Don Hill Memorial Show Lineup, Rocco Ancarola Recovering

Christmas is like tomorrow, and the mayhem in the stores and in our brains has us desperately searching for that perfect gift for our imperfect friends,relatives and lovers. A pair of tickets to the December 15th Don Hill tribute gala at Irving Plaza, albeit a little early, will serve your rocker friends well. The event is being spearheaded by Trigger, a fixture in the NYC rock scene. He’s the guy you always see wearing the conical hat mostly associated with rice paddies.

Trigger owns Continental on the Bowery at St. Marks, that 5 drinks for $10 place. Continental used to book bands, but it’s hard to make money in that game, and the crazy drink special thing seems to work. Don Hill booked bands at his wonderful Soho dive club. He passed in March. It was a sudden exit for one of the finest gentleman around. His glorious spot Don Hills is shuttered without a viable replacement.

The tribute for Don Hill is getting bigger, with a lineup that just added New York Dolls front man David Johansen and The Psychedelic Furs’ lead singer Richard Butler and the infamous Jayne County and a special Squeezebox performance. There will be more "ands" as the date nears.  Those already slated to perform include Jesse Malin, Lenny Kaye, Dick Manitoba (featuring members of The Dictators), actor Michael Imperioli’s band La Dolce Vita, Adam Bomb, Bebe Buell Band, Daniel Rey, Trigger’s All-Stars, and Miss Guy (Toilet Boys), along with special appearances by Michael Schmidt (Squeezebox), and Mistress Formika. The event — "A Celebration of the Legendary Don Hill" — will gather those of us who have been dispersed into some strange rock purgatory devoid of a watering hole with a stage. It and Don were always there to provide the goods and scratch our hard to reach itches. Don Hill provided that joint for us for decades. Trigger says,"Don was a mentor to us younger club owners by example without even realizing it. He was simply the classiest and sweetest guy in the business, period. Don always had such an abiding love of the music and the artists that played it."

Hundreds of people turned out for Don’s memorial service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Mulberry Street, and there is an independent film in the works. Tomorrow I will talk to a few of Don’s closest friends about his love for all things rock, for the thousands he served and the impact he had on us all. Click here for tickets to the memorial show.

On another note, our prayers go out to Lavo’s Rocco Ancarola, who is hospitalized after emergency heart surgery. It was reported that he was hit by an aortic aneurysm while arriving at Lavo where he is a partner and ultra host. He is friends to all that go bump in the night but enemy to paper napkins which he constantly tosses in the air for affect. Before Lavo, he was the grand pooba at Pink Elephant. Facebook friends who have visited him report that "the operation was successful, he is in stable condition and recovering, but he is still under a medically induced coma."

Riviera Sundays at Lavo, the Ban on Big Sodas, Sylvia Wood’s Passing

There will be no napkins safe this weekend as the serviette-tossing Rocco Ancarola returns to Lavo, July 29, for Riviera Sundays starting at 9:30pm. It is a joyous occasion. The event, called a "Celebration of Life," is a reference to Rocco’s long recovery from a heart attack that almost ended his life. In a Facebook post, he offered, "Thank you to all my friends for all your Love. You all helped me to recover very well and I THANK YOU ALL !!!!” Rocco is one of the great gentlemen in this business and we can’t wait to see him.

While at BINGO at Hotel Chantelle Monday, tablemate Michael Cavadias informed us that he was going to miss a week, something we never do, because he was heading to London. "For the Olympics," someone exclaimed, and I imagined him in a leotard, pole vaulting or weight lifting. Actually, he and our dear friend and inspiration Kembra Pfahler (Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black) are performing at Antony’s (of Antony and the Johnsons) Meltdown Festival. Other performers include Lou Reed, Hercules and Love Affair, Joey Arias, Marc Almond, Laurie Anderson, and Diamonda Galas. The festival runs from August 1st to the12th, basically at the same time Olympians (sans the banned Greek racist track star) are running for the gold.

So I was so-so when Mayor Bloomberg led the charge in banning cigarette smoking in places where I eat and drink and dance and play and walk in. The downside at the time was the encroachment by government into our rights…or freedom of choice. The arguments about second-hand smoke hurting those around those evil smokers won the day and, in retrospect, the trade-off was OK.

Now comes a proposed ban on large containers of sodas that contain dreaded sugar at any place regulated by the Board of Health. It’s easy to spot those: they have a letter grade in their front window. I am a strictly-diet-soda guy, but this ban reeks of Big Brother. If they can ban sugar in soda, then they can ban butter on popcorn or lollipops or cracker jacks or hot dogs or liverwurst. The foods we eat are often only acceptable in moderation. I didn’t trust the cigarette ban because it seemed like a step 1. Now that step 2 is on the brink of enactment, I fear for step 3. Is step 100 a requirement for sensible shoes? A ban on ankle-breaking Louboutins? If a person wants to buy fattening soda, educate them, don’t regulate them.

Will drink maximums be considered by our Mayor? This won’t end until Bloomberg is put out to his billionaire pasture. He is so out of touch with the life of the regular guy that he thinks this might actually stop someone from consuming massive amounts of whatever. If they can’t buy a 32-ounce bottle, they’ll buy two 16-ouncers. Will New Yorkers eventually be fined for not wearing sunglasses on a sunny day?

We have to mention the passing of Sylvia Woods at 86, the legendary proprietor of Sylvia’s, Harlem’s soul food mecca. She was buried this morning. Reverend Al Sharpton performed the eulogy. I never met Sylvia, but was touched by her. When I was designing the Cherry Lounge for Timbaland and DJ Clue in Harlem, me and mine would stroll over to Sylvia’s for lunch and comfort. The walk over and the meal and the company at her restaurant washed away a myriad of stupid misconceptions we had about Harlem. She was a true ambassador for the neighborhood. It was wonderful. She will be missed.

Help Raise Money for Ailing Nightlife Fixture Rocco Ancarola

This Wednesday, Lavo will host I Heart Rocco, a fundraiser for Rocco Ancarola who suffered an aortic aneurysm, and will be unable to work for a year. Rocco is one of NYC nightlife’s really nice guys and a huge committee which includes me will gather and invite people to this gala. They’re looking for $50 a head to help Rocco offset some medical costs and living costs until he can come back to us fully recovered. DJ Reach will supply the music from 10pm to midnight. If holiday obligations have you someplace else, then you can donate here. I caught up with dear friend of Rocco and myself, Jayma Cordoso, and asked her a few.

First of all how is he? What happened and what is the prognosis? 
Rocco is doing amazingly well for someone who faced a life and death situation. He suffered an aortic aneurysm, which is a ballooning of the artery that supplies the heart. It required open heart surgery. The prognosis is that Rocco is and will always be all heart. Recovery will take a year, but it’s Rocco, so he’ll do it with a joyous heart and the outlook is very positive.

Why the benefit?
I heart Rocco is to help raise funds to help cover a portion of the cost for Rocco’s medical bills. And help him out for this year that he can’t work. 

What will the event be like? He’d want it to be a celebration.
I think you’re right, he’d want it to be fun. Rocco has a passion for life, and I’d like to think this will be a celebration of friendship, of old friends and new friends, the friendships that were forged through Rocco or the events he put together.

Does he have something to say to the thousands who love him?
It’s Rocco, he always has something to say, whether it’s a story, a joke, or supportive words for whoever he comes across. That’s why we love him. So, if anything, I’d think he’d tell everyone how much he loves them and how much they mean to him.

Who is Rocco how can he be described?
Rocco is a celebration of life. He really has passion for what matters most: family, friends, the meals, events, and the moments that pull us together in a common bond. For me, Rocco represents all that is good in life and he wants nothing more than to share those moments with everyone around him.

What else can be done to help him?
I Heart Rocco. Come together and celebrate being a friend, a friend of friend, and the ties that bind us. If you can’t make it to the event, you can always click this link or visit the website and make a donation. And as always, keep your loved ones in your thoughts and prayers, and maybe an extra prayer for Rocco. He loves the attention.

Rocco Ancarola Has That Boom

The party for the ages happened last night for partner Jason Strauss at Lavo. It was a can’t-miss birthday party that, unfortunately, I had to miss. Jason will forgive me. He is an emperor now, but I knew him when he was just beginning his journey. I can’t imagine what heights he will attain. To the envious club promoter-types who wish they could be king: know that a lot of hard, smart work and sacrifice come with the crown. Happy Birthday Jason.

I was invited by Jason’s long-time partner Noah Tepperberg, and the newest member/partner of the Lavo group, Rocco Ancarola. Rocco also invited me to the 19th Anniversary of Boom, that Spring and West Broadway restaurant hangout. I was one of the few he could invite that was there and is still around. Rocco always wins the award for “guy most likely to throw napkins up in the air.” I think he invented that. The nicest guy in the biz, Rocco and I chatted about Boom, and what it all means.

What is Boom today, and how has it changed over the last 19 years? Boom’s concept was a global menu of original dishes from around the world—not fusion food! it was the first restaurant of its kind, back then. It won a lot of awards, including the prestigious John Mariani Esquire Award for Best Restaurant in the USA. Boom was written up by every major publication in the world. I introduced world music to the ears of my clients, I chose waiters from all over the world, and the uniforms changed periodically, influenced by Africa, India, and so forth. I had people dancing on tables and taking their clothes off during dinner, it was insane, and soon after everyone in New York was trying to do the same. Since I left to do other places, things have quieted down at Boom, but business is still booming!

The menu has changed from the global to all Italian. It still features live bands, and Boom has survived through many snow storms and September 11th—when downtown was a ghost town. So it’s a real pleasure and great satisfaction to see this institution still alive and kicking!

How did Boom start? Boom started as an Idea in the late 80’s when I was living in Los Angeles, pursuing my acting career. I was cast by Oliver Stone in “Wall Stree.” Then Madonna cast me to play her father in the award winning video directed by David Fincher. Even though acting was my calling ever since I was a little boy, the passion of the restaurant world followed me around it was in my blood. I missed New York, so I invested in my idea and built it in Soho, which was my favorite place in New York—an area with very few restaurants. And so Boom was born. What are you up to these days? I was a founding member of the Pink Elephant club and since it closed. I opened a gastro pub called Rabbit in the Moon, but I have since had a falling out with a partner and his family, so I resigned. But I was approached by my friends, Marc Packer, Rich Wolf, Jason Strauss, and Noah Tepperberg to join them, and partner up with them at the new Lavo, so i came on board as a Partner.

There I run my successful Sunday night party (started at Boom back in the day) at Lavo, and I have given it a new flavor and new name. It’s called “Riviera Sundays,” and it’s a take on the Italian Riviera of the 1960’s. Movie stars of that era hung out in these chic Italian restaurants, and enjoyed fine dining with fun music. So I have a DJ playing old Italian & French hits from that era, and I have a live Gipsy Kings style band (which originated on the French Riviera) to entertain the guests while they eat dinner.

Jason, Noah, Marc, and myself have been friends for a long time, and we have always talked about doing something together with Jayma Cardoso (my favorite ex-girlfriend). I think the future is bright. I just hope I can one day give back to them what they have given me now.

I will still pursue my acting dream, and my directing dream. I have a new movie coming out called “Cathedral Canyon,” and I am busy writing a script based on my Mom and Dad’s love story. I will play my Dad. After playing Madonna’s father, I might as well play my own!

Industry Insiders: Aalex Julian of Tenjune

Tenjune door sentry Aalex Julian dishes on the K-Mart of nightlife, the old chicks and thugs who don’t make the cut, “animals” who grab asses, and why some nightlife vets are toast.

Point of Origin: I’ve been working the door at clubs in Manhattan for almost six years. I started doing a lot of special events, for Lizzie Grubman, other PR groups. I did the Jay-Z event in the Hamptons. I knew people like Jeffrey Jah from going out. Some people resent me because I befriended the right people.

Instead of starting off as a security guard or something, I started off at a good level. A lot of people get hired and fired, are around for three or four years. When I started, I was working at Rehab, which was one of the top places at the time. The first door that was my door was Below, on 19th Street in 2002. Then I went right to Rehab. Then Bed, Cain, Guest House, Pink Elephant twice (on 13th Street and when they opened on 27th Street). I opened Home, I opened Guest House. There’s been a few more, but that’s the chronology. I chose to leave 27th Street before it got as bad as it’s gotten.

What do you think changed? I think [Home and Guest House owner] Jon B is the K-Mart of nightlife. When I started at Guest House, we decided with his partner Ronnie [Madra, now of 1Oak], we all agreed it would be a high-end, selective place. Within two months, Jon B started flipping the switch, letting in thugs, letting in a guy who was threatening people. It sounds like you’re very into keeping your standards. You have to be. I have a lot of friends, but I have even more enemies because I hold my ground. With every team that I’ve worked with, the fact that I hold my ground [at the door] has either been what they respect the most or what leads to a parting of ways. I’ve worked with everybody. But now I don’t need to go through the headache of opening a place unless I’m sure it’s going to be a hit. I believed in Tenjune from the beginning. Without getting into specifics, I make a good living, I get a lot of perks. During Fashion Week, I’m one of the first people they call, and I’m shopping with editors and stuff. I get a lot of free stuff. Everything has evolved now from only nightclubs, to more of a lifestyle. People call me to ask where to take their clients. Is that just you, or Manhattan nightlife in general? I think for the higher-end, yes. There are some people, without naming names — [unlike] the people at 1Oak — [these others are] high-end people but they’re sleeping till 2 o’clock in the afternoon, they’re drunk five nights a week. You know who works hard and who’s just passing the time. Nightlife is really reflective of society in general. You have your slackers, and you have your hard workers. I have my differences with Noah [Tepperberg, of Marquee and Tao], but I can’t deny the gentleman that he’s a hard worker, and that’s why he’s successful. I can’t deny that. At the same time I can look at someone like Rocco Ancarola [of Pink Elephant] who’s been in this business forever and is just barely hanging on. There are people who have been doing this for way too long and they’re burnt out, and it’s obvious to everybody. I tell some of the waitresses [at Tenjune], this business is like a ferris wheel: It’s a great ride, but you want to get off before you get thrown off. If I turn away a beautiful girl one night, there are gonna be two more the next night that are younger and prettier. We’re probably the only city in the world that has that. So you don’t buy into the notion that New York is over and London is the new “It” city? I haven’t had the urge to go to London. There’s something about New York that makes it what everybody else wants to be. You can go to Toronto to fake the backgrounds or whatever like they do in movies, but you can’t fake the Lower East Side, you can’t fake Soho. I can say that because I’m a New Yorker. We have something that just can’t be duplicated.

Occupations: I’m director of VIP services for Tenjune. Eighty percent of the night, I’m at the door expecting celebrities, clients, models. I do the seating arrangement of the floor. I keep track of the minimums (who’s spending $1,000, who’s spending $4,000). A lot of this business is based on the come-back. If you have someone spending $1,000 every once in a while, that’s one thing. But if you can keep that person coming week in and week out, that’s how you make your money. We just happen to do it better … well, Marquee does it as well — they’ve been at it longer — but that’s what sets us apart from other clubs. We have so many repeat [guests]. The main reason I do this job is the freedom it allows me. The only regret that I have is that I’m the only person in the industry that gets paid to say “no.” I’m respectful about it, and I don’t talk down to people, but people think I’m nasty or rigid — but I’m not. I’m playing a role.

What’s your worst experience with jilted clubbers? This is the first summer in four years I haven’t been at Cain and Pink Elephant in the Hamptons. Last summer I had an issue with this one thug-type guy who showed up with a couple other people. I let him in, but one of his friends was this big, sweaty, 350 pounds — it just wasn’t a good look. Anyone who was inside wouldn’t want this guy rubbing up against them. I didn’t let him in. He said, “Look, I know you’re here, and you’re gonna catch a beating for it.” Two weeks later, in the Hamptons, I’m inside looking at the room [before the club opened]. And one of the security guys runs in and says, “Listen, don’t go outside.” The guy was out there with 15 guys waiting for me. These guys aren’t kids, they’re pushing forty. It’s like, grow up already.

Everybody always talks about how it’s all about money, and if you can buy your way into clubs, you can always get in. And that’s not true. I can’t tell you what Wass Stevens does at Marquee, or what Armin [currently of Socialista] used to do at Bungalow 8. I can only tell you that … well someone commented on my New York magazine interview that I’m the “King of the Bottles.” I can tell you flat out that’s not the case. I’d much rather sell a table for $800 that’s gonna be a good crew and be respectful and fun inside than someone who offers $5,000 and behaves like an animal and pisses off tables around them or starts fights. Frankly yes, if I see a beautiful girl outside, I’m going to let her in, and I’ll buy her drinks all night because she’s going to add something to the party whether she’s buying something or not.

So the goal is the party as a whole? Yah. Tenjune is almost two years old, but it’s still a viable product simply because it’s a good party. Yah, there might be smaller places that are more selective, and bigger clubs where you’re not going to have a problem with anyone you walk in with, but I think most people are going to pick Tenjune over most other places because it’s always a good party. You might go to 1Oak and see 50 people, and then what? You have to get in a cab and go somewhere else.

I’m not a promoter, I’ve never been a promoter. It’s a very different role. The job of promoters, whether they’re owners, managers, whatever, is to get people to the door. I can’t go to work unless they bring me a good crowd of people [to choose from]. The owners have to trust me, and they do, to let in people that are going to add to the party and not detract from it. In almost two years at Tenjune, we haven’t had a single fight. If you look at the money that we’ve made and the money that 1Oak has made … in fewer risks that [we’ve both] taken because [we’re both] so selective, well, they wanted to be so selective, they’ve had more problems than we’ve had in two years. Some promoters and I argue that they’ve brought all these people and I’m not letting them in, and my answer to that is look: The checks never bounce. I have a proven record. My job is to gauge who’s coming in and who’s not. I do seating too. Working with Jayma [Cardosa of Cain, GoldBar, and Surf Lodge], I went from just running a door to seeing how critical it was to know how to sit a room. I decide where the promoters sit, where the big clients sit, who goes to VIP, who doesn’t. It’s a lot more than Ben does at 1Oak who just lets people in and then there’s a manager inside and then a floor manager. I make much more of a hybrid decision. But it’s critical.

Side Hustle: I’m exclusive with Tenjune. A lot of friends ask me, “Why don’t you work at different clubs on different nights?” and yah, maybe I could make even more money doing that. But clubs are all about consistency. Let’s say I work Tuesday/Wednesday with someone, and Friday/Saturday with someone else. When I get back on Tuesday, I don’t know who they let in on Friday and Saturday. Then I have to either clean up their mistakes or make up for people they didn’t recognize.

Favorite Hangs: I love to travel. I’m looking to go to South Africa, I’m going back to Brazil in October. I just bought an apartment, so I’m going to go look for some art. Asking me if I like to go out in the city is like asking the chef if he likes to go to restaurants when he’s not working. Going out can feel like work. It’s flattering [when people recognize me from Tenjune or other clubs], but still. Then there’s the other side of it. I was in Williamsburg at a deli getting apple juice in the winter, and the guy behind the counter’s like, “You’re Alex, that doorguy for that club in the Meatpacking.” We [at Tenjune] had just done the victory party for the Giants for the Super Bowl, and I guess I didn’t let this guy in. People take [getting turned away at a club] like I’m slapping their little sister around or something.

Do you think that’s indicative of who’s going to clubs in Manhattan now? They’re a more aggressive group of people? I think it’s indicative of people who don’t get in, who shouldn’t get in. And that reinforces the need for people like me who will stand their ground and be selective. I have had people come up to me and say “Oh, you have to let this guy in, he’s a super VIP,” and I didn’t. They got mad, but an hour later, in line, the guy is grabbing girls’ asses. I’m not going to take chances. I’d rather know who someone is.

Industry Icons: I have a lot of respect throughout. I’ve learned a lot from people like Steve Lewis, Jeffrey Jah, Dirk Van Stockum, Mark Baker. There’s a bunch of other people. I mean this respectfully, but truthfully, as much as I’ve learned from [other nightlife people’s] success, I’ve learned even more from their mistakes. It’s like if you’re walking up an icy block, and you see some people make it, and some fall, I know where not to walk. Sometimes you need to see someone you look up to fall, so you can say, wow, if he can fall, I can fall too. There’s someone I won’t name but who’s stuck around [in the business] way too long. You can only be in this business if you’re going to exit gracefully. Otherwise you’re like the girl who’s gone out too long, who was cute at 22 but now she has the injections and the lifts and is mad I don’t want to let her in anymore. It’s one thing when you’re 23 and you’re tipsy and giggly — it’s another when you’re 43 and sloppy drunk. It’s not a good look.

Frank McCue who runs the place under the Gansevoort [G-Spa & Lounge] for Scott Sartiano and Richie Akiva [currently of Butter and 1Oak], he’s great at what he does. He told me one time, “I respect you and I respect Armin, but you guys do a thankless job. If you let someone in nine times, they may never thank you. But if you don’t let that person in one time, it’s like ‘you’re such an asshole”’. It’s just thankless, but you have to deal with it. Known Associates: This is the first time I’ve worked for Mark Birnbaum and Eugene [Remm]. I’ve known Mark for six, seven years. I just met Eugene when we opened. Working with them happened over three or four days. It was very quick. I had told Pink Elephant like a week before that I was leaving, then I opened Tenjune two weeks later. I didn’t like the direction 27th Street was going. Even though I know everybody [in the nightlife business], that’s not who I hang out with. You’re not going to catch me at Butter on a Monday night. Partly because of the drama I get when I go out. It’s embarrassing if I go out on a date or with friends and have to deal with that. I love Jayma Cardosa. I’ve know her about eight years. We happened to work together at Cain, but it was a genuine friendship. We like each other.

Projections: A lot of people with financial backing have asked me over the years when I’m going to open up my own club. And my answer to that is: I like the freedom that my job allows. I’ve been fortunate enough to make a very comfortable living without having to spend all day in an office staring at a computer screen. I take three or four weeks off during the winter and go to Brazil or Southeast Asia to hang out. You can’t do that when you have a 9 to 5 job. It’s not for everybody.

The dilemma for me now is, do I open my own place, or not. There might be a chance for financial growth, but at what cost? [At my own place] maybe I couldn’t take a month off a year. If someone falls at a club now, they don’t sue me, they sue Mark and Eugene. They have to put the fire out. That’s a lot of weight. That’s a decision I have to make in the next year or two. I’m not going to be doing this 10 years from now. Where do you hope to be next year? In nine months I’m going to do something new, and it’s going to be a hit. I hope that it’s going to be with Mark and Eugene, but my deal’s up with them in September, so we’re going to sit down then and make some decisions about the future. I do have two other projects I’m looking at. One in the Meatpacking, and one here [in Soho].

What are you doing tonight? Tonight I’m going to the screening of Pineapple Express, and then we’re hosting the after party at Tenjune.