Matt De Matt’s Birthday Party, a Michael Jackson Remembrance, and a Far-Flung DJ

The birthday gala for man about town Matt DeMatt (pictured, with Eddie Murphy) will bring all the boys and girls to the bar. That bar is of course G2 Lounge, 39 Ninth Avenue at 14th Street. G2 is the extension of Gaslight right next door. I’ll host along with Village People cow poke Randy Jones, and Steven Zee, Peter Collins, Jay Sardo and Michael Feulner. I think G2/Gaslight are basically the best location in town. Matt is the owner/operator and has big plans.I’ll tell you all about it soon enough. The soiree is tomorrow night and I’ll be there early if you want to yell at me about something. I have to cut out to spin over at Hotel Chantelle‘s Thursday Rock ‘n’ Roll weekly.

Last night I missed the Fifth Annual Remember the Time Michael Jackson Tribute at 1OAK. 1OAK owner Richie Akiva hosted the event which featured the amazing DJ Cassidy. Of course I remember the time when Michael Jackson suddenly passed. I wound up at 1OAK in a state of shock and aww, gee wiz. DJ Cassidy played every MJ song imaginable and the crowd became fully aware of his legacy. The loss still haunts us.

Aaron James, a DJ of note and old friend, has returned to NYC. His Facebook page says he lives in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. I’ll buy that, although he seems to be everywhere. It’s a great bar rap anyway. He is being welcomed back by fellow DJ’s Kris Graham and Terry Casey at a party tomorrow night, Thursday, at Goldbar, 389 Broome Street. He’s been gone for 6 months. I asked him to tell me what he’s been up to and what he is doing and he sent me this.

I adore airports, train terminals, bus depots, hotels, and anything that embodies transition. I have longed for this nomadic wandering and endless adventure, all of my life. This last 6 months in India has been like all the rest of the time I’ve spent there over the years, eye-opening and intense, both challenging and rewarding … and always transformative. Every time I go and come back, I feel slightly larger in some way, more learned. Besides DJing in nearly every major Indian metro and breaking back into the Southeast Asia market, I did what I came to do, and that is to plant seeds and open up all the major markets in Asia.

In a few months when I go back I’ll be christening the next phase with events in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Bali, and hopefully Hong Kong and more, before settling back into India and all the momentum I have built there. I’ve also been able to get myself into a position there where I can start to bring over some DJ’s for one-offs and shows, which is an exciting new prospect.

Essentially I came now for a very short time and for a few very specific reasons. I am here to collaborate with my friend and one of my all time favorite musicians – Vanessa Daou – who is getting set to release her new album ‘Light Sweet Crude’ in the coming weeks. She asked me before I left the country if I would join her on tour and collaborate with her and the visual artist on the shows. I’ve been such a big fan of hers for at least the last 15 years, so I’m feeling like such a big dream is coming true.

I’m also here to assist my dear friends Robert LaForce and Bella Saona (of The Fire and Reason) on getting their new TV project called ‘Little Wicked’ off the ground. One of the most meaningful aspects of my life thus far has been bringing like-minded people together with a common purpose and goals, and to witness the magic that they can create. I just knew Bella and Robert would hit it off, and am in awe of how well this has worked out, and with what they’ve come up with.

We will be working together on the screening party in early July for the pilot episode, and I’m helping to rope in a co-host for the event, preferably an edgy magazine that combines music, film, and nightlife. Hmmmm, any come to mind?

Steve, you have been a amazingly supportive over the years … and I really appreciate the interest you have taken in my development as a performer. I’ve known you since my very first residency in New York City–and perhaps the very best one–the Sullivan Room at Life. It feels like lifetimes ago, but I will never forget or take for granted my roots. Here’s hoping you can stop by tomorrow night (Thursday) for my Welcome Back Party at Goldbar along with fellow friends and DJ heavyweights Kris Graham and Terry Casey. They’ve been heading up the Deep House Thursdays for the last few weeks and evidently it’s been off the damn chain. I’m very grateful to them for bringing me in and providing such a perfect backdrop for what is to me a very meaningful occasion.

I truly miss all my family and friends in the Big Apple in a big way, and am eager to see all their friendly and familiar faces. For me, this return trip is like a refueling, a grand pitstop. New York has always been that way. It keeps me grounded, centered, focused, and fills me with all of its vibrating, bountiful, kaleidoscopic, and phantasmagorical energy for me to go out and see the world. New York, I truly love you.

Related: Steve Lewis on Twitter; BlackBook New York Guide; Listings for G2, Gaslight, Hotel Chantelle, 1 Oak, GoldBar

Uncle Mike’s Closes, McCarren Park Pool Opens…

Matt De Matt’s birthday bash at his Gaslight annex G2 Lounge kept me away from Danny A’s latest screening as, once again, I couldn’t clone myself. Danny Abeckaser used to be best known for the company he keeps which includes boldface names like Leonardo DiCaprio and scores of models and beautiful people. Now more and more he is becoming a celebrity in his own right, having been a promoter and owner and club personality for decades. He works as both an actor and producer and has recently completed Freelancers and The Iceman. His role as drug dealer Jackie Solomon in Holy Rollers, a film he also produced, has me salivating for his next project. There will be other screenings, goes the logic, but I’ll have to wait until next year for Matt De Matt’s birthday.

At the party I was pleased to get a chance to chat up my friend Mason Reese who followed a childhood commercial acting career with a club/restaurant career. He may be small but he has big ideas and it was wonderful to catch up. Dina Regine and I exchanged war stories about DJing (she still does it) and people and places. It was an age-appropriate crowd for me and I’ll just leave you with that straight line. Yeah, I’m not getting any younger and neither was anyone in that room except maybe Matt who looked great and was certainly full of less BS than I hear from most people of his stature in the biz.

I like the concept of the “F**K the Hamptons” bikini and champagne brunches at Lavo on Saturday afternoons. I like that all the people in this town that I don’t enjoy as much as they think I do leave town each weekend for that never never land (as in I will never go there unless paid well). I am hearing raves about McCarren Park’s newly-opened pool and recreation facility for all the scruffy hipsters in Williamsburg. I had a blast last night at Hotel Chantelle which got its air conditioning together. The crowds – those that didn’t melt last Thursday – returned to enjoy the show and especially the roof. Debbie Harry came by to visit her pal DJ Miss Guy and I had a few minutes to chat with her. Last night I hung with regulars Tommy London and Marty Concussion of the Dirty Pearls. They were busy being boys-to-men…and back to boys-at-the-bar with Luc Carl. Before next Thursday’s DJ gig at Chantelle, I will see them perform at the Highline Ballroom with Bebe Buell, The Killing Floor, The Noise, and Ingrid and The Defectors.

My newest friend was telling me right before my DJ gig about her favorite bar: Uncle Mike’s. Less than 10 minutes later she received a message that announced its immediate closing. I’m rethinking my friendship… this girl is dangerous. The message said:

"tomorrow, Friday, is closing day for mike’s. we are throwing an ‘end of the world’ party. I expect everyone to make the bar as much money as possible if we want guaranteed jobs at the other company bars. the $ Friday needs to be huge. I couldn’t tell anyone until now, ring as much as possible. sell decor sell chalkboards, hats, glasses etc. starting at $10 the money will be very closely watched. drop text and Facebook bombs NOW. twitter, call, etc. put it on the sign in the am. sell every drop of liquor in here at full price. I need $6000+ tomorrow."

Uncle Steve is heading to Uncle Mike’s tonight with cash in his pocket. Yesterday I told Mason that the business is booming and that everyone is making loot. I might have misspoken. Come join me at Uncle Mike’s and I’ll buy you a beer…or maybe a barstool.

Matt De Matt: A Character with Character

The word “character” has multiple meanings in trying to tell people about Gaslight owner Matt De Matt. He certainly is a character, having been a doorman and subsequently a friend to celebrities like Bruce Willis, Mick Jagger, and scores of Page 6-worthy names. He’s been an actor appearing in movies like The Professional as part of Gary Oldman’s bad cop crew, Searching for Bobby Fischer with Laurence Fishburne and Sir Ben Kingsley, and a couple flicks with pal Mickey Rourke. When Mickey went up to prison for research on a character, he brought Matt along to play his cellmate. He lands these 20-lines-or-under parts playing a badass. He’s been a wrestling announcer for the ECW (now WWE). There’s even a book coming out about his life called War Stories. The first four chapters of this tome, “written by a New York Times writer,” are war stories, door stories, whore stories, and more stories. He’s a self-professed “live and die by a handshake, not trying to be a celebrity just trying to be a nice guy, putting out a good product” type of guy.

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Matt De Matt will celebrate his 50th birthday at his joint Gaslight this very night. The characters of his life will gather and toast to one of those no-regret kind of peeps. Only a bum leg kept Bruce Willis from not showing once out of the last dozen years. He tells Matt, “You took care of me when I was a nobody.” His door career lists Xenon, the later Studio 54, Funhouse with the legendary Jelly Bean Benitez, and most famously Heartbreak from 1981 to ’91. Heartbreak was in that “Culture Club” (wow what a misnomer) space on Varick Street. By day it was a truck stop where blue- and white-collar workers and the truckers dined on meatloaf with two sides of veggies. The 18-wheelers lined the streets leading to the Holland Tunnel in all directions. At night the stainless serving stations were pushed to the sides, and the disco lights hidden in the blacked-out ceiling came to life.

The brilliant Lenny Berg created Heartbreak, which in its time was the rocker-lounge equivalent of Studio 54. It came from out of “what we were surrounded by” and long before the novelty of walking through an alley or kitchen tantalized trendies, Lenny Berg understood the power of that “discovered place.” Bruce hung there, as did Mick and the rest of the Stones, the Stray Cats, and the girls that always follow rockers and the guys who follow the girls who don’t land one. Record producer “Fat” Frankie started his legendary Monday nights there, which later made the China Club “the” place to be for this rocker/athlete/model set. Matt was “fired 13 times at the China Club.” Celebrities would need his wit, charm, and character at their tables and would drag him from the door. After a “final warning,” Matt was found at Mick’s table, and he was fired in front of the Stone, who stood up and asked “Is this necessary?” Mick had promised to protect Matt, helping him if indeed he did get kicked, and Matt survived another day.

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He hobnobbed at Paulie Herman’s Cafe Central with Pacino, De Niro, and Harvey Keitel. He was a fixture at Club A with owners Carlos and Pelé — yeah, that Pelé. He helped the legendary Jerry Brandt and Tommy Pooch open Spodeeodee on way West 23rd Street, where that strip joint sits now. There it was — Malcolm Forbes and his biker boys, Zeppelin lead Robert Plant, Rod Stewart, Rick James, Axl Rose, Edgar Winter, and Keith Hernandez — yeah, that Keith Hernandez. Their all-star jams with Stones studio musicians and others brought “surprise guests” and an “anything can happen” attitude. Matt owned Thursday nights. He was at Le Bar Bat with my dear departed friend Joyce for a six-year stint.

“Clubs used to be fun … I’m treated with respect everywhere, but there used to be club courtesy, and you never looked down at anybody.” He took six years to get a core group together to help him operate and raise the money, but then he found and opened Gaslight. It was at the time a gay bar called Mike’s. The Meatpacking District back then was really the Meatpacking District. If you could get used to the smell of rotting meat and blood, navigate around the addicts, ignore the TV hookers and the violent punks that worked them, there were things to do. The Mineshaft and the Vault attracted an adventurous crowd, and Florent fed the entire scene late at night. Eventually Johnny Dynell and Chi Chi opened Jackie 60 there, but Matt’s attempt at a bar seemed farfetched. “We had to literally go to the subway station and escort the girls to the place.”. Now 15 years later, he’s surrounded by the smart set enjoying STK, Tenjune, the Ganesvoort, 675, and the rest. Gaslight is still that no-frills honest bar on the corner of 14th and 9th, but it’s expanded with Gaslight Pizzeria and G2, the lounge next door. He even has a VIP room downstairs for those who need that kind of place. The chapters on his book keep getting written, as he has plans to operate the ambient end — the people side of a hotel. For sure it will be a place that has character.