Just An Ordinary Weekend At Atlantic City’s Borgata Hotel

I never thought I’d be attracted to a piece of meat. But at 3:25, on an afternoon at Atlantic City’s Borgata Hotel, it happened.

The meat was oversized, blown up on a screen that covered an entire wall of the Borgata’s Music Box theatre, where several hundred people watched the hamburger patty sizzle and sweat in a pan on the stove. Over the patty reigned Geoffrey Zakarian, otherwise known as “the guy who won The Next Iron Chef” or “the cute chef with the glasses.”

With his gift of gab (which he attributes to his mom: “She was bitingly sarcastic,” Zakarian says), the bespectacled chef serenades the crowd at his cooking demonstration with his Italian accents, self deprecation, and meat innuendos. After two hours of cooking a hamburger (“no sauces or spices, it’s all about the meat”), a ginger and golden raisin-inflected coleslaw, and a raspberry soufflé – the crowd was sold – and so were his cookbooks.

Zakarian is the culinary lifestyle consultant of The Water Club, the more luxury hotel branch inside the Borgata resort. And the term “lifestyle consultant” is really just a fancy name for someone who checks in and okays all the activities involving food and drink consumption.

And wowee, did a lot of that happen during my recent stay at the Club. The portions are three times the size of any entrée at most NY restaurants (yep, I’m looking at you, Izakaya’s peanut butter-chocolate-crispy sushi roll) and it’s the options themselves – choosing from the Borgata’s 12 restaurants – where a decisive appetite becomes more valuable than some chips at the poker table.

Lines like shoelaces – full of day-trippers and vacationers craving all-you-can-eat – loop around the corners of the Borgata Buffet, while dinners at Bobby Flay Steakhouse on a Friday and Saturday night necessitate reservations made days in advance. I dined at the resort’s Japanese restaurant Izakaya, and most notably the southern Italian restaurant Fornelletto, and let’s just say it’s inspired this strange dream about a plate of potato gnocchi with sage and brown butter, lifting into the heavens, on top of a dish of their heavenly vanilla ice cream.

But people don’t come to Atlantic City for the food. They come for the party. And on – oh, just an ordinary weekend in Atlantic City – two celebrity DJs were spinning at the Borgata’s mur.mur nightclub and MIXXSamantha Ronson (aka Lindsay Lohan’s ex) and Steve Aoki. So when you pair these two rockstars with the Zakarian visit, the Borgata suddenly becomes an oceanside celeb hub.

But for me, the star of the show was definitely the Immersion Spa, where I headed for some much-needed recovery. A masseuse named Elyssia somehow managed to restore my late-night pancake and vodka-stuffed self into a viable, blissed-out human being. The whirlpool also helped.

Now, I’m not going to tell you to go to the Borgata and stay at, more specifically, The Water Club. I’m all about showing, not telling, of course. But when you are, in fact, looking for a weekend that includes a view of the ocean, celebrities, and really good gnocchi, may you consider the Borgata. It’s the AC experience.

Get all the info on the Borgata’s Water Club hotel here, and follow Bonnie on Twitter.

Boogying at the Borgata with the Ronsons & Duran Duran

I’m in some small town in Virginia, parking with relatives until a business meeting this afternoon. It’s all pumpkins and fake cobwebs, as here, Halloween is all about kids and tricks or treats. We left AC to go to DC, and I don’t need any wise cracks from the peanut gallery. We are exhausted from our trip to the Borgata and its whirlwind ’80s weekend. Everything was sold out, and people who read my Friday article were trying to hustle me for hookups. There are a billion reasons why Borgata sells out on these big weekends. Basically, as the only game in town, it refuses to rest on its laurels and continues to book great acts, events and DJs.

We came down in a blizzard, completely obsessed with catching Duran Duran in concert. The snow and the late info that the Misfits were performing in NYC with Glen Danzig almost kept us home, but as I said, we were obsessed. We valeted the car and realized the weather was now irrelevant. There was no need to leave the sprawling Borgata complex for a couple of days. Food, entertainment, spas, pools and comfortable digs were in the cards. We ate ginormous steaks at the Old Homestead and then rushed to the show.

We weren’t expecting much from Duran Duran because we didn’t want to be disappointed. We thought it might just turn out to be a bunch of old geezers going through the motions—more Karaoke than concert. What happened was mind blowing: they were great. I had met them once back in ’88 and was impressed at the time how gentlemanly and accessible they were. They exude friendliness from the stage. They love what they are doing and the crowd sang along with every song and danced and cheered. Simon Le Bon just celebrated a birthday on October 27, which has him deep in his 50s. He was bearded and trim, and his voice was strong. He pranced and danced and engaged an audience that wanted to eat him up. Duran Duran was tight.

The songs seemed modern yet classic, a nod to new production and a new album produced by old friend Mark Ronson, who joined them on stage, guitar in hand. In an age where DJs are considered the new rockstars, Mark goes literal. Clad in a well tailored leopard print jacket and that impossible hairdo, he went toe to toe with these legends. This was the last show of a 25-gigs-in-35-days tour, and the first thing I asked management was when it was done was when are they coming through again? It was magical and I want to see it again and again. Simon thanked the crowd and everyone who hosted them in “our beautiful country.” He dedicated “Ordinary World” to those who for many reasons could not be there. Those that have passed were remembered. I admit I teared up; it was beautifully performed.

Ana Matronic of the Scissor Sisters came on for a number. She, as we, had traveled tough roads from New York to get there. “A NO NO…NOTORIOUS” sent the crowd into a frenzy. “Hungry Like a Wolf” blew the roof off the place. Judy from the audience was tasked to introduce Simon to the crowd after he had done the honors for everyone else. She screamed that he was the “hottest man in the world” despite the ugliest (except for mine) shirt in the world. His was a sort of Jersey Shore/Beetlejuice mash-up. They mashed-up “Wild Boys” with Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s, “Relax,” and 2000 people sang along. They were loved, they were relevant, they were sharp and fun, and glad to be there. Rio closed the show and sent everyone into the Casino with smiles.

We headed to Mixx where Mark Ronson was set to DJ. Everyone was in costumes with a $3000 cash prize at stake. Mark walked in and rushed over to see me. He was my DJ of choice, back in the Life days. He was a star then and now he is a matinee and cover idol. I wondered if he would be the same, or if his success changed him. The smile and the handshake showed me he was the same Mark I have always loved. We talked and talked and caught up, and a million things were left unsaid but understood. He told me about something I had written here, and I was flattered. I have never met a Ronson I didn’t adore. Sister Samantha was nearby. She judged the Costume contest at Mixx before doing the same duty at mur mur and Djing there. She praised a hot Jersey gal in a Pocahontus costume before the lass corrected her. She was really an Egyptian Princess. After the cash was given to the Na’vi and the guy in the Gorilla suit, Mark went on. He showed why he was, and must still be, considered one of the top DJs around.

We went to check out Samantha with Borgata’s always dapper Greg Coyle. There, sweet Samantha Ronson groupies surrounded the booth. “They are here every time she plays,” said Coyle, which he says is about once a month. As we stood in the booth, the hotties begged me to introduce them, even as boyfriends hovered nearby. Opening DJ Doug Grayson, a smiling newlywed, explained the phenomenon. They love her and feel she is this celebrity who loves them and being there. Samantha blew them out. The crowd lives for her.

Borgata is unreal. The next night it was the incredible DJ Ruckus with Rev Run, and another big night. We laughed as they played classic ’80s hip-hop. This collaboration has legs and is a must-catch if you can. We dined at Michael Minas’ Sea Blue and it was divine. We never considered leaving the grounds as our in-room TV said it was 32 degrees out. We roamed around the Casino floor, checking out the vampires and the vamps, the pirates and the princesses. All came to have a great time. From time to time, I’d stop and say hello to a familiar face, a New Yorker with a similar mindset. I’m down again in a few to catch Jay-Z.

Helicopter DJs & Electric Models: Hennessy Black Parties Hard in Miami Beach

What is it going to take to get you to try Hennessy Black? How about a renowned DJ performing for a party in Miami Beach while suspended from a helicopter hovering 350 feet above the ocean. Would that do the trick? Because that’s what the world’s largest cognac producer did last weekend at the Fontainebleau to celebrate its latest spirit, and frankly, I don’t know how they could top it. Your move, Courvoisier.

image Hennessy hosted me and a handful of other journalists for a series of events to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Hennessy Black, a cognac designed to appeal to younger drinkers and mix well in the kind of cocktails you drink at nightclubs where the patrons are all sexy or rich or both, and to introduce the 2011 ambassadors of the Hennessy Black Done Different DJ program. It was VIP treatment all the way, from the flight to my 28th floor ocean-view suite to the posh pool cabanas to the bottle service we enjoyed at the nightclubs Arkadia and LIV, and if the company’s goal was to position itself as the brand of choice for nightlife taste-makers, I think they succeeded. Because quite frankly, it was the wildest, most outrageous, and most expensive party I’ve ever attended, and it all but overshadowed and certainly outclassed the Ultra Music Festival, which was going on a few blocks down the boardwalk. By the end, it was clear. If this is what Hennessy Black is about, goodness what a drink! It also raised a few philosophical questions about the nature of product promotion and the sheer power of a dominant brand, but we’ll get to that after the parties.

We convened at the Fontainebleau on Friday night, fortunate to be there on time after a fire at the American Airlines fuel farm at Miami International canceled scores of flights. I checked into my suite, which was beautiful, of course, as the entire resort had recently undergone a $1 billion renovation that included the construction of the tower in which I was staying. Waiting for me in the room was a gift bag filled with all sorts of goodies, including, not surprisingly, a bottle of Hennessy Black. As a spirits columnist, I wanted to sample it privately, unadulterated by mixers and away from the scrutiny of publicists. After all, maybe I wouldn’t like it, and wouldn’t that make for an awkward weekend? So I shook up a couple of shots with ice in the mini-shaker from the gift bag, poured it in one of the two small glass tumblers from the bathroom, and took my first-ever taste of Hennessy Black out to the balcony to sip it while gazing at the shimmering blue water. And it was delightful – crisp, smooth, and well balanced, with a mild sweetness that brought out notes of fruit and honey. It has a golden color and a floral and citrus aroma, and while it’s one of the only cognacs in the world specifically designed for mixing, it also stands up just fine on its own. I swirled and sipped and watched the waves roll in for a few blissful minutes before heading out to dinner.

We had dinner in the garden of Cecconi’s at the Soho Beach House next door, and I chatted with our hosts from Hennessy and MSLGROUP and my fellow writers, who included Chloé A. Hilliard of Vibe, Dana Storm Santiago of The Source, Tyler Trykowski of Playboy, and Jim Shi, a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Financial Times and Huffington Post. As we talked about Hennessy and munched on octopus and branzino, Paul Shaffer, Eugene Levy, and Martin Short sat down at the table next to ours. It happened to be Short’s 61st birthday that day, and his fellow screen legends serenaded him with rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday.” To cap off our meal, we sipped Hennessy XO out of snifters and picked at tiramisu, Key lime pie, and chocolate torte. One could get used to this. image

Later that evening we all went to a nightclub on the property called Arkadia, which involved bottle service – Hennessy Black and assorted mixers – along with sparkler-adorned bottles, leather-clad models, and cyberpunk dancing girls shimmying on platforms while adorned with hundreds of pink lights. The dance floor was packed, the music was pumping, and the low ceiling gave the place the feeling of a basement party on crack. Apparently the club owners have no problem with people sitting on top of the seat backs of the banquettes, putting their feet right on the upholstery. Don’t try that at my place. I also observed that at any given moment, roughly half the people in the club were looking down at their phones, either texting or tweeting or tumbling or stumbling or whatever else the tech crowd is crushing on these days. I conked out early – if 3am is early – and enjoyed a blissful night’s sleep in the suite’s big bed.

Saturday arrived with brilliant sunlight streaming through the sliding glass doors. The pool scene at the Fontainebleau is legendary, and Hennessy Black had rented out a couple of cabanas for relaxing on settees, eating snacks, and drinking cocktails. The pools – there are about a half-dozen on the ground level alone, in addition to one on the 7th floor – were packed with hard-bodied guys and sexy women wearing jewel-adorned bikinis, and they were all splashing in the water, dancing to techno music, and laying in the sun. As Chloé from Vibe pointed out, it was like a scene from CSI: Miami before the body is found.

image

At this point, we were given a chance to interview Samantha Ronson and D-Nice, the 2011 ambassadors of the Hennessy Black Done Different DJ program. Samantha was a bit tired from an early-morning flight – she had done a gig at the Borgata in Atlantic City the previous evening – but was doing her best to rally for the evening’s party. She explained how she got involved in the Hennessy Black DJ project: Hennessy contacted her, she tasted the spirit, liked it, wound up inventing a pretty kick-ass cocktail with it while in Paris, and decided to be a part of the fun. But don’t expect any compromises from the New York-born, LA-based music legend. “I’m going to play what I play and drink what I drink,” she said. Fortunately for Hennessy, she happens to be fond of the stuff.

image

D-Nice, who, true to his name, is a sincerely nice guy, said that he appreciated how serious the brand was with its nightlife integration, since he himself feeds off the energy at clubs when he spins (“The music follows the vibe”). We talked for a while about his upbringing in the Bronx, his history with KRS-One and Boogie Down Productions, his work as a photographer (he carries a Leica camera everywhere he goes and even took my picture), and his truly eclectic taste in collaborators, including Tom Petty and Kid Rock, before he excused himself to prepare for the evening’s set. Little did we know at the time what that set would involve. I also had a few minutes with Patrick Madendjian, Hennessy’s International Marketing Manager-Premium, who explained that the brand simply sets the scene and lets the artists take it from there, mixing up music much like Hennessy Black mixes more than 35 eaux de vie to craft its signature taste. I can dig it.

image

After a blissful swim in the ocean, I showered, donned my only finest Hugo Boss suit, and headed over to La Côte, the Fontainebleau’s outdoor beachside restaurant and club, for an evening of falafel burgers, Hennessy Black cocktails (I’m a fan of the Hennessy Black Xpearience, which is inspired by a cocktail created by the Fontainebleau at Bleau Bar), house music, and one very big surprise. There were models everywhere – passing out drinks, standing on platforms, and looking generally lovely. Samantha Ronson performed first, filling the dance floor with revelers by mixing everything from Jay-Z and DMX to Bob Seger.

image It was at this point that I realized that Hennessy knows what they’re doing with their artist series. Samantha was doing more than just spinning records, she was actually creating a scene, sending a party vibe that worked its way through the open-air club. At one point she took the microphone and shouted to the crowd, “Are you getting fucked up?” A chorus of voices screamed in assent. (Hennessy encourages responsible drinking.) A sweet smell wafted through the air at times: Apparently one more thing that mixes well with the fine Irish-French spirit.

image

And then our hosts advised us to make our way to the back railing for the big surprise. I was afraid they’d say “Surprise, we’re not paying for your rooms after all!” The sun had recently set, and we looked out over the dark ocean to see a brightly-lighted object approaching in the distance while the music in the club got louder and louder. What could it be? When it got closer, we realized it was a helicopter ferrying a portable DJ booth attached to it with a cable. Inside the booth was D-Nice, who was performing his set for the party while hovering about 350 feet above the ocean, a dozen or so yards from shore. The music he was playing was beamed to the party and the crowd went nuts at the spectacle. A second helicopter and a remote video camera attached to the booth captured footage that was shown on big screens positioned throughout the club. D-Nice bounced to the music himself, despite being attached to his floating booth with a safety harness. The colored lights shining from the booth reflected off the ocean waves below, and we all marveled at what we were seeing and hearing. Had this ever been done before, we wondered?

At this point, I became a bit philosophical. This started out as a standard – if amazingly opulent – press junket. But it had just crossed the line from marketing into an actual news event worthy of coverage by any journalist. So, on the one hand, I had to accept the idea that it is possible for a company to create news and shape opinion by sheer force of money. After all, how much could two helicopters, world-class DJs, a camera crew, more than 20 models, a big block of hotel rooms, fancy meals, and an entire nightclub cost? I don’t know, but I’m thinking it’s in the millions.

Yet there was more to it than a simple show of cash. The flying DJ stunt – and the artist program in general – was actually a really cool idea. (Here’s a cool video of it.) Hennessy Black wants to be associated with nightlife. Nightlife, at the highest level, is about creating a grand spectacle and reveling in the moment. And I’ve never experienced a grander spectacle and a more sublime moment than watching a major DJ performing for a party from a light-adorned booth suspended from a helicopter floating above the Atlantic Ocean on a warm, beautiful night in Miami Beach.

And so, as the helicopter flew away and lowered D-Nice onto a barge moored offshore, where a dinghy would ferry him back to dry land, I couldn’t help but joke around with Tyler from Playboy about where Hennessy – or any of its competitors – could possibly go from there. Hennessy had thrown down the gauntlet, doubled down, raised the bar, and set a new standard in drinks promotion all at the same time. “What more can we do for you people?” I imagined the Hennessy brand masters saying. “What else could it possibly take for you to try Hennessy Black? A squadron of fighter jets? A submarine? A space ship? Forget it, we just gave you the spectacle of a lifetime. If you don’t want to try our drink after that, have a nice life, because we’re done.”

image

But they weren’t done. After the party at La Côte, we all headed to LIV, the mega-club of all mega-clubs at the Fontainebleau. I’d never in all my life been in a nightclub like that, with lights zigzagging across the ceiling, outrageously sexy servers, and a sound system that filled the place with music while somehow allowing you to talk to your seat mate if you wanted to. It was VIP service all the way as we breezed to our table, and within minutes the bottles started showing up. Hennessy Black was on the table, of course, but also Moët-Chandon Imperial Rosé, a fellow member of the LVMH family that I like very much. There was also a high-energy set from DJ Erick Morillo, and, at around 2am, a performance by the Hennessy girls (above) who danced near oversized bottles of Hennessy Black and waved their wings to the music. The music got louder, high-caliber cannons blasted black confetti throughout the place, laser beams shot across the dance floor, club employees tossed handfuls of green luminescent necklaces to the crowd, A-list celebrities mingled with the merely fabulous, and black-leather-clad girls danced on platforms. It was a wild party.

image

Eventually, high-flying DJ D-Nice (born Derrick Jones) dropped by our table, and we all congratulated him on an amazing feat. He was all smiles, and, while admitting that he was somewhat nervous about the whole affair, said that he enjoyed every minute of it. I couldn’t help but don my Kanye West shades and get a picture with the man. I wouldn’t normally embrace the rock star look, but it was Saturday night in Miami Beach, the music and Hennessy were going to my head, and it just felt right. I have no regrets.

[Images via Seth Browarnik of WorldRedEye.com, Manny Hernandez, and me]

Itinerary: Charlotte Ronson Shows Us Her New York

Can you imagine actually living in Los Angeles?” asks Charlotte Ronson, the London–born, New York-–bred fashion designer, from a quiet corner of the always-bustling West Village eatery, Café Cluny. Though her twin sister, DJ Samantha Ronson, now hangs her fedora in California, the preternaturally bronzed brunette feels at home in Manhattan. “In L.A., a busy day, especially with all the traffic, involves dropping off your dry-cleaning, and running a few errands,” she says. Looking up from her beet salad, she adds, “With all that sunshine, I don’t know how they get anything done.”

In addition to helming an eponymous clothing line, a stylish range of print dresses and separates, Ronson, 33, has also collaborated with big-box retailer JCPenney on I Heart Ronson, a casual and affordable diffusion line. “I’m a city girl and my brand is for city girls, so it’s important for my pieces to reflect that lifestyle,” she says.

At her runway presentations, always a big draw during New York Fashion Week, Samantha sets up the music, her half-sister Annabelle Dexter-Jones struts down the catwalk, and her brother, musician Mark Ronson, sits front row next to their mother, socialite Ann Dexter-Jones. Not surprisingly, Ronson says her creative drive was instilled in her from a young age. “Growing up, I was very aware of fashion and music,” she says. “Being a twin, I was always trying to differentiate myself, which has sort of shaped the way I envision my clothes. My designs often reflect those periods when I was figuring out my style and identity.”

Although her aesthetic changes between seasons and collections, one constant remains: Ronson’s refusal to use, wear, or work with fur. A vocal supporter of The Humane Society of the United States’ Fur-Free campaign, whose edicts she has followed since 2008, Ronson says, “I think it’s easy for people in the fashion industry to overlook where their clothes come from, but when you hear stories about the cruelty of the fur industry, and when you see pictures of it, you just can’t erase that type of thing from your memory.” Perhaps aware that she’s struck a somber chord on a sunny day, Ronson flashes a cheery smile and leads us into Panya Bakery, one of her five favorite places in Manhattan, for mini-doughnuts.

image

Dashwood Books Noho, 33 Bond Street 212-387-8520 The staff at this little photography bookshop has an incredible wealth of knowledge on the subject, so it can feel pretty intimidating when you’re here. On the other hand, their selection is great, and you can go in and learn more about a photographer and browse the store until something catches you’re eye. Kate Moss by Mario Testino was delivered to my office recently, but it’s so big I’ve been plotting how to get it home.

image

Panya Bakery East Village, 8 Stuyvesant Street 212-777-1930 I used to come here between classes at NYU and get little tea sandwiches with the crusts cut off. This place has totally changed since I came here with my sister when we were in school. It used to be quaint and not nearly so slick. I guess that says a lot about the restaurant industry in New York. At least they still have mini-doughnuts, which have always been amazing.

image

The Smile Noho, 26 Bond Street 646-329-5836 I love how [owners] Carlos Quirarte and Matt Kliegman have brought something different to the neighborhood. It’s really warm and inviting, and does well because it has a bit of everything for everyone. You can go to relax and have a coffee, or it can be a great place to get dinner with friends. I usually come here for brunch and have eggs and a latte, and their amazing cheesy bread—fresh ricotta and cherry tomatoes on multigrain toast. I’ve known Carlos for a while, and he always puts a smile on my face.

image

Sunshine Cinema Lower East Side, 143 East Houston Street 212-330-8182 This is a classic old-school theater—not so souped-up. They have great popcorn, and they always seem to be playing good movies. I don’t really like scary movies, but I love movies that make me cry—that’s usually the barometer of whether or not it’s any good—and they always seem to be playing exactly what I need to make me feel something. It’s such a neighborhood place. You can spend the day in the area, go shopping and get a fantastic dinner, and top it off with a movie.

image

Café Cluny West Village, 284 West 12th Street 212-255-6900 Aside from it being in my neighborhood, I can’t say that it’s really a neighborhood spot. It can get jam-packed. I mostly try to avoid trendy restaurants, but I can’t stay away from Café Cluny during the week. It’s such a nice place to go for breakfast meetings, or to meet up with my family. I’m all over the city, as far as the places I like to go, but my mom and my brother live in the West Village so we always end up staying in the neighborhood when we get together.

Mark Ronson: The Great White Hype

A sky the color of bruised eggplant fades to black as Mark Ronson and I return to his apartment in Manhattan’s West Village. We’ve just finished a dinner of kale and gnocchi at Miranda in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and as we pass Bar Pitti, an Italian restaurant with a sizeable street-fronting patio, one of the waiters hollers, “Marco! Ooh wee—la-la-la-la,” the lyrics to a song from Ronson’s debut album, Here Comes the Fuzz. Another waiter walks out and, making pistols out of his two hands, yells in a soupy Spanish accent, “Bang, bang, bang!” the title of his latest single. Ronson smiles affectionately and, once out of earshot, says, “Can you believe those guys?” He seems pleased by the exchange.

A black border collie named Maude, after Ruth Gordon’s character in Harold and Maude, is waiting impatiently at the front door. Ronson’s high-ceilinged, one-bedroom apartment is not as lavish as one might expect, given his considerable achievements as a producer and musician. Suitcases clutter the hardwood floor of his dining room, its table littered with unopened envelopes that suggest Ronson might be too busy preparing for the release of his new album, Record Collection, to concern himself with electricity bills. In his den, a framed poster for Woody Allen’s Zelig hangs above the couch next to an antique jukebox. Chuck Palahniuk novels and Hip Hotels share shelf space in his vast library. François Truffaut’s French New Wave classic, The 400 Blows, tops a towering pile of DVDs. It’s not all that different from most apartments in Greenwich Village except for a crowded fireplace mantle overrun with awards: a Brit Award, an MTV Music Video award, a GQ Men of the Year award, a Glamour Man of the Year award, and three miniature golden gramophones—the Grammy awards he received for Version, his 2007 album of covers, and his production work on Back to Black, Amy Winehouse’s career-making record. A sober black-and-white photograph of his storied family sits next to them.

Ronson is the son of real estate entrepreneur Laurence Ronson and gregarious society dame Ann Dexter-Jones. (Dexter-Jones later married Foreigner founding member and guitarist Mick Jones, from whom she split in 2007.) At 35, he is two years older than his twin sisters, Charlotte, a New York fashion designer, and Samantha, a DJ based in Los Angeles. Anecdotes from his charmed childhood abound, most of them about decadent parties in London, where he was born and still keeps an apartment, with a rotating cast of boldface names from The Thin White Duke to The Boss. Sean Lennon, son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, was his best friend growing up, and together they had sleepovers with Michael Jackson and carpools with Roberta Flack.

Ronson’s silver-spoon upbringing has always been an easy target for critics, who are quick to attribute his success to his family’s Rolodex. His reaction to these charges alternates between incredulous and wounded. “I’m so tired of defending where I came from—I’ve spent my entire career trying to be taken seriously,” he says. “If you’re out for blood, it’s easy to discredit me by focusing on my family, but I certainly never asked my mom, ‘Hey, could you please call up DJ Premier and find out if I can play Gang Starr’s party next weekend?’”

When he was a senior at Collegiate, an elite high school on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Ronson started manning the turntables at trendy Lower East Side dives acrid with the stench of stale beer, giving equal play to the Smiths and Run-DMC. It wasn’t long before he became a regular on the downtown nightlife scene, where he was branded with the double-edged title of “celebrity DJ.” While acknowledging that there is some truth to the label—he was, after all, flown to Italy to provide the music for Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ wedding reception—he’s also loathe to embrace it. “I might have even been the person for whom that term was invented, but to me it conjures the image of an it-girl at a party with two iPods,” he says. Unlike, say, Jessica Stam or Alexa Chung, Ronson earned his title, playing music for party-goers long before it meant having his picture taken.

image

The stigma against Ronson only worsened when Samantha earned her own loyal following on the dancefloor, which initially rubbed him the wrong way. “I was so irate when she decided to use the family name instead of Li’l Red [the stage moniker she used earlier in her career],” he says. “I was worried we’d put out CDs at the same time, they’d sit next to each other in music stores, and we’d look like the fucking Osmonds.” But during the height of her much-dissected, turbulent relationship with actor Lindsay Lohan in 2008, when Samantha was tarred and feathered on Hollywood gossip websites—blogger Perez Hilton, for example, still cattily refers to her as “SaMANtha”—the negative press brought out Ronson’s protective side. “Life in L.A. really is one big episode of Entourage,” he says, skirting a question about his sister’s love life. “If she’s happy in her relationships, then I’m psyched for her. When she’s not, I’m not.” Pausing for a minute, he adds, “It’s weird, because in England I’m Mark Ronson, record producer. But in America, I’m Mark Ronson, Samantha’s brother.”

On both sides of the Atlantic, 2007 was a huge year for Samantha’s brother. The records he produced for Winehouse and Lily Allen dominated international charts, and Version went double platinum in the U.K. He recorded that album on a tiny budget before signing with Columbia Records, and invited his friends—Winehouse, Allen, Daniel Merriweather, Santigold—to lend their vocals, which certainly didn’t do much to discourage his reputation as the most connected man in music. “I was almost embarrassed by Version’s success,” he says. “I wasn’t immune to its backlash, either. I have thin skin, as do most artists, and so it wasn’t easy—so immediately after the embrace of the album—being written off as the trumpet-y covers guy.”

This month’s Record Collection, Ronson’s followup to Version, will only exacerbate his reputation as pop music’s answer to Kevin Bacon—Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon and Nick Rhodes, Boy George, Spank Rock, Q-Tip, and Ghostface Killah all make appearances on the album—but its overall sound couldn’t be further from his earlier work. Ronson was desperate to reinvent himself, and instead of Version’s horn-heavy neo-soul, Record Collection sounds like cosmic synth-disco. “I knew in my heart and in my head that I needed to record original material,” he says. “But I was so afraid that these 12 new songs would then be judged against the songs of Morrissey, Thom Yorke, and Paul Weller that appeared on Version.” It was perhaps because of this fear, and because of the overwhelming number of musicians who “spent days in my sweaty studio in Brooklyn” contributing to the album, that Ronson decided to attribute Record Collection to Mark Ronson and the Business Intl. “To do otherwise would have been disingenuous.”

Electro-pop musician Amanda “MNDR” Warner is the Business Intl.’s breakout act. On “Bang Bang Bang,” she turned a line from a French-Canadian children’s song—“Je te plumerai la tête”—into the anthem of the summer, and, like many of the artists featured on the album, she is effusive with praise for Ronson. “He’s an excellent keyboardist, a great drummer, and an amazing guitarist,” she says. “You can’t fake that kind of talent.”

Rapper Spank Rock, who lends his voice to “The Bike Song,” is slightly less reverent about his friend. “Mark’s kind of dorky, definitely not the coolest guy in the world,” he says. “It was in the studio where, for the first time, I saw a bit of insecurity in him, because he was working through his project and second-guessing himself. Whenever someone opens themselves up, they can either be complete douchebags—‘Listen to this, this is so good!’—or they can be like Mark, and you can watch them cringe.”

image

For the better part of July, Manhattan was crippled by heat. But earlier on the day of our meeting, a magnificent and furious storm brought with it a reprieve from the record-breaking highs. It’s a nice night for a walk, and Maude needs some exercise, so we relocate to Washington Square Park, which is thick with jazz musicians and the smell of cheap incense. Ronson, who left his polka-dot–patterned black blazer at home, is now wearing a red T-shirt, tight black jeans, and white loafers.

We run into Ronson’s girlfriend, French actor-musician Josephine de la Baume, with whom Ronson currently co-stars in a Zadig & Voltaire ad campaign. She is on her way to a Korean barbecue restaurant and has little patience for Ronson’s insistence that he’d like to stay in tonight. Small and fiery, she is like a character in a Godard film. When Ronson tells her that he’d rather not sit through Inception—“I just can’t do a three-hour Chris Nolan mind-fuck, baby”—she sighs dramatically, and, pouting, says, “You are so boring!” Rolling her eyes and her r’s, she storms off playfully into the night.

As we continue down the street, I remind Ronson of our first meeting a few years ago, when he was asked to interview the late Malcolm McLaren, a legendary producer-musician who once managed the Sex Pistols, for Thompson Hotels’ in-house magazine, Room 100. Their conversation was scheduled during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, for the morning after Charlotte’s first showing of her eponymous ready-to-wear collection under the Bryant Park tents. Ronson slept through his alarm, missing the whole thing. He managed to get on the phone with McLaren later that day, but the photographer, who was meant to take their portrait together, was forced to artfully combine their images in post-production. I stood in for Ronson in McLaren’s photo. “I really did miss that shoot because I overslept,” he says, revealing some lingering embarrassment at the memory. “But I can’t help thinking that if I hadn’t been out all night getting fucked up I wouldn’t have missed my chance to sit next to Malcolm.”

Ronson and his siblings—there are nine in total, when one factors in step-siblings and half-siblings—were introduced to excess at a young age, despite his insistence that his mother’s approach to child-rearing was almost draconian. When he was 6, Ronson was tucked into bed by actor Robin Williams, who was high on cocaine. One morning, he woke up early to find his father, still awake from the night before, playing chess with Hall & Oates’ Daryl Hall. “When we got to the age that partying became an issue for our parents, it was like, You can’t really talk because you’re getting 10 times as fucked up as I am. Knowing my dad’s struggles with addiction, though, my emotional hangover was often too much to enjoy the drunk.”

Despite glimpses into the rock-star lifestyle growing up, it wasn’t until the release of Version, when Ronson was expected to perform his songs live in front of huge audiences, that alcohol became a real crutch. “I remember my very first gig with Lily in 2006. Before we went on, I was sitting in a corner, shaking so badly that she was like, ‘What is wrong with you?’ I’d have a drink to ease the nerves and then my guitar tech would keep refilling my glass throughout the show. Before I knew it, I’d be asking for more whiskey and he’d be like, ‘You just finished the bottle.’” Although he has since tempered his alcohol consumption, Ronson says, “I’m not going to pretend I don’t enjoy going out. Now that I’m singing I just can’t do much beyond a bit of drinking or smoking the occasional touch of weed.”

Whereas he admits to “not being all there” while producing Kaiser Chiefs’ 2008 album, Off With Their Heads, he says his upcoming work on the new Duran Duran record has helped create some of the band’s best songs to date. “They have a lot to prove this time out,” says Ronson, alluding to the band’s tepidly received 12th album, Red Carpet Massacre, which was produced by Timbaland. “I think Timbaland pulled a bit of a Timbaland, where he shows up for a little bit and somebody else does all the work,” says Ronson. If the band is to be believed, Ronson’s contributions to the as-yet-untitled album are profound. “There was instant chemistry,” says keyboardist Nick Rhodes. “When we started playing, it was like there was electricity in the room. We’ve worked with some remarkable people, but Mark just gets it. Anyone who was foolish enough to question his talent was sorely mistaken.”

It’s late now, and Ronson is tired. He still has to pack for a week-long vacation starting tomorrow night, when he’ll travel to the house he recently purchased in Amagansett, next to East Hampton. But before he leaves, he’ll spend the better part of the day at the photo shoot for this story. Uninspired by his look that morning, the man who went from being a DJ and producer to a legitimate singer will make another drastic change: Mark Ronson will bleach his dark chestnut hair white.

A few days later, I randomly spot Ronson and his blanched pompadour on First Avenue, where he’s stationed behind a glass wall inside the headquarters of East Village Radio, a popular internet radio station. Back from the Hamptons, he looks rested as he introduces “The Bike Song,” which he’ll premiere in just a few minutes on Authentic Sh*t, his weekly show. A crowd has gathered on the sidewalk, dancing to the music while watching him work. Reminded of what Spank Rock told me earlier that week, I just stand there, watching him cringe.

image

image

Photography by Kai Z Feng. Styling by Christopher Campbell.

Links: Orlando Bloom Gets Hitched, Justin Bieber’s Crimes Are Investigated

● It’s official. Joss Whedon is directing The Avengers. Nerds, rejoice. Jocks, shove said nerds into lockers. [/Film] ● There aren’t any new oil spills or wars, so everyone is contemplating Tom Cruise’s height relative to Cameron Diaz’s. [The Huffington Post] ● Sam Ronson visits Lindsay in the slammer, proving the easiest way to win back an ex is stone cold incarceration. [TMZ]

● Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr are now husband and wife, entire male and female population placed on suicide watch. [People] ● Justin Bieber is making his acting debut on the season premiere of CSI. National holiday, anyone? [NYT/ArtsBeat]

Gregg Coyle Brings Fun to the Borgata

Nightclubs used to be all about “bookings”. Every year I would get a brand new calendar with nice blank dates and I would do my darndest to fill in the blanks. Even the best of joints needed daily events to fill time slots and weak nights, especially during the week nights. A Wednesday invariably needed an event to fill the room, especially early. Most clubs were jammed around 12:30 or 1, so it was necessary to have a party that would seed the room. Without these events, early arrivals (which were mostly tourists) would sit around an empty room, looking at each other while listening to lounge music. Their experience, and the tale they took home to their friends, would be negative. At Life we often booked concerts, or allowed corporate parties to stay on when the cool crowd came. The theory was that nobody who came at 10 would still be there at 2, when the action really started. Bookings at the big casino/hotels in Vegas and Atlantic City not only bring people into the room, but serve as a shout out to the world. An add announcing Sting, Jerry Seinfeld, or Stevie Nicks does much more than advertise that specific show. The ad tells the world that the Borgata has world class shows, and is the place to be. It is very much an association, directly linking to the resort brand. My visit to the Borgata this past weekend had me hanging with in-house public relations honcho, Noel Stevenson, and Gregg Coyle, who is the Borgata’s Director of Nightlfe,

Tell me how you keep Borgata moving forward? We never get complacent. We are always looking for ways to continue to evolve the experience at Borgata. This summer, we made a large investment in MIXX, and put a greater emphasis on bottle service, added one of the most state-of-the-art DJ booths around and made it a fresh concept. MIXX has been very successful for seven years, but we wanted to add a new dimensional to the nightlife offering here. We are always drawing inspiration from hotspots around the country and looking at what’s happening in NYC, LA and other cities. On Sunday nights for example, we’re doing an outside pool party at SunBar, at The Water Club, which offers a South Beach-inspired vibe with a DJ, and offers party-goers a chance to enjoy a different scene before they hit up MIXX, late night.

How many DJs do you have each week, and who are they? Our resident DJ’s include Eli Escobar, Doug Grayson, PS-1, Carlos Melange and Dalton. Every night we have guest DJ’s who are like family here, and most play exclusively at Borgata in AC. They Include. DJ Vice, Jazzy Jeff, Samantha Ronson, Ruckus, Steve Aoki, Riz, Enferno, Cassidy, Jesse Marco, D.Nice, Ob-One, Cubeechee, DJ Rashida, DJ M.O.S., DJ Kiss, Riz, Enferno, DJ PS1, Carlos Mélange , Chachi, Scene, Roonie G, Rock-It! Scientists, Spider and Discotech. We also have DJ’s Jermaine Dupri, Rev. Run, Nick Canon, Solange Knowles and Tiesto frequently. How many of the DJs are booked in specifically for you, and how many are routing through NY, DC or Philly? We take several approaches to planning a night or a weekend. When we have a concert booked that can influence nightlife we look to complement the experience. For instance, when Mariah Carey performed in the Event Center we had Jermaine Dupri DJ in MIXX, and her husband Nick Canon DJ in mur.mur. That becomes synergistic throughout the property. Another example would be when Kid Rock had a sold out concert here on Valentine’s Day, Rev. Run and DJ Ruckus’ manager, Yoni Goldberg called me to suggest Rev. & Ruckus for the after-party. Rev and Kid had toured together before, so we knew that would make for a really good night. Our PR team happened to be planning a Rock n’ Roll wedding contest at Gypsy Bar, where a couple who met while serving over in Iraq won a once in a lifetime wedding at the property. We threw them a rockstar-style wedding at the bar, and Rev Run did the honors and Kid Rock actually came down and stood in as the groom’s best man when he heard their story! Its one of the those nights we’ll always remember Other nights here have been truly magical, I got a call from Stevie Wonder’s daughter Aisha saying that Stevie, Aisha, and the band wanted to come and hang out in mur.mur after his concert on Halloween. They all got costumes that day, so no one knew who they were in the club. Stevie requested a Drake song from DJ D.Nice, the next thing you know Stevie was singing “Superstition” and Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall.” Then Stevie ad-libbed a song about D.Nice on the spot. We couldn’t believe it. When the kids in the club realized, Oh, that really is Stevie Wonder, the place went insane.

Tell me bout your industry nights? What started out as a simple locals night, our mur.mur Mondays party has become infamous. Our goal was to replicate the great entertainment, and DJ’s that we have on the weekends for our industry night. We have so much fun that night because we have a loyal following of kids that work all weekend in the industry and want a night to go out. The dress code is tight, girls love to get dressed up and have a beautiful night out. The club staff deliver a guest list of over 1,000 people every week, usually the line to get in extends to the front door of Borgata. It is great to know someone here that night. When you get in you get to experience Samantha Ronson and Vice DJing together, or Steve Aoki giving an incredible performance. We are really proud to have such a great party every week. The night has grown so much we started pairing it with Izakaya, our modern Japanese restaurant. Michael Schulson is a great guy and amazing chef. The vibe in his restaurant is the best way to start the night, and makes Borgata a destination on Mondays like no other. I love when I see the staff of Avenue, Marquee, Tenjune & SL or 1OAK partying here on a Monday, it makes us feel great to serve our contemporaries we admire. What’s a nice boy like u doing in a place like this. Talk to me bout celebs? When do u sleep? I have been with Borgata for over 7 years and absolutely love it here. I remember one of my first interviews here, my soon-to-be boss asked me “How do you bring fun to work each day?” It threw me for a loop. I thought, is she kidding? I had been programmed to be responsible, be disciplined, be tough. I have to say, I didn’t know how to answer her. Lucky enough, I got the job. I have to tell you that each and every day since, I have been able to bring a little fun to work, and get to have a lot of fun doing it. How is the nightlife clientele here different than from New York City or Philadelphia? The clientele here is mostly New York City and Philadelphia. The difference here, is that people are away from their daily routines and scenes, as well as the people they know, and are looking for an escape. We give them permission to loose their inhibitions and have a great time. One thing that we always consider is that our customers made an effort to come here. They had to drive or take the train here, get a hotel room and have a nice dinner or spa treatment. Girls shop for the right dresses and shoes. It is quite an investment. We have a responsibility to make sure we exceed their expectations and that there is value in their experience with us. We take fun seriously. We are fortunate to have great customers.

Did Samantha Ronson Punch Lindsay Lohan?

Once upon a time, we used to be a civilized nation–and our barometer for success was Lindsay Lohan’s rising star. And then, the broken institution that is Child Protective Services failed to wrench Lohan away from her parasitic parents. So the Parent Trap starlet crashed, burned and became a one-woman personification of American decline. Which then puts us here: Lohan reportedly getting smacked around by ex Samantha Ronson. And according to an insider’s confession, this Whitney Houston-Bobby Brown dynamic has become routine for the pair.

A source close to both reports to RadarOnline, “One time I saw her [Lindsay] and she had a large welt on her head. She told me that Sam beat the (bleep) out of her. She also said that Sam even punched and choked her one time.” It gets even more mired from there, though. “It’s so twisted. They’re not together, but they are. I never thought I’d ever say this, but I really do feel sorry for Lindsay. She is just lost. She’s alone. She has no friends to turn to.” Which at least then makes sense out Spirit In the Dark, the title of Lohan’s stalled third album.

Now We Can All Speak to God through the Artist Formerly Known as Tila Tequila

Welcome to what feels like day 4,586 of my masochistic obsession with Tila Tequila. It’s been three days since I last wrote about her, and there’s much to catch up on: Her invitation to appear on Larry King’s show was retracted, but now CNN apparently wants her back. She is now allegedly fighting for custody of her late fiancee’s adopted 3-year-old daughter Ava. She has started a record label, unveiled her new blog, took down her first blog post, applied to become an “Ambassador 4 Vietnam,” revealed the identity of the father of the baby she says she’s carrying, had her phone number posted online, changed numbers, puked, then described it for her Twitter followers, and has renounced her self-baptism as Tila Tequila. In all of this, she has also revealed herself to be God’s messenger, and warns her fans against apocalypse.

Led into a tangent that began with her acknowledgment of the tragic earthquake in Haiti, Tequila writes:

“Each disaster on earth is no longer “MOTHER NATURE” but it is all in the book leading to the world ending. Humans have become EVIL and CRUEL… Each time God tries to send out a BIG wake up call that a change needs to be done and be done ASAP, we all still sit here and bicker… So instead of being a bunch of cruel EVIL Devils, doing nothing but terrorizing others, try to send LOVE out to the world. That may save us!… U don’t see me sitting here dogging on each of u or blocking everyone who disagrees. Wasting energy. Just spread LOVE & God will approve… However I can tell u right now, God is very disappointed in Mankind & how fast we are sinking. He’s giving us last chances but we dont move!… I am only ONE person who has ALWAYS tried her best to make the world a better place. To stand up for ppl. I am God’s Angel sent down 2 watch… But my reports back to God are usually disappointing with how Mankind is quickly sinking into the mud and hypnotized by the Devil… I know how the world will end, and yes, it will end. Not in the way you all think it is, but it will end… Im just the Messenger. Dont kill the Messenger. Too bad U are. Now the world has no chance to survive. I already have my place in heaven… May God bless your soul & hold on tight. For what the future holds is not a pretty sight. I have tried my best to keep it nice. But its over… This is the end of the end. Don’t take your lives for granted because it will all end very soon. Sooner than u think… Everything you do now is totally irrelevant to what is to come. I am only here to warn you as God’s Messenger and Angel disguised as A Human… God Bless and pray. Pray for all the wrongs you have done to others, pray for all the hurt you have bestowed. Judgement day is coming… God took the Love of my Life away from me because I promised him that I was only here to do my job. But I fell in Love with Another Angel… So he took her away from me. That was my fault. I broke the rules of being an Angel on Earth as a messenger. We’re not allowed 2 fall in luv… With another Angel. Cuz it will distract me from doing my job of helping the world. The minute I fell in love with another Angel, I stopped… So u guys REALLY want 2 know the truth. Thats the truth that I speak, however a lot of ppl cannot handle the truth. You are hurting an Angel… Just pray and Ask God for forgiveness. My job here is done. May God bless you all. …. I can longer help you… I send God the “noises” that you send to me. God hears them, and feels a lot within your noise that is filled with black holes… When he gets Angry for your disappointment. He sends out HUGE signs for you all to stop taking advantage of life & Killing our Earth… yet ppl still NEVER learn the message that God is trying 2 send 2 U. Open your eyes. Listen to your heart. If you cannot hear it. we lost u… I spend a lot of my days alone in meditation. I see beyond this reality. I see the future, I have powers 2 calm ppl & recharge them w/love… Thats why My Angel was so calm w/me. I gave her all of the Powers that God has given me. But I broke the rules & now suffer the consequence… I am manning up 2 God now and let him know I that I am sorry. I broke the rules, so I am now suffering my Loss. An Angel with a broken wing… Come meet me in person. The energy that vibrates from within me is filled with white light. U can feel the calm of me, in person… My Character contradicts what I am saying, but as An Angel, I had to learn on my own how to “blend in” with the rest of the Humans… God sent me here, but did not tell me how or what I needed to do, so just like all other Angels, I had to choose my path on how 2 blend in… But now time has run out, I have no choice but to reveal myself and who I really am. There is no more time to waste. We must help each other… U can either believe me, or call me crazy, but just HEAR the words I say. Block out the “NOISE” and LISTEN to my words. I hope that helps… Say goodbye to “TILA TEQUILA” as she is no longer needed & I have revealed my true identity. Real work needs to be done now. I must go.”

Okayyyyyyy, so: God killed Casey Johnson because he was pissed at Tila, his Messenger and Angel, for getting with her? This kind of ranting not only makes Courtney Love sound like Ezra Pound, but it also flashes blinding worry signals that Tila has become altogether unhinged. In addition to her tireless work for the Lord, she wrote her first blog entry about Samantha Ronson, who was apparently — and understandably — talking smack about Tila:

I don’t know much about PissFlap Sam, however I do know that she was talking shit about me on her Twitter yesterday. Why? I have no idea. Maybe PissFlap Sam is angry at me cuz her beef curtains are getting loose and long, while mine is still small and tight. Hmmm….well I still don’t think that’s a good enough reason for PissFlap Sam to talk shit on me. She needs to go worry about her Linsday DUIhan instead of me. lay off the dope PissFLap!

Seriously, PissFLap! How dare you speak out about God’s gal Friday? Plus, the holy messenger could “give 2 cumbucket shits about what anyone else out there has to say because I know who I am, God knows who I am, and that is all that matters… Contrary to popular belief, I am actually a very innocent girl… almost child like on some days… ”

She said some gobbledygook about her baby that gave me head spins, so I ignored that part of The Imaginarium of Dr. Tequila. But this part is personal fave. After Jasmine Lennard, one of Johnson’s ex-girlfriends, posted Tila’s cell number on Twitter, Tila then retweeted all of the mean comments she begged her followers to write about her, after which she herself wrote, “U guys are KILLING ME! Im DYING laughing over here with what you’re saying to that HORRIBLE person! ITs not even a person! I love you guys!” It’s interesting wording for a woman who is still mourning the recent loss of her fiancee. As is this: after completing a slew of “tell-all interviews,” Tila wrote, “I TOO, can now Rest In Peace for a while.” Capitalization is hers, not ours.