Industry Insiders: Alan Faena, Argentine Hotelero

The force behind Buenos Aires’ famed Faena Hotel + Universe talks about remaking neighborhoods, working with Philippe Starck and Norman Foster, and how to survive the coming bad times.

Point of Origin: I started in the fashion world, then sold my fashion company Via Vai and took three years off, a sabbatical of sorts, just really spending time at my beach house [in Jose Ignacio, Uruguay], gardening, taking care of the plants, enjoying my free time. Buenos Aires needed a place for people to congregate, a place for local people to meet up with people from the rest of the world. The city was in the midst of a rebirth after a really profound [economic and political] crisis, and I found a part of Buenos Aires that was abandoned completely, that didn’t even exist really. I found it inspiring to be able to invent a neighborhood from scratch. The focal point of the new neighborhood would be this hotel in an old, abandoned grain warehouse. And that was the beginning of the transformation of this entire neighborhood, Puerto Madero.

I went out and looked for investors. I had some great people early on that believed in me. Chris Burch, Austin Hearst. All New York people. When everyone here was shutting doors in your face — you remember how difficult things were here [in Argentina] during the [2001 economic crisis] — nobody was investing in new projects. So I packed my bags, headed to New York, told people about my project, and Chris Burch introduced me to a lot of people in New York that opened a lot of doors for me.

Known Associates: This was a co-production with Philippe Starck. We worked very closely together to make sure that this wasn’t just another international project, but something that Philippe, with his vision and genius, could really re-interpret that belle époque that we had in Buenos Aires when this building was originally built at the turn of the century. Each space represents a different part of the old Buenos Aires. El Mercado is the old “cantina” [popular Buenos Aires eateries] style, the immigrants, the mix of people. El Living (the living room) is all those grand estancias from the beginning of the century. El Bistro is the old, magnificent cafes like La Ideal. El Cabaret represents that Buenos Aires as Paris moment of yesteryear, the Avenida Corrientes elegance. Every space is based on some part of the city’s history.

Buenos Aires is a port city, yet it’s often said that Portenos live with their backs turned to the water. Why do you think that is, and why did you set up on the waterfront? Well, we’re a city of immigrants, and immigrants arrive from the water, and they want to penetrate into the city, to leave the water, to turn their backs on their origins many times. The water is where they came from, and they want to look forward and not look back.

What other projects do you have going on? We have the new project with Norman Foster in Buenos Aires that we just started. Keep in mind that in addition to the hotel in this neighborhood, we’ve built over 200,000 square meters of residential space … we have cultural centers, commercial real estate … The hotel was just the beginning of the entire project. Today it’s grown well beyond that. The neighborhood is a reality today, the Norman Foster project is a reality. So to have in a relatively small area projects by Philippe Starck and Norman Foster, in addition to Argentine architects, cultural centers. We’ve already started construction on the Norman Foster project, and in 15 months it should be ready. Its his first project in Latin America; it’s important for Buenos Aires as a whole, having these big-name architects. It further solidifies the international nature of the city.

How do you put together these massive projects knowing that, in Argentina, every seven years or so there is a deep crisis? Well, it has the risk element certainly — the roller coaster quality which in a way makes things more interesting. But look at New York now; you’re not used to it over there, no one is immune to these types of economic crises anymore. It just means that we’re more prepared for it because we’re used to dealing with this kind of stuff. It makes us more creative and more aware that everything can end.

People here are freaking out over the economic crisis that’s coming. There’s a lot of fear. I think part of the reason people in Buenos Aires are interesting and cultured is that they have to constantly re-invent themselves in order to adapt to these dramatic changes. When everything is stable, people sort of float along. Here you have to constantly be moving, like sharks. If you stop moving, you’re toast.

How do you feel about the newcomers in the neighborhood? Well, we knew we couldn’t control everything. We tried to control as much as possible, in order to impose our own aesthetic. In a way its interesting to see how other people have developed in conjunction with our project, though it would be nice to have the whole neighborhood to maintain at the level we work at — with designers, architects, etc. I always say that real estate is delicate business, not just another industry, because you’re building the future of the city. Its not the same to create an intelligent, thought-out building by Norman Foster, or a Philippe Starck building that contemplates the history of the city like we did. How to reinvent the city, what people like, the social aspect taken into account, every inch carefully thought out, with a purpose, as opposed to just building to make a quick buck on the square meter of real estate, which makes the city a worse place. Buildings are public works … they can enhance or ruin a block, a neighborhood, a city. A terrible building next to your house can destroy your life.

Favorite hangs? In Buenos Aires I like to go to El Obrero, which is an old cantina [in La Boca]. It’s an interesting place because it reflects the old blood in Buenos Aires, the mix of Spanish and Italian food. It’s a place of inspiration for me, always has been.

Any plans to do something in New York? Yes, I am looking for opportunities there. I like the mix of art, culture, and lifestyle which we do and would be well received in New York, I think.

Industry Icons: I admire Philippe Starck and Norman Foster, which is why I worked with them. And I admire them more because I was able to see how they work from close up. I like Ian Schrager.

What are you doing tonight? I was just asking myself the same question. You have to ask me again in a little bit when I figure it out. Having fun somewhere, I hope.

Industry Insiders: Mory Traore, Model Magnet

“I Hate Models” promoter Mory Traore waxes on why his parties have the most runway talent, ditching the police force, turning shit into gold, and how to combat corruption in Africa.

Point of Origin: I’m from Guinea, West Africa. Came to New York as a student and got a criminology degree from John Jay College. Then I was working for New York Department of Investigation for about seven months until I realized it wasn’t something I wanted to do. Basically it was a military organization with hierarchy, orders — not the kind of place I function well. I didn’t have freedom. I’m really creative and I couldn’t use it, so I took off and went to Eastern Europe and traveled. And I thought, “OK, when I go back to New York what am I gonna do?” I was in Romania on a train at night writing these things down and I said, “From here on any job I do: no stress. What makes me happy? I love to party. I love beautiful girls. I love to travel.”

I wrote all this down. And I said, “All these things here are things I have to get paid to do. That’s the only way to get a job that makes me happy.” So I started model scouting. I was calling agencies and traveling and telling them if they wanted to pay my travel costs, I will bring you people, then we’ll sit down and figure out the rate or the percentage. So that’s how I got started.

So right around that time, I started promoting a little bit at the club Life. That was the first night I did. I told Steve Lewis, who ran it, that I wanted to start promoting, and he said, “Are you sure?” He told me, “I think you can do it. You know so many people.” They were just paying me per person at first. I know myself. I always do this kind of thing. I want to prove myself to people. I make people depend on me. Once you do so well that their night depends on you, then if you leave, their night is nothing, and you can ask for anything. And I always get it. No promoter gets more than I do, because I know exactly the value of what I do. $1,500, $1,000 is not what I do. What I do is I sell you an image, and this is the image you pay me for. I turn shit into gold. I used to do places like Arena, Air (where Kiss and Fly is now). Tenjune. Places like that. You talk to people at Tenjune, they’re gonna say its because of Mory that they got to this spot. This is what I sell.

Occupations: Right now I do six parties Tuesday through Saturday. I work five nights and one of the nights is two parties. Tuesday’s at Tenjune, Wednesday at Kiss and Fly, Thursday at Tenjune again. Friday at Highbar first, then Bijoux later that night. And Saturdays in the Hamptons at Lily Pond.

Are you at all your parties? Always. My main principle for myself is I have to be there. Unless I’m traveling. That’s another concept with working in a group because most clubs are stealing people that work with me cause they want to break me. Like Ricardo that used to work with me. Or Justin Melnick, or Nicky P. All these guys were working for me, and they come and take them away thinking they’re gonna weaken me. But it’s like the Africans say: If you want to kill the snake, you have to cut the head, not the tail, cause if you cut the tail it’s just gonna regroup and go on. And now what I did is I have a big team of about six trusted people. My brother Fontaine cause nobody can take him away. [Some Italian promoters] work with me now to replace the Italian element in Ricardo. I met them in Ibiza, saw them working, so I know they know how to do things. I just had to train them in the New York style.

What is that style? I know you have a big model crowd. What sets your party apart? What we do is not just the models, it’s a fashion crowd. We do focus more on that. Most promoters have a little circle of models that they go around with, but we go for the quantity of the quality. We try to get the most model girls. A lot of them.

Would you say you are the king of the models in New York? People say this. People tell me I know more models than anybody else. But I don’t know because I don’t go to other parties to make a comparison because most of the time I go to my own party. Because if I’m having my own party one night, I won’t go to another person’s party that night. I think about it the reverse way. What am I gonna think if I’m at my party and I see [a rival promoter] at my party? I’ll think, “Their party probably sucks if they are at my party.”

So of all the parties you’ve done over the years, what’s your favorite? That little shitty place Suede. Friday was just insane over there. And also Air.

Was the Suede party with Danny A? No, he was doing another night. We never did the same night together.

Do you ever work with other promoters in conjunction on the same party? I usually tell the clubs — cause we charge them a lot of money — if you want to hire other people, that’s fine, but you don’t need it because not only do we bring the models, we bring the bottles, you know. And we have all the regular [people], the masses. Like the text messages I send. I have three thousand numbers in my phone.

Those texts (which are quirky, slightly absurd, and often include the word “model” in some way) are pretty memorable to say the least. Who writes them? I do! (laughing) I just think about regular things, certain things you read or something and turn it around. Someone says something funny, you twist it around. You’ll have a conversation, and I remember it and write it down. I have a little book where I write them down.

Do you have a backlog of texts? Yeah.

Do you recycle them? Rarely, because people remember them, so I try not to (laughing). I had a book full of them before, and I lost it in Cannes. I was so pissed. I had so many because I was on vacation, so I had time to write a lot of them.

What other places do you like to hang out? I know you said you don’t go to other peoples parties necessarily. I go, usually when I have to. Because sometimes the girls want to go to another place if they don’t want to go home. I party for basically work, and of course I have fun and I enjoy it, but when I don’t have to party, I try to go home and sleep to conserve my energy. Especially when you work six parties a week!

Projections: I have a party in Milan for Fashion Week with Muse magazine, and then my birthday in Paris for Fashion Week with Major Model Management. And then we have a party for “I Hate Models.” We made 900 T-shirts with the “I Hate Models” logo, and we’re gonna give them to all the models to wear.

Tell me about the model dinners. It’s usually mainly models that we invite. Again, we do the quantity of the quality. We try to invite anybody that wants to come, but they gotta be models. We can have like 40 or 50 girls. We get 50% off, and we pay for it. We prefer to pay … it’s better than the regular model dinner.

The girls already eat 50% less. What’s 50% of a salad? Exactly. It works for us. When you have these buffets, people don’t feel special. It’s like you’re a cow. I wouldn’t want to come to a dinner where someone invites me, and someone just puts some food on your plate in front of you. We tell them we want the menu. We know the models don’t eat that much, so we get the menu and get 50% off. We’ll pay for it. Sometimes it’s a lot, like two or three thousand dollars, but we think about the future. All the girls that go out with us know the things we do are really good — it’s not shitty things or low-quality stuff.

How is your relationship with the modeling agencies? Good relationships with most, but a lot of the agencies don’t want their girls to go out. So we have relationships with the girls directly. With the agencies, we’ll do special parties, special events. Some bookers will call me once in a while if they want to go out, and they bring some girls. But we don’t depend on the bookers.

Side projects? When I was in Africa last time, and I go very often, I started looking at the possibility of starting a charity. There have only been two regimes since 1958, both very corrupt governments. Corruption is institutionalized. So even if there’s a new regime that’s very conscious of [eradicating] corruption, and it took 50 years to create that culture of corruption, it’s going to take another 50 years to deprogram that culture. I think the path to development is Internet and technology. It has to come to everybody, like it did in China, or Eastern Europe, or India. That is how you get into the global market, so you don’t have to go through the government to get things done. It’s essential. So I’m looking to work with a company to start bringing computer technology to my country because I want everyone in the whole country to get on the Internet, for people to see what’s happening in the rest of the world, so people will be empowered. So that’s something I’m looking to get involved with.

What are you doing tonight? Kiss and Fly. So you want to kiss and fly tonight? You might fly away with a girl.

Industry Insiders: Elaine Kaufman, Legendary

New York legend Elaine Kaufman of Elaine’s gets inside a writer’s mind, grabs lunch with the New Yorker boys, and throws a bash for a Swedish dance troupe.

Point of Origin: I’m a New Yorker, born and bred. I was a frisky kid, you know? I was always game, always interested, you know, curious. Curiosity, that was it. I didn’t like school. I thought it was dumb. Of course, I had a lot of cousins and all that stuff who were teachers and I had older brothers and sisters who were always involved in the literary world. My parents worked and used to drop me off at the library, so I was always brought up around a lot of books, and it fit in, because it was a part my particular character. I couldn’t ask for better education. Books. I understood what they were talking about, and I was compassionate. It was more fun at the library than school. It was intelligence — this person talked about this subject; the other person talked about that, and I put people together who were interested in the same things. Even as a child, I was gregarious, so it was a fit.

Occupations: It’s not as if I wasn’t like this all my life. I just worked, every day. This kind of work seemed to suit me better than other people’s educations. Restaurants. I knew some people: Elizabeth McKee, one of the great agents. I got lucky in meeting Ted Purdy, her husband, a record editor and wonderful man, famous in his day, who knew so much about publishing, and he sat and talked. He became a major player in the literary world, and informed me about a lot. I knew how to put people together; and eventually, Elaine’s was born. I opened the new place in 1963. How does that happen? It opens. They came here and talked, listened to James Jones and George Plimpton and that fed that. Truman Capote came in with the woman writer he’d known since he was a child, Harper Lee. He knew all of the southern writers, and their minds. Bruce Jay Friedman was here the other day and he was waiting for somebody, but in the meantime a couple of young writers were here, and I introduced him to them.It’s almost impossible to drop the name of a major player in the art, film, and literary world who hasn’t been here — and one of your waiters is a playwright.

Any non-industry projects in the works? Well, we do a lot of fundraisers here. And, I’m a big art collector, and have been for a long, long time … and so I follow that field, too. I mean, the art in my apartment is endless with paintings. [At Elaine’s, she’s surrounded by some of her favorites.] Here is this Samuel Johnson poster that Jack Richardson had done for me, here (on the wall over Table One). Yeah, and Sven Lukin, Jack Youngerman, all those kind of guys; they were all on to new things. Julian Schnabel was the new boy in that area, innovative. Emile de Antonio was an innovator in finding the art, and he was in here all the time. Jamie Wyeth was here a lot before he moved out of New York.

Favorite Hangouts: Every day, I do Lunch at PJ Clarke’s. A bunch of us meet over there. We all knew Danny (the late maitre d’), the guys from the New Yorker, all of us. The food’s okay, but we still go there for Danny.

Industry Icons: [She smiles as icons do.]

Who are some people you’re likely to be seen with? Jim Brady, Jolly Gibson, Stewart Woods, a piece of work. The Clarkes — Mary Higgins and her daughter, Carol — we all go out once in awhile. They don’t mind to come to the parties, and it’s more fun here than at the [annual] Oscar bash. We have a great time with the sports figures: we just did a birthday party for Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez and Lou Pinella, and George [Steinbrenner] comes in with friends. There are some dear, sweet guys.

What are you doing tonight? We have the whole Swedish dance troupe coming in tonight, so adorable, so cute!

Industry Insiders: Spencer Sweeney, Your New Santa

Spencer Sweeney, artist and one of the forces behind Santos’ Party House, talks community boards, sketchy after-hour clubs, and why he’s changing his name to Santa.

Point of Origin: I came to New York about ten years ago from Philadelphia where I was an art student. I started DJing when I moved here at a sketchy after-hours spot on Ridge Street. Looking back, it was a pretty significant place culturally. My first party there was with Eugene Hutz of Gogol Bordello. The club was basically some guy’s apartment, and he got arrested every weekend. I think he had an incarceration fetish. There was this party at Standard Notions on Ludlow, which was a big hangout. Every week you’d have the guys from A.R.E. Weapons, Chloe Sevigny, Ben Cho. That’s where we all came together. At the time, DJing was very genre-driven. If you went into a record store, everyone would ask what you spun, and you’d have to be like “Organic Deep House,” you know?

Occupation: I co-own Santos’ Party House with Andrew WK, Larry Golden, and Ron Castellano. I had been DJing at the Hole, and the owner was basically raping me, paying me in pennies. And I thought how cool would it be if we could have our own space. It took us three years to build out Santos. Part of the impetus behind the club has to do with the Dadaists and the Futurists, which were artistic movements that had very strong social legs to them. We started with the stage and sound system, getting the best we could. And the idea of calling it Santa’s Party House was to try to make the most radical departure from nightclub naming as it currently exists. It was originally Santa’s, and then we were advised by our lawyer not to go with Santa, because if someone really wanted to fuck us, they could say it’s like Joe Camel trying to appeal to young children. So Andrew came up with the shift of Santa’s to Santos. But I found a way around it. I’m actually legally changing my name from Spencer to Santa. Really. I will be Santa Sweeney. It’s gotta be called Santa’s. It’s perfectly absurd.

imageSide Hustle: I’m an artist. I have solo show coming up at the Jack Hanley Gallery in San Francisco. I was in a performance art troupe called The Actress with Lizzi Bougastsos of Gang Gang Dance and some others. I wanted to move into visual art. I had just quit my job as an artist assistant — I was a terrible assistant — and I was walking down the street, I had heard about Gavin Brown and the bar Passerby and I thought that would be a good place to do parties and performance. We had a lot of good stuff — Fischerspooner and Andrew WK — it worked out great. Then I did a solo show for Gavin.

We’re going to be working with a lot of artists at Santa’s, have more live music and a theater group too, that Kembra Pfahler of The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black is going to direct. Our liquor license took a year. Our neighborhood didn’t have a community board, so we were thrown to Tribeca by default. We were like “we won’t even be in your neighborhood,” and they’re like “we don’t care!” It was a bunch of angry old ladies. We had all our friends at museums write letters on our behalf, saying it would be a place for artists and culture. The board was like “what kind of artist is gonna be up at two in the morning have a drink?”

Favorite Hangs: I liked Lit on Mondays and Wednesdays. And I like … uh … I guess that’s the only place I go. Erik Foss, the owner, is a nice guy. Of course there’s also Max Fish which has been a great place for 20 years now.

Industry Icons: I don’t want to emulate anyone else’s career. But there’s definitely inspiration. Mickey Ruskin at Max’s Kansas City. I mean everyone went there. And Steve Paul who owned a place called the Scene. And the biggest inspiration was Arthur Weinstein, who I was very good friends with, who just passed away a few months ago. He owned one of the first discos called Hurrah. They were really hot for a season, then Studio 54 opened up. I learned a lot of lessons from him.

Known Associates: I’m collaborating at Santos’ Party House with a great choreographer named Maria Hassbi. Who else do I want to give shout-outs to? Andrew WK. Gavin Brown. Elizabeth Peyton. Agathe Snow, Carol Lee at Paper magazine, Ben Cho, Chloe Sevigny, Meredith Monk — we hope to have her perform. Will Oldham — him too.

What are you doing tonight? Going to a reggae party. I’m excited.

Industry Insiders: Michael Achenbaum, Haute Hotelier

Michael Achenbaum of the Hotel Gansevoort puts down The Law, emerges a towering hotel titan, and reveals what’s in the works for Park Ave.

Point of Origin: I grew up on Long Island and went to the University of Michigan. Then I went to NYU for graduate school for a JD and MBA for law business. When I was in school here and in Michigan, I began to concentrate on children’s charities. I worked at a Japanese bank and Bear Stearns doing commercial mortgages — an industry that’s just falling apart right now, and the residential component is now affecting the commercial component. I left to go and work with my father in commercial development as he had his own construction company. Prior to my involvement, my father was responsible for developing thousands of apartments and several million square feet of office space. After I joined the company, we decided to take a few projects in a different direction, including high-end hotels, and we ended up picking up the property that would eventually become the Gansevoort.

Occupations: Socially I was going out to the Meatpacking District and saw the importance. If they could draw people to that market in the state that it was in, crunched in between Chelsea and the Village with cool restaurants and the impossible cobblestone streets, far from the midtown grid pattern, it would be an up-and-coming neighborhood. Did I expect it to top out? Not then. Obviously the rise of that area was far quicker than I had imagined. Socially, there was a great reason to be there. Ian Schrager had made hotels epicenters — hearts of the new nightlife in New York — so I figured if I built a great hotel with great food and bev component, with easy access to fabulous restaurants, there would be a great upside. Gansevoort made it. Now one of the best hotels in the world — we’ve made our mark by offering something of a high level of service to our clients, on par with the midtown hotels. Having cool bars and restaurants and a spa gave it a youthful, stylish element.

Any non-industry projects in the works? I give to charity and to my graduate school, but still concentrate on children’s charities. In college we did the Big Sibling program and I continued with it post-graduate and turned into a Big Brother in Michigan and formed a charity for children who wanted to go to college. Now, we’ve formed Camps Catamaas for after school, and camp facilities where kids have the opportunity to go to two-week sessions for a vacation. I work with two young men from the Bronx — and I’m putting one of them through college right now. Now, I’m a mentor through social services.

Favorite Hangs: I love La Esquina for late dinners, rather than to clubs or lounges. But I love a lot of European-style music. Still, the primary focus is work and sitting through nice dinners — when I have time.

Industry Icons: Ian Schraeger has tremendous vision and created the chic hotels that people had dabbled in Europe, and made them stylish with great public areas, unique environments. He continues to be very visionary, as Andre Balazs and the Thompson Group do. They all create a buzz-worthy environment.

Who are some people you’re likely to be seen with? Generally, you’d see me with industry people in the nightlife or hotel industry or lending industry or with law school friends — people who I’ve known forever. Right now it’s the hotel, but we’re really building developers.

Projections: We’re working on a ton of stuff beyond hotels, now we’re taking on more technical assistance and management roles in Toronto and Chicago. We’ve been hired for long-term management arrangements. We find talented local developers. Miami’s Gansevoort South opened in April, and we’re finishing the project over time. We have STK, Philippe, David Barton, Inca for resort wear and BoHo chic, Bustello in their first high-end coffee shop-cum-Cuban lounge for home-grown atmosphere. Cutler the hair salon with great products. We’re firm believers in branding benefits to have unique entrepreneurial companies in the mix. We’re also in construction at 29th and Park [in New York], so we’ll be in business in 2010 — a big hotel with a special pool area. Our signature element is a rooftop pool and bar. The rooms are huge! We’re doing a small bar with the One Group for a high-end lounge.

What are you doing tonight? I’m in Miami at 512, then probably to our rooftop bar, Plunge (my sister’s idea), and to a club run by the Opium group called Set.

Industry Insiders: Jason Scoppa, Party Princeling

LA party maestro Jason Scoppa gets down with Prince, protects his guests from Cali’s rabid paparazzi, name-drops his newest venue, then crashes on the couch with a slice.

Point of Origin: My friend and current business partner Alexi Yulish asked me if I wanted to run a door with him to make some extra cash. It was a Rodeo Drive kosher steak house called Prime Grill. At the time we both needed the bread, so I told him to set up a meeting. We took the meeting, and I said, “Why don’t you let us throw our own party?” We broke the patio dining furniture down and brought in any lounge furniture we could find. We brought in DJs and photo booths. It ended up being one of the most interesting Saturday nights in town for that summer.

Occupations: Green Door, Hollywood. When we started Green Door, it was your typical night in LA. I found it to be unfulfilling. Same DJs, same crowds, and it was boring me. When I moved from Detroit to Los Angeles, I expected that the crowd of influence in film, music, art, and fashion were one. Not so. I decided that there was a huge opportunity to approach nights differently and do something I was actually proud of. That’s when I put together Jazz Tuesdays. It has been an amazing success for us.

A few months later, another idea spawned — Lo Hi Fi Saturdays at Green Door. I wanted to do a throwback night inspired by rock. Chateau Marmont 1968, China Club New York City, you get the idea. It’s a rotating set of songs and accomplished musicians covering everything classic and everything that will be a classic. Guests can feel free to get up and play. Many of them have their instruments in the trunk of their car. “Can I get down with the band tonight?” or “I want to sing.” Jazz Tuesday is kind of the same thing. Prince shows up and gets down often; John Altman shows up with his midget sax when he’s in town. One of my favorite nights was when Rick Astley got up and blew everyone away.

Side Hustle: I have always had a better ear for listening to music than actually playing it. It’s nice to be working with somebody like Deron Johnson (Miles Davis’s protégé) on Tuesdays. I’ve been putting my ideas into his head about an album. I don’t fluently speak on his level of music language, but somehow he gets it. Hopefully, we will have something out by Inauguration Day.

Favorite Hangs: Honestly, I like to be on my sofa. If I’m not doing one of my nights and want to unwind with a drink I go to the Bronson Bar on Monday nights. My friend Sean Patrick has had that night running forever. I love the DJs, and it’s one of the only places in Los Angeles that reminds me of Detroit.

Industry Icons: Hahaha! There’s a lot of people who throw shade on this business. I’ll say that my admiration will always rest with the musicians that inspire the business and the guests that support different, interesting, and quality programming in an establishment.

Known Associates: Ryan Gosling is a great supporter of Jazz Tuesday. Jack Nicholson comes by. Prince loves to come and jam with the band. Robert Downey Jr. is a huge music guy and loves what we do. Last Tuesday, Ann Hathaway and Emily Blunt got up and sang. Actually, one of the toughest things to do is protect our guests from media and pap. So many weak stories can come out of a person going out and having a good time. Once a celebrity leaves, they get followed to their car. It’s fucking ridiculous. They find side, back, under-entrances and -exits. We probably have the best publicist in the world working with us though. At the end of the day, people are going to write what they want. We are grateful to have a publicist who understands that these are our guests, and we have to protect them. Nothing is pushed out on a PR level. If media contacts us, we respond with positivity with regard to our guests.

Projections: By the time this comes out, we will have already launched our new space, Bardot, in Hollywood. [Surprise! Bardot is slated to open the second week of September. -Ed.]

What are you doing tonight? Sofa and pizza.

Industry Insiders: Comedy Queen Caroline Hirsch

Laugh Legend Caroline Hirsch of the eponymous Caroline’s on bringing the funny, luring tourists, and laughing off a recession.

Point of Origin: I was born in Brooklyn and moved to Manhattan when I was, I think, 24 years old and went to City College and FIT, which is how I ended up in retail. I was working at Gimbels, which was going out of business, so as market reps, we were out, too. Because I was collecting unemployment, I had a little time to look around. Then I kind of fell into this business, the business of comedy — it just happened. Bob Stigley just loved to go to a comedy club called Freddy’s on 49th Street, and before long, he and a couple of other friends wanted to open a cabaret. Bob decided to use a woman’s name for the cabaret we planned to open in Chelsea, and that was the start of Caroline’s.

As a buyer, you had to know what people wanted to buy, and it was the same with talent. We went for the best talent we could afford. Mark Shaman came in and played piano; there were some great stand-ups, and there was a lot of enthusiasm. But it just wasn’t happening with a young, hip crowd — and to be successful in this business, you need the 20- and 30-year-olds who go out a lot, unlike the 50- to 60-year-olds who don’t. It was the time when David Letterman had just gone on to television after Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. He was continually introducing a slew of young comedians, so every time somebody like Jay Leno came to town to do Letterman’s, he’d say he was playing Caroline’s. So by the seat of my pants, we won. I promoted things I liked, and because we didn’t have any money for advertising, we tried marketing and publicity with newspapers and television shows. We had people come in and review our shows. Comedians would get press by talking about the club.

When in 1987 Wall Street was crashing, we opened at the Seaport in April. It was one of Wall Street’s biggest depressions, but even in a recession, people have to laugh. When the CEO of A&E came to me and wanted to do a stand-up comedy show with a New Yorker, I produced the television program, Caroline’s Comedy Hour, starting in 1989. We stayed at the Seaport for five years and then came uptown. This is the best decision I have ever made in my business career. People walk up and down the streets around Times Square, they see a poster outside, and even if they don’t know the name of the comic, they saw that person on TV, and make a reservation to come in. The television show went on until 1995.

Occupations: I miss it and am working on another show now, but, meanwhile I’m producing new artists on DVD.

Not the Web? Actually, right now, Caroline’s is a site where people come to get information about the club, but this will be relaunched as more of a content site, and I’m working with a lot of people — talents before anybody else knows they’re talents — to get the job done. We’re working on a lot of stuff.

Any non-industry projects in the works? We do our fair share of fundraisers here that I support personally. We do a stand-up fundraiser every year in honor of Madeline Kahn with her husband to raise money to fight for ovarian cancer research called “Stand up for Madeline Kahn.” Another is for the Scleroderma Research Foundation, a big fundraiser in conjunction with the New York Comedy Festival, which I also produce. We do other work for charities who find that it costs so much to rent out space in a hotel — it’s cheaper to do an event with comics and me!

Are you funny? I have a great sense of humor, but I’m not funny. But I know what’s funny. You must be funny to be on stage.

Favorite Hangs: To unwind, I go out East to my house at the beach. I look forward to that, and go out for the long weekends in the summer. I don’t go to clubs anymore. We’ve been going for 25 years, where else is there to go? For me, it was a different world before I opened Caroline’s. We went to Studio 54, Limelight, Xenon, every single night. I don’t’ miss it. We had fun then, but I don’t miss the whole scene. Now there are a whole bunch of young clubs, but you have to understand that things have changed. There is no club where, at the stroke of midnight, you have to be! When I had the club on 8th Avenue, we’d go to Limelight afterward. Or we’d go to Mr. Chow’s for dinner, then to one of the clubs.

Industry Icons: All of the icons. I just didn’t want to be any of them. I didn’t want to copy anybody else. I just wanted to do it better. We didn’t have a club like Caroline’s when we started this one. We had showcase clubs where people came to try out material before they went to Vegas or Atlantic City. Jay Leno had an hour and a half of material, so I developed the club with an opening act for him, a lead-in. The people we have here are really professionals. Bill Bellamy is coming in this weekend, and he has a polished hour-and-a-half stand-up; it’s different than the showcase clubs. The caliber of entertainer who works the club is really, really funny, and I laugh at the same joke a hundred times.

Who are some people you’re likely to be seen with? Comics like Joy Behar and Susie Essman are girlfriends of mine, and I still see Carol Leifer, who is an executive producer for CBS right now, and of course, Judy Gold. Those are pretty much my girlfriends, and they all make me laugh.

Projections: The future is a big place. Now we’re partnering with Comedy Central after five years of doing the New York Comedy Festival. It will begin to air next year in a multi-year contract with the network. We have a wonderful line-up in various venues all over New York, from the day after the election, November 5 until November 9. For instance, I met Craig Ferguson many years ago in Montreal. He really took off on The Drew Carey Show and will be performing in the New York Comedy Festival at Town Hall, as will Joel McHale. Frank Caliendo will play Carnegie Hall, as will Kat Williams. Mike Mencia’s mind will implode at Avery Fisher Hall, where Brian Regan will also play. Sarah Silverman will be at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Tracey Morgan will be “Coming Back Home” at the Apollo on November 8 — and panel discussions will be held at the Paley Center with the writers of The Daily Show and Conan O’Brien’s show. And something at the 92nd Street Y to watch will be “We Have A Winner” with Lizz Winstead, who co-created The Daily Show.

What are you doing tomorrow night? I go to restaurants where people know you, usually in the neighborhood. I leave work and go to dinner at Buddakan tonight, and tomorrow I might try to stop by a new place in the neighborhood where L’Impero used to be in Tudor City, Convivio. Although Convivio is now a no-name restaurant today, Michael White is the chef, so it won’t be no-name for long.
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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!

Industry Insiders: Drew Nieporent, Emperor of Eats

Drew Nieporent of Nobu, Tribeca Grill, Montrachet, and countless other iconic endeavors gives us a glimpse inside as he conquers the known world.

Point of Origin: I was born and bred in New York City, an original New Yorker. I went to Stuyvesant High School, then known as Sty Hi, before going to Cornell Hotel School in Ithaca, NY, pretty much my first time away from home, not counting sleepaway camp.

Occupations: After I graduated, I was the chef de rang (a.k.a. foodie honcho) aboard the Sagafjord and Vistafjord cruise ships, then worked at some of the most prestigious restaurants in Manhattan — La Grenouille and Le Perigord — and was the captain (in a tux!) at La Reserve, before the Plaza Athénée’s Le Regence French restaurant between 83rd and 85th streets. We earned three stars from the New York Times only seven weeks after we opened — a little like winning the lottery in those days.

Later, I was director of restaurants for Maxwell’s Plum and Tavern on the Green. But as an owner my first was Montrachet in 1985. And once you open your own restaurant, you’re the restaurateur for the rest of your life! It wasn’t long before I opened a restaurant with chef Leslie Revsin at 24 Fifth Avenue, where I was also general manager.

When Sean Penn, Bill Murray and Robert DeNiro proposed what would become the Tribeca Grill in 1988, no one knew that DeNiro had already done a little “chef casting” of his own and had quietly flown Nobu Matsuhisa into New York to meet me. It wasn’t a great casting, and we went ahead with our original choice, but I always kept Nobu in mind for something in the future. The Tribeca Grill was a big hit, instantly. With Francis Ford Coppola and Robin Williams we opened our first out-of-town adventure, Rubicon, in San Francisco. East Hampton isn’t that far out of town, and Della Famina opened in the early 1990s, followed in 1993 by the Harley Davidson Café. In 1994, we finally opened Nobu — in August. Summer failure could have meant the end of our friendships and partnership, but it was a hit! The East Hampton restaurants were pretty much the beginning of the Myriad Restaurant Group, and over the past 22 years, Myriad has opened 30 restaurants, including Centrico (the Mexican place on Broadway, with Zorella Martino’s son [Aaron Sanchez] … a very Iron Chef).

Anywhere in the world you can’t eat in one of your own joints? Like W.C. Fields: Philadelphia!

Any non-industry projects in the works? You’ve been honored by the Liver Foundation and by the Tourette Syndrome Association, and you’re about to be honored by C-CAP, and I was downtown one night when you were hosting a table full of ancient veterans. I’m also interested in autism; the numbers are startling, and the spectrum is vast. Over the years, I’ve been on the board of charities like City Meals on Wheels, the Food Allergy Initiative with Robert Kennedy Jr., City Harvest. Let’s see, non-industry? I was in a musical directed by Mark Tarlov, a singing role, and was also in Simply Irresistible with Sarah Michelle Gellar. I got a nomination for my only line — as a “Food Critic”! I opened Crush Wines & Spirits three years ago, a new wave-y wine and liquor store. But that’s about it, so far.

I’m still hung up on your singing career — when do you have time to just hang out? I’m a big sports fan and music fan, so I adore all of the New York teams and spend a lot of time at Madison Square Garden, whether it’s Bruce Springsteen, U2, or the Police the other night. The Yanks and the Mets are both priorities. And then I like to go to places like Benito’s II in Little Italy or other “simple” Italian restaurants I don’t own. And I smoke a lot of cigars!

Industry Icons: Of course, Richard Melman is one of my heroes. And certainly the late Jean-Claude Vrinat who just passed away — and, yes, I recently made the pilgrimage to Ferran Adrià.

Who are some people you’re likely to be seen with, other than your wife and kids, of course? All of my childhood friends are still friends. Other than my partners, I’m friendly with the native tribesman Stephen Schirripa from The Sopranos, the sporting goods mogul Mitchell Modell, the comedian Robert Wuhl, and some of the wine personalities like my partner Larry Stone in San Francisco. There are old, old friends like Joe Joe Bastianich, Lorraine Bracco, Hedy Marshall (at the Yankee Games), and Philippe Petit, who he came to my 50th birthday. Have you seen his new documentary Man on a Wire?

Projections: I think it’s wonderful how food has become the most important part of my life. After all: chefs are the new models. Look at Bobby Flay! I still think there are a lot of dreams and ideas I have that I’ll be able to actualize in the coming days, a lot of battling, but a lot of wins. My partners are opening the first Nobu Hotel in Herzliya, Israel. Any possible crazy thing that has ever happened to anybody in life has happened to us. Just when you think you know the business … it doesn’t get easier; it seems to be harder.

It’s your own fault. You keep raising the bar. I work hard at having fun.

What are you doing tonight? Tonight I’m doing Neil Diamond. I don’t know just why I’m going to see him perform, but he’s an interesting part of our culture, and Rick Rubin, Russell Simmons’ partner in Def Jam, is producing him … so it should be interesting to see where he’s going. I’m dining at Tribeca Grill prior to the show — you know, summertime, Fridays. My kids are at home still, so after a long week, I get to be Dad.