Post-Page Six Blast, Michael James Can’t Speak For Himself: PR Friend’s Gibberish Explanation

The other day I was called by a friend of club/event promoter Michael James, asking me to write something nice about him. He had just been vilified on Page Six of the New York Post and wanted an opportunity to set the record straight. I had heard something about this earlier in the day but didn’t give it much thought until a PR of note forwarded me the article:

“Tactless party and event promoter Michael James of Epic Group seemed to mistake Tiffany & Co.’s 57th Street flagship jewelry emporium for a meat-market Wednesday night,when he abruptly informed guests right before the event that only models would be allowed in. “Any models who RSVP’d will be admitted to the event, but they cannot bring any guests unless thier sic guests are models too,” he said in an e-mail blast to his guest list. Despite his charming effort, the party — featuring Solange Knowles and street style photographers Scott Schuman and Garance Doré — was still short on glamazons, with only a handful of long-legged beauties mingling with a roomful of industry types. But James didn’t stop there. He followed up at 1:09 a.m. Thursday — hours after the event ended at 9:30 p.m. —with an e-mail titled, “Correction re: Tiffany event,” stating, “We have been informed that the best looking guests will be admitted wether sic  they are models or not . . . We were worried that good people might be turned away at the door, but have been assured that the best looking people will have no problem.” A Tiffany rep yesterday distanced the store from the fiasco, responding: “While Tiffany & Co. did host an event last night, e-mails received relating to a closed list originated from a promoter who is not associated with nor employed or contracted by Tiffany & Co.” Those who got past James included Piper Perabo, Charlotte Ronson and Leigh Lezark.”

I agreed to talk to Michael about what happened. He told me that the timeline was wrong and that the second e-mail was sent while the event was still happening. He said that they were afraid of overcrowding and Michael had delegated someone he referred to as a “new intern” or “new assistant.” It seems this newbie meant well but, being new, went a bit overboard. Michael said he saw the first email and “flipped out” and immediately told the newbie to send out a clearer message. The newbie, still unsupervised, sent out something at least as bad. Michael claims he only saw these transmissions when it was too late. Michael’s “dog ate my homework excuse” seemed believable until I started trying to get him to answer the following four questions:

1. A tough way to get 15 minutes of fame. The New York Post called you tactless, and said you mistook Tiffany and Co. for a meat market last Wednesday night. Explain yourself to my adoring public.

2. Isn’t bringing the beautiful people what they hired you for? Isn’t that what all promoters are hired for? Isn’t that what door policies at clubs/lounges and events are geared for? Did your company, via an overzealous new employee, just say aloud what everybody does?

3. Tell me about Epic Group. What you have worked on and what are working on?

4. Tiffany seems to have sought to distance themselves from  you. Who actually paid you and what were they asking you to do for your money?

We talked again and he objected to my 15 minutes of fame question and said he would take that out and answer them in a couple of hours. I told him to get them before midnight as I wanted to get this in. I didn’t hear from him for hours and I subsequently got messages from the original friend telling me she couldn’t reach him but was trying. She finally did, and said he was waiting for a PR friend to get out of an event who would help him. I told them I wanted to write this soon as I had a busy day coming… but alas, no answers came. Then, I got a message from his PR friend Keri Ingvarsson at 12:44am last night telling me she had the answer to the Michael article. At 4:24am I got this from Keri:

“MJ,

THE HUMAN THAT HAS MOVED A GENERATION.

FOR 17 YEARS.

THE REASON THAT ISABELLA, AND MADELEINE AND HENRIK INGVARSSON EXIST.

MICHAEL JAMES THREW A PARTY ONE NIGHT IN 2004, AND I MET MY HUSBAND.

A MOVEABLE FEAST GATHERED WHERE HE DECIDED THEY WOULD GATHER.

THAT WAS A FORCE OF PEOPLE, MAINLY BORN BEFORE 1980 AT FIRST, BUT NOW, THEIR KIDS ARE COMING.

MICHAEL KNOWS AND RESPECTS ZELDA KAPLAN.

MICHAEL REMEMBERS THE BUILDING ON WALL STREET THAT STANFORD WHITE BUILT.

AND THE OTHER ONE NEAR WEST 27TH STREET IN 2003, WHEN IT WAS BARRON AND LAWLESS AND WHEN THE WORLD BEGAN TO WONDER ABOUT STEVE LEWIS AND LIZZIE GRUBMAN AND NOAH TEPPERBERG.

NEW YORK CELEBRITIES WERE THE OWNERS, BUT YOU NEVER HEARD OF US.

THE AMAZING LATE NIGHT FRIES AT FLORENT, BEFORE TRUFFLES HAD A PLACE – THIS IS THE NEW YORK WE HAVE WALKED AND KNOWN AND LOVED.

THIS IS THE NEW YORK MICHAEL JAMES GAVE US ALL.

HE IS THE NEXT BIG NOTHING, BUT STILL YOUR EVERY BIG SOMETHING.

YOUR ONE AND ONLY, MICHAEL JAMES.

HE HAS LOVED YOU MORE THAN YOU NEVER DESERVED.

EVERY MOMENT IN TIME WAS MADE POSSIBLE – BECAUSE OF HIM.

JUST DOING HIS JOB.

HE MADE FAMILIES HAPPEN.

BECAUSE HE HAS LOVED NEW YORK.

THAT MUCH.

HE IS OUR EXISTENCE, AND OUR PULSE.

“GOOD NIGHT MR. LEWIS” AND SLEEP TIGHT THOSE OF YOU WHOM HAVE MADE LIFE WORTH LIVING.

YOURS,

KERI INGVARSSON

ON BEHALF OF

MICHAEL JAMES”

I didn’t like the 4am non-answers to my questions or the poem or whatever that was, and said that this was dumb. Keri said dumb questions deserved dumb answers and I told her something to the effect that she wasn’t helping Michael’s cause and a heated exchange went back and forth through the morning. I can’t figure out why this became such a mess, but I haven’t taken my eye off the ball.

Michael apparently was tasked to bring beautiful people to a Tiffany’s event. His internal transmission was obtained by Page Six, which made him look terrible. In reality, bringing the beautiful people to an event is what people like Michael do. Door peeps at every club have their marching orders and promoters are paid to bring the fabulous. It is a beauty-brings-money business and if you dont have much of the latter, you better be the former. Michael’s mistake is he got caught saying it aloud. It does seem tactless, but it is the reality. Michael blamed someone else. I pointed out that it is his company and he is therefore responsible, and he agreed. He then delegated a friend to contact me to write a puff piece and then he delegated a PR rep to answer the questions I sent for him to answer. He seems either too lazy or unable to handle his own shit. Maybe he is otherwise distracted. I have known Michael for a very long time and adore him. I think he needs to pay attention to his world. Given the opportunity to set the record straight and come off as a good guy, he set the record straight but not in a great way. He repeatedly delegated responsibility when he should have stepped up… and that’s how this whole shebang started.

The Gates Shutters, Tammany Hall Opens, & Facebook Remembers

Although I hadn’t noticed it myself, word comes that the Gates, an unbelievably boring and predictable place I didn’t believe in, has shuttered. It was off to the left, a little too high up, and not cool enough to survive. To close right before the holiday cash-in tells a tale of deep dark failure. The guys who brought people to the place, Redd Stylez and Michael James, seem to have taken their show on the road – Redd to Studio XXI and Michael to Chelsea Room. Gates was snobbish without reason and badly managed. Although they made changes to correct initial blunders, this isn’t a second chance town. Their door was a disaster, all attitude with little knowledge or experience. Making mistakes at the door at a venue off the beaten path ensures failure. There are plenty of other places in town that desire “B” crowds and their money. At best, that’s all it was – a B, C, or D crowd in a badly conceived place. They spent what looked like 20 bucks rehashing the formerly beautiful Biltmore Room. They lasted way longer than I expected, but then again, I hadn’t heard a whisper about the place for 6 months.

“As one gate closes another opens,” said a fortune cookie. (Or was it a fortune teller/ or some guy at some table spending a fortune and being philosophical? In all this Christmas confusion I fortunately have forgotten). I went by the new 152 Orchard Street hang Tammany Hall yesterday. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion had played there this past Monday. Tammany honcho Eddy Brady and Sailor Jerry Rum sweetie Dana Dynamite were texting me and e-mailing me to attend, but alas Monday is Bingo night for me and my clan. The new Sailor Jerry pin-up calendar release event was a smash I hear, and the early reviews for Tammany seem to be as well. Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs was on hand, and the press people sent me pictures to prove it. I toured the joint with Eddy and Dave Delzio. Purist rocker, man about town, and all around good guy Dave will be upfront on this project, which prominently features a stage, proper lights, and appropriate sound. As I was walked around, workers were painting things red, while old school posters and photos of Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall were being unfurled. They will be plastered on the walls to add some panache to the place.

My old pal Arthur Weinstein, who passed a couple years ago, celebrated his birthday on Facebook yesterday. His contributions to nightlife, and to my life, have been chatted about here, and cannot be underestimated. It’s amazing how many people took the time yesterday to wish him a happy one on his still-active Facebook profile. Facebook founder and Time’s Man of the Year Mark Zuckerberg has not only changed the way we live, but how we pass. Arthur is remembered and visited. His friends still stay in touch with each other years after he’s moved on. A special friend talks Arthur’s talk, and we suddenly feel like he’s with us. We see new images often, as people upload them. He lives in cyber space, and although I miss him terribly, I find solace there. Facebook is a relatively new phenomenon, and I see our present use of it as just the tip of the iceberg.

I bought an old 1930’s era phone for the restored Nells phone booth, which is part of our design at Darby. Many of the young crew working on the downstairs yesterday had never seen a rotary dial before. They couldn’t believe there was a time before push button technology. I told them that as a kid in Connecticut, we lived in a rural area and shared a “party line” with our neighbor. If the phone rang once it was for them, twice for us. Sometimes you would pick up the phone and they would be chatting on it. You would say “excuse me” and they would politely wrap up their call in a few minutes so you could make yours. It was a time when we had two channels on the television, which was the size of a sofa. There were no cell phones, and the only computers were in the Pentagon or NASA. As we approach the new decade, it just doesn’t seem cliché to me at all to ask, What will they think of next? I miss my pal Arthur, but will find consolation and comfort after I wrap this up with a “Hey” on Facebook.

Opening The Gates & Advanced Jameson Theory

imageA handful of posts ago, I reacted with what The Gates’ owners Redd Styles, Danny Kane, and Michael James thought was an iron fist regarding their soon-to-open club. My less than enthusiastic preview supplied a list of what I thought were glaring problems facing the place. These three guys are friends of mine, and my criticism was seen as a betrayal of sorts, but mutual associates pointed out that the analogy of telling a friend they have toilet paper on their shoe is meant to be helpful. I, as a nightlife writer with an editor and a public that need to see me as an honest broker and as friend, felt the need to point out what ailed them. It wasn’t as if I was the only person who noticed this stuff. Most just air-kissed them on the cheeks and said things like “congratulations,” while whispering behind their backs. And the types that revel in others’ failures spoke out loud. And though I’m not that kind of person, I probably spoke the loudest.

I wasn’t going to attend last night’s grand opening because I had other obligations, but I got a text message on my brand new Crackberry that said, “Please come to The Gates, they got the toilet paper off their shoe.” So I grabbed Dave Delzio and headed up. I had five major criticism last time I visited: sound, lights, DJ, cheap upholstery, and location. The first thing I noticed was the major adjustment to the lighting package. Now, the ancient marble and wood paneling were clearly visible. The sound was also much improved. I had spoken with Dan Agne, one of the best sound dudes in town, about the problems of this room. With hard surfaces everywhere, there is a “lot of bounce,” which creates these little echoes — and what you end up hearing is a muddle of sounds. They did a decent job of making it better; the music sounded better as well. Well, the cheap seats were probably still there, but I couldn’t see them because the place was jammed. As far as location there’s not much that can change that. It just means they have to be on point. A long time ago, I had a club, and my main rival was formidable but in a remote location. I attacked this club — yes, I used to attack my rivals — by concentrating really strong promotional events at their best night. I gave away free booze and wrangled celebrities. I did what was called “giving the house away,” in a Cold War-type atomic attack. Maybe I couldn’t survive long doing this, but I was going to take them down and then rise from the ashes to be the last man standing. It worked. By taking away their thunder even for a few nights, I made people think twice before they spent beaucoup bucks on cab fares to this far-away place. If you are in a remote location, you just have to be solid every night, or people will be reluctant to travel. The three amigos over at The Gates will have to be dedicated to providing a consistently good time if they hope to overcome their 26th and 8th location. The crowd was energetic and pretty — I didn’t see one person with toilet paper on their shoes.

Earlier I had attended my old and absolutely older friend Christine Cho’s birthday party. We ate at Charles, a very beautiful West Village restaurant. It’s located where 7th Avenue meets 10th Street and West 4th Street. I couldn’t find it. My assistant pointed out that my problem with locations may be just another sign of my senility. I do have a cure for that though — the summer intern season is near. I stumbled into Charles 15 minutes late. “I swear, Christine, I would have been on time if it was easier to find.” Her table was the gayest in the neighborhood (no small task) and something I loudly pointed out. “It just got gayer,” was offered from someone in the peanut gallery. Rachelle Hruska, my Guest of a Guest guru, squealed, “Look, they have Tanteo tequila,” and I told her I still hadn’t recovered from her BBQ.

Besides, for the last week I have been worshiping at the altar of that demigod Jameson. My newfound fondness of the sticky liquids is not a binge; it’s more of a research project, a sort of scientific journey to make sure my mental files on the effects of drinking are up to date. Rachelle is getting so much traffic on her GOAG blog that I had to look both ways and adjust my rear-view mirror just to chat with her. Dinner was great, but the $2,400 for 10 people wasn’t necessarily recessionary. Nobody was sober enough to check the check, and we regathered outside and took a leisurely stroll down to Greenhouse.

DJ Michael Cavadis, a.k.a. Lily of the Valley, and James Copalla entertained a packed house of revelers. The old-school mix of gays and straights of different generations that so many feel is impossible to find in this era was banging around the basement of the eco-friendly haunt. A promoter type waddled over to me and gave me the obligatory “love your blog” fist-pound hello. He loved the toilet paper shoe thingy and asked me if “those guys at The Gates knew how much of a favor you did them?” I told him I wasn’t sure, but that I had gone tonight, and we were all very friendly, and I liked it. He told me that my story about the Griffin was “spot on” and that two of the owners there, Chris Reda and Adam Hock, were “not getting along.”

A side effect of my Jameson scientific study seems to be a calm, detached, and rather kind view of life, and so I answered, “I hope they work things out.” I was told that Reda was upset at something I said about him the other day, and I told the promoter that “Chris has my phone number.” I’ll go on record that I like Chris and would not hesitate to do business with him again. Sometimes when a few people get together, they form this third personality that doesn’t act like any of the individuals. Maybe that’s the case here. Maybe Chris didn’t mean to say awful things about someone in my life, but in association with the people he chose to associate with — Adam Hock and Stevie D — it was that other personality speaking.

Anyway, it’s all business, and my business is telling it like i see it, or hear it. My firm, Lewis and Dizon (I’m the Lewis guy, and Marc Dizon is the Dizon guy) designed the Griffin. We therefore have an interest in it being a success. From all accounts, it isn’t. It may be that the combination of ownership personalities over there has formed this other personality that has no idea how to run a club. See, all this Jameson science stuff is helping formulate these cool hypotheses! Those guys have way more than toilet paper on their shoes, and no amount of great lighting, sound, DJs, or comfy couches is likely to hide the smell. Griffin is a beautiful product of hundreds of hours of work by my partner Marc Dizon. Marc is quiet, and in this way we are different. So when people say things about him, he is likely to bear it in silence, confident that he has done a great job. His partner, the dude who used to be Steve Lewis, is a bit more vocal. Griffin stinks, and it isn’t the shit stuck to their shoes that’s the problem. It’s the shit coming from their mouths. Was I too subtle, or do you peeps get what I’m saying? Ill be here all week.

Two New Gs & Mother’s Day Wisdom

imageI visited my mom on Sunday and had a real good time, but of course, not a club good time. My mom taught me a few things — like, look both ways before you cross, how to tie shoelaces, and if you have nothing good to say about somebody, keep your mouth shut. Well, I’m sure she’s as right about these things as she was about Jeannie Luvullo and some of my other exes, but it puts her at odds with my editor. Sometimes I’ve just got to say nay. I visited The Gates the other night and was swept off my feet by a bevy of beauties who spent dinner plying me with information and reminders of how much I liked Michael James, who seems to be one of the owners out there. I do like Mike; I don’t like The Gates. I like Michael’s partners Redd Styles and Danny Kane, but I don’t like what they’ve done to the place. The old Biltmore Room (previously Rome) has existed on 8th Avenue between 25th and 26th streets since the 80s. It is a magnificent collage of marble and wood located in the armpit of Chelsea and Clinton — a no-man’s land of cheap stores and restaurants there to service F.I.T. and the city housing. If real estate sales peeps can offer their mantra “location, location, location” to set a market price, I can use the phrase to underscore the problems this joint is facing right from the jump.

The Gates is in a location only my mother would love. The old Biltmore Room got about 3 stars from The New York Times and still couldn’t pay the rent. Rome, a gay spot in the same location, could not get its core crowd to cross 23rd Street. It was like that impassable energy field on Star Trek that kept everyone in the galaxy — the gays just wouldn’t venture that one block north. Faced with this first daunting strike, The Gates’ brain trust did virtually nothing to the place to make it a destination worth the trip. Are they depending on the vacuous memories of models — who aren’t checking anything out but each other — to lure bottle buyers who are so young that they have never seen the place? Although the magnificent marble and wood paneling still remain, the addition of uninspired vinyl furniture, awful lighting, and spotty sound give it a strike two. But the inevitable pitch count will have to wait because I was told at least 10 times that it wasn’t the real opening. The Gatsby-themed event this Saturday night — which baffled a Nick Carraway-type publicist and I as we chatted in the middle of the dim room — was a pre-opening soiree. I hate the pre-opening concept. Open right, or wait until you get it right. Five people told me that more (ugly) furniture was on the way. It reminds me of a story my mom once told me: Two old Jewish women were eating at a Catskills resort, and one old Jewish woman turned to other and complained, “Sadie, you know the food here is terrible?” To which Sadie replied, “Yes, Gussie, and the portions are so small.” If you don’t get that joke, feel free to call my mom. Again, I like the players involved, and I think they are generally liked, so I hope they tweak it and it’s a winner.

The other ‘G-named spot this month is The Griffin. Here “location, location, location” is really in the favor of management. The last time I mentioned The Griffin, I was poked because my partner Marc Dizon was the lead designer on the project, and I was “blowing up my own shit,” and it was “self-serving”. The Griffin is found where PM used to be, right in the heart of the Meatpacking — a location, location, location that dreams are made of. Diagonal from the Ganesvoort and Pastis, The Griffin will enjoy more foot traffic than a podiatrist. However, where The Gates’ management are a crew of nice guys, The Griffin’s honchos are less loved.

Although I enjoy a respectful relationship with Chris Reda, formerly of Room Service, there are many who ask me how. I don’t know Stevie D., (at least by that name) well enough to say anything bad about him, but I do know Adam Hock, and here I will take my mothers’ advice and keep my mouth shut — not without a small observation, however. Adam Hock has the honor of having presided over the last club in the Meatpacking to belly-up, which is PM, the current Griffin space. With a “location, location location” like 50 Ganesvoort, it seems almost impossible to fail there, yet it did. He did. In fact, I can’t think of another club that failed in the Meatpacking — oh, I just remembered one: “G Spot.”

Life Goes On

On April 15, 1996, I and just about half the people involved in nightlife since, launched what many have called the last great club, Life. There were many clubs better before it, but in my opinion none have been as good since. The mix of different genres of A-listers has not been duplicated. I visited my old joint, which is now Le Poisson Rouge, for the first time since I quit over 10 years ago. I have nothing against the current management — that’s not why I hadn’t gone over. It just felt weird. When I would drive by the 158 Bleecker Street club — which was more often a theatre since — I would look at the hideous Art Deco doors which so many celebrities and friends passed through back in the day. I had been hearing a real good buzz on the Poisson club, so I called Michael James to make an arrangement to get me a tour. Michael is my go-to guy when I need a hookup at a place I’m not familiar with. Michael knows everybody, and I’ve never met anybody who dislikes him.

Owner Justin Kantor introduced me to his partner David Handler, and I was given the grand tour. The bar in the hip hop room was moved onto the south wall, and it was set up to accommodate the gallery that it had become. My old office was gone, as well as the horseshoe banquettes where Leo and Mark and Puffy (it used to be Puffy), Prince, Brad, and all the rest used to party. The Sullivan Room was now something else, but even in its day it wasn’t my favorite haunt. I liked the hip hop room or the main room where Siouxsie, Keith Richards, Joey Ramone , Isaac Hayes, Sandra Bernhardt, and Eartha Kitt did what they do. Now with a super-delicious sound system by legendary (Electric Lady Studios) engineer John Storyk, the place is still a great room to play. Last night the place was again packed as the YouTube Orchestra (a collaboration between Google and Carnegie Hall) was happening hard. Acts audition on YouTube, get flown in, and play to a Google/musician-based audience. It was amazing. You must check it out. Justin Kantor and I are, after all of a half-hour of chatting, now old friends. I am so deeply pleased that the old space has this incredible new life.