Counter Intelligence: The Waverly Inn’s John DeLucie

Nightly they come, exiting chauffeured limos and Maybachs, rushing by the paparazzi, and entering a Bilbo Baggins-sized door into the magical labyrinth called The Waverly Inn. There’s no need to name them. “They” have all been there, whether strolling from neighboring West Village brownstones (“Hey, Hah-vee! Can we get one shot?”), or “just in” from Los Angeles. Cannes. Sundance. Turks. Rehab.

And there are the editors, the owners, the Dillers, the glamour pusses, the disheveled ink-stained wretches with a National Magazine Award nom under their belts too. Co-owner Graydon Carter sees to the private A-list, which has not increased by much since it opened with no public reservations (but for the chosen few, access via a secret email and contact number) two years ago. Skeptics predicted a backlash, a fallout — didn’t happen.

The Waverly works because of its staff of wry and calm pros, and the guy in (and out of) the kitchen who keeps it real. In his chef whites (but thank you, no Pillsbury hat), John DeLucie, 46, traverses the wood-planked bar giving equal attention to walk-ins and presidential hopefuls. Lindsay Lohan with a gaggle of look-alikes does not faze either. She’s from Long Island, just like Amy Fisher!

A snob he’s not; his cuisine is accessibly sublime. Enough about the truffled macaroni. His chicken entrées, the beet salad, a perfect bowl of chili, those damnable biscuits are good enough for us. Here, we asked for dish, but got something more satisfying as DeLucie took morning time off to talk at Nolita’s no-less-buzzy Café Habana.

BLACKBOOK: How did you get the job as chef of the Waverly? CHEF JOHN DELUCIE: I was riding my Schwinn three-speed aimlessly around the Village one morning and saw a “FOR RENT” sign in its window. The former operators had seemingly abandoned the place. I was friendly with a neighbor who knew the landlord. I called [co-owners] Eric Goode and Sean MacPherson and said to them, I found a place for us. We signed the lease less than a month later.

What was your first impression of Vanity Fair Editor-in-Chief Graydon Carter? Initially, I was intimidated, but I soon found him to be a funny and engaging ball-breaker. He is so clever. I like being around him just to listen to his views on the restaurant, and on life in general. I can’t say enough about how his involvement has impacted The Waverly.

Did you like or dislike the idea of making food for celebrity-finicky palates? For some reason I have always found myself cooking for New York City’s cognoscenti, although not on the scale of The Waverly. It’s a career path, I guess. And the truth is, here, I have found that the boldest face names have been the most gracious and the least persnickety.

How did the truffled macaroni become such a “thing?” At the time we started it, most restaurants that were doing truffles were charging considerably more than us, but they were calling their dish “Pasta con Tartufi Bianco.” We called ours “mac and cheese with white truffles,” and the press went berserk.

Do you have favorite celebrity customers? I have a healthy respect for our clientele. They are some of the most accomplished, fascinating, and fabulous people ever. I would like them all to keep coming, so I’m going to remain taciturn about who they are.

Tell me about the book you are writing, The Hunger, and how free are you with what you say about working there? It will be published by HarperCollins next spring. It’s an anecdotal account of my cooking and life experiences in New York City over the past 25 years. It is wry and funny — I hope. The Waverly is represented, but not in the context of what some leading men’s magazine editor did or didn’t eat, or who he ate it with.

Where did you learn to cook? It originally came from my maternal grandmother. Growing up, my family lived in this giant brownstone in Brooklyn, and I would find my way to her kitchen and tugged on her apron. She would make me a snack of pastina with butter, or zucchini and eggs. Those food memories stayed with me. My mom was also a good cook, and there’s obviously the Italian thing; we have a marvelously rich food culture… and we also like to yell and scream and talk over each other at the table.

Where do you eat out in Manhattan? Any place where I can use one fork for the entire meal.

Do your peers give you guff about working at Celebrity Central? Chefs can be a covetous, jealous lot. I had a sous-chef who got into a brawl in a Lower East Side bar because a fellow chef — who worked in one of those midtown temples of gastronomy, with a lot of stars awarded to it by The New York Times — had referred to him as “the guy who makes those chicken pot pies.” Defending the honor of a flaky crust: I like it.

Industry Insiders: Adam Alpert, Party Maestro

Adam Alpert, director of promotions for white-hot nightclub 1Oak (“1 Of A Kind”), is a true New York City party boy. From trips to St. Tropez in diapers to managing events at Manhattan restaurants and clubs, Alpert doesn’t know the meaning of a night off. Sushi Samba, Butter, and Pop Burger are among the notches on his belt, not to mention more in the Hamptons and those infamous New Year’s Eve parties in South Beach. Still, the med school student turned nightlife aficionado took a minute to talk with us about parties, Darwin, and those curious 1Oak paintings.

Point of Origin: “Born and raised on the Upper East Side. Went to Horace Mann high school in the Bronx. Went to collage at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. I was pre-med. The summer after my junior yr of college, right before I started studying for the MCATS, I came home for the summer and started going out to night clubs and enjoying myself. After a few weeks, people were calling me, begging me to come, giving me drinks for free, and I became immersed in this culture, and entranced by this, and how all the different industries come together at night, and I loved it

“I knew I wanted to be in the hospitality business. Both my parents are interior designers and they always loved throwing parties and events when I was growing up, so it was something that was in my nature. It was just something I was always interested in. I think growing up in the city sets me apart a little bit, my social network, my friends, a lot of them are all born and raised New Yorkers.”

Occupations: “I started off just promoting events with my friends, and after I decided I didn’t want to be a doctor, and I wanted to be in the nightlife/restaurant business, I sought out who everyone thought of as the king of NYC night life, Steve Lewis (Studio 54, Danceteria). He was running a place called Spa, and at the time [2001], Scott Sartiano was the director. I worked for them that summer. And I’ve been working on and off with Scott on all his projects ever since (Butter, G Spa & Lounge in the Hotel Gansevoort, 1Oak).”

Case History: “One company I started is called Get There PR [in 2004]. It’s a private events company, and we’re most known for our events in the Hamptons, where I spent my summers growing up at our family home. Our most notable event is the Hamptons Golf Classic, which just had its 4th year, two weeks ago. Most events are charity based, but we like to tie in companies and people from all different industries. Another company I founded is called Pocket Change, which is an online company that highlights the most expensive items in NYC. They send an email weekly: “most expensive hamburger in NYC, most expensive dry cleaners,” and they have alternatives, and why this is the most expensive one, and how outrageous it is.” Current Biz: What places do you own and/or frequent? “I work for 1Oak and Butter. I love Mary’s Fish Camp, I love Otto, Mario Batali’s pizza place. Growing up in NYC, the staples, Mr. Chow’s, Cipriani, Peter Luger, Nobu. I loved J.G. Melon, PJ Clarke’s, the luncheonette on 82nd and Lex has the best eggs in NYC.”

“My parents are huge travelers so since birth I’ve been traveling. We have a family home in St. Tropez, so I’ve been to St. Tropez every summer since I was born. I also love St. Barthes. Dune is by far the best nightclub in the Hamptons” title=”Hamptons”>Hamptons. Favorite restaurant there is the Palm. They have the best green salad in the world.”

What gives you the most pleasure or satisfaction in your daily life? “Introducing people. I love making connections between different people. One of the best things about this business is that I get to interact with people from all different industries: fashion, music, film, TV, Wall Street, charities. Connecting people and seeing how they can help each other and seeing people benefit from it gives me the greatest pleasure in the world.”

Known Associates: “Scott Sartiano, Richie Akiva, Jeffrey Jah, Ronnie Madras. Let’s stick with those.”

Who do you respect and admire? “Steve Lewis, Ian Schrager, Steven Starr, Keith McNally, Danny Meyer. Because those guys are all dedicated and on the job 24/7. They won’t put anything out unless it’s great.” Projections: “I’d like to open my own restaurant with nightlife elements similar to Butter. That’s really my passion. I’d like to have a couple more 1Oak” title=”1Oak’s”>1Oak’s open around the world.”

What are you doing tonight? “I’m going to the 10-year anniversary of Milk Studios. They’re having an outdoor barbecue, and then we have the after party here [at 1Oak]”.

What’s the deal with the paintings above the banquettes at 1Oak? I’ve heard about a million different explanations. “The two paintings were painted by the guy who designed this place, Roy Nachum. They were really his inspiration. His theme for the place is ‘Magic Kingdom’. The writing on the wall [above the bar] is actually Darwin’s Origin of Species carved into the wall”.

Is everything intertwined or is it just a mishmash of décor? “I’d like to think that it’s intertwined into one motif. There’s animals, there’s carved wood. It’s very Noah’s-Ark-meets-Darwin-meets-fantasy. It’s a ‘one of a kind’ experience.”

Prime Movers interviews A-listers from the business and leisure realms of nightlife, restaurants, hotels, and more.

Industry Insiders: Amy Sacco, Nightlife Queen

Amy Sacco, simply put, is the queen of New York nightlife. The city’s myriad bars and clubs act as her own personal Cheers, a place where everybody knows her name. Her near-mythical Bungalow 8 club celebrates its unprecedented-for-New York eighth year at this September’s Fashion Week, a year after a larger version opened in London. She’s the kind of club owner that doesn’t need a promoter. From her early days owning Lot 61, this Amazonian impresario understood what celebrities can do for one’s business — Bungalow regulars include everyone from the Olsens to Bill Clinton — so not only did she attract them to her clubs, she became a celeb herself.

Point of Origin: “I started in the restaurant business when I was a kid. My mother was always cooking night and day, with five brothers, two sisters, and my dad, she was constantly in the kitchen. So I learned a lot from her, and was always interested in the business. And eventually I got a job in a café, and then started working in the business altogether, all over, in every capacity you could imagine, from coat check, to bartender, to prep cook, to hostess. I also went to Johnston & Wales College, which is a hotel restaurant college. I worked with Jean-Georges Vongerichten and David Bouley. You meet a whole host of interesting people. I’ve been in the business so many years, I can’t believe it’s that many years. I don’t feel like I’m that old.”

“When I opened Lot 61, I figured a lot of people were doing their own thing, and if they could do it, I could do it. I just had to take the chance. No one’s gonna do it for you. So I decided to do it, and ended up really enjoying it and doing it well. So I was excited, I used to run a nightclub for Howard Stein, who was a great influence on my career in nightlife. He owned Au Bar, and recently passed away. He was one of the most experienced club owners in the city. His club ran for thirty something odd years, which is unheard of. I think all that experience just led me to end up trying it on my own. Lot 61 was super successful. It was 10 years old when I sold it to move onto other projects. And of course, Bungalow 8 is having its 8th anniversary during fashion week this year.”

“It took me forever to fund my first club. I almost quit fifteen times. It was just so impossible. I tried to do it, and half the time guys are like, “Sure, take me out on the town, show me what you need.” You can end up being out every night for years. Everyone has money ‘til it comes time to give it up. Then you’ve got to go through it again, so it takes a long time to learn how to get through conductors and how to structure deals. The first one is always the big learning curve, so we’ve gone through that. The second one is similar, and then you get to the point where you can start to cruise around, you know more about what you’re doing, you know more people. Once you prove yourself, it’s a lot easier.”

Current Biz:Bungalow 8 London has been open for a year. The whole concept is really based on being in a private bungalow if you were living in Palm Springs, or any of the warm climate hotels where they have separate bungalows from the hotel that you can kind of drive in on your own. So your part of the hotel and services, but you’re not really living at the hotel. Bungalow 8 London is more like the sophisticated European sister of New York. New York is more tropical, we have the palm trees, and we translated it differently design-wise, and it’s a little bit bigger in size. We have an outdoor patio there, we have an early cocktail club, and a very specific cocktail bar upstairs that’s open at six o’clock. And the downstairs opens at eleven o’clock, Tuesday through Saturday, and it’s much more of a clubby vibe than we have in New York. It’s darker with more dancing space. And also we have a hundred more bathrooms than in New York, so, fabulous!”

“I’m consulting in Vegas and I really love working with them. It’s partially a Morgans project, we’re part owners of it, but it’s a project I’m doing with Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. And they’re fantastic there, I love Vegas especially because of the fact that you get service to a tee. You go to a club in Las Vegas and it doesn’t matter who you are. If you’re getting in, you’re treated like a king. It’s phenomenal. By the people that own the clubs. Andrew Sasson has a ton of fabulous night clubs, and the Pure group as well.”

“They make so much money in Vegas that the people who work there take their jobs very seriously. In New York you pretty much have to be VIP to get any kind of advanced seating or fast service. As far as treatment, they grab you at the door, they’re very adept at the list. They study it, they memorize it, when they get there it’s not, “wait, I don’t have you.” They have every name and every referral that happens so when you go there, they’re ready for you at the door, they walk you in, they have your table ready. The server’s already waiting for you, they even take your orders in advance so you have it at the table for you. It’s a whole other level. That’s what we do at Bungalow 8, but it’s a very small scale to do it. We’re only 110 people at Bungalow. We’re very small, so for me it’s super impressive, because you get to see how they work that out in Vegas for, say, 4,000 people. I work as a creative director at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. I work on their events and I work with them on long-term sponsorships with other sponsor and grants and brand alliance.”

Friends and Enemies: “I can’t really worry about enemies. I don’t think I would obsess about any of that stuff, it’s so childish. If I didn’t like someone I would at least respect what they did if they were doing something talented. We all have a hard job, it’s hard to be everyone’s friend. Everybody expects a lot. You meet a lot of people, and they have a lot of expectations for you, and if you don’t fulfill them, they hate you immediately. It’s not easy.”

“I have a lot of people I look up to and respect. Diane von Furstenberg, Donna Karan, Ian Schrager, Andre Balasz. We’ve all known each other for years and a lot of us are more work related than personal friends, but we all attend the same events and spend time together, some of us socially and some just professionally.”

Favorite Spots: “I guess there’s a lot. I don’t go out that much because I travel so much. I go to the Rose Bar, and I definitely go to the Beatrice Inn. That’s basically the two places I go to. I haven’t actually gone out on a tour, which I probably will do by the end of the summer now that I have a little more space in my schedule. No I don’t. I don’t know where I’m finding the space, but I’ll find some.”

“My friends and I go on a bar crawl, we’ll go out and try a bunch of different places. Another one of my favorites is the Randolph, and Employees Only, The Box, and Milk and Honey. Because those are all about the cocktail, really doing service, the people there really care and are very passionate about it. I think that’s gotten to be the trend, more or less. They’re passionate about music or drinks or both. I think that’s a very important trend, and I believe we were one of the very first to start it when we did Lot 61 because we had the 61 flavors of martinis. Then we moved onto champagne cocktails, margaritas, mojitos, and doing all those things and shaping them more so than the average idea of what they are. I stole Ben Pundole, who is my partner in London. He’d come to visit me, I had met him at a party, and at the time he was at the Met Bar, which is the first bar in London to do serious cocktails. And then I met him at an event in New York and said, “Why aren’t you working for me?” And low and behold, he did. And then ten years later when he was at Morgans Hotel Group and we had been talking back and forth about doing something eventually, he called me and offered me Bungalow 8 London. So I made him my partner, and he’s fabulous. We’re actually about to start our second book. I have a cocktail book called Cocktails“.

Projections: “I’m not going be doing too much right now, I’ve got two things that I’m doing — well two, maybe for other people, that’s not too much for me. But you’ll see two things from me in the next six months in New York.”

[Editor’s note: For even more Sacco action, see our follow-up interview.]

Prime Movers interviews A-listers from the business and leisure realms of nightlife, restaurants, hotels, and more.

Industry Insiders: Sujit Kundu, DJ Promoter Extraordinaire

A promotional prodigy, Sujit Kundu has channeled his love of the game into startling early success as a DJ talent manager, promoter, and recording executive. His laundry list of clients and associates reads like a who’s who of turntable talent, not to mention an artistically profitable relationship with sudden superstar Lil Wayne. Unsurprisingly, his ambition isn’t quite satisfied.

Point of Origin: “I was born in Boston, Massachusetts and raised in Fullerton, CA. During high school, at the age of 16, I started promoting clubs and raves as well producing concerts in Southern California. After high school, I attended and eventually graduated from UCSB, where my primary focus on academics quickly changed as I began to see the business opportunities in the marketplace. At 19, I became the GM of Sticks restaurant and nightclub (Santa Barbara’s #1 club) and started my own mix show and street promotion company. After college, the mix-show promotions escalated into independent/retainer radio promotions. At the same time, myself and Damian Young, along with Emmis Communications, created Baby Ree Productions, a joint venture production company, which produced tracks for the likes of Mariah Carey, Ja Rule, Nate Dogg, Warren G, and Shade Sheist, among others.”

“When the joint venture dissolved, I started a DJ management company, S.K.A.M. Artist (Sujit Kundu Artist Management), responsible for the talent and music at some of the highest-profile events around the US. Around the same time, I was hired by the regional promotions department of MCA/Geffen. During the MCA/Geffen merger, I was let go and went on to tour and road-manage artists including Frankie J, Baby Bash, Nate Dogg, Warren G, and TQ. I was then hired by Universal Records to work national crossover radio promotions. Nine months later, I was promoted to VP of crossover radio promotions and am currently VP of promotions for Universal Motown.” Occupations: “I’m a businessman. People often wonder how I handle such a busy work schedule and such a heavy workload … it’s as simple as the classic line I reference in response: ‘If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.’ Money isn’t the primary motive for me, or my company. I will often spend my own money to develop the brand or to develop an idea I have, even if its not dollar-for-dollar the smartest move. I like to get things done on time and in a professional way. I hate making mistakes, and I hate when people make the same mistake twice even more.”

Case History: “While promoting clubs and events, I was among the first promoters to bring Mobb Deep to the West Coast to perform. I also put together the first performance for Mack 10. When it comes to the raves I produced in Hollywood, I was able to attract over 4,000 attendees to a single event through my promotions. As the owner of S.K.A.M. Artist, I feel we are leading the way as the premier open-format DJ booking agency in the country, representing the likes of DJ Vice, Sky Nellor, DJ Irie, Eric Cubeechee, DJ Homicide, D-Nice, Mr. Mauricio, Roctakon, Ross One, and Ob One, among many others. As the vice president of promotions for Universal Motown, some milestones include helping to break new artist Chamillionaire, helping to propel Akon to the #1 and #2 singles position on the crossover chart with “Smack That” and “I Wanna Love You,” then maintaining those positions by having those same singles trade positions. Currently, at Motown, Lil Wayne has the #1 single in the country on the crossover chart for the past 11 weeks with “Lollipop,” and he just sold over 1 million records within the first week of the album’s release. Lil Wayne also currently has three singles in the Crossover Top 10 Chart.

Current Biz: “I spend about 80% of my time in NYC and the other 20% in LA, both places where I work and like to play. To relax, I like to stay at home and watch TV. You can usually find me hanging out wherever my DJs are spinning, if I am in the same city as one of them that night, or wherever the Universal job takes me. When in LA, I like to hang out at Coco de Ville, Hyde, Villa, or I may even go hang out at the Highlands or Minx. I’m down for whatever in NYC; I like to go to Marquee, Pink Elephant, 1Oak … but, like I said, it’s usually wherever DJs that S.K.A.M. represents are hanging out at.” Known Associates: “On the label side of my life, Gary Marella and Sylvia Rhone are good friends. During the work day, all other labels are my competition, but at 7 p.m. when the days is over, it’s all good, and we can go get a drink and hang out. On the S.K.A.M. side, all the DJs I represent, I consider family and friends. I am close to Noah and Jason and the rest of Strategic Marketing Group, Dave Grutman and the Miami Marketing Group, Dave G and Michael Fuller at the Palms, Andy Hersh and Tony Wang at the Hard Rock Hotel, everyone at Bolthouse/SBE … There are really too many to list. I am, after all, ‘the people’s Indian!'” Projections: “I ultimately see myself running a label one day. Think that is further down the road than one year, though. I also see S.K.A.M. Artist going global along with taking DJing, in general, to the next level and making S.K.A.M. Artist a household name. Basically doing what I am doing now, but on a much larger scale. Tonight, I’m off to Seattle representing Universal Motown, where I will be with Lil Wayne for a show he has out there.”

Prime Movers interviews A-listers from the business and leisure realm of nightlife, restaurants, hotels, and more.

Industry Insiders: Harry Morton, Hipster Restaurateur

The big restaurant biz certainly runs in Harry Morton’s family. His grandfather Arnie Morton started the immortally eponymous Morton’s, and his father Peter Morton was a cofounder of the Hard Rock Cafe chain. Harry has a few irons of his own in that fire, including his own Pink Taco chain and the recent purchase of legendary LA club Viper Room. And just incidentally, he used to date Lindsay Lohan.

Point of Origin: “Born in London, live in LA now.”

Current Biz: “Currently working on expanding Pink Tacos and Viper Room — working to build my company large enough to give us total marketing freedom. We want the ability to do what we want when we want. I’m also creating a new concept that is solely based on creating business to give back. The entire company’s focus is to make money to give back positively in the community. I’m working with Lloyd and Co., who are creative geniuses … they are helping me develop the idea. A real passion project.”

Known Associates: “My friends are loyal and true. There are many phonies in LA, so we avoid them at all cost. I respect and admire anyone who is authentic and real. Nowadays, authenticity has been thrown out the window for the corporate, reality-TV-based commercial culture we live in. So anyone that stays true, doesn’t sell out, and follows what they believe is a friend. My enemies are people that are negative, sell out, phony, spineless. It’s all about surrounding yourself with positive people and positive energy.”

Projections: “I want to move to Hawaii for at least one year, continue to grow my companies, follow what my gut instincts tell me, seek out new creative opportunities, start my own record label, surround myself with more creative people, collaborate, create.”

Where do you want to be this time next year? “I don’t know about one year. I don’t know where I want to be tomorrow.”

What are you doing tonight? “I’m going out to dinner and then I’m going to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.”

Prime Movers interviews A-listers from the business and leisure realm of nightlife, restaurants, hotels, and more.

Industry Insiders: Lionel Ohayon, Design’s Dark Magician

Lionel Ohayon’s ICRAVE has designed and architected some of the coolest bleeding-edge restaurants, clubs, lounges, and hotels of recent years. From New York to Los Angeles, and Las Vegas to Miami, ICRAVE venues draw praise from nightlifers and aesthetes alike — and Ohayon promises more to come.

Point of Origin: “I’m a French Moroccan Jew. I was made in Morocco, but born in Canada where I grew up and studied architecture at the University of Waterloo. After working and studying in Paris and Rome, I came to New York at the bequest of a client/friend who had recently gotten engaged to the daughter of a billionaire and needed help on a sprawling mansion. I never finished that project (I don’t think it’s finished yet); it’s not destined for completion. But I did get a virus in my system called New York, and never left. New York is my junk.”

Occupations: “I do architecture and design and own a design firm called ICRAVE. I do it in places I want to be, with people who have passion and are driven by dreams — not fear — and it’s done best with reckless abandon.”

Case History: “I was once a street vendor. I sold sunglasses and t-shirts. We were really just trying to pick up girls. I just remember always having big rolls of cash. That was a great company because I never took your work home with me. Well … I’m talking about the vending part. After graduating, I started EYECRAVE in Toronto, and instantly found myself designing nightclubs and bars for friends back home. Most people thought that I owned an eyewear company, so I eventually changed the name to ICRAVE. In March, I opened ICRAVE LA.

Current Biz: “I started ICRAVE and O+D Builders with my partner in late 2001. The concept was to control the design process by being in charge of the construction. Our first project to open was Pangaea. Soon after that was a stream of Manhattan’s most successful lounges post 9-11 including Dorsia, B’Lo, Viscaya, Crobar. I feel we are hitting artistic milestones regularly. It’s what inspires me the most. I am a founding partner in The One Group here in New York, which owns STK, Tenjune, and One Little West 12th here in New York; and STK, One Sunset, and Coco De Ville in LA. We are opening STK Miami and Coco DeVille in early 2009 and manage all the food and beverage operations for the Gansevoort Hotel in South Beach. The One Group is opening STK in Las Vegas in late 2009 and a bunch of other projects I cannot yet reveal. I am also an owner of Kiss & Fly and Bagatelle in the Meatpacking District with several other partners and plan to expand them around the world.”

Where do you like to travel or relax? “I love Brazil; I am building myself a beach villa retreat in Bahia. For weekends out of New York, I have a property upstate between Woodstock and Hudson that I absolutely love breaking away to.”

What are you currently working on? “Design-wise we are working a lot in Vegas, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Dubai, and India. Our work is mostly in the hospitality sector, but we’re pretty close to signing a deal to do a house in Beverly Hills, which is a completely new venture for us. We are also designing two cruise ships, which is pretty cool.”

What gives you the most pleasure or satisfaction in your daily life? “I learned a long time ago that the most important thing I’ll ever design is my life and career. I spend a lot of time creating the culture that is ICRAVE. Watching it grow and seeing the talented people who work with me interact in this creative environment is a trip. Being able to do what I love as a profession — and having the ability to make it fun and inspiring — is tremendously rewarding.”

Who are your friends, neighbors, partners, enemies? Famous, infamous, or obscure? Who have you collaborated with? Who do you respect and admire? “All the people you’ve listed know who they are and would hopefully appreciate not being listed, I would think.”

What are your plans for the future? “ICRAVE; Europe, India, Dubai … designing in new media, definitely furniture and product, maybe film. The One Group: a lot of new projects between now and 2012. New venture: I am working on developing a chain of very sexy and exclusive destination properties around the world.”

What will you do next? “Who knows … chill a bit, I hope.”

Where do you want to be this time next year? “On the deck of a sailboat.”

What are you doing tonight? “Flying from London to New York.”

Prime Movers interviews A-listers from the business and leisure realm of nightlife, restaurants, hotels, and more.

Industry Insiders: Rachel Uchitel, VIP Diva

UPDATE: Rachel Uchitel speaks about her alleged affair with Tiger Woods.

Rachel Uchitel has run the velvet ropes from Las Vegas to the Hamptons. Uchitel’s come a long way — she lost her fiancée in the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11, found love again, then moved on once more. After conquering so many obstacles and returning east to manage VIP action at some of the most successful clubs in New York, she has no plans to slow down.

Occupations: “I’m obsessed with work ethic and can get anything done. I’m aware of what I am good at and what I am not, and I surround myself with people to help get the job done flawlessly. Having once worked in live TV, I’m intuitive about reading people’s wants and needs, and I take customer service to a whole new level. It can be difficult being a successful woman in this industry because being assertive is often misinterpreted as being a complete bitch. I take people’s opinion of me personally, and that can be rough.”

Case History: “After college, I worked in TV and film, which included five years as a television producer at Bloomberg News. In a random career move and a life-changing experience, I found myself living in Las Vegas to launch Tao nightclub and restaurant, which quickly became the number-one grossing venue in the world. Two years later, I was back in New York to oversee VIP operations for all of their companies and venues, such as Stanton Social, Marquee, Tao Bistro, and Dune.”

Current Biz: “I’m currently director of VIP operations for Pink Elephant in Southampton. I spend my weekends at the beach with the two loves of my life — Ozzy Osbourne and Rudy Giuliani — my affenpinscher and brussels griffin. I’m back in the city during the week. In the Hamptons, I’m obsessed with Nello, Lily Pond (where the cutest guy in New York works, who I am crushing on), and of course Pink Elephant. I own a Turnberry apartment in Vegas. I love going there for long weekends when it’s not too hot out. I love Saint-Tropez and spend a few weeks there every year. The Four Seasons in Thailand (Chiang Mai) is my favorite place in the world.”

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Known Associates: “Although I’ve been romantically linked to a famous baseball player, a Broadway star, a musician, and various film and television actors, I will never kiss and tell! Some of the simplest things in life make me happy, and I want to end up with someone who truly loves and respects me for who I am. I have amazing friends and acquaintances that have been so generous to me, both personally and professionally, and they’re part of who and where I am at this stage in my life. I’m lucky to get paid to just be who I am, and am so grateful to be surrounded by the people I know and love that I have met through work. Projections: “My grandparents owned and operated El Morocco supperclub in the 1960s; famous people from President John F. Kennedy to Cary Grant frequented the place on a regular basis. I’ve held on to my family’s memorabilia, and my dream is to re-create, own, and operate a modern-day El Morocco. Where am I a year from now? Standing over design renderings of my new club with a fabulous investor, still yet to be found.”

Photos: Ann Lawlor

Prime Movers interviews A-listers from the business and leisure realm of nightlife, restaurants, hotels, and more.

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