Q & A: Noel Ashman Returns

This Friday, Q — a club where Quo, Myst, Prime, and Retox used to live — will open. None of these were A-list joints, but all entertained the B-, C-, and D-listers with great sound and good service. They were what they were, and I found myself there having a good time more often than I’d like to admit. The concept of a “new” club gets blurred as spaces are renamed, redone, and hopefully reconsidered by a public always willing to give it another shot. That seems to be the case here, where management has brought in a couple new faces (Antonio Fuccio and Mike Heller) and will refer back to the “glory days” of Quo with the Q name. The two-room format will be disposed of, as Q will be a good midsized room. The city needs this size of a betweener room, as only Pacha and M2 fill the large club niche, and there are hundreds of small joints. Q can present a world-class or circuit DJ and still remain small enough to have a social scene.

And really, Quo was never that bad. The crowd that enjoyed it has gotten a little older, which may mean wiser and more monied. The room itself is built for nightlife, with few columns and high ceilings. For opening night, the joint will go old school with Noel Ashman and Patrick McMullan among others hawking for a crowd. Noel had some success as the owner of N/A and Plumm on 14th Street in recent years but never really achieved the success of his Soho spot Veruka. Is it just me, or do all these names suck? Anyway I caught up to Noel and asked him about his return to the limelight (no, not “the” Limelight!).

This is your first gig since Plumm closed? No, I hosted a party for Candace Bushnell at Mr. West and did a couple of things in Atlantic City.

What have you been doing with your time? We have been shopping two TV shows … both are new takes on reality shows — and a film.

Is Friday’s opening a one-off, or will you be promoting at Q? Not sure. I know I’ll be hosting the opening with Patrick and then maybe some parties down the line. I might do a weekly party at this space because it’s large and I like to do that, and it’s a contrast to something I’m working on but can’t talk about right now, which is a very small, semi-private club. You’ll probably be consulting on the design.

Yes, but I’m sworn to secrecy. This is difficult for me sometimes, as I can’t talk about some stuff here, and I often read about things I’m working on in other blogs, and I get yelled at. What does “semi-private” mean? Private — you have a number to call, and only members get in. We’re going to let some of the public come. A limited number.

What clubs do you enjoy now? Good question. I’ll get in trouble any way I answer that. I do think there are some good ones out there.

How do you feel about Richie Akiva and Scott Sartiano taking over your old joint? I wish them well. I was there for five years, which is a pretty good run.

What are the biggest challenges for owners in today’s club market? Over-saturation. Back in the day, there were four or five good ones. Bottle service brought all sorts of new people into the game. Everyone wanted to get in on the gold rush. It looked easy. Many found out it’s harder than it looks. Few actually make money

Did you ask Patrick to co-host with you? Yes, Patrick is an old friend. They wanted a cool, high-end opening with an old -school crowd feeling comfortable, so I thought it would be fun. I also have Ethan Brown hosting and DJing. I’m going to be Ethan’s manager.

Do you think a good crowd will return to that West 27th Street/28th Street strip? They’ll come if there is something special happening. This Friday figures to be special.

You have been an owner for years. Is going back to promoting an event or a weekly something you enjoy? I always did events at other places, even when I owned Plumm and NA. If I do a weekly, it would be a different type of weekly — maybe not at a club. Funny thing … I’ve had close to a hundred calls from people who think I’m the owner of Q. I tell them I’m hosting opening night

For the new project, do you have your old crew of celebrity investors on board? Yes, some of them will be there, as well as some new ones. I think this space will really be much more like Veruka.

What motivates you to do it again? When you ran clubs, you approached it as an art form …

Well, part of that art definitely was making money. Yes, but you took the approach that if you did it to make money, you probably wouldn’t make any … but if you made good art, you would, because it’s easy to sell good art.

Well yes, thank you. That was a basic Andy Warhol lesson. Andy felt making money from his art was very important — maybe even a validation. For me it certainly was. I feel many people can open and make loot, but not be fabulous, and many can be fabulous but broke … success for me was having both. Tell me about the film. It’s about New York nightlife. We’ll start shooting in five months to a year.

When will the new club happen? Very soon. You can’t talk about it!

OK, OK. Are you keeping busy? Strangely enough, yes. Plumm’s closing has freed me up to work on the TV shows and the film.

Collective Hardware Burns, Prime Turns

Since the house is on fire, let us warm ourselves. — Italian proverb

The street-smart, ultra-cool, and uber-hot art gallery, performance venue, and creative space Collective Hardware just got hotter. The heat came in the form of a fire which devastated the top two floors of this ultimate downtown experience. Part Warholian factory, part bazaar, often bizarre and frequently edgy and enlightening, Collective has been a cauldron of forward fun for over a year. The fire started with those always crusty old faulty electrical wires. The damage from the fire and firemen’s hoses and axes seems to be survivable — the Collective crew are above all survivors.

The fifth floor, the domain Erik Foss (of my favorite watering hole Lit and the Fuse Gallery), was hit hardest. The amount of his work lost is still being assessed. Paul Sevigny was painting in a studio on the floor for awhile, but I was told he had nothing there at the time. Ninety percent of the equipment from the recording studio just below was saved and “absolutely no art from the gallery spaces and offices was lost … people are getting their hair cut now,” answered co-owner Stuart Bronz when I queried about the salon. The fire has quickened the move to “Collective Hardware west side annex.” Savior Steve Maass, not to be confused with former Mudd Club owner Steve Maas, has made his ginormous west side loft/studio available to the crew. Steve apparently had a tiff with man about town Izzy Gold, and they parted ways, creating an opportunity. Collective will still maintain its Bowery presence and now needs a helping hand from its friends as they rebuild. The best thing about the move for Collective and all their fans? The new space boasts showers.

image Rendering of Quo (click to enlrage).

Say it ain’t Quo! Prime, that midsize club people used to walk past on their way to Crobar/Mansion, is going to reopen using the old name Quo. Of all the joints that operated in the space, Quo is the most memorable. It’s like when they changed the Limelight name to Estate, then Avalon. Everybody still called it Limelight. Everybody always called it Quo. An insider tells me:

They renovated it so many times in such a short time that we feel they have overplayed the name change hand — and everyone refers to it as the Quo space anyway. After the change to Myst, Retox, Prime on a yearly basis — who is going to trust that this is a real renovation or real change? In my book — another new name will be lost in the shuffle again and a waste of everyone’s time and money. That said, the project is not about the name, but the product. It is a performance-driven nightclub driven with live interactive and integrated performances choreographed by Raven O (from the Box), as well as what we hope to be a strong calendar of live acts.

The renovation and nightclub design was done by Stonehill & Taylor. They hope to move away from the table/bottle “ultra lounge” era with a bigger dance floor and by taking away tables. They have taken down the wall between Myst/Retox and replaced it with a clear glass wall, creating a big-club experience. Mike Heller will handle PR/celeb bookings, and Antonio Fuccio of Georgica fame will be the day-to-day managing partner. M2 is doing well down the block, as the West Chelsea hood seems to be coming back from the abyss. Pink Elephant with Rocco Anacarola still on board, seems to have been annexed by its roommate M2 and celebrated its fifth anniversary with a nice crowd. Scores brings all the boys to the park, and Marquee is more than just stable . 27th Street is still a destination. Is it fabulous? Certainly not as it was, but it still brings in crowds. Just like that little electrical spark can start a big bad fire, as long as the cabarets are there, a revival can happen.

[Photo: Brian Caulfield]