The economy is driving some people from comfortable jobs in fluorescent offices into neon-lit palaces of the night. Take David Jaffee, for example, who is often ridiculed for his approach to nightlife and his day job in a bank. David has an energetic approach to self-promotion as a means to gather names and establish his brand for a crowd that is all too tired with how snarky hipsters want to define their nights. David laughs all the way to whatever bank he actually works for as the frenzied attacks by “cool cool hipsters” on blogs and their comment sections fuel his mean machine. He often crosses lines and drives established players nuts, but he is taking names, kicking ass, and generating sales, while more established promotional teams are flunking. It’s a numbers game, and as we’ve said for months, the dude bringing 15 girls to lure a Lehman “bro” to buy some Goose are over.
Owners tell me they have MBAs and architects begging for coat-check jobs even as global warming is threatening to shorten this winter of discontent. New promoter on the block Sally Shan sends me text messages and Facebook prompts and is basically out there trying to brand herself and make money in clubs. Most promoters I talk to find her naiveté and enthusiasm bothersome, but yet her tireless approach underlines the death throes of the model-bottle era — an era in which the “I didn’t really like modeling so I became a promoter” dude sending a mass text after the morning yawn was considered work.
Sally hails from a politically and industrially connected family from China and attended the prestigious Central Academy of Drama in Beijing (other alumni include Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi). She works in production on Broadway daily, and the thrill of it all seems to drive her to the night. Lately people have been asking me, “Who is this Sally Shan?” So here she is.
I was at a NYNA meeting, speaking with Matt Isaacs from The Bloc Group, and I when I told him I had to leave to get to this meeting with you, he said, “Who is this girl Sally Shan? I keep hearing about her.” I’ve heard that response from a number of people recently, so who are you Sally Shan? What do you do? Well, I think I give people access to different venues in New York on different days. I give them access to the nightlife industry, showing them what I think is a hot or nice venue.
So you’re not using the “P” word, although you’re basically a promoter. I guess when you label it, it comes out as a promoter, but when I think of the definition of it, that’s not what I think I am.
Define promoter. What is a promoter to you? And what is it about the term “promoter” that you shy away from? Ultimately I think that the people who go out with me are my friends. They’re names and friends … they’re not numbers and email addresses.
So you’re very hands-on and personal. I’ve had a few people compare you to David Jaffe. What is the difference between you and a David Jaffe? I think the similarities are that you came from nowhere, and you’re trying to get your name out there through Facebook and whatever other mediums. I think that I’ve drawn a lot of media attention, but it’s not something that I went out looking for.
How many friends do you have on your Facebook account? I have about 2,000.
So you have 2,000 names that you’re sending out teasers to, so you’re doing this on purpose. What are you trying to gain out of it? I think I’m trying to get people excited.
How many venues do you promote for? I throw different parties at different venues, on average maybe three a week.
Is this your primary career? No, I’m actually in Broadway production. I studied acting and directing from Central Academy of Drama, which is in Beijing.
So how do you go from art and theater to becoming a promoter, or an access provider (as you like to call it) at New York nightclubs? I have my own definition of what I want to see when I go out, and I think I have really good taste. I know what I want in a night out, so that’s kind of how I got into it. And with that I also have a lot of friends who will follow me to different places.
So you’re incredibly enthusiastic about this — do you see this as a possible career? I haven’t really thought about it that thoroughly yet, about my future in nightlife, but it is what I’m doing right now.
What kind of music do you listen to … what do you want your crowd to listen to? I listen to almost everything, I think because I’m coming from an art background. I’ll have my days where I just zone out, and I’ll go to a concert in Carnegie Hall.
What’s your reputation in nightlife? How do people perceive you, and do you dwell on this? I think people have different opinions on me at this point because I am kind of new in the market, but I’m just myself. I don’t try to be anyone else.
So you have 2,000 friends on Facebook and you send mass texts … you bring a number of people to the club. You know almost all of these people? Yes, and I think the relationship I establish with them is a lot different. I do remember their names the next day, and they do become my friends if I don’t know them.
So it’s Fashion Week, and you’re hosting an event tonight. It’s the after-party at Pink Elephant for Couture Fashion Week that I’m hosting with Gili Lev.
Where do you like to hang out? I’ll go to Pink Elephant, 1Oak, Greenhouse, and Webster Hall.
Do you tell your crowd what to do, or do they tell you what to do? I tell my crowd where I’m going and what’s hot.
How long are you going to do it? Are you doing it primarily for the money, or is nightlife driving you? It’s driving me, and I also feel a certain demand. I think that I’m good at it, that I’m successful at it.
What do your traditional Chinese parents feel about you being in a nightclub at 3 a.m. or later in New York City? I haven’t gotten around to explaining that to them … it’s hard to explain what I do. But I think if they see that I’m in it for the right reasons, just trying to show people a good time, they’ll understand. But I’m also always going to be involved in the arts. That’s my primary interest, so I’m always going to surround myself with business and art.
Buy Pink Tickets