Fourth of July Nightlife: Behind the Scenes

The Fourth of July weekend looms, ready to empty Manhattan of its denizens of the night. Quite a few people have cut out already, leaving club operators in a quandary. With so many of their regulars away in exotic lands, how do they generate income to pay their bills, and how do they make staffing decisions? In an age of instant awareness, clubs that are crowded will become known to people who find themselves in empty rooms. A text, a tweet, or a call has them scurrying to find the crowds, and a well-run and established club has a leg-up on competitors.

The smart clubs employ PR companies that get the name and image of their clients to the masses both locally and throughout the world. While Manhattanites are off to vacation hovels, New York City becomes a destination for millions who want to see the fireworks and enjoy the hot town. These tourists with no job to wake up to want to go out to party. They almost always have only a name from a celebrity sighting, a synopsis in a city guide, or the word of their hotel concierge to steer them to the right nightclub. These concierges are heavily swayed by what they read in Page Six and New York Magazine.

PR companies worth their salt keep the name of their clients out there. Nightlife sections of lifestyle magazines and blogs are constantly updated with images and blurbs to attract those not normally looped in. Concierge outreach programs are used by the smart venues. A rep from the club visits chic hotels regularly and establishes relationships.

During the normal course of business throughout the year, the guests of these concierges are given preferred treatment for entrance and often other incentive-filled deals, like discounts on bottles. These concierges are sometimes tipped back by clubs for sending spenders their way but get much of their loot from satisfied customers. On weeks like this, when tourist dollars are the salvation, these concierge programs can save the day. Tourists don’t have work for days to come and are raring to go, eager to spend beaucoup bucks in places they have been convinced are ultra exclusive.

The best joints in town will lower their standards to fill their rooms. It is an opportunity for those allergic to the Hamptons and other cricket-heavy lands to get into places that normally exclude them. It can set the tone for a relationship with a doorman and club staff and ease entry going forward. Door people welcome familiar faces who have proven themselves to behave "correctly.” A borderline "no" can become a consistent "yes" if an effort to impress is made. Operators have a hard time staffing long weekends. Their employees, like most people, have other places they’d rather be. Staff are told in advance to not even think about being MIA, as operators can’t predict how busy or not they will be.

I will see the fireworks from the roof of the Tribeca Grand Hotel where there are stirrings of a rebirth of its traditionally vibrant nightlife culture. I have attended a couple of swell events there recently and I hear word of more to come. It has always worked for me. Multiple rooms, great sound, delicious drinks and even food, and the sexiness of the atrium and rooms up above have made me a regular over many years.

On another note, I was completely captivated by the new Wes Anderson flick, Moonrise Kingdom. I advise you stop reading this right this second, leave your house, and head over to your nearest cinema and see this film. Hell, quit your job…go now. Yes, I am that age. Yes, I had one of those Davy Crockett hats and I was the nerdiest, bespeckled scout. The world of my New England summer youth is there to be seen. I even had an eternal love that lasted an entire summer. I camped out, was bullied and fought back, and thought I knew everything about the trees and the winds and the animals of my wooded universe by the infinite lake of our seasonal retreat.

I’ve gotta go…I’m gonna see it again.

Boldface Publicist R. Couri Hay On the Next Week’s Black Party and His Book “Secret Lives”

Someone once told me that, with rare exceptions, the sign of a great rock and roll drummer is that you don’t notice he’s even there. He is there to keep things sure and steady. Usually, publicists are like that: rarely the center of attention, although they are always around keeping the place in the news, controlling uncomfortable situations, being an honest steady ear and an independent but inside-voice. R. Couri Hay is a boldface name that handles and sometimes creates boldface names. I have known him for decades, and adore and respect him as one of the top guns of PR. I asked Marie Assante who works with Couri to tell me a bit about him and got this:

 "R. Couri Hay specializes in media relations and image/brand development. He is a creative strategist, image counselor, and campaign and crisis manager. Known as a social commentator with a focus on Hollywood, high society, and philanthropy, he has been featured on The Today Show, CBS Early Show, Extra, VH1, Fox News, CNBC, CNN, ET, and ABC World News Now. 
In print, his experience is vast. He started his career as one of the original contributing editors of Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine, and went on to help create the chatter column for People magazine and write for Town & Country. He currently is a Society Editor and Columnist for Gotham, Hamptons, and Avenue Magazines."
If the party is good, Couri is there either working or mingling. He has a sharp wit and tongue to go with it – I have been on the good and bad side of it. He is always a gentleman, a concept that has great meaning for me. He has always been there for me, often the voice of reason in unreasonable situations. He is the consummate professional and can be found on every major players’ list of potential PRs. With the infamous Black Party looming, I caught up with him and asked him about his involvement and other stuff.
 
Five thousand gay men are converging on Roseland Ballroom for the Black Party, and you are the publicist? How does one do publicity for this world?
To clarify, the publicist for the Black Party is Dan DeMello. My only involvement is that SaintatLarge.com is generously and bravely excerpting the last chapter from my novel Secret Lives. The reason they’re doing this is that the last chapter takes place on March 21, 1981, the day of the inaugural Black Party. I take the reader back in real-time to that night and my friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe, who was the party’s official photographer. I bumped into Stephen Pevner, who is Bruce Mailman’s cousin and now owns The Saint, at the LGBT Center’s Art + Sin Black Party Poster Party last week and he told me all of the statistics on the March 24th event, which I was happy to share with Emily Smith at Page Six.
 
Because Stephen Pevner allowed me to excerpt my novel Secret Lives on SaintatLarge.com, it’s getting the party some additional attention, which it deserves.  It was the first gay circuit party on Earth and remains the gay world’s premiere S&M "convention."  Pevner has published a special magazine about the Black Party and has a major advertising machine in GLBT publications around the world, which have been covering the event since its inception. Their website has a series called Stories from the Saint, in addition to video testimonials. My observation is that you publicize this circuit party in the same way publicist’s publicize the Oscars, only it’s targeted to the gay press rather than the mainstream media. In essence, the Black Party is the Olympics of the S&M world.
 
You have been a publicist for a good minute. Tell me about your clients over the years. What boldface names stick out and which were the easiest to work press for?
I’m very proud of the work I have done for the children of my friends. I helped launched the careers of Amanda Hearst (the daughter of Anne Hearst the publishing heiress), Lydia Hearst (the daughter of Patty Hearst one of John Waters’ favorite actresses), Lauren Bush (the daughter of Sharon Bush) who I helped when she became the UN’s spokesperson for the world’s hungry children, and Sarah Bradford, the half sister of Matt Damon who became Page Six Magazine’s #1 It Girl.
 
I represented Harry Winston, Bergdorf Goodman, and opened the Prada, Bulgari, and Chopard stores in Aspen. I had a lot of fun representing the champagnes Krug and Vueve Clicquot where I got to giveaway tens of thousands of glasses of champagne to celebrities ranging from Catherine Deneuve to Naomi Campbell.  While I was the publicist for Grand Classics at Soho House and Cinema Society, I did screenings with dozens of movie stars ranging from Gwneth Paltrow and Philip Seymour Hoffman, to Signourney Weaver and Dennis Hopper. This week (March 13th), I did publicity for Paper Street Films producers Austin Stark and Bingo Gubelmann around the screening of their new film Detachment, starring Adrien Brody, Lucy Liu, and Blythe Danner.
 
In nightlife I’ve worked with Studio 54, Tatou, Nell’s, MK, Red Zone, Pink Elephant Club, M2, and most recently Pacha, District 36, Hudson TerraceViktor & SpoilsSway, Snap, and STASH, which have played host to an endless stream of boldfaced names.
R. Couri
 
These days, many clubs are not looking to get traditional press as a way to protect their clients privacy. Is this really new or was it also sometimes your job to keep things quiet?
It was always my job and is still my job to keep 90 percent of what I know under wraps. It’s the other 10 percent that ends up on the front pages of the Post and the Daily News, in Page Six, GatecrasherPeopleUS Weekly, etc.There’s always a fine line about what’s acceptable to write about a celebrity, such as a sighting, and what’s unacceptable, which would be brawls and other naughty acts they wouldn’t want to see in print.
 
Tell me a damage-control story.
Most of my damage-control stories have been on behalf of victims. I worked with both women that ended up letting Oscar De La Hoya talk them into their underwear.  Both of these stories ended up on the front pages around the world. I did my best to control the public’s perception of these women. I also represent George Soros’ ex-girlfriend Adrianna Ferrera who is now suing for $50 million.
 
Tell me about the book.
The novel Secret Lives is about a bisexual designer, partially based on my ex-lover Halston and other designers I knew in the ’80s. The fictional Rodney Sparrow marries Blandy Bradford, the debutante of the decade, who shoots him in the first chapter after discovering that she’s pregnant and that he infected her with the AIDS virus, which he contracted during his secret gay sex life. The book then flashes back to both of their personal and family histories. The lead characters are based on composites of real people that I knew intimately. Secret Lives is set within real events including the Oscars, Grammys, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Galas. The book has cameos by virtually every boldfaced name that mattered from the ’80s. Secret Lives is a first-hand diary of the times that I lived in.
 
Are you attending the Black Party and, if so, what are you wearing?
Sadly, although I’ve attended 27 of the 31 Black Partys, I’ll be skiing in Courchevel France with my family and goddaughter who is on spring break. The last one I attended was in 2009 where I danced alongside Marc Jacobs and his then-lover Lorenzo Martone.