Industry Insiders: Michael Dorf, Wine and Music Maven

Michael Dorf first opened the legendary Knitting Factory in 1987. More recently, he’s built City Winery, a fully functioning winery in downtown Manhattan. Never one to forget his musical roots, the space doubles as a concert venue. Dorf’s vision of music and wine coexisting in the same place has people flocking to City Winery to sample the grapes and sounds.

Point of Origin: I came to New York with $20,000 in 1985. I was managing a band called Swamp Thing and trying to get them booked. I eventually convinced myself that I should rent a small office on Houston Street. With $20,000 we were able to put up the walls and serve coffee and tea for a month and get the ball rolling. I got lucky along the way, met great artists and moved up. I used radio to distribute the name the Knitting Factory, and I was very fair in terms of the door policy. 70% of the gate went to the artist so we were honest about what was coming in. Artists were freaking out about that. We could survive because we kept the bar money.

Concept of City Winery: It was a combination of epiphanies. When I left Knitting Factory, I never thought I’d do another club. I did a few big concerts and festivals, and then one day had a chance to make a barrel of wine with my brother out in California and had so much fun. The ego of being a producer came out when I started giving away the bottles that said, “Michael Dorf” on the labels. It got me thinking that there was no precedent for a winery in Manhattan, bringing grapes in from high quality locations like California, Oregon and South America. I had to do some real homework. What’s really unique about us is that we’ve created a place where people can learn about wine and enjoy it and share. I eventually thought, “Let’s do a winery and let’s do a music venue.”

Choosing wines vs choosing bands: I wish I could get as many bottles of wine as I got demo tapes at the Knitting Factory. The wine list is much more of a pure, artistic art form while there’s some pragmatism that goes into it. In the Knitting Factory days, it was always a balancing act between pure art and commerce. If we didn’t do so well at the door and the bar, but I really liked it, then that’s all that mattered. I’m a big jazz fan and I feel guilty that I’m not able to support more jazz or avant garde performance, but I can’t do as much cutting edge material here because it can’t sell 300 tickets. People’s palates aren’t usually sophisticated enough to know a cutting edge winemaker, but they’ll know if it’s shit, so in that case the two are a little different.

Membership programs: There’s a very small group of about 150 people who are making their own wine. They get 250 bottles with their name on the bottle. Wired magazine and NBC are doing it as well as some law firms. It’s a unique insight into wine making. Then the other program is called the Vino File membership, which is a rewards program that costs $15 a year and three or four days before we let the world know about a show, we let the Vino File members know. You can buy tickets with no service fees. If you use the Vino File card you can also track which wines you drank and the sommeliers can recommend a wine for you based on your taste.

Future projects: Since 2004, I’ve been doing an annual concert at Carnegie Hall. This March will be the music of The Who. These are benefits for music education for underprivileged children. Springstein showed up and played the encore at one and REM did the same thing. I’m also going to expand to Chicago, I hope, for the next City Winery. Then I hope Paris and London and Shanghai. That’s why I named it City Winery.

Industry Icons: On the music side, Bill Graham really inspired me as a promoter. George Wein from the Newport Jazz Festival. He’s the grandfather of large festivals. As a fellow wannabe megalomaniac, David Geffen has an amazing story. In the wine industry I’m fascinated by these winemakers that are just farmers. They aren’t flashy even though they’re millionaires. They get on a tractor and they get in the dirt and taste it. That, to me, is pretty remarkable.

Go-to places: Now I don’t go out anymore, which is pretty tragic. I could alternate between Nobu and Babbo every night if I could afford it. I dig going to Joe’s Pub to see music, and I do still sneak to the Village Vanguard because there’s nothing like it.

Favorite band: I’m really into singer/songwriters. I lean toward the Regina Spektor world. I could always listen to Radiohead.

Industry Insiders: Roberto Vuotto, Hookah Master

After a five year stint owning the Chelsea restaurant Naima , Roberto Vuotto is reintroducing himself as General Manager of the brand spanking new triple threat, Veranda. The bi-level West Village space is a restaurant, discothèque and hookah lounge all rolled into one, and Vuotto, a Capri native who came to New York as a busboy over 10 years ago, has the substantial task of making it all run smoothly. With his latest endeavor, Vuotto hopes to keep the hookahs lit and the music thumping for the next five years, and the five after that too.

Describe your job as General Manager of Veranda. I coordinate a lot of things — from the opening of the kitchen to the lounge. We have a hookah lounge, so this is my first experience dealing with that. We have two rooms, which right now are opened as part of the lounge. Very soon one of the rooms will be opening as the restaurant.

What kind of food will Veranda serve? It’s going to be Contemporary/Mediterranean cuisine with accent on Middle Eastern. We hope to secure the chef to the Saudi Arabian royal family. Because this neighborhood is really demanding we want to make sure that the kitchen is perfect and ready. When you start doing fusion, it’s difficult to makes sure everything is executed properly. We want to feature simple dishes that are done well. There are going to be a lot of seats and in the summer there are an additional 126 seats outside. So, it’s best to keep it simple due to the high volumes.

After owning Naima, why the switch to management level? In these economic times, owning a place is a huge amount of responsibility in terms of making everything square at the end of the month. It was a good run and we had a lot of fun. We didn’t do as much business as we hoped and it wasn’t worth it for me for the amount of work that I was doing. Thankfully, I was able to sell Naima, and at the same time I had this offer from Mino Habib who I worked with for ten years at Le Souk and Max in the East Village.We started working on the same block on West 27th street when he was managing Suzie Wong and I owned Naima. He mentioned to me that he was about to open a big place and I was ready to sell, so it was perfect timing. I really wanted that challenge of something new and bigger.

Who in the business inspires you? Keith McNally. I had a chance to go to his first place before I was even living in New York. He started with a nightclub, which was what I did in Capri, Italy. Then he went on to open Balthazar and Pastis, etc. so, I admire how he set up his operations and marketing.

How did you end up in New York? I worked in the club business in Capri for many years and I had clients from New York. I had a lot of friends living here and I would come once a year. Eventually I was offered a job in a restaurant so I decided to stay.

What positive trends did you see occurring in the NYC lounge/restaurant business over the past year? With the economy the way it is, rents have gone down so there is more of a chance for people to open without having a huge amount of expenses and people are able to find a space they can afford. I’ve been seeing many new lounges and clubs opening recently. When I opened Naima, it was impossible to find a storefront in Chelsea. Now if you walk around, you see much more available.

Negative trends? Lounges and restaurants make a lot of revenue from corporate clients, but that’s not happening anymore because the first thing companies cut is the entertainment and dining. That’s what happened at Naima.

What do you hope that Veranda will bring to NYC nightlife and the neighborhood? I hope to bring something new, which is a culmination of a restaurant with a hookah lounge but very upscale, offering bottle service. In this neighborhood there isn’t a place where you can have dinner and then walk down a hallway and dance to electronic Middle Eastern music. We’ll bring an exotic element to the neighborhood, not only in dining but also in late night as well. Where you go in New York there is always the same music so this will be something new and more particular.

Go-to spots? When it comes to Italian food I’m very picky. My favorite restaurant is La Masseria. It’s a very classic Italian place in Midtown. I go out to 1Oak on Sundays, and I also go to Griffin and The Gates. Another place that I love is Onda down at the Seaport.

Industry Insiders: Giuseppe Tuosto and Barry Mullineaux, Boys Who Brunch

Giuseppe Tuosto (from Napoli) and partner Marcello Villani (a Capri native) have brought their Italian upbringing to their New York restaurant/lounge Via dei Mille. Alongside the Philly-raised but New York-braised Barry Mullineaux, the three have been sharing a loud and lively weekend brunch extraordinaire with SoHo for exactly one year now. On the eve of their anniversary, as the models and socialites of NYC prepare to gather at Via for fine Italian fare set to the backdrop of rowdy DJ beats and table dancing, the boys stop to reflect on their triumphant first year.

Do you only work together at Via dei Mille? Giuseppe Tuosto: We work together mostly at Via, but Barry and I have been working together since 2002. We had Rocco’s in the Hamptons and 21 Water. Barry Mullineaux: We have a couple of other things we are working on now, but nothing we can talk about for a couple of months.

What is the secret to Via’s success? GT: We went back to where we come from and what we’re known for, and that is a home-cooked meal. We use original recipes and nothing too fancy. Everybody’s making fusion and all these different cooking styles. We serve a good meal, which is really simple. BM: In addition to the food, we definitely keep the place interesting. We have live bands, such as the Gypsy Kings. We have afternoon brunch parties every weekend with DJs, so we are always doing something entertaining. GT: Every Tuesday we have light jazz bands play too.

How much do your Napoli roots influence the food? GT: It’s all Southern-inspired food with just a touch of Northern. Marcello is from Capri. We all love the food from our regions.

What is you clientele like at Via? BM: It’s a mix. We do model dinners so there is a beautiful crowd. We get a ton of European clientele and out-of-towners. GT: People from the fashion world, the financial word. We get people of all ages, from the young 20s to 50s and 60s. People want a great place at any age. The place makes everyone feel at home.

What are your goals for the future? GT: We’re in the process of opening up a new place. BM: We’re also in the process of opening a private dining room upstairs come springtime. There will be a dining room and an outdoor patio.

How does owning a hot SoHo spot influence the ladies? GT: There’s never a shortage. BM: I have to agree, there’s never a shortage. GT: It depends how long you want the relationship to last.

What’s your dream project? GT: We’re working on something very unique. Hopefully we’ll be able to see our vision become a reality very soon.

What do you look for in a good restaurant/lounge? GT: This is New York City, so you can go anywhere. All you have to do is pick up a phone and you can find a great meal. People want atmosphere, they want beautiful people and good food. Even if you have all that it doesn’t make you busy every day. BM: It’s not just the atmosphere and the food but what keeps people coming back is to always have something entertaining that not everyone else offers.

Go-to places in NYC? GT: I’m really biased. I don’t go to too many places besides my own. If I’m craving Japanese, that’s really the only other time I get to go elsewhere. I spend most of my time here at Via. Sometimes we go to someone’s apartment or Barry is also a partner at Greenhouse, so we go there. In the summer, we spend a lot of time out East in the Hamptons. We do private events out there. We enjoy working and having fun at the same time, whether we’re hosting an event or at a Film Festival or the Kentucky Derby. BM: I’m here every day. Of course I go out to eat, but it’s hard to pinpoint a favorite.

In photo, left to right: Marcello Villani, Barry Mullineaux and Giuseppe Tuosto

Industry Insiders: Malan Breton, Couture Connoisseur

Who would have imagined that Malan Breton, a former contestant on season 3 of Project Runway, would come so far as a distinguished designer? Perhaps not even Malan himself. The 36-year-old fashion aficionado has taken his theatrical roots and tied (or shall we say, sewn) them into his collections, bringing a wistful and exquisite approach to his designs. A Malan Breton show exhibits live orchestra and ballet performances, a welcome change from the DJ-pumping, techno-blasting, glitter-flying shows-on-steroids of today. By stitching classiness and weaving sophistication into his designs, Malan makes couture that fits real women (and now men too)!

How did you get your foot in the door as a designer? I used to be the voiceovers for ESPN Extreme Sports. My contract was ending with them and I called my agent and said, “I’m not acting anymore, I don’t want to be a performer anymore and I have this passion for design.” I had this passion since I was a little boy and I put it to the side because it’s a very different world from being a performer. I decided to take all the money I had left from my contracts to my line, and it just happened. I was very lucky because I had a very close friend in the industry that told me who to contact and how to get things going and how to develop the line. I literally sat in my apartment for three months and learned how to sew on a sewing machine.

So you have no formal training? No, never trained at all.

How have your designs evolved since your first collection? The more I learned about fabrics and construction, the more the collections evolved. I really taught myself everything. Each season, as I did another collection, I learned more about it, plus, I did a lot of research as well. I always found undergarments for women incredibly beautiful, so I researched at great length lingerie and corsetry and things like that.

What is the theme of your latest collection? The theme of the latest collection went back to my childhood. My mother was a ballet dancer and kind of pushed me into it. After ballet, I ended up doing Broadway shows. This collection is me going back to my roots because I never really explored that in a collection. It used to always be about this kind of Hollywood drama concept, which I love and think is beautiful. There were always Asian influences there and different elements of my life, but never the part where I really came from.

What designers do you look up to? I look up to a lot of the old-school designers like Balenciaga and Dior. They were people that innovated fashion. Even Adrian, the costume designer from MGM, because he basically invented the bias cut dress. It’s pretty amazing what they did and where we’ve taken it. Fashion always evolves a little bit because of new fabrics and new prints and textures and even the shapes of people’s bodies. How exciting would it have been to be the first person to wear a heavily shouldered blazer? Then, 80 years later models, are on the catwalk with these big shoulder pads.

What big names have you designed for? I’ve worked with Martha Plimpton, Katrina Boden, Nikki Blonsky, and a lot of celebrities. I’ve dressed some old-school performers like La La Brooks, who was a famous singer.

Who would be your dream person to design a piece for? Michelle Obama is amazing. She brought class back to the White House. I wouldn’t say that the other women didn’t have class, but she brought an element of new designs like Jackie Kennedy did. I’d love to dress Nicole Kidman because I have such adoration for her as an actress. I would also say Cate Blanchett. Love her; she’s so stunning.

What positive trends do you see happening in the fashion industry right now? The industry is embracing the feminine body, which it hasn’t done for so many years, so I find that to be pretty amazing. Clothes have been feminine but they haven’t embraced the curves. Designs have been very up and down and narrow. I always design with the concept that women have curves. Look at the women in the 30s, 40s, and 50s — like Marilyn Monroe. They all had beautiful curvaceous bodies and then all that disappeared. Suddenly, there were a bunch of beautiful women on the runway but their bodies were like boys. It didn’t make sense to me.

How has the economy affected your company? A lot of stores really pulled back a lot, and there were orders that we had where people called and said, “We apologize but we’re going to have to sit out this season.” Some stores really suffered. You’d have to be blind to not notice there are stores in the city that have shut down and designers that have had to close up shop. I’m very grateful that I have a clientele that kept me going, but the buyers have come back this season. I think people are a bit more optimistic. Everyone was so afraid to spend any money, but people are finally opening up their budgets. They’re still testing me out, but they’re very excited about the line.

What can people do to stay fashionable amidst a financial crisis? Go into your closet and look at all those pieces that you haven’t worn for years and see what you have. There are pieces that you can layer or match with other things or even be creative and sew. Go to one of these stores that have affordable accessories and use those. Or even pop into Bergdorf’s and buy one jacket that you can wear every other day.

Next big project? I just launched the menswear line for Men’s Fashion Week in Europe. I have a couple of other divisions in the company, so I’m going to try and expand on those. I’m looking at branding myself in shoes and more accessories and handbags.

Go-to places in New York? I love the Standard Grill. Amazing, absolutely amazing, and everyone is there. I also love the Waverly Inn and Bar Centrale. I haven’t been going clubbing too much because being in the public eye I have had some problems with stalkers, and it’s scary.

Industry Insiders: Cole Bernard & Jason Lawrence, Cupcake Clubsters

The guys who brought you the beer-swilling sporty, fratty funhouse Porky’s, as well as the posh and exclusive Eldridge, are on the precipice of adding two more haunts to Manhattan’s repertoire. Amidst a year where the deafening sound of local shops and staple nightspots permanently closing their doors was heard citywide, Cole Bernard and Jason Lawrence of Status Nightlife have been working tirelessly and ambitiously, to open not one, but two new doors. Jason just made Gotham magazine’s list of 100 Hottest Eligible Bachelors, so the ladies have the opportunity to check him out whilst sinking their teeth into some liquor-laced cupcakes at new spot, Red Velvet; but not without stopping by The Yard first to watch the boys at the bar watching the boys on the field on giant flatscreens.

What’s up with your new spots? Cole Bernard: We have two new spaces. One’s in the Flatiron District, opening Halloween weekend. It’s called The Yard. It’s the former Porky’s space. The other is called Red Velvet, which will open at the end of the month as well. It’s on Rivington Street in the Lower East Side. Jason Lawrence: The Yard is an evolution of a New York high-energy, spirited, fun nightlife party bar. We brought a well-known artist in to do some interior cosmetic work. We’ll focus on a lot of happy hour stuff and then lead into nightlife. CB: We have a great lineup for Halloween weekend to launch the space. It’ll be decorated in multiple murals done by Darren Boerckel. Also designing is Steve Lewis, and he’s amazing.

How do you draw inspiration for a new nightclub? CB: With The Yard space, Darren has been on board with me though the last couple projects. So, I gave him the name and the goals I wanted to reach and said, “Darren, run with it.” He can paint the lights out of any place. JL: With Red Velvet, it was more drawn from us loving the area. We love the Lower East Side. It’s hot; it’s vibrant. It’s very in and yet still very up-and-coming. There are artists and galleries and restaurants and nightlife, and then real estate destroys the area. We thought it was a great area to make our stamp on. That’s what we intended when we opened The Eldridge, and that’s what Red Velvet will capture as well. Conceptually, we had the image of a very sexy, intimate lounge. We wanted high energy, high spirited, but we also wanted to add a little twist. We decided to partner up with Baked By Melissa and Charlotte Voisey, the famous mixologist, to come up with some spirit-inspired cupcakes for the lounge.

How did you two become partners? JL: I owned a PR firm in Miami when we were introduced. CB: Jason and I kind of have the same mindset. We see what the business is all about. We understand that it’s about creating a brand where people can come any day of the week.

Describe the prospective clientele at these new venues. CB: The Yard is going to be a mix of your neighborhood folks to your party bar crowd to your NYC night clubbers. It’s a place where you can go after work to unwind, have a beer and a burger. Then, on Friday and Saturday night, it’s a fun, high-energy bar where you can have a good time and get loose. JL: Bring your birthday group out. Bring your bachelor/bachelorette party out. Get a little wild

What are your door policies? CB: The Eldridge, which we opened in September of 2008, has been a great success. It’s a small space, so we do limit the amount of people that come in. Naeem Delbridge keeps a great flow and runs the door really well. Everyone from your models to your socialites to your downtown hipsters comes. Eldridge is a great space, and that’s why we want to continue the success that we have had on the LES with Red Velvet, which is just a block down. JL: Red Velvet will be far less pretentious. I want it to be more inviting to locals. If there are couples in the area that read about Red Velvet and want to check it out and come down for a cupcake, they’re not going to get stress at the door. I want to share the space and the experience with as many people as we can. The space will dictate. There will be times when it will be a little more difficult to get in because my capacity is 120, and I can’t let everyone in. That being said, I want a lot of people to have the Red Velvet experience. CB: But do expect a stricter door policy on busier nights.

How is it that you’re popping open two new clubs during a recession? JL: Denial helps a lot. CB: My theory on the recession, in any business — especially in nightlife — whether it’s a high-end sports bar, a nightclub, or just a hole-in-the-wall dive bar, you have to give people a reason to come. You have to create a niche product and a brand that gives the customer a reason to want to come out and spend money. Both places are designed and catered to individual customers to give them an experience they’ll remember.

What do you do for fun? JL: Work is fun to me. My lifestyle is fun to me. I try to keep a good balance between the social aspect, the family, and the friends. CB: Opening two spaces at once pretty much took over my life. I’d say, hitting events, going out to dinner and drinks with friends, going to the movies, the usual stuff. Is there a lot of time for that? No, but I try to find time for it.

Are you single? CB: I’m single and mingling. JL: I’m seeing someone.

Does being a club owner make it easier to score with the ladies? CB: Obviously, it’s an advantage. But it’s a lot to handle when you have girls flocking your way. When people ask me what I do in the spaces, sometimes I tell them I’m a bathroom attendant. I don’t like the ownership role. But yes, it does give the single guy an advantage

Long-term goals? JL: I want to expand to other markets and other cities and continue to build the brand. I’d also like to continue to build my relationship with Cole and other people we bring on board. I want to keep creatively coming up with ideas that work and bring longevity. CB: Jason hit it right on the nail. I want to bring Status Nightlife Group to a recognized brand. I want to start a family sometime in my mid-thirties, so that’s in the back of my head.

What does it really take to open and maintain a nightclub in New York? CB: New York’s a tough market. There are so many places. It’s not just, “Hey I’m gonna invest a half a million dollars or a million dollars to open a place and just crush it.” Five years ago? Yes, when the economy was booming. Now there’s so much competition, you really need to bring a concept and bring in operations. You need to bring the whole nine to the table with you. JL: If your ego’s driving you, you’re going to have big problems. This is a business that’s built on relationships, trust, and experience. It takes a lot of different people on your team to make anything successful. Fortunately, I have a good team, and creatively, we click. CB: For The Yard and Status Group, we brought on Amanda Mitchell of Southern Hospitality PR. She focuses on The Yard and on Jason and me personally. Then there’s Matt Hein of East Side PR. JL: Matt used to run BNC and Harrison & Shriftman. He brings a lot of experience and know-how. The bottom line is: we trust these people. They have our best interests at heart.

What are your go-to places in New York? CB: I’m a big fan of La Esquina, Macondo, and Apizz. JL: My good friend Eugene Remm opened Abe and Arthur’s, so I’ve got to give him a plug. I like our spots. The key to our success is that we create environments that we like to participate in and I think that’s crucial. You have to be able to have fun in your own environment.

Industry Insiders: Roman Milisic & MJ Diehl, Style Warriors

They are not your average married couple. The dynamic and outspoken duo that call themselves House of Diehl has a daughter, a party-filled life in New York City, and an avant-garde fashion company. Roman and Mary Jo have redefined the American dream and cultivated their own cutting-edge vision of what life and fashion mean. To them, life is fashion, especially when it’s deconstructed and made into something revolutionary. Roman and MJ have taken their high-energy, one-of-a-kind show, Style Wars, on the road, dazzling fashionistas, style mavens, celebs and plain old party people across four continents. Style Wars kicks off with a whole new season of Scotch Tape binding, safety pin fastening, and jewel bedazzling this November. After watching the duo give a lecture on “how to cheapen your couture” at an event they call Glambulance at 92YTribeca in downtown Manhattan, they sat down with me for a vibrantly colorful chat.

Tell us about Glambulance. Roman Milisic: The Glambulance is about taking thrift-store clothes and turning them into high fashion. Some of the stuff we see on the road during Style Wars because people are doing this around the world in their bedrooms and basements. MJ Diehl: Some people think to shop at thrifts is a problem. No, it’s power.

What is Style Wars? RM: Style Wars is style battle championship tour. It’s a fashion competition. MJ: It’s a live competition. Designers go head-to-head MC-style to create amazing, off-the-hook high fashion in what used to be five minutes, but now it’s four.

How did you guys conceive of the idea for the show? RM: Mary came up with the new process for creating fashion that was called “Instant Couture.” Instant Couture was born out of the deconstructionist idea that there is more than one way to make fashion. This is to make it live and make it reflective of the time and the place where you’re at. And you can pull people up onstage and take off their hat, pull it upside down or inside out and make it something brand new and cool. Style Wars was us saying, “We’ve done this and we’ve done it well. Let’s throw down the gauntlet and see who else can do this.” MJ: Everything has been done, overdone. You want to see another little black dress? Fuck it! The only thing you can do that’s interesting is how we create art, how we create fashion and what the materials we reuse are.

Where are you taking Style Wars this season? RM: We’re starting in Miami on November 4 at LIV at the Fontainebleau. Then on November 7, we’ll be at Don Hill’s in New York. On November 13, you can find us at Opera in Atlanta. On November 18 we’re at Cinespace in Los Angeles followed by Mezzanine in San Francisco on November 21.

What does the winner receive? MJ: Each battle has a different prize. Typically their prizes are better than what we get paid to do the event. We always feel like we should be competing. RM: For the last show we did in London, the winner got a Vespa. We barely broke even. Also, Surface magazine is offering a spread to the winner.

Who have you designed/styled for? MJ: While we’re known for Instant Couture, we rose to fame quickly because of our couture collections that were nominated for awards and won for the Triumph International Fashion award. Our designs have been pulled by Madonna and Gwen Stefani. RM: We’ve done editorials with David LaChapelle. MJ: I think the main thing is, you can’t do fast fashion without doing real hard, long-form couture. We’d already quickly created a reputation for that that was very well respected, but the problem was that it’s expensive to produce your work and get it out there. A lot of my motivation as a designer, even an award-winning one, was create opportunity for great talent and get it out there.

What else does House of Diehl do? MJ: Besides Style Wars, we do buy-order couture, ready-to-wear, and also special events. RM: I’d say that we do events and we do fashion. Let’s not spread ourselves any thinner than that. MJ: We could. You can never be too thin, right?

Who are your favorite designers? MJ: Other than ourselves? Alexander McQueen. There are only a few people out there that do anything worth looking at or worth reproducing. RM:You know I’m always disappointed by? Martin Margiela. He plays the part of “I’m a deconstructionist,” but we throw away every idea he has. MJ: It’s this bullshit game that conceptual, intelligent fashion has to be ugly fashion.

How did you two meet, fall in love, get married, and start a company together? RM: We used to go to events first and foremost. If there was an open bar anywhere in New York City, we fucking knew about it. I was working with David LaChapelle as his editor, and Mary was one of his muses. I was talking to Mary at one of his parties. MJ: We would be at the same events, same parties. RM: Mary thought there was something more to be got from a group of people coming together, and that was the notion of “let’s create something meaningful from a community.” That’s where the community of couture events came about. MJ: I think a lot of House of Diehl is about loving fashion but being bored to shit with culture.

How is being married and working together? RM: It’s interesting. MJ: Working for yourself means you can never quit. You can’t really tell yourself to fuck off. The same thing goes with your partner or your better half. RM: We are our own posse. MJ: The fact that we’re always doing the same things at the same time allows our relationship to continue. RM: Sometimes I wonder how couples can actually do it the other way.

What are your go-to places in New York? RM: We always go back to Don Hill’s because it’s so down-and-dirty. It’s a gritty place where you are just going to have a lot of fun. MJ: Dirty, filthy. I don’t like pretension. I do like the old, classic Balthazar. We got secretly married there. Oh and of course, Blue Ribbon Sushi.

Industry Insiders: Scott Harrison, Clean Water Guru

You may remember Scott Harrison from back in the nineties when he was often spotted in the enclaves of New York’s VIP rooms and parties. After a decade as a club promoter, Scott had an epiphany. The seemingly dazzling world of glitz and status in NYC nightlife was not everything he wanted, after all. He’d soon begin dedicating his life to providing clean water to millions of people around the world. In just three years, his organization, charity: water has raised over $11 million.

What does charity: water do? We are a nonprofit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in need around the world. We work in 16 developing nations, mainly Africa, but also Southeast Asia, India, and Central America.

How does a club promoter become the founder of a major charity? From the age of 18 to 28, I was involved in nightlife. I moved to New York City at 18, grew my hair long and planned to become famous. Sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, I guess. After ten years of nightlife, I found myself with the life I thought I’d always wanted and I was completely miserable. When I was on a long vacation in Uruguay, I decided to change my life and go serve the poor. I then went to Liberia and my journey started while volunteering on a hospital ship with some facial surgeons. I spent two years there and decided to help people for the rest of my life. I wanted to start my own charity and sort of reinvent (the idea of) charity.

How were you able to use your club promoter expertise in creating charity: water? I hadn’t gone to school for international development or anything like that, but during my time in Liberia I was traveling like crazy. I was flying on UN helicopters and spending time in Leper colonies. I really got to see a lot of need and what was being done about it. That entire time, I was writing and sending photos to 15,000 people. So, my whole decade of nightlife contacts was in an email database. I was talking to a pretty influential group of people from the beginning. When I came back I just took my laptop to clubs every night. I’d be in DJ booths at three in the morning showing people photos of kids with huge tumors and facial deformities, drinking out of swamps.

Who are your biggest contributors? We’re really now a celeb-driven cause. We’ve had great help from Adrian Grenier from Entourage. He’s hosted the last three events that we’ve done. Jessica Stam has helped in the fashion community. We’ve had some actors sponsor wells all over the world. But mainly the $11 million or so that we’ve raised has come from 60,000 donors. It’s really grassroots. The average gift size is $180. So, it’s not foundations, it’s not million dollar gifts, its kids, its parents, its families sponsoring $5,000 wells and companies getting involved.

Any events coming up? We do the charity: ball every year. It’s on December 14. Last year’s is going to be hard to top. It was 1,200 people. We put out a big photo exhibition and really try to tell the stories of the people we help to the people contributing.

Do these events raise a lot of money? The last two brought in a half a million dollars — so a small-ish percentage, but it’s great for awareness and it’s great to get people together. We’ve always kept them pretty cheap. They’re normally $250, so it’s not like buying a $20,000 table where people won’t be able to afford it.

Who inspires you? I was most inspired by a doctor named Gary Parker. He was on the hospital ship with me. He left his plastic surgery practice in California to go and volunteer his assistance on the ship. He’s now been there 23 years, so he never left. He traded in a life of driving a Mercedes and having lots of money to operating 60 hours a week on people who have no money with facial deformities and people that are blind. I spent a lot of time with him, and he was one of the most humble people that I have ever met.

Do you go back to the nightclubs anymore these days? I did at the beginning. I have to get up so early now, so it’s really tough. Every once and a while I’ll go out. It’s hard to find me at Marquee or Griffin these days. I have a lot of love for people in nightlife though. Many clubs have sponsored wells. Lotus/Double Seven group has been really supportive. Tenjune helped sponsor $40,000 in projects in Northern Uganda. I definitely have not turned my back on nightlife, it’s just that the hours are too tough.

What about restaurants … any NYC favorites? I live in SoHo so I just go to the hole-in-the-walls. I go to Fanelli’s. Every once and a while I’ll go out with donors to Nobu. That’s always a treat.

What is something about you that people may not know? I’m getting married September 26 to charity: water’s designer, and I’m going to take my first proper vacation in a while. We’re going to go to Europe for our honeymoon, and then I’m going straight to Ethiopia.

How do we get involved? The value proposition for giving people clean water is pretty simple. It’s $20 helps one person for 20 years. One of the unique things about the organization is100 percent of the money that we raise publicly goes to directly to our projects. All of our operational costs — such as staff costs, or flights — are covered by a separate set of donors. So, if you give $20, all of that $20 goes to a well. If you give $5,000, for those people who are wealthier, it can sponsor an entire community of 250 people with clean water. Come to the volunteer night every second Wednesday right here in the office. We also launched a new website just a few weeks ago called It’s a way that people can petition for donations by giving up their birthday, running marathons, or swimming. Some people ask for money for their anniversaries or weddings. It’s already raised $265,000 in three weeks. There are more than 5,000 people already part of that community. We got a call from one of the people on there who is an entertainment attorney. One of his clients just sponsored $250,000 worth of wells for his 50th birthday. So, you never know.

New York: Top 10 Summer Cocktails

Cold cocktails and summer go together. Whether you’re sitting by the beach or running from your office at the stroke of five to cool down at the nearest bar, the only question is: what is the most rockin,’ balls-to-the-wall, delicious, sunshine-inspired beverages out there? This list will get you started on a summer journey through NYC’s nooks and crannies, keeping your taste buds tantalized through at least October 1.

● Wailer’s Island Punch @ The Bourgeois Pig (East Village) – You don’t need to fly to Jamaica to feel like you are on an island listening to Bob Marley and his Wailers. All you need do is head to the East Village, order the Wailer’s Island Punch, and you will assuredly hear steel drums by your second glass. The muddled raspberries, Pedro Ximenez sherry, pineapple juice, lime, and Pol Roger champagne mixtures will have you jammin.’

● Beet Sangria @ Tailor (Soho) – Any chance to infuse vegetables into your liquor is healthy! I tend to even harbor the notion that I am doing some good to that bikini body by sipping on the Beet Sangria made from red wine, brandy, Triple Sec, orange juice, beet juice, and orange salt. The red of the beets brings out the red of the wine — or vice versa — and makes for a bold-colored, tasty treat. Another veggietail perfect for summer is the Bell Pepper Margarita; it’s fiery and makes you feel like you’ve traveled south of the border, or is that just the blazing sun on the Manhattan concrete? Either way, these drinks will simultaneously heat you up and cool you off.

● The Myra Breckinridge @ Death & Co (East Village) – The cocktails are crafted with such care, detail, and finesse at this cool speakeasy that you ultimately cannot choose wrong. For the piping-hot months of July, August, and I’ll throw in September for good measure, try one of the concoctions from the “Indian Summer” menu. The “Myra Breckinridge” features Laphroaig single-malt scotch, absinthe, fresh lime juice, and sugarcane syrup. And to add a little rum to your punch, try the “Gantt’s Tomb,” consisting of Goslings rum, Rittenhouse rye, El Dorado 151-proof rum, fresh pineapple, orange and lemon juice, and Allspice Dram. So many ingredients, so little time to try them all.

● Caipirinha @ Paladar (Lower East Side) – Nothing says summer like a day of sipping on caipirinhas. The mint and lime are muddled to perfection at this Latino digs on Ludlow. Drinks are half price from 4-7pm, so might I suggest starting while the sun is still shining high? Those pestering sweat beads on your brow will dissipate in no time.

● Basil 8 @ Table 8 (East Village) – The Cooper Square Hotel restaurant is aesthetically pleasing, uber-trendy and so hot right now. The “Basil 8” is made with Ketel One vodka, white grapes, basil, lime juice, and ginger ale. White grapes are a staple fruit of summer, and putting them into a cocktail will keep you stapled to the bar.

● Frozen Mojito @ Cabanas at the Maritime Hotel (Chelsea) – It’s a slushy with alcohol … need I say more? This drink embodies summer, as does the fact that you will be enjoying it on a tremendous rooftop. Stargazing is also a plus, and ya’ll know I am not talking about the stars in the sky.

● Bittersweet Mimosa @ The Stanton Social (Lower East Side) – Brings bravado to your everyday mimosa. Yes, I like to have one every day. It is composed of Moscato d’Asti, Campari, and fresh-squeezed orange juice. Flavorful, refreshing, and oh-so yummy. Be careful of the midafternoon hangover. Go sleep it off on the beach; just don’t drive there.

● The Sun and Moon @ Haven (Midtown East) – Made with U’luvka vodka, fresh pineapple juice, lime juice, and muddled sage. A simple, amiable way to start drinking by day and keep right on until the moonlight. There are also $13 pitchers of a featured mixed drinks served daily during happy hour, plus burlesque parties every Thursday starting at 9pm with an open bar from 9-10pm. Summertime cocktails and nipple tassels, anyone?

● Dirty Martini @ Angel’s Share (East Village) – Tucked away above a Japanese restaurant, this “no standing allowed” lounge demands courtesy and etiquette; you’ll never find yourself cramped with a bunch of sweaty folks just off the hot streets, as you must be in a chair to drink at this establishment. No more chairs means you have to wait, but yummy cocktails come to those who do. The vodka or gin (depending on which tickles your fancy) come with the olive juice on the side, so you can dirty it up to taste. Combined with the vibe, the conversation gets better with each beverage, and so does your date’s appearance.

● Gold Cup Mint Julep @ Hotel Griffou (Greenwich Village) – OK, it’s just a mint julep served in a gold cup. But this place is so brand spanking new and trendy, and who doesn’t love a classic mint julep in the summertime? The gold cup is just a bonus.

Industry Insiders: DJ Reach, Beat Boy

Semu Namakajo, a.k.a. DJ Reach, is Manhattan’s very own household name when it comes to the world of nightclubs. Bringing his gift for musical mish-mashing to haunts across NYC, Vegas, the Hamptons, and Miami, Reach is best known for being one of the nicest dudes in the biz — just ask any club owner in town. In a city where the sincere have dwindled down to a mere few, this New York native brings nothing but the realness in his music as well as his life. That’s because the music undoubtedly is his life.

How’d you get your start DJing? I was one of those people who saw the craft and got the fever for that cool activity when you see somebody at the nucleus of the party, who is able to dictate the direction of the vibe for the night. So, whether you were coming in from having a hard day at work or celebrating the greatest day of your life, you’re at the mercy of the DJ. I thought that was so powerful. It just drew me in.

The first place you DJed? It was at a junior high school dance at the Cathedral School on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and I literally had a couple of records and cassette tapes. I went back and forth from a boom box and one turntable that was my brother’s.

What about your first paying gig? I don’t really remember my first paying gig. I feel like I should. It should be like when you go to one of those bodegas and they have the dollars on the wall. I should have my first paycheck on my wall.

What’s your weekly line-up? Tuesday’s at Brother Jimmy for an after-work party followed by late night at Southside. It’s a down-low hipster spot. Wednesdays I do Avenue, which is a sceney spot and all the celebs are there. That’s my image night. Thursdays I can’t even reveal. On my Twitter, I call it the “secret spot.” So, you have to follow me on Twitter to find out about it. It might move around a bit. Fridays I jump on a plane and I go to Las Vegas to spin at Tao, which is like doing a concert every week because 2,000 people come together under one roof, and the DJ booth is right in the center of the dance floor. If I’m not in Vegas on Friday, then I’m at the Hotel on Rivington. On Saturday’s, I’m anywhere from Vegas to the Hamptons at Dune. You can catch me all over. Miami at Fontainebleau, maybe I’m in London … who knows?

Who do you look up to in the business? Because I have a marketing company as well called Big Picture Marketing Group or BPM, plus I’ve been a promoter and a DJ, on the business side I look up to Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss. They’ve been like mentors to me, as well as big brothers. I’ve worked for them for seven or eight years now since the very beginning of Marquee to the number-one grossing restaurant and nightclub in the country, which is Tao Las Vegas. On the DJ side it would be DJ Stretch Armstrong. I used to stay up way too late taping his late-night show, and then I ended up interning for him.

You also DJed on a late-night show for Carson Daly. What was that like? TV is totally different from any nightclub experience because so much is scripted and planned out, and there are retakes, and even though you’re in front of a live studio audience, there’s still a general path that your producers want you to follow. Carson is such an amazing and generous guy. He really loves music, and he gave me some creative license to play what I wanted to play as long as I stayed attuned to the general vibe and atmosphere he had going on. If it was Gwyneth Paltrow and she was talking about growing up on the Upper East Side in a townhouse and how she used to listen to the Beatles, I might play some Beatles songs and go into commercial with that.

What’s your favorite kind of music to play? I’m known for my musical palette, my repertoire, and it’s just a variety. I don’t want to use the term “mash-up” because I think it’s played out. I play the music that is representative to the soundtrack of the lives of the people who are in my generation. I play legends like Michael Jackson and Kurt Cobain and Jay-Z. But it also includes anyone from The Cranberries to M.IA.

Does your line of work get you lots of ladies? It has its advantages. It’s a testament to the fact that you are in a category of performers, and if you do what you do well, you could be a rock star. You could be somebody’s hero, whether it is for just one night or for actual love.

Does it get annoying when people make requests? It opens you up to a challenge. If someone wants to hear Ritchie Valens, I have to figure out how to blend that in with Nas. I have to be like, “Okay, let’s try it.” Sometimes it’s annoying as hell.

Where do you go out? I’m such a foodie. You’ll catch me at La Esquina, Blue Ribbon Sushi. I also like hole-in-the-wall places for having beer and wings like Brother Jimmy’s.

What sort of negative trends do you see in the business? A lot of trends people tend to say are negative, I see as positive. They say, “All the DJs now use lap tops and Serato, and it takes away from the creativity and the craft of using vinyl.” I have 10,000 records in my house to this day. I’ve gone to the deepest, darkest crevices of record shops around the world. I value all of them. People think it’s limiting to have all the same music all download-able. You have to challenge yourself as an artist and as a creative thinker. You have to decide how you’re going to put it together and how you’re going to let your identity show despite the fact that everyone has access to the music.

What’s your dream project? It’s a project I’m working on right now. I’m approaching my 30th birthday, and every year I throw a huge party. All of my friends as well as celebs show up. We’ve had a thousand people come in the past. This year I’m taking 30 artists that I respect and have influenced me in some way and asking them to pick 30 songs, one per artist that has impacted them in the past 30 years. It will be a compilation of 30 artists who have influenced me and the songs that have influenced them during my lifespan.