Rocco Ancarola Has That Boom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Spaces & Laura Polko’s Graces

Word comes that demolition has been completed at the M. Katz & Sons space at 146 Essex. Rich Wolf will be putting in a high-end restaurant in the coveted building. As I remember it, there is a full-height basement and multiple levels. Rich’s Stanton Social is a mega-hit just around the way, proving that the Tao, Lavo, and Marquee partner can do downtown just fine. I also heard that Griffin may be rid of some of its grifters sooner than later. Details to follow. I usually root for the good guys in any dispute — and will do so as soon as somebody identifies one.

Laura Polko is someone you might see at a club making sure a top-tier DJ is doing his or her job. Laura’s helping throw a benefit at Ella on Sunday for the American Diabetes Association, and I caught up with her for a few Qs.

Tell me why you are associated with this event. I was diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic on my eighth birthday, and I can’t say that it has been anything but helpful to my life. It’s made me more independent as a person and more driven than the average girl out of Ohio.

So tell me about the event itself. I really wanted to put on an event to benefit diabetes since I work so closely with American Diabetes Association (ADA) on their Tour de Cure coming up next spring. This one’s at Ella lounge on Avenue A between Houston and 2nd Street … everyone at Ella is awesome and great for the event! This Sunday from 6-9 … all proceeds benefit diabetes. Sam French will be spinning, and so will Alexandra Richards. A suggested donation of $25 bucks is requested, and there will be an open bar . To donate or RSVP, go to www.sclpawareness.com.

You’re a beautiful hip and fun scene girl. No one could possibly be aware that you suffer from this major disease. I want everyone to know that diabetes is not a tough chronic illness — if you are to get anything, let it be diabetes. It’s done nothing but help my life and help me see what life is really about. It makes life more valuable.

I am a Type 2 diabetic myself, and I think it helps me stay in shape and live a fuller life. Tell me about your DJ-booking position. I work with RKM talent, a company founded by Rachid Kallamni. I was brought on as the director in the company.

Why do DJs need management? DJs need a manager the same way club needs a general manager these days — DJs are so much of a combination of talent and celebrity, and proper management is needed to push each individual in the direction they want to go — to get them where they want their career to take them. Without a manager, it’s hard to accomplish the goals a DJ wants to achieve … and at the same time, as a client, it’s hard to truly see a DJ as the combination of celebrity and talent when dealing solely with the DJ him- or herself.

What do DJs get paid these days? Nothing less than $200 at events, nothing less than $500 at clubs.

Who are some of your clients? YSL, BlackBook, Gucci, Jimmy Choo, David Barton Gym, W Hotels, and clubs Avenue, Tenjune, Eldridge.

How many DJs do you guys manage? We have eight DJs: Elliot Heller, a.k.a. Equal — can do basically anything, spins clubs and events as well. Sam French — he’s great, new and younger, can do it all. Dalton Loughlin, a.k.a. DL — he’s great with top 40 and does a lot at Avenue and Tenjune, however he rocks out some great house music and does a night of that at Coffee Shop. Scram Jones — very well-known and respected in the industry, great scratcher and rocks out some amazing hip hop wit out jeopardizing the night. Nick Cohen — mostly events only, however has his night at Southside. Alexandra Richards — events only. Jamie Biden — does great rock sets.

Greenhouse: Master of Provocateur’s Domain

I woke up, had my cup, and I dragged a comb across my head, and I read the news today (and yesterday) — oh boy,about a lucky man who made the grade, and though the news was rather sad, well I just had to laugh … The Jon B-Mike Satsky URL story had heads shaking and tongues wagging as the blogs took pleasure in what appears to be a lowlife clubland grift. Jon B is by all accounts a very successful club operator with a number of properties and a lot more coming in the near future. He is absolutely dedicated to defining himself as an honest, intelligent, and gifted club/restaurant operator. But the blogosphere is buzzing with negative reports of a below-the-belt hit on Iron Mike Satsky. According to the reads, the Greenhouse gang took the provocateurnyc.com domain and had it direct people to the Greenhouse website. Provocateur is the new spot my designer pal Lionel Ohayon is producing for Mike and partner Brian Gefter. Mike and Brian had a winner over at Stereo before it was shuttered. After my successful mediation last week between Chichi212.com queen Brittany Mendenhall and Unik Ernest, who she called the “MC hammer of nightlife.” I was feeling very Bill Clintonesque. I called Jon B and said, “You have your new restaurant, Juliet, named after your mom, with top chef Todd English, and it just seems ridiculous to have this petty game play out online.” He agreed and told me to come meet him at Juliet.

When I arrived at Juliet, Jon had already spoken to Mike Satsky, and peace was made. Mike told Jon he never compared the Greenhouse crew to “Payless” in relation to his future boîte. Jon explained how an ambitious “intern” had grabbed the URL as a joke. Jon told me, “There’s no point in playing childish games … I’ll give it to them as a gift.” We were sitting in Juliet, co-owned by my friend turned enemy turned friend again Todd English. Todd and I had a “childish” fight in the blogs a bit back, but now he has expressed genuine interest in rekindling our friendship, and I am feeling peaceful myself. Jon is taking a conciliatory approach as well, and Todd and I will be having dinner real soon. I’ve been in Juliet a lot lately. It is a very ambitious design with a great deal of reflective surfaces. The columns, low walls, banquette backs, bar … even the floor is mirrored tile. It’s not my thing as it feels a bit cold to me, but Jon told me “it looks great with the lights down low.” Sounds like my last girlfriend.

A couple hours later, Mike Satsky responded to a call for comment. Mike usually shies away from talking to bloggers, and I was honored that he felt I was to be trusted. He explained how “Jon’s Greenhouse and what I do is very different, like apples and oranges.” I said some clubs might be heaven for some folks and a nightmare for others. Patrons at Pacha or Cielo wouldn’t see the value of a Jane or Avenue, and for the most part vice versa. They all are great clubs. Mike says “there’s plenty of room for everybody,” and his door at Provocateur will be like Fort Knox”; it will be “a place like no one has seen before … I will not disappoint.” Rumors of a just under $5 million build-out and acoustical treatments to protect hotel guests from noise being done by a former NASA engineer were not addressed in my conversation. Mike said they will open “in around four weeks, maybe as much as six.” “There’s room in this town for everyone, every type of club … Jon is doing something completely different, and I wish him well.” Provocateur is already proving to be provocative.

Remi Laba and Aymeric Clemente have gotten the go-over at the Merkato 55 space and will make a go of it without Kiss & Fly and Bagatelle partners David Graziano and Corey Lane, who are themselves making a go of it without them over at Gansevoort 69. This sounds like an incident waiting to happen, but all are really great people — and as long as Jon B’s “intern” doesn’t get into the mix things, will remain civilized.

The Mark Packer acquisition of the Au Bar space, across from his totally successful Tao, seems to be complete. Sources say that old Park Avenue South brand Canastel’s will be the restaurant entity, while the rest of the space may be a lounge or corporate event space. It’s a can’t-miss, as it could easily survive on the overflow from Tao.

GoldBar had a little facelift, with a couple of well-placed disco balls, a tweak of the mesh curtains, and an overall dimming of the lights making the space a bit more frenetic. I hung out with door king Jon Lennon while a beautiful crowd of fun-loving and well-heeled patrons partied hardy inside. GoldBar remains one of my favorite places, and Jon Lennon has really stepped up and made the place his home. Here is a hotspot which handles its door in a way that the Jane Hotel should take note of. Avenue and 1Oak as well are uber-desirable places to get into, as much so if not more than the Jane. They control their door, have few patrons outside, and control the uncontrollable cab honking outside. The Jane’s problems outside are solvable, and I understand that they are taking big steps to do just that. I’ll be there later to check it out.

Lastly, Paul Sevigny finally returned from his Rome concert in partnership with Deitch Gallery. In response to rumors I reported that he would be joining the crew at the Standard, he says, “I wouldn’t be caught dead walking through the Meatpacking District.”

Head of the Class: Harvard Grades Marquee

The Harvard Business School case study of Marquee nightclub came out as reported yesterday on DBTH. The study was forwarded to me by a bevy of friends — Facebook and real — because my name was in there on page 3. I thank the boys for crediting me as the designer, but I also redid it with Chris Sheffield a couple years later, and then again with my current partner Marc Dizon. Although Marquee isn’t what it used to be, it still is one of the premier clubs of its type. I’ll take credit for being a big part of the design team, but I must acknowledge that Noah, Jason Strauss, Andrew Sasson, Mark Packer, Colleen Weinstein, and many others contributed to designing a club that functions as well as any I’ve ever seen.

In the middle of designing, I was approached by my friend Michael McKenzie about having his good friend Philip Johnson get involved with the design. In the end Johnson (in his mid-nineties) contributed to the facade and the design of the central staircase. Although my original staircase was in that location and in the bridge-type configuration, Johnson and his associates at PJAR , including Pietro Filardo, came up with the famous arc. I heard a story that the aging architect was shown my work for the space and gave only a brief comment: “I see.” I took that as a positive response, since no changes were asked for. PJAR did elaborate studies on how the marquee of Marquee would look in relationship to the surrounding buildings, trees, and street signs. After all this work, a gigantic green sign was erected about a week before the opening which directed people to the Lincoln Tunnel — not the most glamorous development. It broke the pre-opening construction stress as the irony of a bridge and tunnel sign on what was scheduled to be the next fabulous club was not lost on anyone. The five-plus-year run recognized in this Harvard review underscores the hard and brilliant work of the Marquee team.

Also, as reported on Monday, the Club World Awards winners were recently announced, and you can check out the results on their site.

On the Cusp: Marquee Turns Five

Jason Strauss called me up one day about six years ago and wanted to meet me in an old building in a derelict neighborhood over on the West Side. The area was inhabited by badass hookers, their friendly associates, and the fellows who find thrills in such people. It was raining hard, and lightning was screaming at me to go home, but there was Jason smiling and working some ancient lock “can’t waiting” to show me his dream space. There was virtually no roof on the abandoned sanitation truck garage, and a single exposed bulb swayed and sparked in the waterfalls that were quickly turning the floor into a wading pool. “Isn’t it amazing?” gushed my young friend. I would spend the next year trying to make it so, and Marquee would open and take the nightlife game to an unprecedented level.

The layout of Marquee, a machine of a bottle-club, was the result of many meetings, which included people like Andrew Sasson of Light Group, Vegas, Noah Tepperberg, Mark Packer, and many others. Philip Johnson Alan Ritchie Architects even came on to up the ante. We all worked hard contributing and tweaking, and the result is the defining club of what will be known as the bottle-service era. Not since Pangea or Life has a club been so obviously the place to be — but only for a certain crowd. When asked recently by a New York Post reporter how I would rank Marquee overall in comparison to the great clubs of history, I said it wasn’t up there. He was actually interested to know how it compared to a Studio 54, and I think he was a little shocked when I said it could not be compared. Yet, when baseball writers try to determine if a player is worthy of the hall of fame, one of the questions considered is, “Was he a dominant player of his era?” Marquee is absolutely the dominant player of its era — the thing is that it’s a pretty boring era.

In order to make my top 10, it’s important that a club have musical chops. Although many a great DJ has worked that room, I can’t imagine anyone comparing its offerings to that of, say, Cielo, another viable candidate for the dominant club of the last five years. Marquee also never had much racial or sexual diversity. Although there were certainly great gay-ish parties, it is mostly known for a straight following. It might be too soon to judge, however, as Marquee is still with us, still banging, and certainly still changing. In the next five years, there could be nights or weekly parties that add dimensions to its legacy.

Marquee’s floorplan has no real defined dance floor and relies on people dancing at their bottle-laden tables. I can see a time when that furniture will be stored on a few nights, and an improved sound system will allow a kick-ass, musically based dance night. Although ranking clubs is a sport which amuses some writers, editors, and readers, to the people who own and have invested in Marquee, the reality is that the club has generated a great deal of money for five years, and that is certainly a measure of success. Everyone involved should be congratulated for reaching this milestone.

I asked Wass, Marquee’s superstar doorman, what it was like to be doing the door of this five-year anniversary party on the night before The Wrestler, a major movie in which he has a significant role, is about to be released. He said he felt like he was “on the cusp.” Wass has been a top-tier doorman in New York for a very long time. His ability to support himself while pursuing his dream of becoming a successful actor is one of the many reasons nightclubs have been my obsession for so long.

Industry Insiders: Chris Barish, Martini Park Ranger

Martini Park and Marquee co-owner Chris Barish on underage promoting, the power of the water-sipping celeb, bringing club culture to suburbia, and growing up with the Governator.

Point of Origin: I’m from New York. I started throwing parties at my parents’ home when I was young. We’re talking really young, like 15, 16 years old. You know, there used to be fun clubs in New York. They would have an off night, and I would come in and make a deal with whomever the owner was, because either they were failing a bit or they wanted to make a little extra money. I’d promote to the various people I had met in grade school who had then graduated to high school. When you think about it, we were really young, and I can’t believe these clubs would let us do it. It was New York, and it was a different time, different era, different laws, and a different mayor.

Occupations: I started off investing in Moomba because I just knew that it would be a great success. Jeff Gossett (Moomba owner) had become a good friend and asked me to invest. It became my little playground. In the last 18 years nothing has reached that level. It was celebrity heaven. You had to be in in to go. Which was the opposite of what I ended up doing with Light in midtown.

Light opened September of 2000. I remember we opened on a Tuesday night. There were maybe 20 people in the room. I was nervous. Then Thursday night, Charlie Sheen, who had stopped drinking, did me a favor and came in and only drank water. By 5:30 that evening, there was a line wrapping all the way around the block.

We opened Light Vegas a year later in the Bellagio — same name, but a nightclub. We did something that Vegas had not done in a long time. We flew in over 30 movie stars, athletes. We got a business Boeing jet and flew up Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Jeff Gordon, and Sting. Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards were there and happy. We got press everywhere [for that]. We then opened up a place called Caramel at the Bellagio and a place called Mist at Treasure Island. When I turned 30, I got a nice offer by the Bellagio to get bought out after only being open two years. By 2005, I started scouting locations around the country (for Martini Park). I felt like there was a need in the marketplace for people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and on for an upscale nightlife experience that starts after work and leads into the rest of the night. We’re a hospitality-driven nightlife experience for everyone — for people like me. It’s a playground for grownups. We opened in a [Dallas] suburb called Plano, Texas. Then opened up in Chicago and now we’re about to open in Columbus, Ohio, in late October. We will open three to four next year.

Side Hustle: I love film. I produced a short film [called “Kill the Day”] for a very talented friend. I like to play tennis. I’d like to be a yogi, but I can’t really find the time. I’m a new daddy now so everything changes.

Favorite Hangs: When I’m not traveling, my home away from home is Da Silvano. Besides Silvano, I’ve been a fan of Raoul’s for 20 years. When I did go out before [my wife] Michelle’s pregnancy, I’d go to Soho House, Rose Bar, and Waverly Inn. I know it sounds predictable. My favorite old school bar is Merc Bar. It will never close. John McDonald is the owner and a good friend.

Known Associates: I admire, respect, and am good friends with Mark Packer, the owner of Tao. I think he’s one of the best operators out there. Noah [Tepperberg] and Jason [Strauss] from Marquee are colleagues and great friends of mine. Also, Steve Hanson from B.R. Guest Restaurants. He owns about 17 restaurants in the city. He’s a friend who I can email or text, and I know within an hour he’ll text back. Also, my father (Keith Barish) was in the film business and produced 18 films. When I was 12 years old, I walked down the stairs, and there was Arnold Schwarzenegger. He and Dad did The Running Man together and became partners in Planet Hollywood. He did this great thing for my engagement party. He warned me, “First come the engagement ring, then the wedding ring, then suffe-ring.”

Industry Icons: Steve Hanson is someone I want to emulate. He works day and night. I’m naming friends, but they are also people in the industry. I’ve seen a younger generation do great stuff. For example, I’ve watched Jason Pomerantz from the Thompson Hotel do his hotel expansion and he does a very good job. Eric Goode and Sean MacPherson. I don’t know Sean, but I know Eric really well. Here’s an example of someone who started off in nightclubs, had success in restaurants, and now has the Bowery Hotel and the Maritime Hotel. His taste is unbelievable.

What are you doing tonight? I’m going home early from work and I’m testing out our stroller. My wife and I are taking baby Bea out and seeing if we can get our Yorkie to fit in the undercarriage so she doesn’t feel left out.

Photo by Chelsea Stemple.