair and so much more.

Can you help save the world from the dreaded hangover? MA: The hangover is believed to be caused by a combination of physical reactions to excessive consumption — dehydration, acidity left behind in the stomach, and vitamin dehydration. The remedies we have devised address the leading causes and put all of the vital materials back into your body.

What did you do before, and how do you know Mark Baker? MA: I retired from professional skydiving with 2,300 jumps and fought Thai boxing competitively. I know Mark from nigh life for 20 years, and we’ve talked about building a place like this to bring health and nutrition to our lifestyles for years.

You and Mark spend — or spent — a lot of years in clubs. Is the Juice Press a reaction to that often unhealthy lifestyle? MA: I’m clean and sober 24 years, and having a kitchen like this to juice and eat amazing salads is a dream come true. Mark and I always wanted to do a healthy lifestyle place in contrast to clubs and bars.

Rivera and Juliet

At first, it may seem like an odd fit: the street wise Ruben Rivera from the block, manning up at the door at the very non-street club, Juliet. Juliet Supperclub is a home run. The old opera/area space on a forgotten factory/gallery block in Chelsea was never supposed to happen. Jon B., the crafty, never-say-die, owner was trying to get rid of the space and couldn’t find a buyer, so he went for it and created one of the most financially viable places around. Jon B. (who will never be known as John “A”—and likes it that way) brought in big time player, Bon Vivant and international man of mystery, Mark Baker, celebrity chef (and my pal) Todd English, ex-Norwood superhero Artan Gjoni and his usual cast of characters to brand his West 21st Street restaurant/club. Jon, at Mark Baker’s insistence, added an unusual cast member… Ruben Rivera. Mark and Ruben worked together at Mansion. Shattered dreams often result in life long friendships. He wants to use the connections he’s made at the door to be an actor. He’s been doing that since 1994 when he appeared in Carlito’s Way with Al Pacino.

Ruben is the consummate team player since high school, when he played point guard for St. Nicholas of Tolentine. The last NYC nationally-ranked number 1 team featured all Americans: Malik Sealy, Adrian Autry and Brian Reese. Ruben used his court skills to get a ride at the University of California Bakersfield. I spent a year in Bakersfield in one night. It’s a very strange place in the middle of nowhere that smells of cattle and oil and is far away from the Bronx in so many ways. Sometimes the best education you can get is seeing what you had and what you never want first hand. At a very young age, Ruben hung at the hip hop clubs in the Bronx and downtown that his mom warned him about. She came looking for him one night. “Anyplace your mom doesn’t want you in must be cool,” he remembers. It was Cuando one night and Car Wash the next, forgotten joints that made icons out of Krs 1, Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie and the Melle Mels of the world. He came down to my joint the world on East 2nd Street where I was trying to do something real.

How did you start doing the door? You started my career. You gave me my first official door. Mark Baker brought me to Juliet. Jon B. wanted someone else. They gave me a shot, and now I help run the place. Same thing happened when I was at Mansion. I care about my job and the venue first before my ego! If I don’t let a person in it’s never personal always for the better of the venue. I also respect the fact that, yes, I am an employee and no I’m not the shit just because I’m the door guy. The door doesn’t make me the person I am.

You and I often talk about respect in our work and in our lives. How does respect figure into your door gig? How do your street chops affect your thought process at the door? Yes, we always talk of respect; that Nate Archibald story you told me is classic. Respect on the court and on the streets. On the job…when did it become cool to pester the door man once he’s already denied a person? I never understand people that stand there for hours. I remember when I would go to a place if the door guy deaded me, I would just walk away. Most of the time a door guy sees you come back again and again and you don’t get in but your always respectful and never cause problems you’ll eventually get in. I know that’s how I operate. Cursing me out will dead you for life. Everywhere I work.

What’s it like working with Mark Baker and Jon B.? Mark Baker works a room. Most promoter types don’t work the room, they horde their girls at their banquette which is like a fortress. Some of these club people show up with their resumes. If you need a resume you suck. People know who’s who. Jon B. is a huge customer service person. He knows how to take care of people. He’s very revenue-driven and a great business man, so he generates tremendous revenue. Our Thursdays are making tons of loot. There are too many clubs right now. The business is oversaturated. The promoters know that if you, as an operator, don’t want them and their crowd, then someone else will. The crowds in general are less classy. It isn’t like the old days at LIFE or Centro Fly.

I went to Juliet once and you were on a break. They had some new guy at the door and he was giving me attitude. I tried to tell him I used to be Steve Lewis until the security guys told him to open up. What’s up with the new jack door people? Some of these guys haven’t paid their dues. The get hired cause they look good in a nice European suit but they have no clue what’s going on. They don’t know who’s who. They don’t know respect or that respect makes the place. The people don’t know them and they don’t know how to handle some &X#@ outside.

How many night’s are you at Juliet? Everyday but Monday. We’re not open Monday. If they open it, I’m not working. I need one day off

What’s your overview of New York nightlife? New York Nightlife is changing right before our eyes. Only the creative owners will survive. Soon money won’t buy your way in like the heydays of New York when fashion, music and energy matter. Coolness! Thanks so much Steve for everything. You’ve been tremendously helpful in my life. That’s real shit. You’ve taught me and continue to teach me the stuff I need to survive in this business.By the way did I tell you that Nate archibald story was classic?

We’ll keep that story to ourselves.

Tonight marks the one year anniversary of Music Maestro…Please! One of my favorite go-to’s. I caught up with Jennifly Green and asked me to tell me all about it.

“We started this event, because no clubs or parties ticked all the boxes for us. We wanted to create a platform for the unsung heroes of music, hence the name Music Maestro…Please! i.e music that you do not hear on the radio or in most clubs. We want to bring back ‘80s NYC where Larry Levan had the amazing paradise garage parties, and it really was about the music without the pretense. We play classic ‘80s boogie, along with disco, rare groove, funk, electro and progressive sounds, with an added flavor of UK soul. The idea to create a London-meets-New-York vibe. Every month we include a special guest DJ, tonight is Waajeed (Platinum Pied Pipers) and Jillionaire, spinning along with Jennifly and Vincent Oshin. This monthly affair is now one year old and is becoming a favorite party in New York City for people who are over the models and bottles and top 40, and who just want go out and hear good music and dance, dance and dance. It’s at subMercer

A late night text from a ‘player” over at the always fabulous Provocateur: “Justin Ross physically thrown out after sneaking in through hotel service garbage control entrance”. Mr. Lee’s Facebook status eludes to an earlier part of the story “JRL needs the names of the two women who run the door at Provocateur…”. A pal confirms, “He got turned away”. I thoroughly enjoy Justin. He’s so much fun.

Who’s Who in Brantly Martin’s ‘Pillage’?

Author Brantly Martin, once a wonder boy of New York City nightlife, has returned from exile, purgatory, marriage, overseas, and five or six other speculated places armed with a 200-plus page book that’s is the buzz about town. “Which is worse?” a savvy pal asked me, “To be in it or not be in it?” Pillage describes some days and some nights in the life of the model/promoter/owner club set in decidedly non-PG rated terms; there’s more sex and drugs than Woodstock. As I read it, I became increasingly revolted, then jealous, then revolted, then I laughed and was revolted again. It’s a rollercoaster ride through the world of the young, rich, beautiful, and passionately immoral. Brantly seems to have come to terms with his demons. He is actually married to a beautiful Italian woman and lives in Rome. He admits to being the main character of the tome (“Cracula”). He is super hush-hush about the identities of the other characters and wouldn’t give me even one. In this case, the names have been changed to protect the guilty — but I managed to poke my rather cute nose in some of the right places and came up with a few reveals.

The Reverend – Scott Harrison, Brantly’s ex-partner and Water to Africa crusader. Eroneous –: Eric Hower, who used to be known as Fat Eric (until he wasn’t anymore). Shout out to Colleen for making a man out of him. Lark Taker – Mark Baker; how did he find time to actually work? The Fireman – Adam Hock, because the Griffin honcho pisses on everyone.

I did get the names of the models who had drug smoke blown up their cute butts and other humiliating things done to them, but since we all imagine our models as beautiful, pure, and innocent, I decided to be a gentleman and not list their names here. However, the phrase “model behavior” needs to be rethought. I caught up with Brantly and threw him a few softball-like questions. I was sweet — after all the man’s been through a lot.

Why did you write the book? I tried to write a novel for years, but New York City, my profession, my habits, and excuses were more powerful than my desire. I’d bang out 15 pages, 20 pages, just start to understand the voice, the characters, the story, and then … one late night leads to another, which leads to painful days and the draining of creativity. I ended up bouncing around Southeast Asia for four months, first with a friend, then alone in Cambodia, where I wrote every day for five, six hours, and finished the first draft. Then it was back to New York, with a pit stop in Austin, for the rewrites and edits.

Some of the characters seemed to be based on real people around town. Who’s who in the book? To me the characters are the characters. It’s a novel, fiction, a satire. More caricature than realism. It’s not as simple as this character is X and this one is Y. If that were the case, then I suppose I’m Cracula — and I wouldn’t want that. I realize that people like to simplify things, look for shortcuts, find the lowest common denominators. I’m sure there will be some speculation around town about what’s true, what really happened, and whom did what to whom. What’s more, some people are bound to be offended and feel that the portrayal of a character is an attack on them. The truth is the actions, traits, and motivations that are highlighted and parodied as the most despicable in the characters are all part of my opera of failures and mistakes as a man — misplaced ambition, hypocrisy, disloyalty. As a writer, I don’t feel bad calling someone out for their actions and bullshit because it always stems from my own bullshit. The book is fiction, the events are fiction, but the rhythm and emotions are honest. How did you come to work in New York City nightlife? I grew up in Houston, went to college in Austin, and moved to New York in 2000. I showed up with one bag full of clothes, $500, and not one friend. I slept in Central Park the first night, ended up crashing with a friend of a friend for a few weeks (in a depression-era brothel, some of the whores still alive, paying $50 a month, rent-controlled), somehow ended up working in the nightlife. Jeffrey Jah and Mark Baker gave me my first job at Lotus. Karim gave me my first night — Tuesdays at Halo. I have a love-hate relationship with clubs and nightlife. But I have a love-hate relationship with all things, including myself. The one thing I have more than ever, though, is a complete respect for the folks around town who have been working and grinding in the scene for years and kept their sanity. It’s not easy — you know better than me. I haven’t always gotten along with everyone else in the nightlife, but I respect anyone that’s pulling it off (not that such respect is always returned).

Do you see Pillage as a film? I do, though it’s not a dream or a goal. I wrote a novel, not a screenplay. If the right person has the right vision, why not? I wouldn’t want to be involved in the process. I lived with Pillage enough.

I found the book funny and disgusting. What sort of reactions were you expecting, and what has been the feedback? I see it as a comedy. Yeah, even a disgusting one. Being my first novel, my expectations were all over the place. Chest puffing, insecurity, nausea, etc. The first reaction is always to the style. It’s not like most other novels — either in rhythm or formatting. It takes a few pages to get used to. After that, people seem to be responding to the humor, honesty, and visuals. Until last week, I hadn’t opened the book for about six months. I’ll be reading from the book Thursday at the Powerhouse Arena in DUMBO, then Book Soup in LA. on the 12th, and I needed to choose some parts. Jumping back into it after that much time off was a trip. I found the words creepy, sad, vulgar, desperate, and yes, disgusting. In a life with many ups and downs, Pillage was written during the most desperate and hopeless downturn. I think that’s evident. Two and half years later I’m happy, married, and living in Rome. It’s an odd life. What place does literature currently have in New York nightlife? I don’t see it playing a part at all right now. Maybe Pillage will change that. Obviously it used to, from Fitzgerald to Capote to the fellas in the 80s and early 90s. The books seemed to have gotten safer along with the city. Maybe the recession will bring out some fresh voices addressing things other than martinis, high heels, and pseudo-spirituality. If you lived anything close to the way Cracula lives, how are you still here? It is fiction. But … yeah. I haven’t always been the wisest of decision makers. You live, you learn. I’m a lucky bastard What’s next for you? The wife and I are launching a magazine, Grey. The first issue is out in September. I’m about halfway through a book of short stories, I’m really amped for these to get out. They’re in an entirely different voice than Pillage, different style. After that I’m writing a full-on science fiction novel.

After being away from New York for almost a year, how does the nightlife look? Promising. From about 2004 to 2008, there was so much mediocre crap out there. Everyone became a club owner, promoter, or self-appointed superstar. It seems there’s been a cleaning of house, with the veterans surviving. The bottle backlash is a good thing. When I started promoting, text messaging didn’t exist, and not everyone had a cell phone. If you did have a cell phone, it only held 50 numbers. You had to call people at home, have a conversation, then take care of them when they came out. If I did a party, I did the party. There were no “hosts.” And this was just in 2000 to 2002. You and all the folks I referred to were in the game much before then. My point being, it doesn’t matter how many mass emails, Facebooks, texts, or whatever other technology pops up … when times get tough, people want a real experience.

Mark Baker Out at M2

imageThe high and mighty plans of the Opium Group out of Miami to create and sustain a high-end club in the Mezmor Building space are officially dead. Mark Baker has left M2. I won’t get into a he-said she-said debate on what happened. Mark told me “that the split was mutually agreed upon and that Joey Morrissey — a friend for 20 years — and myself still maintain a great relationship.” Mark believes his run at Mansion, now M2, “has been a great success”; through impossible times the club has survived, and most felt that was impossible. But I suspect that surviving, although a noble ambition, is not what they had in mind a little more than a year ago. The big dreams of a circus-like atmosphere where the beautiful people celebrated the sweet sounds of success while popping bottles to the sweet sounds of world-class DJs proved fleeting. Yes, there were many moments where the Euro set had a blast, but downtown didn’t understand it and mostly didn’t come. The dream of a mixed bag of the best of every class in New York was never achieved.

Mark says he hasn’t “looked at another opportunity for over a year … Joey Morrisey has an incredible vision” for going forward with M2. He says that he may even do one-offs at the mega-club. Ever the gentleman, Mark will always say the right things . He took a deep breath and told me, “Everyone needs to know when it’s time to move on.” For Mark, moving on will begin with heading to Moscow to host the Russian Nightlife Awards. It’s his second go at this; he’ll also host a mega “I Love New York” event in the Russian capital. Then it’s back to New York for the Hamptons season. He can’t speak to which Hamptons venue will get him right now, but he’ll let us know. Mark also told me that the long -waited return of Double Seven will indeed happen this September. The big story in his future is the collaboration with Jon B and Barry Mullineaux who are killing it over at Greenhouse. Mark brings his uber-high-end crowd to the emerging fabulous peeps at Jon’s properties. I believe this collaboration is exactly what is needed for both parties. I’m sure there will be future openings based on this deal.

Finally, I would like to add that Mansion, M2, or whatever never lived up to the expectations I had for it either. However, it’s still standing, and in these unprecedented times, that’s an achievement. Unfortunately the business model for Mansion was in the European bottle crowd. When the economy bludgeoned that scene, Mansion was doomed to a lower-rent niche.