The Unofficial Guide to Valentine’s Day In LA

According to The Daily Beast, Los Angeles is rated the twelfth best city for love in America. So while both singles and couples may want to DirecTV their nights in and be OK with that, romance abound, Angelenos! Valentine’s Day is sorta lame-o if you do lame-o things, so here’s a round-up of awesomeness that’s happening in and around the city, specifically for the big love day. There’s something for everyone – from the fundamentally socially awkward single to the hip-hop loving fist thrusters – so let love rule in the city of Angels!

All the Single Ladies (and Gents)
Singles should head straight to the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre for the Valentine’s Day Singles Mixer. It’s a show where the improv group uses the audience’s (your) own terrible love stories as performance fodder. This “mixer” actually takes place tonight, February 12th, at 11pm – perfectly timed to snag a date for the real V-Day.

Boozy, Fancy, and Romancy
Impress your blind date with a table at Pour Vous, one of the swankiest drinking dens in Hollywood. It’s dimly-lit and moody, with a Victorian-themed interior, and lots of candles that amp up the romance. For Valentine’s Day, Pour Vous is offering a package for two that includes a two-hour reservation (8 pm-10pm), four oysters paired with a glass of champers, a cheese plate paired with cocktails, and chocolate paired with Cherie for $100. Oh, and there’s a special Valentine’s Show. It might include a scantily clad girl in a cage. Show up with a reservation to find out.

Foodies Paradise
The just-recently-reopened A.O.C is offering a four-course prix-fixe dinner with a bunch of tastings you might love more than your date. Executive chef is Suzanne Goin, who’s been named "Best New Chef" by Food and Wine magazine and is a James Beard Best California Chef award winner. Don’t bring a date that doesn’t understand good food. The night will end bad.

Fist-Thrusting, Power 106 Date
Love is in the Nokia Theater, thanks to Power 106’s Valentine’s Day Crush concert featuring Ne-Yo, T.I., and RaVaughn. We’re pretty sure Ne-Yo will perform his hit single “Let Me Love You.” If the concert strikes you as a little too urban, you can follow the huge wave of old white people heading to Costa Mesa for Kenny G.

Celebrity-Stalking, Fish-Obsessed
Get your Smartphone cameras ready! There’s no red carpet, but those familiar with one (George Clooney, Jessica Simpson, etc.) shack up at Koi Restaurant for some of the best sushi in L.A. (baked lobster roll, anyone?). Considering the high-profile diners, you’ll feel like a VIP yourself. The restaurant has some dishes specifically designed for Valentine’s Day, like Cupid’s Arrow (spicy albacore dish with strawberries and more good-times fixtures). You should probably make a reservation.

Next-Level Seriousness
Because you might propose, make it West Hollywood memorable. Mondrian Los Angeles whipped up a crazy-cool Dream Proposal package that includes three nights in a penthouse suite, private five-course dinner prepared by Asia De Cuba’s executive chef Chang Sivilay, bottle of Dom Perignon, styling and glam sesh from Drybar/Blushington/Stylehaus, four-carot Tacori engagement ring, and engagement party at SkyBar for up to 50 guests. The package is estimated at $105,000 and available until February 19th. Don’t forget to invite us to your wedding.

[Related: BlackBook’s Exclusive Valentine’s Day 2013 Playlist; BlackBook Los Angeles Guide]

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Industry Insiders: Lindsay Luv – Tempting Tunes

Rocking a party at a white-hot nightclub is just the tip of the iceberg for Lindsay Frio, who DJs under the name Lindsay Luv. Her job might keep her up until the wee hours, but it takes plenty of hustle during the day to make it all come together. "I’m up early answering emails, managing my accounting, chasing down bills, updating my websites, downloading new music, planning photo shoots, social networking, and the list goes on," she explains. 

 
The Boston native was raised on a steady diet of Springsteen and Neil Young, courtesy of her parents, and played the saxophone from an early age. While working in music management and promotion, she developed a friendship with the late Adam Goldstein, a.k.a. DJ AM, who suggested she try her hand behind the tables. She’s been spinning for larger and larger crowds ever since, keeping the dance floors packed at L.A. clubs like the Mondrian’s SkyBar, where she’s the resident DJ, as well as New York’s Webster Hall, along with private parties for the likes of Britney Spears, Richard Branson, Pharrell, and her friend Mel B. When she has any spare time, she enjoys hiking and going to the beach, but these days she’s working almost nonstop. "The one thing that has remained consistent throughout my jobs in this industry is my attachment to discovering new music and sharing it with other music lovers," she says. Looks like she’s got her work cut out for her. 
 
Here, in her own words, Lindsay discusses wilderness trips with her family as a kid, DJing at the Playboy mansion, and what it’s like to be complimented by Suge Knight. 
 
Tell me a little bit about your background. Where were you born, and where did you grow up? What were you into as a kid?
I was born in Boston, grew up in a small suburb outside the city, and graduated from UMass Amherst. I’ve always been into music. I played the saxophone for many years growing up, and in high school I would help promote emerging local bands at the time like Dispatch and Guster. I was always very active. I was captain of the cheerleading squad in high school, and I would spend every summer traveling and horseback riding out west in places like Arizona, Wyoming, and Montana with my family. My parents lived on a Navajo reservation before I was born, so visiting the west was a big part of my upbringing.
 
How did you get involved with music in general, and DJing in particular? Was there someone or something that was influential to you at an early age that made you decide on a career in music?
Music was always in my blood. My parents are still hippies at heart, and raised me on vinyl of their favorite artists like Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, and Social Distortion. When I moved to New York I got involved with the management team for The Raveonettes. Their producer, Richard Gottehrer – a legendary songwriter and producer in the music business – and his notable business partner Scott Cohen, were really the first people to mentor me in the industry. As I moved through different music-related jobs, I was eventually booking various artists like Justice, Chromeo, and Mickey Avalon for brand events in New York. In doing this, I crossed paths with the late Adam Goldstein, aka DJ AM. We immediately became friends and I would send him all my underground music finds for his sets. When I was between jobs at one point, and the economy had just taken a turn for the worse, he suggested I DJ. I had never thought of it as an option before, but suddenly it seemed like a perfect fit. I bought all the equipment he recommended, practiced for hours each day at my friend’s club Ella in the Village in New York, and the rest is history.
 
When did you know that you had made it?
While New York definitely held the building blocks for my career as a DJ, the actual day I moved to LA was my birthday, and I had been booked to DJ at the Playboy Mansion. Playing at such an iconic place for a wild party on my first day in Hollywood was pretty epic, and set the pace for my career moving forward in my new home.  DJing rooms and private parties for the likes of Britney Spears, Richard Branson, Pharrell, and intimate affairs like the baby shower I just spun for my friend and Spice Girl, Mel B, really felt like defining moments. At the end of it all though, making it for me means making a living by sharing great music with whomever wants to listen and dance.
 
What is an average day like for you – if there is such a thing as an average day?
I really look at my career as building a brand, the brand being Lindsay Luv. Before I was even DJing, I was building a following regarding my work in music within social media outlets like Myspace, where I had amassed over 25,000 followers. What happens in the DJ booth is only half of the battle. I always wake up early, around 9 am, and immediately hit the computer. I generally take a break to hike and run errands, and then it’s back to work before a gig. Some days are spent solely on email, others are spent recording mixes in my home studio, and others are spent on the road touring. Traveling nationally and internationally takes a lot of additional work. I am going to DJ in India for New Year’s Eve this year, which is exciting, but has taken a ton of work in securing visas, scheduling press opps, immunizations, paperwork and so on.
 
What are some of your favorite clubs to DJ?
I have been a resident DJ at SkyBar in LA since I moved here. They essentially enticed me to move from New York and rock it at their gorgeous poolside hot spot both for their summer pool parties and weekend evenings. SkyBar is a staple in LA, and you never know who will drop by. The staff is amazing and so is the view. Every summer pool party and Saturday night I have DJed there has been packed, and we have so many great regulars. What more can a DJ ask for? I also love to play at cutting edge spots like Hemingway’s and many of the cool SBE spots like MyStudio, however since I DJ so many big events I get the opportunity to bounce around to tons of different clubs, which keeps it interesting. Back in New York, Webster Hall on a weekend night is really thrilling to play because they function as a concert hall as well. Last time I played there, I went on after having seen Nine Inch Nails play the same stage the night before. It was surreal to play on the same stage as huge artists, with an incredible sound system and to thousands of people that go there to party each weekend! 
 
What advice would you give to a DJ who is just starting out?
I think there are a few important tips. Always remember to stay humble and professional. Be the DJ that the people hiring you can count on, and always treat each gig like it’s the biggest gig of your life. That way you always rock it! And stay inspired. I never use a set list. I allow the night and the different crowds to dictate my sets as I go. Also, download and research new music constantly. People look to you to inspire them, not bore them with the same sets night after night. I think being true to yourself is always a great piece of advice as well. You may not be the best scratcher or the perfect mixer or the latest it girl, so focus on what your talents are and build your confidence and your brand around them. Recognize and own up to what makes you special in a sea of talent.
 
Have any funny or interesting things happened while you were DJing?
I love the fact that notorious Death Row Records legend Suge Knight came up to me while I was DJing at the Mondrian Skybar the other week. He told me he had seen a million DJ’s but that I was special and really lit up the room. He took a picture with me and told me he would come back again to see me spin. Sure enough, he came back the following weekend and we took another picture. I know he has a very intense background, but to me he represented the person who brought some of my favorite hip-hop albums to the forefront of the industry when I was young. Hearing a compliment like that from someone so notable was pretty amazing. 
 
Is there one particular style of music you enjoy working with? Any favorite artists?
I really love it all. I have played every genre and often spin them all in any given set, which is why I label myself a true open format DJ.  Some of my favorite artists are Madonna, Daft Punk, Michael Jackson, Robyn, The Gossip, The Raveonettes, Jack White, Dr. Dre, Rihanna, Chromeo, Snoop Dogg, Swedish House Mafia, The Animals, The Rolling Stones, Blondie, The Faint, Holy Ghost, Garbage, and The Cult.
 
Finally, what do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not working?
I love outdoor activities in California, like hiking and kicking back at the beach. My biggest passion outside of DJing is cooking. I love to cook and spend a ton of time in the kitchen and entertaining for friends. I love wine and going wine tasting, and I also love traveling to exotic destinations, whether for work or play.
 
Hair by Elisha & Carly of The Establishment
Makeup by Melissa Sandoval

The New Carlton Hotel Brings Back Old New York

When I first started writing this column, one of my primary goals was to give my readers an insider look at some of the industry’s leaders, and how they approach the business. Some of these people are relatively unknown, as they allow the successful properties and brands they’ve created and promoted do all the talking. Most appear occasionally as a bold-faced name in a newspaper or magazine. Peter Chase is a player. He’s the founder of BPC, which develops and manages creative hospitality concepts. His concepts have included: Skybar in Miami Beach, Wunderbar at the W Montreal, MGM Grand Casinos (MGM, Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Borgata) in Las Vegas, Detroit, and Atlantic City, as well as Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, and the W San Diego.

When Ian Schrager needed to replace the irreplaceable Rande Gerber back in 2000, he sought out Peter to manage and develop bars at each of his hotels. He has overseen fourteen bars in nine hotels, spanning New York, London, Miami, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. He has also overseen the creation of several new ones.

I spent three hours chatting with him at the Carlton on Madison and 29th the other evening. I could have stayed for eight hours. Peter knows what he’s talking about, and finds himself poised to do even greater things. He is very aware that the ancient, though wonderfully redecorated hotel finds itself between the uber-hot Ganesvoort Park Hotel and the seriously hip Ace Hotel. He’s gearing up to embrace the crowds that will be passing by his door: He understands their needs, and will entertain them. He is one of the unsung heroes of the industry, and today I am singing his song.

Ian Schrager brought you in to replace the irreplaceable Rande Gerber. How did you approach that impossible dream? Ian and Rande had a relationship going back quite some time. I respect what Rande has done, and continues to do, but I think Ian was excited to create outside of that relationship. What we accomplished at the Clift with the Redwood Room, the re-interpretation of the Morgans Bar, and the complete transformation of the Whiskey into the Paramount Bar makes that evident.

Rande and I come from very different backgrounds. Rande was a former model that got into the bar industry, and I am someone that worked within the hospitality industry, and went to Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration. Beyond all of the extraordinary creative aspects of working with Ian, I approached the “impossible dream” from a business perspective. I set out to implement better systems, controls, reporting, and several initiatives to maximize profit from every drink served.

I worked for Ian and Steve Rubell, and learned a great deal. What did you take away from that experience, and how do you apply it nowadays? I know that many of the things that I discounted or infuriated me about their style/personally applied when I had such opportunities. I never got to meet Steve, but I feel like there were several talented people Ian employed to help him create his vision. I learned so much from Ian that it almost seems that I learned nothing. So much of what Ian does can’t help but resonate and change the way you look at bars, restaurants, and hotels, or for that matter, everything. Ian has a way of instilling in you his perspective on service, music, design and style. He often accomplishes this through intense demands, but as the saying goes, “you can’t make diamonds without a lot of pressure.” Eventually, you change (for the better, I might add) and forget what you thought was acceptable before. His vision is his own. Many have tried to replicate it, some with success, but there always remains just one original. I use this valuable resource every day in operating my businesses, and owe a great deal to Ian for teaching me to view things differently. Sometimes the fates bring the right person to the right place and time. The Carlton finds itself on a strip between the new Ganesvoort Park and the highly successful Ace Hotel. What are you doing to exploit this moment? Having lived in the neighborhood for 20 years, I have watched its evolution. Back in 1904, just before the NYC subway opened, the Carlton (then the Seville) Hotel opened and helped turn the neighborhood into one of the city’s most elegant locales. The original bar from the Seville is still intact, and has hosted luminaries such as Frank Sinatra and “Diamond Jim” Brady. A block away lies the remnants of Tin Pan Alley, where much of the world’s greatest music was written and produced. The Breslin Hotel, now the Ace, opened the same year as the Seville, and was part of what was known as the “Avenue of Hotels.” Today, with the renovation of both hotels, and the addition of the Gansevoort, I think that we are seeing a re-awakening of the 29th Street hotel corridor. I have always treated my competitors like neighbors. There is plenty of business for everyone, and if we support one another we all stand a better chance of succeeding. Let the Gansevoort and the Ace do what they do best, I wanted to pay homage to the history of the area, and offer a connection to its storied past through music.

Having spent countless hours in what was originally the Café at Country in the Carlton, I always knew that its center bar needed to be removed and filled with energy, be it through people, or in this case, live music. The Salon as it is now known is the entry point for all things Millesime. It acts as a portal to another time. Upstairs, we have our seafood brasserie, and across a glass bridge, Bar Millie, which will soon open. It will feature burlesque images from the turn of the century, and views looking down onto the stage. Bar Millie will be a place where you can make a reservation for a table, and come and sip cocktails with friends. A lot of places charge a cover, or pack the room to help offset the expenses of the musicians. We work with musicians, and allow them an elegant space in which to showcase their talents.

A phenomenon in the current era is the synergy and possibly the necessity of solid NYC nightlife in hotels. Tell me your take on that. How much is food and beverage driving your hotel, and will that now increase dramatically? I operate bars in W Hotels, and consult for casinos: there are few things as important to a hotel or casino as its food and beverage offering. I do not know if Ian and Steve invented it, but they certainly exploited it to the fullest. When a new hotel opens people are not going to immediately rent a room. They will pop into the bar, or grab a bite in the restaurant, and then promote the property given their experience. This puts heads in beds, and safe guards the real investment: real estate. The press will only write about a hotel when it opens, but they’ll cover any celebrity sightings as long as someone communicates with them, be it the venue itself, a cell phone picture from a customer, or a random tweet. If it is from the venue itself, this can be a double-edged sword. As a policy, we do not actively pursue press regarding our customers unless they are at a function where it is understood that their picture may be taken. Celebrities know this as well, and use certain venues to garner press when it suits their needs. Additionally, restaurants and bars are the perfect locations for movie premieres and charity events. These bring press, cameras and celebrities, which only adds to the properties cache. In the six or so months since we have been open, we have already hosted TV film shoots for Curb Your Enthusiasm, House Wives of New Jersey, an after party for the band Rammstein, listening parties for NE YO and Estelle and the several charity events including one for Artists for Peace and Justice, hosted by Paul Haggis. The word “boutique” in regards to hotels seems to be very last century. Is there a new word? Will most hotels have to go chic to remain relevant and occupied? I agree that the term sounds very outdated, but as a concept it’s still relevant. The problem started when hotel companies and designers started calling something “boutique” but only regurgitated previous design work. Boutique should represent true individuality within its local context. This only happens when passionate people are involved in every detail of development.

Unlike the Gansevoort in the Meatpacking, the Gansevoort Park was designed and pre-engineered with hospitality, food, and beverage in mind. Carlton is a much older property. What steps are you taking to retro-fit protection for your hotel guests against the sounds and such that successful watering holes inevitably bring? At the new Gansevoort Park they have added separate elevators to access the upper bars from the hotel, and seem to have situated the bars away from guest rooms. This means no more intoxicated guests on elevators with families staying at the hotel, and no more non-guests on hotel floors causing safety issues. When they built the Carlton they constructed it in such a way that sound from the bars does not disturb the hotel guests. Bars and clubs can be a tremendous asset to a hotel, but it is vital that veteran operators and professional audio engineers are involved in the design and construction phases, or you can end up with costly renovations, or lost room revenues for decades.

Tell me about Salon Millesime. The idea with the Salon was to create a sophisticated platform for progressive artistry and extraordinary musicianship. My partners and I have handpicked our talent from all ‘walks of life’ including students of the Juilliard School of Music, DJs, and well-regarded, established artists. The Salon is our doorway into the hotel. Everyone works off of their laptops or phones, and they are doing this in coffee shops more and more. People who have been laid-off, or are self-employed, are looking for a place to be able to have a meeting or get work done over a cup of coffee. During the day we offer a relaxing environment to do this and at night, sip wine and listen to our interpretation of Voix de Ville, the voice of the city. The Salon menu features casual French and Mediterranean inspired cuisine by my partner Chef Laurent Manrique. We installed a state-of-the-art Bose sound system for an unparalleled musical experience. Nightly performers include artists from far corners of the globe to nearby neighbors. N’Dea Davenport, Swizz Beatz, Nickodemus, Estelle, Grammy winning rapper Pras, Grammy winning singer Ne-Yo, and Brooklyn songstress and Si*Se have already graced the stage. When not performing live, there is a select roster of DJs like Carol C from the band Si*Se, and DJ Sir Shorty, a veteran of the city. I invite guests to gather and sip artisan cocktails like the French 75, or perhaps the Night & Day—my version of the Manhattan—a portion of whose proceeds supports VH1’s Save the Music.

We wanted to evoke an intimate music venue with hints of the history of the area’s past. The team came from Redhook Brooklyn and was lead by Doug Fanning’s DYAD Studio. Doug chose to transform the space with stylish mix of leather banquets, tiger print chairs, and glossy ebony cocktail tables with bronze inlays reminiscent of the early Café Society interiors. He also custom designed the oversize light shades reminiscent of old Vaudeville stage curtains. Designer William Calvert, a longtime friend, created a luxe cocktail dress for the servers.

How does Millesime and the other food and beverage spots in the hotel interact with each other? We chose to create one iconic name, Millesime, with multiple concepts feeding into it. Since no two guests are alike, we created an offering that appeals to each guest’s unique needs and desires, as well as those of our local community. Beyond the Salon we have the Lobby Bar, a dimly lit saloon where you can “belly up” to a magnificent mahogany bar dating back one hundred plus years to the original hotel. Order a scotch, eat a burger, catch a game on the flat screen TV, or just people watch as hotel guests arrive from near and far. Just around the corner from Millesime, across a 30-foot glass bridge, will be Bar Millie, a reservation cocktail bar. Reminiscent of an old French sitting room, it is an ideal perch for relaxing, chatting and drinking with good friends. Leather-bound chairs, metal screened burlesque images, a handcrafted marble bar, and traces of the past hang in the air like ghosts of prohibition. It’s a nostalgic portal to an era when automobiles had curves, women were dames, men wore hats, and a deal was sealed with a handshake. The room, with its vaulted ceiling and wood panels, is a place that encourages you to linger over drinks and trade glances as music wafts throughout. Seven hard shakes with a cocktail shaker and you’re transported back to the splendor of Broadway, Tin Pan Alley, and luxurious hotel lounges. It’s a trip back to the world of F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby,, and watching William Powell coach the bartender on the proper way to shake a martini in The Thin Man.

Ringing in the New Year, Miami Style

Growing up in Miami is great for several reasons. The best is being able to spend the holidays in eighty-degree weather while simultaneously fulfilling required parental time. While many of my friends back in New York were making plans to start their New Year quietly by a fire – anywhere, really, so long as it was indoors – I was mapping out a night of party hopping on Miami Beach.

First stop was the Mondrian, where the Sevigny siblings were hosting a party by the pool. Despite the blizzard that hit New York days earlier, there were still plenty of snowbirds who made it down for the big event. The Misshapes’ Leigh Lezark was one of those fortunate enough to catch a flight. Then, just before midnight, I hit Skybar at The Shore Club. The hotel was hosting a night of old-school beats with DJ Cassidy. I arrived just in time to catch Naughty By Nature perform “Hip-Hop Hooray” as the clock struck midnight, a great way to ring in 2011. R&B legends Bel Biv DeVoe were up next with a thirty minute performance that ended with their classic song, “Poison.”

image DJ Cassidy and Bel Biv DeVoe.

I ended my NYE at nightlife impresario Susanne Bartsch’s fete at The Delano. The annual extravaganza held up to its usual wondrous standards as Bartsch and her creative clan of hosts transformed the hotel into a decadent, royal court-themed soiree. Patricia Field was enlisted to deck out the lobby lounge, and Joey Arias, alongside a clan of creatively-clad fixtures of the New York club scene, were sprinkled about poolside to add scandal to the evening. There were “harlots” in the Orchard, “clans” in the Court, and a Bloody Mary beach bar. The party traveled into the hotel’s underground club, The Florida Room, where yours truly stayed and danced until the sun came up, Miami Style!

Photos courtesy of w.orldredeye

Industry Insiders: Ben Pundole, Hospitality Sweet

Ben Pundole received an unorthodox education at The Groucho Club, London’s infamous members-only haunt. The entertainment honcho for Morgans Hotel Group opted out of a traditional university education, becoming instead the general manager of the Met Bar at the pioneering Metropolitan Hotel in London. It was there that he befriended Madonna, who later introduced him to hotel and design icon Ian Schrager. He also worked with Amy Sacco at Lot 61 in New York, then moved to Morgans to open Skybar in South Beach and the neighboring Florida Room at the Delano with Lenny Kravitz. In total, he balances his time between 14 properties. Most recently, he partnered with GoldBar mastermind Rob McKinley to construct Good Units, a raw events space under the Hudson Hotel in a former YWCA gym.

Background: I’m from London. I’ve been in the States for almost 11 and a half years now. I started off when I was 18 at The Groucho Club wheeling in wine deliveries, changing light bulbs and cleaning chef’s dirty laundry. I became a bartender and later a manager. Then, I worked at a sister restaurant, 192 in Notting Hill.

On life at The Groucho: I really had no idea what The Groucho Club was. One of my mother’s friend’s son was a chef there and got me a job. I was the lowest of the low when I started there and I loved it. I ended up not going to university because I found my location in life there. One night, Damien Hirst pulled himself over the bar and dragged me to the floor and poured tequila in my mouth. Then, he poured the rest of the bottle of tequila on my face.

On befriending Madonna: It was very, very strange and peculiar. She came into the bar one night completely unannounced. The Met Bar was small and all the tables were filled with people I just couldn’t move. I think I had Pierce Brosnan at one end and maybe Kate Moss and Jude Law and their whole crew on the other and hip people smashing around in the middle. She came in and I greeted her. I said, “Hi. I’m Ben. I’m the manager and I’m terribly sorry, I can’t give you a table right now. If you want to take a seat at the bar, I’ll make you a drink.” So, she and her friend sat at the bar and I made them drinks and I had a drink with them. She seemed to like the fact that I wasn’t just putting her in front of everybody else that was already there. Then, she came back a few times. When I was 23, she flew me out to L.A. to go and have dinner with some friends of hers. It was all fairly weird. She took a liking to me.

On meeting design heavyweight, Ian Schrager: I had a very fortuitous introduction to him by Madonna. He took me under his wing. I helped him when he was opening bars and throwing events, doing parties and promotions, marketing and whatever he needed me to do. I was his run-around kid. He’s a genius. He invented the whole way we stay these days. He left Morgans to open up the Gramercy Park Hotel. I stayed with Morgans and for the past two years, I’ve been the Vice President of Entertainment. I oversee, support, and develop partnerships, nightlife, marketing strategies, produce CDs. But I still make tea too.

On the contemporary definition of the term ‘Boutique Hotel’: Things got lost in translation. I honestly don’t think there’s a definition anymore. It’s a phrase that’s been overused, misused, and misconstrued. It certainly made sense when this type of hotel was born in the late ‘80s. It was more kind of luxury, lifestyle, and design oriented. Now, it seems like every hotel is like that. So, I don’t think there is a particular boutique market. Ian, obviously, does it very well. Andres Balazs does it well. The Thompson Group. I think Soho House does it very, very well. Although they’re slightly different.

On Good Units: It gives us real creative freedom. Usually, we build a hotel and we put the chair in place and that’s where the chair stays for years. That’s the way it goes. However, Good Units is a mobile space. It’s this 6,000 square foot space with an amazing mezzanine and a double high ceiling in the main room. It’s very much like a venue—similar to the Williamsburg Music Hall or Bowery Ballroom. Everything can be moved in and out, whether it’s the bars or the furniture. We opened with the 40th anniversary of Interview Magazine. Then, we did a great partnership with Patricia Fields and Susan Bartsch. We had an Erykah Badu performance there. We recently had a Twestival as well.

On the vices that come with a career in nightlife: In London it’s far more of a business whereas here, it’s more of a lifestyle. I think there are different levels of involvement. I think a lot of the reason that people get into nightlife and events is that they can live a certain way.

On the Florida Room: I met Lenny Kravitz when I was working at the Met Bar and I later approached him about this project. It was certainly not something I just wanted him to put his name on. He’d just started this design company, and I thought, “The last thing I want is for it to just be a bar with Lenny’s name on it.” But he was really involved with everything from the design to the glassware to uniforms to the music. If I told him I didn’t like something about the proposed design, he came to the office and defended his design or we came to a happy conclusion together. He’s a true artist. I didn’t know what Florida Room was. Lenny said that his aunt had a Florida Room. When he was growing up, it was where all the adults would go and drink and listen to music. The kids weren’t allowed in. Once he told me that, I thought it was a brilliant name.

Go-to’s: My favorite bar of all time is Hotel Delmano. I like Franny’s on Flatbush Avenue and Five Leaves. I like Soho House as well.

Las Vegas Openings: Oasis at Gold Spike, Johnny Smalls, Skybar, Encore Beach Club, Surrender

Oasis at Gold Spike (Downtown) – Former dive casino and downtown flophouse reborn into boutique chic. ● Johnny Smalls (Off-Strip East) – Tapas, American-style. ● Skybar (Off-Strip East) – Lord it over the Hard Rock’s pool, Scarface-style. ● Encore Beach Club (Strip: North) – The Beach Club with everything. Literally: Everything. ● Surrender (Strip: North) – The centerpiece of the Encore’s indoor/outdoor partyland.

Industry Insiders: Tehmina Adaya, Shangri-La’s Lady

President and CEO of Shangri-La Hotel in Santa Monica, Tehmina Adaya has been hard at work prepping the family-owned business for an expansion to five more locations in the next five years. Adaya also heads up the record label, So Sweet Records. More on her hotelier views after the jump.

How did you come to be associated with Shangri-La? I come from a family that owns commercial real estate and my father bought the Shangri-La in 1983. The family ran it as a mom-and-pop hotel for years, but my father handed the reins to me a few years ago. It’s still a privately owned and managed lifestyle business. I’m a family girl, who is wholly invested in the lifestyle business—as an hotelier in a fantasy destination for the hospitality industry.

How did you get your start? I’m originally from Pakistan, but moved to California when I was 12. I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 30 years and still live six blocks away. My father was my mentor; he set the example of being a balanced individual and was a successful entrepreneur who worked until nine o’clock every night. I grew up in a family business environment. When my father became ill, he began to hand the family business baton to me, the youngest of six children. He groomed me all my life and put me in charge of his whole portfolio. I’m now the trustee for everything. My mother is alive and well, and a great supporter.

Who do you look up to in the hospitality industry? Ian Schrager did an amazing thing for the hospitality industry in general. Where I differ from him is in the elitism at the Gramercy Park Hotel. I also admire André Balazs, who has made the Chateau Marmont better and better. My personal mentors are Goodwin Gaw, who owns the Hollywood Roosevelt—another historic building—and turned it into a very dynamic space instead of a museum where nobody wants to stay. Another person I like is Mark Rosenthal of the Sunset Marquis, which is now an urban sanctuary that didn’t give up an inch of their history.

What do you predict for 2010? Part of the hospitality industry is turning into a lifestyle industry—now you go into a hotel and see beautiful art and hear relevant music, get different bath products in your room, consume different drinks in a unique bar, meet more interesting people. Even if you lead a suburban lifestyle, once you stay at the right hotel, you feel young and dynamic. You feel like you know what’s happening. The hospitality industry is also becoming more environmentally responsible. Our hotel is much more green than it’s ever been, and even the bath product bottles are biodegradable—they’re made of cornstarch and disintegrate in a landfill. Our toilets are green too, they’re dual flush toilets! I read a shocking old statistic that claimed that one American used as much natural resources as 40 Bengalis. My father would get upset if I left the tap on while brushing my teeth because he said, “You’re answerable to God and the environment for everything you waste.”

Positive changes in ’09? You were once treated as either a nobody or as a VIP. Now hosts are treating all guests with an equal hand with the economic downturn in full swing.

Something that people might not know about you? I don’t think people really know that I’m involved in the music industry, that I have my own dance music label, So Sweet Records, and that I adore fashion and I love designers like Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and Alaia. I’m a complete Anglophile; I love that England is so culturally dynamic and socially diverse, which comes from living in Pakistan for the first 12 years of my life. My husband and I are both Muslims, although his mother is Turkish and his father is Lebanese. He was born in Kuwait where his father was brought to head the nation’s medical profession—his father delivered all of the royal babies there as well.

What’s your favorite city? London! I get withdrawal symptoms if I don’t visit twice a year.

Any non-industry projects in the works? Raising my children. My eldest son, 20, told me he was really proud of me when I started the hotel and the record label because it made things seem possible for him and said, “I can see my mother doing it, and it really inspires me.” The label is another child to me. I also started a school and worked hard at it—it’s an elementary school, pre-school-to-sixth grade called New Horizon. My father donated the land, and I had it accredited within five years.

Where are your go-to places in LA? First, I love SkyBar; it started the whole outdoor lifestyle bar thing in Los Angeles and is fabulously done at the Mondrian. I love the Chateau Marmont; that’s the property I would compare our historic hotel to—it’s a comfortable place with stellar service and impeccable food. Nothing compares to the Four Seasons, and you can actually smoke outside! I love The Edison, located in an industrial ballroom; it’s timelessly hot. I really like Foxtail, it’s just beautiful and reminiscent of Biba in London in the 1970s. My favorite indoor bar is at the Sanderson in London—very French and delicate, mirrored, like a doll house or a jewel.

Industry Insiders: Josh Wagner, Hotel Barman

As regional director of nightlife for Morgans Hotel Group in Miami, Josh Wagner oversees Skybar at the Shore Club, Sunset Lounge at Mondrian, and Florida Room at the Delano. Here, he talks to us about cachaça, Grace Jones shedding tears, and growing a beard.

What are your favorite places in Miami, outside of Morgans properties? The pool at The Standard Hotel is the most relaxing place in Miami, period. There’s an incredible place called Silvia’s. It’s this inland restaurant on the canal where nobody speaks any English, and you can pick your fish in an icebox right there, and they cook it up right on the spot for you. I love the bar at Smith & Wollensky. I like Abbey Brewing Co. because it’s a tiny bar that just has beer and a dart board, and on any night off, there’s nothing better than a pint and a game of darts.

What does “regional director of nightlife” entail? I make sure that we have the proper finger on the pulse of what’s happening. Plus I control the decision-making on anything from special events, music and entertainment, any programming. Anything regarding nightlife or entertainment.

What’s the most difficult part of your job? Sleeping and not being able to find enough time to sleep.

How would you describe yourself? As a gentleman who is calculating and knows what I would like to accomplish in my life.

And what would you like to accomplish in your life? I’d like to have a hotel chain that features great public areas, that has great food and beverage options. It’ll be very much the equation of successful boutique hotels. Then I’ll retire from that, become a politician for 15 years, and teach history to college kids wearing a corduroy jacket with elbow patches and a pipe and a big beard.

Every night, do you jump around between all three places? I spend most of my time at the Florida Room because my office is at Delano, but I bounce around to the three as much as I can.

How do these three spots differ? Symbiotic with the actual hotel properties themselves, each of the properties offers something unique. The properties share certain characteristics that are similar and very distinct to Morgans, but they are also three completely different experiences. Skybar at the Shore Club is a larger venue where you can sit and have a club-like experience in the Red Room, or have cocktails outside in the garden or poolside. You have Nobu and Ago on that property as well. The Florida Room is the smaller, more intimate gem sitting under the basement of Delano. When Ian Schrager built it, the mentality was that we have to build an iconic lounge underneath to follow suit. It’s a Latin-style speakeasy piano bar, and every night, we do live music followed by atypical DJ sets. It’s a very non-South Beach formula of 70s, 80s funk, old-school hip-hop. The clientele at the Florida Room is very mature, and it’s not a forced mentality of bottle service. Any night, you’ll walk down and you can see a performance of anyone from Grace Jones to Perry Farrell. Between all three of our properties, you can really roam and experience something completely different.

How’s business at the Mondrian? The Mondrian is our newest property down here, and the Sunset Lounge is there because Miami has kind of always lacked a place for the people who have a regular 9-5 job. This is a place to have cocktails right after work, or use as a pre-dinner/post-dinner venue for cocktails. The Mondrian is the first hotel built in 40 years on the west side of South Beach, with beautiful views at sunset. We really wanted to create an offering for people to sit and have cocktails and not feel like they’re being forced to enjoy Miami clubland. It’s relaxed and chill. There we have a cachaça bar. Cachaça is what tequila was 15 years ago. We have 60 different types of cachaça, and we infuse 8 different flavors. You can enjoy a wonderful, tropical environment with a properly made cocktail with crushed ice, and anything from cardamom and pineapple to passion fruit and chili. You genuinely feel like you’re on a tropical vacation at the Sunset Lounge.

Are there any personal touches that you’ve added to these venues? The people that work there. One of the things that we really pride ourselves on is seeing people succeed, and for us, it seems that at all of our properties we have our family. You’d experience that when you go there, that there’s someone who cares about their job, and they see their future potential in it. I’m really proud of the teams that we’ve created.

What do you look for in potential employees? I look for people who care, who smile and are friendly. We’re in the business of engaging with guests and talking with people. You have to be a people person. We help create experiences, and when people come out to enjoy themselves at Morgans hotels, they’re looking to make memories, to have positive experiences. I look for staffers who want to help make moments, and we’ve done a pretty good job finding them.

What’s your favorite property? I’d have to say the Florida Room because you never know what’s going to turn up there. Lenny Kravitz designed the lounge, and some of the most intimate moments of live music that I’ve ever seen have been in the Florida Room.

Most memorable experience there? When we had Perry Farrell performing in the middle of the room, surrounded by a cocoon of people … everybody was just completely entrenched in the fact that they would have this man sweating on them. Grace Jones was sitting and crying in front of an audience that she was actually touching in a room that fits no more than 250 people.

How was Lenny Kravitz involved in the design of the Florida Room? Lenny has a design company called Kravitz Design, and the Florida Room is actually their first public project. They created this gorgeous room with Swarovski crystal chandeliers and a $150,000 custom-made Schimmel lucite piano. There’s only three in the world, and the other two are in Lenny’s apartments in New York and in Paris. There are leather ceilings and glass-beaded wallpaper. The place oozes sophistication and intimacy.

What’s going on in nightlife in Miami from a general perspective? Nightlife in Miami is at a major crossroads, and bottle service is obviously dead. It was uncool two years ago. It was a means to be able to gain access and purchase real estate that nobody else was able to buy. But 2009 is the year of the bartender. That guy who used to go out and spend $2,000 on a table is still going out, but now he’s spending $200 at the bar. Places that have great bartenders and great cocktails are places that are not going to see a real dip in sales at the bar. Happy or sad people always like to drink; that’s one thing that always needs to be remembered. The juice in that bottle, that stuff is liquid gold. Go down to Wall Street now, you look at the pubs around Wall Street, and they’re absolutely packed. Those guys are having rough times, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t afford a couple beers at the end of their day.

Miami: Top 5 New Year’s Eve Parties

imageWe tried for a top 10, but settled for 5. After all, we are in recession, people. If Cup O’ Noodle and sparkling cider is on your New Year’s Eve menu, may we suggest rolling out a blanket on Ocean Drive and 8th Street for some free-of-charge fireworks viewing. If, however you wanna be a baller, consider the following. 1. The Mondrian Miami hotel is teaming up with Tommy Pooch and Alan Roth to ring in “Recessison,” a.k.a. NYE 2009. Two hundred bucks will buy you an entry into the Sunset Lounge, where a 20-piece orchestra will mix with tunes spun by DJ Tavin. Resident eatery Asia de Cuba offers a range of packages depending on your wallet and/or appetite. 2. If you’re a reality TV junky, head on up to the Shore Club, where Kristin Cavallari is set to make an appearance. Organized by Skybar and New York’s Tenjune, live performances will include Busta Rhymes, Ron Brownz, and Pras. Mos Def spins while you pay — $275 to be exact.

3. The Fontainebleau’s New Year’s Eve approach is diversification. Adam Levine and Maroon 5 are set to entertain the masses poolside, while Diddy, in his usual style, is king at LIV, the hotel’s nightclub. 4. The Delano’s evening agenda is equally impressive. $350 will put you front and center at the Florida Room for an exclusive performance by the Roots. Janelle Monae will perform poolside. 5. If you follow T.I.’s criminal drama, then Gansevoort South Hotel is where it’s at. Watch him perform “Whatever You Like” flanked by federal security guards. Yeah, that is how T.I. rolls these days. Chloe Sevigny should do a fine job hosting, while Wilhelmina Models, celebrating their official New Year’s Eve party, will collectively try to figure out how to pop a champagne bottle. That alone is worth the $400 ticket.