Talking New Year’s Eve at the Dream Downtown With Jonathan Schwartz

With Christmas finally behind us, the club world races towards its biggest payday and biggest headache: New Year’s Eve. I always looked at New Year’s Eve as an opportunity to make a statement. I always booked a big act and great DJ’s with the philosophy that I would get everyone left in town to come down and have a great party, while those who had shipped off to exotic lands would be aware of our greatness from afar. With that in mind I booked Grace Jones (often), Isaac Hayes, Eartha Kitt, Sandra Bernhardt, Debby Harry, Psychedelic Furs, Cab Calloway, and many other great acts to extend our cachet to the next year. The cold hard winter looms and revenue streams dry up. Money made during December and on the Eve will help venues get by. Most joints opt out and let a company like Joonbug handle New Year’s Eve. Joonbug and other event companies pay flat fees and sell tickets to their fan base. The worry and work of promoting the night is farmed out and a guarantee replaces the anxiety. This year I was booked early as a DJ for Marble Lane at the Dream Downtown. Jonathan Schwartz has taken over the entire joint and is hard at work filling multiple rooms. Besides little ol’ me he has the DJ duo The Chainsmokers, DJ M.O.S., Francis Mercier, and Joey Greiner. I just got word that Nas will be hosting. This sounds like fun. I caught up with Jonathan and asked him all about it.

Taking over the Dream Downtown for New Year’s Eve is ambitious. How did you come to the decision to do this?

Last year, I took over part of the Dream Downtown (the Gallery Event space and Marble Lane) and we sold it out easily and ended general admissions prices at an NYC all-time high of $1k per ticket. So we thought this year OFFER MORE, make New Year’s Eve an entire property event including: The Gallery & Marble Lane (pictured) hosted by Nas with DJ’s Steve Lewis, MOS, The Chainsmokers and more… PH-D with DJ Phresh overlooking the Manhattan skyline, and "Below the Dream," our most intimate space for 125 guests, featuring music by DJ Cameron Smalls. I figured now we have something for everybody.

Each of the rooms has an established year-round identity. Did this identity affect programming? What is going on in each venue?

Gallery is an awesome raw event space. It screams "cool" and "big room fun experience" to me. Past events here have included the Victoria’s Secret show after-party and Marc Jacobs after-party, so this was the perfect room for me to have Nas host later in the evening and let The Chainsmokers play their big room house to bring in the new year. Marble Lane is a restaurant by trade, but when transformed into a lounge for New Year’s Eve makes for an amazing set up. Marble Lane became the "it" place to hang last year at the Dream Downtown first annual New Year’s Eve event with music by Questlove and DJ Reach. This year we keep the cool with Steve Lewis, and the amazing mash-up set of MOS. PH-D is New York’s top rooftop space, boasting everyone’s favorite weekly Saturday party, "Sunset Saturdays." PH-D is one of the best rooms you could ever spend a New Year’s Eve in, with the view of New York City and the amazing hospitality they provide. Below the Dream will be for those who want to go out on New Year’s, but keep it super sexy and intimate without the big room hassle. DJ Cameron Smalls will be there with a mash-up set of hip-hop, rock, electronic music, and more, keeping this room the most private cozy spot in the building. By embracing what each room has to offer, the Dream Downtown is the #1 destination for its versatility, and this was the vision from day one. Party, sleek, intimate, rooftop views, great music, great service, is what the Dream Downtown will offer.

How do you get the right people into the right venue?

PH-D has its own ticket type, allowing tickets buyers for PH-D access only for the rooftop. Gallery and Marble Lane have their own ticket types for general admission and tables. Below the Dream has its own ticket type as well. But of course, we do have limited all-access passes available which will get you into any room on the property.

What is your role at Strategic Group?

My role has evolved over the years, handling our headlining DJ’s, promoters, VIP guests, marketing, really anything to improve the business while working with the team (Noah, Judy, Andrew, Rich, and many more) on the latest focus: gearing up as a partner for Marquee NY, coming in 2013!

Are you learning the back-of-the-house stuff, or is marketing/promotion your ambition?

My goal is to become a "360 operator" and learn more each day. Very few people in our business are 360 degrees in their understanding of both front and back-of-the-house hospitality. I’ve learned a ton about back of the house the past two years but will continue to learn more until I’m a complete 360 guy. I think I’m getting close.

What is the vibe this New Year’s Eve? Is it is escapist, celebratory, reflective, bonkers?

The vibe this year is cool and celebratory. Be in the cool NYC party with the best DJ’s, best crowd that’s in NYC on New Year’s, and hosted by Nas. New Year’s is celebratory and our lineup, promotions, and Nas is just very cool, I don’t see anyone else doing what we have created here. Seems to me its either go to a cool hotel party, or an EDM concert like Armin Van Buuren at Pier 36.

Why the hell did you hire me for New Year’s Eve except for this article?

Had to hire Steve Lewis when it got presented to me as an option by Adam Alpert of 4am DJ’s. I actually think Steve that you were The first DJ I confirmed on the event. An article is great of course, but when you have a guy like yourself who has been to about 30 New Year’s Eve events, I entrust the music in Marble Lane to you and DJ MOS.

Predictions About The Revamped Marquee

I will be attending Marquee on Wednesday to see what I will see. I expect a Vegas-style club geared toward electronic dance music (EDM), with a room to dance and a room for corporate clients to have events. In the early stages, I consulted on the layout, but I’m not involved in the design now. I designed the first incarnation and a couple of reduxes since. The late, great Philip Johnson got involved at the last minute in the original design and added greatness to my humble offerings. It may have been his last project. Over the years, Jason Strauss, a partner, would ask me how I ranked Marquee in the all-time list of great clubs. I usually had it down around number 25, but with the caveat that time will tell. This latest redux says that Marquee’s story has not been fully written. It certainly dominated its decade and it certainly wasn’t all about black cards buying bottles, although that is a great part of its legacy.

Marquee took bottle service to new heights. It was a huge part of the bottle-model, table-service revolution that went global. Yet, there were hipster nights with Wednesday’s so-called “rock night” lasting for 6 or 7 years. I remember feeling great joy while sitting with Paul Sevigny and friends in the mezzanine. Marquee was fun. Celebrities came as often as sparklers on bottles. Over the year, the paint faded and the luster of it all moved to other venues. Many didn’t even realize it was still there. It was always making money, living on reputation and remembrance and professionalism. Tao Group or Strategic Group or whatever the corporate name at the time built other icons like Avenue and Lavo and PH-D and, and, and…and the crowd moved there. And then they built a club in Vegas, and the Marquee brand was reinvented as the highest-grossing joint ever. It even had an outpost way out in Australia.

As the 2000s meant bottle service, the 2010s are all about EDM. Marquee NY will be a hub, a routing point for the organization’s big name and DJ packages. Marquee NY will belie the slogan, “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas.” To some extent, a Vegas production-marketing-big club experience will settle on 27th and 10th. A nightclub pro told me yesterday that he believes it will dominate. He feels it will redefine the whole scene. So I guess in a few years I’ll call up Jason Strauss and utter a single word, a number like “9,” and imagine the smile on his handsome and successful face. Congratulations to Noah and Jason and Mark and Rich and the other Rich and Andrew and Wass and all the players to be named later. To all the players who work so hard and make it look so easy.

Tonight I will scoot down to Mister H at the Mondrian Hotel Soho to visit Louis Mandelbaum on the occasion of his birthday. I know Louis as Louis XIV, his DJ moniker. We teamed up on New Year’s Eve at Marble Lane, also owned by those guys up above. Louis will DJ and host, and a good time is ensured for all.

From Avenue to Bantam to the Diner: The Never-Ending Night

I try not to write too much about what you already know. Everyone knows the bottle clubs, the scene clubs, the celebrity, the jet-set joints where money is no object – but then again, it is the object. These places are often considered commonplace by the common man who dwells in hipster havens and dive bars. That perception is wrong. There is validity to what these operators offer, although they aren’t all things to all people. Most people can’t afford to party there or they lack the looks or connections to pass through their velvet ropes. Once inside there is always action. Although the bottom line is the bottom line, as it is in most businesses (including the nightclub business), these clubs deliver a quality good time to their often well-know audiences. The DJs often play a set that contains crowd-pleasing, familiar tracks, but the DJs themselves are great DJs and giving the people what they want makes it fun -and what in the name of God is wrong with pleasing a crowd?

Last night I whisked myself to Avenue for club mogul Noah Tepperberg’s birthday. He co-owns a lot of places. Off the top of my head, he has pieces of Marquee (NYC, Vegas, Australia), Lavo (NYC, Vegas), Tao (NYC, Vegas), Marble Lane, Ph-D Rooftop, the aforementioned Avenue, Artichoke Pizza. There are all sorts of pool entities and spin-offs of these places now. He has many reasons to be cheerful, despite being half the man he used to be. Well, not exactly half, but he has lost a lot of weight by watching what he eats and drinks, and working out with a new trainer who Noah introduced to me last night. Avenue was packed with the beautiful, the rich, and the famous last night. The energy was through the roof. I’m not going to mention the celebrities that I saw, as that comes with the no price for admission. Avenue is a gossip-free zone and those that go know that.

We bolted into the night and popped by 1OAK, which was just getting started. A late-night rush comes from sister space The Darby Downstairs which closes early by NYC standards. The Butter Group operators, which own these properties and Butter, understand that after a while, crowds want to hop, skip, and jump elsewhere, so they engineer that hop-over to another one of their spaces. Thus, 1OAK gets a big late boost. We chatted up a looking-real-good Richie Romero and said hello to all the familiar faces of the vibrant staff as we headed into the night. We strolled to No. 8, where Amanda danced with Amy Sacco who was simply being wonderful. I hadn’t been before, as I rarely get over to this hood during the week. Currently, they aren’t open on Saturdays, but will be when the summer spins away. I loved No. 8. The music was amazing. Amy, one of the best operators in this business, was an active part of the action. At 8, I saw countless familiar faces. The crowd was mixed and adult and I loved it.

Still, the night had me moving, and we headed to The Electric Room, where Angelo made sure we were happy. Nur Kahn is in Italy with The Kills. In the past, when Nur traveled, The Electric Room often lacked…electricity. He and I talked about that a couple months ago. Last night, the place was pumping. Amanda said, and I quote, "The thing about this place is that it never compromises. When you walk in the door, you always hear great music and find yourself amongst a cool crowd.” She isn’t taking over this column, but she is spot-on about this spot. The Electric Room was fabulous.

Outside we ran into pal Dean Winters who was out causing mayhem but not as seen on TV. We chatted him up in front of the Dream Hotel, where we also ran into Limelight producer Jen Gatien. Jen, me, and mine spent an hour trading war stories and catching up. I told her she gave me yet another 15 minutes of fame as Limelight is now On Demand on Showtime. I am getting stoppedeverywhere. Someone asked me who I wanted to play me in the sure-to-come epic movie about my life, and as I looked at this silly person, I reached into my bag of stock answers for occasions like this and deadpanned the answer: “… Denzel.”

After the very brief chuckles, we headed to The Darby. I just wanted to see it in action. I occasionally pop in to see how it’s wearing and tearing. Designers do revisit their babies just to see how the fabric is holding up. Design is theoretical until a place opens. I like to see what I could have done better and what is working just fine. Dean Winters joined us at the bar and we toasted to something important to that moment. I stopped by Bantam as I headed to the Bridge. It was a classic 3am crowd of revelers enjoying the moment and the sticky liqueurs. Bantam is great for that first stop or that last stop, and not bad if you’re caught in between.

After we left and had our late-night meal at a diner, we arrived home just as the sun was coming up. We got the leash on Lulu and went to stock up on diet sodas and popcorn and such. As usual, my head hit the pillow at 6am and here I am at 10am talking to you. Someone told me yesterday that not needing sleep is the sign of a genius. I don’t know if there’s any truth to that, but if it is true I suspect that he’s a very tired genius.

The Top NYC Nightclubs To Hook Up With Models

Okay, we’re shallow, shallow people. Whatever. Sometimes it’s just fun to hook up with models. I wouldn’t know, but I have a couple of moderately douchey but lovable friends who say it’s "da bomb." Models are creatures of another world, a world like Avatar. And though they are scattered all across the city, there are certain nightclubs where we can confidently say “you will be breathing the same air space as a high concentration of models.” So here is our list of the Top NYC Nightclubs To Hook Up With Models

Musician Tom Vek Gets Schooled & Sloshed on Champagne

Although the title only applies to one of us, Tom Vek and I are both living like rock stars as we relax at PH-D Rooftop Lounge at the new Dream Downtown hotel in New York, which happens to be where BlackBook will be celebrating its 15th birthday. The sun is setting over the Hudson River, a million city lights are flickering to life, and Miss Cayman Islands 2006 is plying us with an inspired selection of champagne cocktails. Yes, life is good, and Tom seems at ease as we talk about his new album, Leisure Seizure (out September 13), the follow-up to 2005’s We Have Sound, which—along with appearances on The OC and the Grand Theft Auto IV soundtrack—helped him gain a following in his native England as well as in the States.

The 30-year-old multi-instrumentalist has a unique sound, which fuses the DNA of a soulful singer-songwriter with the polish of a modern pop star. Leisure Seizure showcases both his commanding voice and finely honed production skills, with driving beats, stripped-down guitars, and buzzing synthesizers that make you either want to hit the dance floor or kick back with a drink—which brings us back to the other reason for our visit: booze. Tonight’s mixologist is much more than a pretty face. Ambuyah Ebanks, who worked at the Soho Grand Hotel’s Grand Bar before helping open PH-D this summer, has a gift for fusing disparate ingredients into flavorful, well-balanced cocktails that are as beautiful as they are delicious. As the drinks begin arriving—which, with the exception of the Edelweiss, are Ebanks’ own creations—Vek holds forth on school trips, candy floss, and the sheer joy of having too much of a good thing.

COCKTAIL #1: Mello Cello 1 oz. Stoli Citros Vodka ½ oz. Cointreau ¾ oz. lemon juice ½ oz. simple syrup Pour ingredients into an ice-filled mixing glass and shake. Strain into a champagne flute and top with Saint-Hilaire Brut followed by 3 dashes of Angostura bitters. Garnish with a lemon twist. TOM VEK: “The nose reminds me of my mum’s carrot cakes and the flavor makes me think of being on a school trip to France as a pre-teen and drinking Orangina: It’s a youthful cocktail, and it makes me feel young.”

COCKTAIL #2: Elder Agave Dream 1 oz. Cazadores Blanco Tequila ½ oz. St. Germain ¾ oz. grapefruit juice ½ oz. lemon juice ½ oz. simple syrup Pour ingredients into an ice-filled mixing glass and shake. Strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice and top with Saint-Hilaire Brut. Garnish with a lime wheel. TV: “I’m getting the aroma of really good quality wood and leather, and it tastes almost like ginger beer. It’s well-matched between sour and sweet.”

COCKTAIL #3: The Dancing Rose 1 oz. Hendrick’s Gin ¾ oz. Vie Vité Extraordinaire Rosé ¾ oz. lemon juice ½ oz. simple syrup Pour ingredients into an ice-filled mixing glass and shake. Strain into a cocktail glass and top with Moët & Chandon Ice Impérial. Garnish with a cucumber slice. TV: “The smell reminds me of freshly cut grass after the sprinkler has gone over it, or a field of strawberries. It’s like a reconstructed old-fashioned lemonade with watermelon.”

COCKTAIL #4: Sea Blue Star 1 oz. Starr African Rum ½ oz. Bols Triple Sec ½ oz. white cranberry juice ¾ oz. lemon juice ½ oz. simple syrup Pour ingredients into an ice-filled mixing glass and shake. Strain into a champagne flute rimmed with a mix of Blue Curaçao and sugar and top with Moët & Chandon Ice Imperial. TV: “It’s slightly joyless for how joyful it looks, like an austere drink in party clothes. But it has a nice, clean taste with hints of apple and candy floss. It’s like cybergoth champagne. This is starting to feel like a leisure seizure. The idea that I’m being brought cocktails faster than I can drink them ties into the concept of the album.”

COCKTAIL #5: Edelweiss 4 oz. Moët & Chandon Ice Impérial ½ oz. St. Germain ½ oz. lemon juice Pour all ingredients into a wine glass with ice then top with a splash of club soda. Garnish with a heaping spoonful of pomegranate seeds. TV: “This is very much a summer drink, like a glass of juice into which you put a load of ice. It’s representative of the chilling process, though somewhat diluted by its own identity. It’s very easy to drink, and the elderflower from the St. Germain really comes through.”

Texting Through Last Night’s Parties at the Dream, Macao & The Double Seven

In an era of instantaneous non-verbal messaging via super phones I was bombarded with info about this party, or that party, while at other affairs. Waves of people would rush off like surfers trying to catch that next great wave at that other beach. At the jammed BlackBook affair my texts were off the chart with people trying to get in

Person: “WTF I don’t know anybody at the door, who do I ask for ??”

Me: “Look for Joyce, hot Filipino gal with a backless dress. Tell her you’re on my list.”

Person: “WTF, there’s a million people here, can you come down? I don’t have time for this, I got 10 parties that need me! LOL”

Me: “I’m looking at you fool. Turn around and walk straight.”

Person: “I haven’t walked straight since ’95.”

My army of text peeps told me that Double Seven was having a smallish test run and that it was pretty sparse. I asked my text spy to tell me all about it—What was the crowd like? How did it look?

“Jon Lennon is DJing and he says hi. A waitress said it’s only the beginning; it won’t get busy for a while. It was a little busier earlier for some party. A bartender told me they’re not letting people in and some hipster dude is at the door. He seemed nice but I didn’t know him, although you will. The club was dark, black walls and banquettes, with a dark brown leather bar top and some red lights on a wall. The bathrooms were the same as the Dream and The Standard. The staff was nice. Going someplace else, will text you where, TTYL.”

Double Seven will be a hit. It cannot fail. The players involved, the designer involved, and the location are all proven winners. I can’t wait to see it, but after the smoke of burning Fashion Week Louboutin leather clears. I was DJing up a storm, but somewhat uphill, at Macao last night, when a text came in imploring me to get to the “over the top” Last Magazine Party at Madame Wong’s. My texter, Travis Bass, was seemingly screaming at me:

Travis: “It’s one of the best parties for Fashion Week!!!”

Travis: “Last Magazine party has moved to Red Egg 202 Centre Street @ Howard across from Madame Wong’s!!!

Me: “WHY?”

Travis: “Come-going off !!!!”

Me: “I’m DJ-ing at Patrick McMullan and Fahey’s event. Why did the event move?”

Travis: “Madame Wong’s is closed. Red Egg is my new place!!!!”

Me: “Why did it close?”

I got no text message back. I imagined Travis surrounded by beauties with a lamp shade on his head spilling expensive champagne with his eye-glasses askew, but I know no more. The limitations of texting were abundantly clear to me as I tried to decide between an Iggy platter or Verve track. A DJ of note texted me as if a god was taking note:

DJ pal: “How’s it going over there?”

Me: “Great crowd here but I hear the Last Magazine Party is off the hook.”

DJ pal: “Yeah I just heard that too, but it moved.”

Me: “Yeah, I just heard that, why? Oh, btw Iggy or Verve?”

DJ pal: “Don’t know why it moved but I’m heading over—Iggy. Who’s at the door?”

Me: “IDK, I’m in the booth.”

Somewhere out there lies some super computer analyzing everything we say, text, and e-mail. They’re looking for bad guys, not great parties, but I wonder as the computers approach consciousness what they will conclude from all of our babble. BTW there is a term for that quick approaching time when computers become sentient. It’s called the Technological Singularity–think Terminator. Will the computers be envious of us Fashion Weeksters, getting dumber by the cocktail at soirees and galas? Or will they just pity us? Will hordes of invincible Arnold’s “cleanse” us? Well, I guess it won’t be Arnold anymore as we’ve found his weakness. As I readied the next record (Stevie Wonder “Master Blaster”) trapped in a 4 x 5 DJ booth, I pondered all the greener grass as it came spewing through my Droid. As I write this, I realize it’s not as important as it once was to make plans. All I really need to do is keep my phone battery charged and the world will tell me where to go. This column is quite possibly obsolete.

With that in mind, I must note an event that Mark Baker, the James Bond of nightlife, is pushing. Tonight and tomorrow night, a play by Sarah Tuft called 110 Stories will be performed by a mega cast. 100% of the proceeds will benefit the New York Says Thank You Foundation. Of course, the 10th anniversary of the tragedy that changed the world is upon us, and there will be many events and ceremonies to commemorate it. The cast of players involved include Katie Holmes, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Piven, Jamie Lynn Sigler, Kathleen Turner, Ben Vereen, Tony Shalhoub, Noah Emmericjh, Jessica Hecht, Ralph Maccio, Assif Mandvi, Cynthia Nixon, Stephen Baldwin, Mario Cantone, Billy Crudup, Vincent Piazza, Andre Royo, Stelio Savante, Pablo Schreiber, Merritt Wever and Frank Whaley.

Mark sent me this:

“This cause is truly amazing, and 100% of the net proceeds benefit the New York Says Thank You Foundation, who will also be unveiling the National 9/11 Flag as part of the official 10th anniversary at Ground Zero this weekend. I really hope you will join me in the next two nights, and experience this powerful work of art and hope, performed by the most distinguished cast to ever perform in New York. Thanks again for all of your support and consideration.”

Warmest Regards, Mark Baker

I haven’t gotten a “warmest regards” since my second divorce. More information can be gathered 110storiesplay.com. Tickets can be obtained at tickets@110storiesplay.com. No texting during the performance…please

BlackBook’s 15 Year Anniversary with Tequila Don Julio & Heineken at PH-D Rooftop Lounge

5475 days of BlackBook deserves a celebration, so last night we indulged ourselves. At PH-D Rooftop Lounge at Dream Downtown, with the help of Tequila Don Julio and Heineken, hundreds of our closest friends, including September cover star Alexander Skarsgard, his True Blood costar Kristin Bauer, and How to Make It in America‘s Bryan Greenberg, got together to share in this most special of occasions.

Joined by one of our September cover stars Alexander Skarsgard, and Neon Indian on the decks, guests were treated to a short but raunchy set from rap rebels Das Racist. Skarsgard was joined by his True Blood costar Kristin Bauer, and his friend, The Wire‘s James Ransone. How to Make It in America‘s Bryan Greenberg also popped by, and so did pop darling Estelle. Tequila Don Julio was gracious enough to provide thirsty guests with three signature cocktails: The Black(Book) & Blanco, the Sweet 15, and Rosemary Revelry. A special thanks to Radley London for supplying the bags in which gifts were put into. That’s right, folks. On our own birthday, we were giving out the presents. What was inside those gift bags you ask? Oh, just products courtesy of Swarovski Crystallized, Armani Code Sport, Vince Camuto, Elizabeth Arden, and Pop Chips. Extra thank yous go out to Strategic Group, Baked By Melissa mini-cupcakes, and VOSS water.

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And here, scenes from a birthday party:

Photos by Jason Malihan.