Industry Insiders: Sal Imposimato, Behind the Music

Nightlife is a 24-hour job for Sal Imposimato, the regional director of entertainment for the Morgans Hotel Group (which includes the stylish Hudson, Royalton, Morgans, and Mondrian Soho hotels), who’s in charge of all nightlife programming.

Far from leisure-suited lounge singers and karaoke nights, these hotels host the hottest acts around, from the Kills at the Mondrian to the legendary parties at Good Units inside the Hudson, which have drawn crowds with top-notch turntablists like DJ Cassidy and Questlove, and even a Cinco de Mayo party complete with masked Mexican wrestlers. Although these events take plenty of daytime hustle to organize, he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I love to create, and New York is my canvas,” Imposimato says. “Working in nightlife and giving people an escape from their day-to-day reality is a great thing.”

Mondrian SoHo In-Room iPad: Virtual Access to NYC

Upon rising at the new Mondrian SoHo in New York City, your morning will start off like any other: Yawn. Stretch. Reach for iPad. Perhaps the latter hasn’t been part of your regular routine, per se, but after enjoying in-room technology that allows you to coordinate transportation, check flights, order room service, look at New York through the eyes of a local, make dinner reservations, and make housekeeping requests at the touch of a Steve Jobs-designed screen, how could you ever go back?

Powered by Intelity’s ICE Touch (Interactive Customer Experience — which is, apparently, one of the best in the land) software, all 270 guestrooms will feature an in-room iPad that will give guests the control to choose from 30 services and customize their experience.

Working hard to put concierge teams and city guides editors out of business, the iPad features The List, a selection of local must-see attractions developed in collaboration with UrbanDaddy, and nearby events and happenings of interest. It also provides free music downloads curated by RCRD LBL, and a customized playlist of ambient sleep sounds. Feeling lazy, but sober? Use the iPad to order items from a virtual mini-bar service — an amenity unique only to the Mondrian SoHo.

Working hard to put lazy staff members out of work, the iPad also helps property managers to track and chart guest requests and response times. As a result, hotel managers can pinpoint how quickly needs are being met, staff strengths and weaknesses and which products and services are most in demand. Big Brother is watching, but in this case, you sort of want him to.

“As we are constantly challenging ourselves to push the envelope and reinvent the guest experience, we feel this offering continues to set us apart,” said David Weidlich, Executive Vice President of Operations for Morgans Hotel Group. “Our newest feature will be our Minibar section, whereby a guest can order a wide arrange of curated items not typically available in a mini bar such as Flip Video cameras, Rogan men’s apparel, and a limited edition Derringer bike upon which to discover New York City.”

A wardrobe, a bike, a flip camera, and booze — all from your comfortable spot behind a computer screen. It’s like Second Life for your first life. image

Ian Schrager’s Enchanted Gardens

My club career was successful because I was lucky to have worked for and learned my craft from so many brilliant operators. As Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” I worked for Ian Schrager and his partner Steve Rubell at the Paladium. They operated Studio 54, which was without doubt the greatest club of all time. They were giants. In the world of clubs, they are our Babe Ruths, our Michael Jordans, our Peles. There has not been a club since their era that comes close to the experience they orchestrated. The times were different then. Disco was the music and nothing could be more fun. The sexual revolution and New Age drugs rocketed nightlife and the mix of fabulous gays, straights, rich, and poor to legendary frenzy. We clamored to hang with Steve, Ian, and their infamously famous friends. On the menu were Halston, Liza Minelli, Mick and Bianca, Truman Capote, Warhol, Calvin. Anything could be seen, had, heard, and done, and often. But the partiers had not yet seen the bill and danced to the beat oblivious to all the downsides. Then Steve passed and Andy Warhol passed and it was never the same.

Ian for his part never stopped moving, creating and changing the landscape of creativity. He grew utilizing his vision and his talents to create hotel empires. Morgans, The Paramount, The Royalton, The Hudson, and the amazing Gramercy Park Hotel are his local contributions. The Delano in Miami, The Sanderson and St Martin’s Lane hotels in London, The Clift in San Francisco and the Mondrian in Los Angeles were game changers. He is considered the creator of the “boutique hotel” concept. Now he’s partnering up with Marriot International for a hundred new projects.

When I worked for Steve and Ian I felt privileged. While the Palladium was highly successful financially, it was always squarely based in its glorious mission. It was there to be the creative nexus for New York. We spent money to make money and attention to every detail was the first order of every day. Until this interview I hadn’t talked to Ian for a long time. For awhile he lived around the corner from me in Nolita and I would see him on his bike or moving about. We had become distant over the years. I would read about him in the newspapers or magazines or hear a first-hand account from our mutual friend Arthur Weinstein. Talking to him for this interview was like we never lost touch. It brought back a zillion memories, echoes of joints and people and an age that defines so much of who we are today, who I am today. Ian showed me the way and I showed some others after that and so on and so forth. He is not done showing us how it is done. Wow! A hundred new joints!

Hi Ian, how are you? I’m fine, how ya doing?

I stayed at the Gramercy, as you know, recently, and it was an incredible experience. I really enjoyed myself. Well I’m glad you liked it buddy, we go back a long way. I’ve known you a long time. And I’m happy for your success. Very inventive.

Thanks, I keep you in mind also. I watch everything you do, and it’s pretty amazing how you play with those big boys and knock them off their feet. It’s amazing. Well thank you kiddo, thank you.

I went to the Hudson, which by the way is still beautiful. I went there the other day, they opened a new room and I wrote about it. The property is just amazing, timeless. It’s just beautiful. How was it downstairs? The new room down in the basement.

Good Units is very nice for events because it’s a blank page. It’s the emperor’s new clothes, so you can paint any picture you want on it. The new room Hudson Hall opened on the main level is really nice. They gave me a tour and I saw the ancient swimming pool, and that’s amazing. When they get that open it will be incredible. That’s great. It’s funny, at the time, the Hudson was done maybe ten years ago. I have some hotels done thirty years ago, never been changed. Everyone used to always think that they were trendy and they wouldn’t stand the test of time, but of course they do.

The key in design is balancing the new with the classic and the timeless. If you just do new, you’re a failure. If it won’t stand the test of time, then it’s a failure. I did Butter eight years ago, and the design and the place is just as relevant today. I didn’t know you did that. It’s just as hot today as it was then.

How do you think nightlife has changed since the days of Studio 54? From the business point of view, it’s completely changed. It’s completely upside down. When I was in the club business, and a lot of our friends were in the club business, everything culminated with you owning the space, and running the nightclub, and loving it, and being in the room there, and making sure everything was perfect, and so on and so forth. Now, nobody owns anything. Other people own the rooms, and you come in and you’re a promoter for the night. It’s just a completely different business. I think when we did it, it didn’t really take a lot of capital to do a club. There was some spontaneity and innocence involved with it. If you had a good idea, you could throw a party. I did my first nightclub for 27,000 dollars.

The Enchanted Garden? Right. Now, with all the regulations—exiting, and fire alarms, and sprinklers—which I’m sure are necessary, and I’m not saying they’re not good ideas, but with all those things, it requires, in some cases, several hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars, to do a night club. So therefore, young people get disenfranchised and can’t do it, and so the business has changed. I went into it because I had access to it. You didn’t need a lot of money, you just needed a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of passion, and a good idea. On the public side—I hope this isn’t too cerebral—but I think the demographic has changed somewhat. There was much more diversity when we were doing nightclubs. When my friend Arthur and myself were doing them it was a mixture of old and young, and rich and poor, and black and white, and straight and gay. And you don’t really see that anymore. It’s a lot more of a homogenous kind of thing, and more of a pickup place kind of thing. So I don’t think you have that kind of energy, that kind of electricity floating in the air like we used to.

I agree 100 percent. When you did Enchanted Garden, you were partners with Steve Rubell. You did Studio 54, you did Palladium with him. and these were some of the greatest clubs of all time. What was your role as opposed to Steve’s role? We were partners, and like all good partners, we were 50-50 partners. There were areas of influence obviously, but they weren’t mutually exclusive. I wasn’t the inside guy and Steve wasn’t the outside guy. I don’t think that’s constructive to the relationship. Primarily, I was involved with conceptualizing the places, and building them, and doing the parties, but Steve was involved in that too. Steve was out front, dealing with a lot of the people, but he wasn’t doing that exclusively. For instance, when Studio 54 opened, I might go to Steve and say, Steve, there’s Halston, go get friendly with him. When you’re partners and you share half the cake with your partner, you’re both making the contributions. Steve and I knew the division of responsibility, but it’s hard to define. It wasn’t simply inside/outside. I was more interested in the building and creating of it and Steve was more interested in the social end of it, but I wasn’t merely an inside guy, and Steve wasn’t merely an outside guy. I think it’s a long-winded explanation to go through exact, specific things, but there were not areas of specific exclusivity, I can tell you that.

When that horrible movie, 54, came out, Calvin Klein was at that club I was running, Life, at the time. And I walked up to Calvin and I said, have you seen the movie? And he said, no he hasn’t, and he won’t go. And I said to him, it’s a shame that the only image that the public sees of Steve Rubell was the Mike Meyers version of it. Which was certainly not what Steve Rubell was about. Calvin said to me that he had traveled the whole world, and he has met kings and queens, and CEOs, but he has never met anybody more charismatic, or more intelligent, than Steve Rubell. In a couple of words, who was Steve Rubell and what was it that set him apart from the rest? I think whenever you do something that you’re really good at, and you really love it, it’s a gift. Steve really loved people. And he was really empathetic with them, and he was incredibly enthusiastic and compassionate about life, and I think it was contagious. When he talked to someone, he really and sincerely was truly interested in what they were saying, and people react to that, they gravitate to it. Andy Warhol was one of the first people who realized that Steve was a star when we first opened up Studio 54, because he had that kind of presence, that enthusiasm. He was fun to be around. when most of your life you’re occupied by being around boring people or social-climbers. Combining that with a razor-sharp intellect made him really a special guy. We’d be talking business at three o’clock in the morning, and you wouldn’t think that he remembered what he said that night. But the next morning he’d get up, and no matter what he would remember. I think in the last several years, there are certain times when people pass on, they touch you. And they have an impact on you. When Andy died, who would’ve thought, that when he passed, he touched people. And they responded to him. He was fun to be around, and he never thought of himself as being bigger, or more important than the person he was talking to.

When I ran clubs, in my mind every day when I went to work, I said to myself, I am going to run this club this night as if Steve and Ian are walking in, or Andy Warhol. Those were my icons. Every night when I looked around, I said, is my club ready if you guys walked in? That was my standard. I felt when Steve and Andy died, that was an end of a certain era. You of course moved on to hotels, but the club era died. That was when the music actually died for me. I think it had a lot to do with all of that. Not in the way people saw it, but when you think of things culture-wise, and the way things evolve, and the sexual revolution that started in the late 60s. And gay people were emerging, and gay people were starting the cultural trend. During this melting pot there was this incredible enthusiasm where you could really do whatever it is you wanted, and there were no consequences to be paid. When AIDS came in, it changed everything. There were consequences, there was a bill to pay. So that indulgence stopped and it all went away. I think it’s funny because when Steve passed is also when your right to music changed. But that’s when disco music and everything seemed to come to a head stop.

As I mentioned, I stayed at The Gramercy recently and it was a great experience on every level. It reminded me of when I used to work for you at the Palladium. The attention to detail was beyond belief. You build empires now and with these empires and so many properties in diverse and faraway places, how do you stay hands-on? Have you learned to delegate? How easy or hard was that for you to do? It’s always an issue for me, delegating. Because everything I do I think is a personal reflection on me. I’m maniacal about every detail, and I think it’s very personal. For me, I never know what detail is responsible for pushing something over the top, and therefore every detail becomes a matter of life or death. I think that’s been the key. I’ve been fortunate to be successful, and I think anyone who is successful has that kind of mania. It’s not quite certain what it is that makes something so successful. So therefore every single aspect, every single element, every single fact, the height of the table, everything is important. It’s like something becomes combustible, and you put it all together and it makes a spark. And you can’t really talk about that.

Thank you for teaching me that. I’ve carried that lesson I learned from you throughout my endeavors. When one walks through The Gramercy and it’s Warhol, it’s Hirst, it’s Richard Prince, it’s Cy Twombly, Haring, Basquiat, and many others. They adorn The Gramercy like a museum or an art gallery—is it a matter of associating your brand with this work, or is it more of a design decision? Julian Schnabel’s and your vision, elevating the design to a level that no one can reach? It is after all, 50 to 60 million dollars worth of art. No, buddy, it has nothing to do with that. You know what it is? I want to say it quite simply: It’s always the ideas that interest me. Andy started it by taking the pretension out of art and making it accessible to everybody. It’s really that idea. To me, why should art be limited to just rich people who can enjoy it in their home? Or you go to a museum and you have to crane your neck like you’re in a subway station looking at the art. Why can’t it be in an environment in a public facility like a hotel? Where you can come in, sit down, and have a drink. You can be sitting and having a conversation with someone, and look over your shoulder and see some great art. It was just that idea that I found interesting. It has nothing to do with the art, it has nothing to do with branding—it’s just wow, what a great idea to make this kind of stuff accessible to lots of people. Whether they come in for a drink at the nightclub or they stay in the hotel, it just seemed like a modern, great idea—something that Andy started, and just making it accessible to lots of people. I actually think that making that art accessible like that is one of the greatest ideas to come out of The Gramercy.

How do you obtain the rotating masterpieces at the Gramercy? It doesn’t seem difficult to get people to lend us the art, because a lot of the modern pieces are quite large and collectors don’t have a lot of space in their apartments. They love the act of showing it at the hotel and giving it a good platform. So we keep rotating it and turning it around. So they were there, they move out, and others take their place. And it keeps moving like that.

At the Palladium, the Michael Todd Room was filled with these Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings. In the end, where did they go? We were very much into the arts at the Palladium as well, as you know. And it was the same idea there as well. There, those two Basquiats that we had in the Michael Todd Room, the estate took them back because everyone thought those were museum quality. They’re quite large and his father now owns them.

What drives you now? Is it the art of creating something? It can’t be the money at this point. It was never about the money. The money is an interesting byproduct Steve. You want it so you can support your lifestyle, I suppose. But I could never be motivated just by the money. It wouldn’t be enough. The money is a natural consequence. I’m motivated by doing something that blows people away, and doing something special, and doing something that people have never seen before. It still turns me on. It’s still my reason for getting up and working. It was really never about the money. It never was and it never will be.

Retirement. I heard those words mentioned a few years ago. It doesn’t sound like you’re a person anywhere near retirement. I hear there’s a hundred hotel projects. What’s the end game? There is no end game. What you learn is it’s just a trip. That’s the only thing there is. There’s no destination, it’s just a trip. You enjoy the fame when you’re fourteen, or forty, or eighty, it doesn’t matter. I’m just enjoying the trip and I still love what I’m doing, so I’ll keep doing it. The minute that I don’t, that’s when I’ll stop.

Arthur Weinstein, you mentioned him. I understand that for many years when he was ill and dying you were helping out with the money. You do things like that quietly, as you’ve always been a very quiet person. You’re talking right now, but you always keep your cards close to your vest. Tell me about Arthur Weinstein. Tell the people who read me who he was. Arthur was like a Damon Runyon-esque kind of character in the nightlife business, but I don’t think people ever really understood the kind of character, and that he was a real gentlemen and a real mensch, and I don’t think people really got that. I always understood it, and I think the way he died and dealt with his illness was with such dignity. It wasn’t a surprise to me and it reinforced what I had always thought about him. You had to see through his scruffy persona and the way he might have looked from the outside, but on the inside there was a reason that I had been friendly with him for thirty or forty years. New York nightlife is the worse for his passing.

NYC Fashion Week Hotels: Who’s Showing Where?

imageSo you want to run into a model. Or ten. Here’s your guide to which hotels to stalk for the next week:

1. The Bowery Hotel (East Village) – Corpus is showing here, and there should be a bunch of parties here as well. 2. Plaza Hotel (Midtown West) – With Luca Luca, Monique Lhuiller, and Douglas Hannant, this is a safe bet to catch some fashion royalty. 3. Jane Hotel (West Village) – Cynthia Rowley is showing in the Ballroom. Hopefully the residents won’t protest the show.

4. The Carlyle (Upper East Side) – Catalin Botazatu Couture and Barbara Tfank are showing here. 5. The Waldorf-Astoria (Midtown East) – Vocce Couture, Almond Tree, and Christina Nitopi Menswear are all walking the runway here. Male models abound. 6. Soho House (Meatpacking District) – Mulberry in the library. Hotties in the lobby. 7. Tribeca Grand Hotel (Tribeca) – Form and Frank Tell are both here. 8. Morgans Hotel (Murray Hill) – Koi Suwannagate’s show is here 9. Bryant Park Hotel (Midtown West) – Natorious by Natori and Amanda Pearl are showing here, and there’s all the hubbub right outside the door. 10. Hotel on Rivington (Lower East Side) – Don the Verb inside, hot hipsters outside.

Morgans Hotels Drops the F-Bomb

imageAs in, they dropped it, yo — then they had to, well, drop it. The Morgans Hotel group, with properties in New York and Miami et cetera, allegedly was not allowed to place big ol’ “Fuck the Recession” ads in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Gay wedding announcements are one thing, fellows, but let’s keep the advertising pages sophisticated, all right? (So, what’s the opposite of viral advertising? Retroviral advertising?) After the jump, the ad campaign’s “memo to the recession,” which also ends with an eff.

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The Mondrian Gets Tivo

imageThe Mondrian South Beach, set to open December 1, is adding another feature to its roster: Tivo. The Mondrian opted for the deluxe Tivo package so guests will be able to record two shows while watching a third. If this pilot Tivo program goes well, look for the Tivo at all the Morgans Group Hotels, which include: New York’s Morgans Hotel, the Royalton, Hudson Hotel; Miami’s Delano, The Shore Club; Los Angeles’ Mondrian; San Francisco’s Clift Hotel; Scottsdale’s Mondrian, Las Vegas’ Hard Rock Hotel, and London’s St. Martin’s Lane and the Sanderson. All the more reason to order room service.

Industry Insiders: Jeffrey Chodorow, Fusion Fan

Jeffrey Chodorow, owner of China Grill, Asia de Cuba, Kobe Club, Ono, and other esteemed global eateries, dishes on Schrager, disses on DiSpirito, then row-row-rows his colorful boat ashore. Point of Origin: I was born in the Bronx, but my father died the year I was born, so my mother and I moved to Miami. I grew up in Miami Beach, where we lived with her sister. They were both manicurists in a Cuban barbershop, and they used to go to Havana for the weekend — which, incidentally, is how Asia de Cuba eventually came to be. I opened China Grill because I knew the Asian and Cuban pantry, so it seemed like a natural. I grew up very poor in a very wealthy Miami area where we went through school drills, hiding under our desks during the Cuban missile crisis. Some friends built a bomb shelter in their property which was nicer than our apartment! This was before Castro came in.

Occupations: With my very logical legal background, I got seduced by the restaurant business in Los Angeles. I was supposed to buy a football team, and I met this guy at Spago. The next day, I was having a meeting with the bank that had the stadium in Foxboro, and we stopped at Chinois on Main in Santa Monica. Next thing I knew, I was back in New York, opening China Grill. The guy who had the lease where I wanted the restaurant at 20th and 6th reneged, and another friend who was a broker had a space available immediately under the CBS building at 6th and 52nd. I hated it. It was shaped like a dumbbell, a big barn with a narrow corridor, but the architect said we could make it work. I made two decisions that, in hindsight, were the major factors in the success of China Grill: I moved the entrance from 52nd to 53rd, across from MoMA and the Hilton. At that time, all the customers came from the Upper East Side for the nighttime business. All my friends in the restaurant business said “Four restaurant have failed there,” and I was obligated to be open for lunch. I figured the way to get people in there for dinner was to exempt the first six months from lunch, so when it opened, it only opened for dinner. All the people at CBS complained! I needed to force people to come for dinner, and eventually opened for lunch.

Everybody in the industry speculates that you and Ian Schraeger met in jail. Yes? No? This whole episode is a weird story-in-a-story. By 1987, Ian Schraeger and Steve Rubell were already out of the Morgans Hotel and into the Royalton; their financiers were doing a building up on 6th Avenue. They were supposed to do the restaurant with Brian McNally, but they couldn’t get a liquor license (Brian didn’t have any money at the time), so they wanted to meet me. They came and asked if I’d like to do 44 in the Royalton for them. I met Steve first. We share a passion for Twizzlers licorice, and there was a jar in his office. Then I met Ian. They both told me the story of how the Royalton was going to be the next generation of a social gathering. The whole thing sort of seduced me into the mix. It was like oil and water, but they put up all of the money for everything but the liquor license. I don’t know why this was, but Ian said, “We’ll put up all the money for the hotel, and you put up all of the money to open the restaurant (payroll, graphics, etc).” There was a hitch. They wanted me to buy a Phillipe Starck hostess stand, a kind of Winged Victory of burled walnut that was tapered from the top down. It cost $30,000. Ian said, “Look, Jeff, if you want to do the deal, you’ve got to buy the stand.” It was impractical, there was no top, there was no drawer space, there was no place for the phone — I had to put Velcro on it — but it was a gorgeous piece of furniture. I put the stand next to the hotel column, so when you enter the hotel, you look down the blue carpet and see this beautiful piece of furniture.

China Grill in Manhattan was on fire, too and before long, Ian called me, “Nobody said the idea wouldn’t travel; how about you do the space in Morgans Hotel? I know it’s a bad location, but I’ll give you a fabulous deal.” I only made one condition after the Royalton: I wasn’t enjoying it because I felt pigeonholed to do a hotel restaurant. I called Ian and told him that I wanted to do a restaurant in a hotel, not a hotel restaurant. The deal was done. Jefferson Carey was my first chef of Asia de Cuba, and I felt the menu had to be a certain type. At the time there was no fusion, so it was revolutionary in those days. But I thought if I could create demand from outside the hotel, it would work. I was set on Chino Latino restaurants. He was amazed. He had just gotten engaged, and his fiancé was Cuban. Later, the New York Times said the newest thing was a Nuevo Latino restaurant — mine. Meanwhile, Brian had opened in Ian’s Delano in Miami, and it was doing good business, but doing no money. So Ian asked me to take it over in 1996. It became Asia de Cuba.

Any non-industry projects in the works? I would say, I’m interested mostly in food related things, my other big interest is IICA contemporary art at [alma mater] Penn, and I have donated a reasonable amount of money to the school. My son was also at Penn and is interested in contemporary art, plus I thought it was an opportunity to do something. Also, there are a lot of creative people out there … great cooks who aren’t chefs. Ask Rocco [DiSpirito], one of the contestants on Dancing with the Stars!

Favorite Hangs: My favorite hangouts are not all in New York. I love some of the Cuban places in Miami like Yakosan, a place in North Miami Beach, a Japanese tapas bar with all small plates. I like quirky things. They also have spaghetti bolognese; all of the sushi chefs hang out there. I like Versailles; Ciochi, the place on Sixth and Collins, a Cuban hole-in-the-wall for the Cuban sandwiches and black bean soup, and the Latin American Cafe. In New York, the Cuban hangouts like Park Blue with its list of half-bottles of wine and phenomenal drinks; Sakagura on 43rd between 2nd and 3rd, on the north side of the street, in a white office building … on the floor there’s a little sign for Sakagura. You walk past the front desk to the fire exit and down the stairs to the wooden door that leads to the sake bar. No sushi, just small plates of Japanese food, across from Sushi Yasuda. In the basement, it’s all surprise. I like the old style places. I love Dan Tana’s in LA. I love Nanni’s on 46th. Old time places … they’re not trying to do anything modern. There are certain dishes on the menu where the food is great. They’re hangouts I gravitate to — the old stuff. I try all the new stuff.

Industry Icons: I think the reason my relationship with Ian works so well is that we had so much mutual respect for each other. He gave me the ability to think beyond what I knew. I realized when I got back together with him that if you looked at it objectively, it would make no sense, but he was so successful that you couldn’t pick it apart as to what made it so successful. When I opened Asia de Cuba in Morgans Hotel, he wanted to send out a postcard. So I get the mock-up, and the front is like a beautiful photo of Morgans with three doors, a great postcard. The estimated price was $80,000 — and it was 1997! I almost fell off my chair. That was why our relationship worked: It may not have made sense to me, but if he felt passionate, I respected his vision and he respected my business acumen. Ian Schrager and Drew Nieporent, we’re all battling the same battles. I have tremendous respect for them, and I don’t view it as competition. I feel that we’re just up against the same thing.

Who are some people you’re likely to be seen with? I think I’m kind of a private person. I’d rather spend time with my family than anybody. Of course, we socialize, but there’s nobody in particular that I spend an inordinate amount of time with.

Projections: Right now, I’m very focused on international, and I want to do India and China. I just got back from Monte Carlo. It’s such an international place, and you wouldn’t know there was a global community there.

What are you doing tonight? Last night, I took my wife to Georgica Pond for three hours with lobster. I was on the phone the entire day and I was actually impressed that I could row that far! But I was an Eagle Scout and had a canoeing badge. Tonight, I’m having dinner with my eldest son who graduated from Wharton last year, and is going to law school. I’ve offered him a job! We opened the Kobe Beach Club in the Hamptons next to the Lily Pond, and he decided to open Kobe Hot Dogs! When I was doing Ono, he was closely watching! He went out and got the equipment, brought the chef and the relishes and these special iced teas and a papaya drinks … he’s a bright kid. I have a 19-year-old who wants to be a sushi chef. He’s at his first year at Boston University. A few years ago he wanted an apprenticeship in Tokyo in a sushi restaurant in the Chanel building. So being a foodie has really paid off for the whole family.

Industry Insiders: Richie Notar, Concierge to the World

He’s literally run the gamut from shirtless busboy at Studio 54 (identified in Anthony Haden-Guest’s book on the disco as “Pecker 54”) to white-tie hotelier to the stars. Richie Notar is a hometown boy made good.

Point of Origin: I was born in Jamaica, Queens. I used to play ball on the Trumps’ lawn, and now I know all of them socially. When I was about 15, the owners of Studio 54 — Ian Schraeger and Steve Rubell — had a place called Enchanted Garden in Queens, their foray into the club business … a little-known fact. They wanted to upgrade from guidos to celebrities. A friend asked if I wanted to hang out there with him for, like, $2 an hour, so we were washing dishes! This little guy comes in and says, “What are you doing?” and I said “I’m washing dishes.” And he said, “I like your style, so you should come out and meet the people.” It was Steve Rubell.

Before long, I was driving for him, and then he asked me to work at their new place: Studio 54. Nobody knew the magnitude of what it was about to become. So I started as a busboy there. And, incidentally, the reason we didn’t wear shirts was because I was wearing the uniform — shorts and a vest — and about half an hour into the opening, a girl “borrowed” my vest, so I was shirtless. Steve went nuts. He kept saying, “Those outfits cost us a fortune, blahblahblah …” And then a light bulb went on over Steve’s head. He realized that he had some of the cutest, hottest boy bodies in town in those vests and ordered everybody to take them off.

Yeah? At least I didn’t steal your socks. Thanks! It’s basically like a gym. We had these tube socks, gym shorts, and a vest. The vest went, and the rest is history. Showtime is now doing a series on Studio, and the writer is calling me this week to consult. I’m in Anthony Haden-Guest’s book as “Pecker 54.” I remember Disco Sally and all of the regulars. The nightlife thing was strange in the Seventies. You could be doing anything in town — charity gigs, dinner — but after midnight, you had to be at Studio 54 every single night, and Sunday was the best. It is really remarkable that the psychological timing was right. After Studio 54, I worked at Morgans Hotel — the first hotel that they gave their employees designer clothes by Armani and Calvin Klein (they were often better dressed than the hotel guests). New York was very staid by the Eighties, and I think we’re going to see a transformation in every aspect of fun now. In a year or two, people will break out again. Everyone is so busy on their Crackberries that nobody has time to have real fun. There may be three or four hot venues, but you’ve got to put in the work to make the great place where everybody has to be like Studio … the add-a-link tour with 20 minutes everywhere, and then a place to meet up.

Occupations: Socializing is a lot of work. I’m out at the each venue, and from what I see, I’d like to make it fun again. Today, it’s like keeping up with the Joneses: If somebody misses a party, they consider the whole evening a failure! For some, it’s never enough to just enjoy an evening spent at one place. That’s why I like staying at one person’s house out at the beach — like Peter Beard’s place. And that’s why this was the summer that wasn’t. I work every day … besides the maintenance on the Nobu restaurants, we’re staffing Dubai, which is opening next month. It’s like Vegas on steroids. We’re in the Atlantis with Sol Kirsner, and the most difficult thing we face opening anywhere is finding employees. Whenever I open a restaurant, I take a key employee — a head chef, a head waiter — and work around them. Anyone who is running a restaurant for me started as a waiter or a host. “Luke” was a waiter in Vegas; I moved him to Hawaii to be my manager, and now he’s committed to go to Dubai for a year.

Then at the end of December, we open in Moscow — it’s like the Wild West. We get so many Russians at the place in London: price is not a thing for them, and it’s good for us. But we need consistency there and everywhere. We have a great following in London, and I think it’s going to work in Dubai and Moscow. These are already locked-in. I just had a meeting at the Bel Air Hotel about the new hotels. I loved the old Brown Derby and Chasen’s. I love old Hollywood — and I’d like to put “newness” into Sardi’s. We’ve got two new Nobu Hotels — one on Wall Street, the other in Herzliya — not as far apart as they look. We did an event for the Children’s Hospital in the Holy Land, and after the fundraiser, I had my first watsu massage right by the Dead Sea. Herzliya is the St. Tropez of Israel, and the hotel will be right on the marina, overlooking the sea.

Any non-industry projects in the works? I’m really involved in animal rights, and I have four dogs and am into dog walking. What I’m trying to do — as time gives us more power to do good — is to set up something that is good for the ocean. We make our lives out of fish now at Nobu. But I have a two-year-old daughter, and I want to put something together for her that will preserve the oceans, the fish, the mammals, the sea life. It’s important to get more knowledge about the environment we all share, above and below water. We’re all now just putting fences around things under water, just making too much of an underwater zoo for my taste. We have a restaurant in Malibu, so while I was there, I fell in love with ocean life. Dolphins are very holistic, and I’m becoming more and more aware of what we have to do to promote life in the future. I take the blue kelp supplements grown underwater in Monaco.

Favorite Hangs: I don’t have a favorite anything, it’s like asking you which kid is my favorite. I like the neighborhood joints. I would like to have been a part of the beat generation in the Village. I live by Central Park in Manhattan. It’s my oasis. I love 103rd Street and the Gardens, and the turtle pond at 109th. My wife is currently training for the marathon, so I occasionally run with her. She’s from Dublin and is over there now in training — and trying to keep it together with all the social stuff, which isn’t helping with the marathon training. Out here on Long Island, I go out for Montauk eats, meaning that I like the cooler and the hipper. I tend to adhere to artists, creative people out here.

Industry Icons: I was very obligated to Steve Rubell and Ian Schraeger: I absorbed their personalities, but incorporated what Andre Balazs has done with his hotels and there’s Jeff Klein’s Sunset Towers: it’s small and he’s kept the integrity of it, besides: he reminds me of Steve Rubell — he’s very in tune. I’m fascinated by hotels, just because there’s so much that goes on there, not just the restaurants and the lobbies and bars. I don’t like what’s too overdone, or where the service is crap, or where they have idiot models behind the front desk.

Who are some people you’re likely to be seen with, other than every model in the city, of course (who doesn’t work the front desk of a hotel, that is)? My wife and daughter, but it’s not that I want to be seen with anybody, it’s about my agenda. I like creative people: Howard Stern is my best friend. Every night at one of my restaurants, there’s something going on, and just being at one of my restaurants satisfies my social life. At any one of them, for instance, you might see the agent for the Williams sisters who invites me to a party, or there could be some guys who were friends with me long ago who invite me to join them. I like eclectic crowds, nothing obvious. Something that’s made my life interesting is that I can be sitting on the stoop drinking beer, then join a bunch of people at Nobu to drink champagne. Locking yourself into a particular crowd is too limiting. In Europe, they turn their phones off during weekends. I like the mentality!

Projections: I want people who know the trend to work for me, but I don’t want them to get swept up in it. Trends change. Go back to the formula that’s made you successful. You have to expand and keep edgy — to experiment. But go back to what made you successful. We’re going to embark on a great hotel division. My focus is to create a lifestyle complete with pacifying every one’s highest iconic ideals. At Nobu, we’re kind of allergic to the economy: we’re fine; we’re great. Best grade of sushi, best grade of clientele without hurting the environment.

I want to be doing resorts. We were in the Japanese mountains at the mineral baths, the most soothing place I’ve ever been in my life. I was looking at Ram’s Head in Shelter Island with Andre Balazs and at a place down the block. You want an oasis that’s achievable to go for a weekend. With everybody stressing about being the next millionaire, we need a hotel out there like any from the Aman chain in the Far East, but with the best service and much better food. I love that whole vibe with a great spa, meditation, yoga. We work really hard, but we’ve got to calm down very hard, too. I want to know what the next Hamptons is going to be. Offshore? A skiing place in Idaho? You’re almost a victim of your own fabulousness in a place like Aspen. I’m like concierge to the world. I don’t have to be in the right restaurant and have the right table to have fun.

What are you doing tonight? I’m decompressing out East before my family arrives on the Island tomorrow, so I’m going to the Clam Bar in Montauk and having a glass of wine with something grilled, then going to bed early to rejuvenate. I’ve got my laptop and am doing work, but I’m trying to relax, be healthy. Right after Labor Day, I’m just screwed work-wise with restaurants and hotels openings. We’re injecting capital into the group from London to Dubai to Moscow. I’ve been beating up my body for years, so now, I’m in post-Olympics, pre-marathon training!