DJing for Susanne Bartsch at the Soho Grand

I get to DJ for Susanne Bartsch! The grande dame called me and asked and I said yes. That’s how it’s done. Her Tuesday parties at the Soho Grand feature the incomparable Joey Arias. Joey channels Billie Holiday and if you haven’t seen it why am I talking to you anyway? They lubricate the luminaries with $8 Vodka cocktails. I have no idea what to spin. I’m not sure if I’m the right guy for the job but in my long association with Susanne I have seen her make very few mistakes so I’m going to rock it. The party has a reputation for sexy elegance so if you are going to show please bring it like you mean it. Dress for success and all that. Susanne is the best I’ve ever seen in this scene that I have lived in for so long. The concept of a subdued loungey early-week party intrigues me.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I was venturing from my Queens home with a few friends to St. Marks to see what we could see. We ran into Joey Arias and Klaus Nomi on the street. I had never met or seen or even imagined fellows like this. They were kind and witty and … educational. I decided to abandon Queens as I knew it for a life amongst the queens, sugar plum fairies, and denizens of the deep dark night. There was no turning back. There was no way to keep me down on the farm once I had seen Joey. Mr. Arias is a legend who changed my life. It is an honor to work and play with him and Susanne. 

[Follow Steve Lewis on Twitter]

Life After the Hurricane & the Marathon Conspiracy

We were better than most in our 4th floor loft atop a hill in Williamsburg. Our new apartment didn’t have cable yet or heat for that matter as those companies were busy elsewhere. We had bins filled with water, flashlights, food, everything we needed to weather the storm. Many of our friends were less fortunate. We took in a couple of strays, fed them, and thus beat the boredom of the silent night. On Tuesday night we went on a safari to Manhattan. The car loaded up with stir crazy women heading into a dark unknown place reminded me of the opening scene of a monster movie. I could hear a voice from the audience saying “don’t go there, you idiot!” but onward we sped. When we got to the center of the Williamsburg Bridge, the light went out and we plunged into the surreal. A candle in a window here, a flashlight off to the side told us the zombies hadn’t eaten everyone. The cops were serious, their flashing lights creating surreal shadows and illuminating thevoids. There were hundreds of thousands in those dark monoliths but there was little sign of them.

Wednesday night was Halloween and we went to Manhattan again. More was lit up but not that much. We went to the Tribeca Grand in search of a couple of friends who worked there. The bar at Tribeca was lit with candles but had no humans so we headed to the Soho Grand, where a party was happening. We embraced our pal Dean Winters who plays Mayhem in those insurance commercials and avoided making a bad joke about his role in all this. Matt Green was holding court over a fast crowd that was slowed down just a little by the crisis. The hotel’s generators kept one soda gun going and a few lights. The trademark under-illuminated stairs were dark. We had a blast as everyone was happy to have something, although we were all aware of so many who had nothing. Our smartphones told us about Lit Lounge, Erik Foss’s joint, which I love more than any other. Eric, of course, got Lit, lit and we all gathered into our clown car and navigated the polite streets. With no traffic lights, everyone gave everyone right of way. It was grand.

Lit had a party. They wrangled up a generator and had the DJ booth going and a few soft lights. Nick Gazin of Vice was DJing, spotted by Ben Rayner and Dj Mell (Cerebral Ballzy).The brilliant artist Chris (Spam) Martin and Foss threw this shindig. It was a super hip and beautiful crowd, happy to be anywhere, and ecstatic to find themselves at such a fantastic gathering. Foss got boxes of pizza from God knows where and fed the masses. When he offered one dude a slice, he replied, "No thanks, I’m good, I live uptown .We headed into the dark for little trips and met no monsters but helpful friendly people everywhere. Intrepid bodega owners watched their shops and sold warm beers and snacks. We popped into strange bars illuminated by melting wax and were greeted with cheers for just showing up. It was mad fun.” Back at Lit, I told Erik that this is why I say his is the best joint in town. My DJ gigs at Hotel Chantelle and Griffin were cancelled as the plans of millions took a break. Old friends Facebooked and called from all over the world to make sure I and mine were OK.

The Marathon debate raged on Facebook and I used that medium to scratch my writing itch. I ripped Bloomberg for his audacity and wondered if he canceled so very late in order to ensure the runners came and their money boosted our economy. I got a Sandy tattoo when my artist managed to fly back from New Orleans. My pal Matt De Matt who owns Gaslight and some other joints hooked my refugee tattoing pals up down in Louisiana where he is totally connected. It was and is a time for friends to help friends. As the city sputtered back to light, the clubs threw "stir crazy" parties and Sandy parties. Nothing too clever, sad to say. This week promises to be more "normal," but problems for nightlife still remain. The subways are not quite right and gas is so rare that few can venture in from suburbia. The loss of Halloween revenues is staggering. Clubs and staff won’t recover quickly, but the busy season of nightlife has begun, and in a week or two, cash should be flowing. The local bars and coffee shops are collecting necessities for our neighbors in places that still are under the thumb of destruction. Do what you can to help.

Tonight I should be hopping around town as the election that never came has actually arrived. Tomorrow will be a day off for most, a day to take a deep breath and get ready to return to the routine. Voting and watching the results will dominate Tuesday. I, of course, endorse Obama. I think the other guy represents the Dark Ages, and I am fearful of a return to the religious and greed-fueled policies of Bush. I urge all my readers to contact friends in swing states and get them out there voting and motivating.

The Best Christmas Parties in New York

Yesterday, I gave you 2 posts, and today it will be a half. Christmas has me going bonkers. Trying to get any of the design stuff finished or even worked on is near impossible, but New Year’s looms, and people are needing to get open, if only for that night. Traditionally, I would open my clubs on Thanksgiving and New Year’s if only to provide a place for those who couldn’t travel to family, or for many, many other reasons had no place to go. People move to NY to accomplish or at least chase their dreams, and find themselves far away from those they usually spend Christmas with. The Lewis family Christmas dinner will include a few of these strays, and I urge everyone to look around and see if there is someone you know who could use a place to share in the love.  Bah hum-bugging is not allowed

There are a few joints open Christmas Day/Night. I will be out meeting up with close friends after dinner with the parental units. My first stop will be the Soho Grand, where our dear friend Erika will be bartending from 6pm. I will then pop over to Christie 141 where Sara Copeland is serving up booze and good cheer. I hated 141 Christie when they were calling it Mystique. Apparently enough people agreed to warrant a name change and a rebranding. What better day to give it another chance than Christmas. If I am still looking to party and can find a cab to get around, I will head to Le Poisson Rouge for DJ Rekha’s Christmas edition of Bollywood Disco. DJ Rajstar will join her and visuals will be provided by Fictive.

Thursday is promoter, entrepreneur, and man-about-town Rob Fernandez’s Mega Birthday Bash. The invite shows a very pregnant Rob on the cover of a fictitious magazine called Vanity Fairy. That’s a very in joke for those who wonder how it ever got in in the first place. Benny Soto will be hosting this bash at Dance.Here.Now, his and Rob’s weekly gathering at Cielo. Music will be provided by Oscar G. and Lazaro Casanova

I may not be there, as I am still DJing at Hotel Chantelle every Thurday. This week I am very excited to have Lily of the Valley and Miss Guy start their weekly party in the basement lounge. I love these fellas and the crowd that follows them.

DJ Elle Dee: “I Made the Wrong Comment In Front of The Right Person!”

I’m still recovering from the weekend which lasted an extra day for me. That was an extraordinarily wonderful idea. I saw The Hunger Games and loved it but offer a couple of observations. The club world was looking like those people 10 years ago, and it is wonderful that some people postulate that the extraordinary from now will be the norm. Michael Alig, Sacred Boy, Astro Earle, and the club kids of our recent past may have been a lost bunch, but they did do this… then. Secondly, as a hospitality designer, I must poo-poo the future furniture and set designs. Almost everything I saw I have seen before and is for sale at the modern furniture boutiques that grace our town. The rooms looked like something out of the The Real World L.A. rather than a true futuristic vision. I would have done better, as would a thousand other design visionaries.

As a DJ in this wonderful town, I offer my own rock and roll stew at places that want that sort of thing. Adam Alpert at 4AM (which handles me) puts my ass in the right seat. Most clubs in town offer up the same old mash-up and mixed- format swill to their bottle-buying guests. It’s what they want when they pop bottles and so they must have it. Most DJs in these situations could do so much more but find themselves playing down to the crowd as musical ignorance is bliss. I am not complaining, as I enjoy my niche. It is wonderful when I walk into a room and hear a DJ that curls my toes and fills my ears with sounds less often heard. At The Double Seven the other night, DJ Elle Dee thrilled me. I asked her some questions about herself and her craft.

How did a nice girl like you become a DJ?
I grew up in a very musical home. My mother’s father used to play bossa nova with the big guys so my whole life we had jam sessions in my living room till very late at night. I started to play drums myself I was 14, so music was always a huge part of my life. Back in São Paulo (where I’m from), I started to play at rock parties when I was only 19. At that point it was all vinyl too; there were no computers and even CDs were not accepted at all. It was the real deal. It was only a fun thing to do though, not my full-time job. I was finishing studying journalism and had my own fanzine to work on. When I moved to New York five years ago this April, I managed to do what I do best… I made the wrong comment in front of the right person!!! I was out with some friends and said to one of them “Why is it so hard to find a good DJ in NY.” A voice came into the conversation and said, “Can you do better?”  The following Monday I was on and, of course, after the first song the whole equipment collapsed and the music stopped completely – haha.  I recovered from that pretty quickly though and soon everyone was having a great time. I locked my first weekly gig that night.

I heard you spin the other night and was quite impressed. When we spoke, you talked about how rare it is to find a place to play that doesn’t want a commercial or familiar set. Expound.
I am actually really lucky to only have gigs where I can play what I like and believe in. I wouldn’t do it otherwise. I like to work with owners that understand that a cool night is good for business too – even refreshing, let’s say. It also attracts interesting people.

DJ Elle Dee

How do you mix in newer or hipper stuff to keep from going nuts and continue enjoying your craft?
As a DJ, I believe I should be the one to find what’s new and good out there. Even though I’m all about the old stuff, it’s so nice when you discover a new band or track that amuses or inspires you and then get to share it with everyone else. It’s like a mission every night and I love that challenge. I try to make a new track mix with an old one that I know everyone already loves, and get them to believe that the new one is one they’ve known for ages. Making it work is a challenge, but I love it! Getting people going with new or even obscure tracks – it’s what gets me going! And that’s when I remember why I put myself through all the work. It’s very rewarding.

Where will this take you and what else do you do?
That’s a question that I wish I had the answer to myself! As long as I’m involved and around music, I’m happy. And if I can make a living out of it, ever better. I am a musician at heart and always will be. DJing gives me stability and a way to explore and learn every day, and that allows me to work on my own music. I’m in a good place right now and feel confident to be going back to the studio to work on my own tracks. I’ve been writing songs for years and now it’s time to get ready to perform live. I will always keep spinning though because I really love what I do. If I go on a vacation, for example, after only a few days I already miss the DJ booth and, of course, all those people dancing on the other side.

Where can we hear you?
Right now I spin in the city five nights a week so it’s not that hard to bump into my set here and there. I’m regularly at The Electric Room at the Dream Downtown, Boom Boom Room at the Top of The Standard, The Double Seven, and Soho Grand. I travel a lot, opening shows for bands as well. I’m about to go back home on a little tour which is gonna be so great. So far, I have six gigs booked and a few more that we’re trying to fit in as I’ll only be there for two short weeks. Once I’m back I’ll finalize my website –djelledee.com– which will have some mixes for all. I’ve got some very big surprise gigs coming up but I can’t tell you quite yet… Once I can, I will be posting it on my Facebook and all those other communication tools of life.

A Big Mess at GoldBar Last Night, Big Parties at the Soho Grand, Le Bain Tonight

I had the most fun at GoldBar last night. The Monday night party "BIG Mess" was actually not. Mino Habib is the host with the most at this chic soiree. Momus, Frank Olivo and Michael Christopher provide the music. It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump from Ken & Cook, which looked wonderful last night as I passed it in a cab. The two adult sexy hot spots so near makes for a reason to be cheerful on a summer Monday night. I’ll be at Susanne Bartsch’s party tonight DJing for the in crowd at the Soho Grand. It’s early, 9pm, and then everyone swarms over to her On Top weekly (pictured) at Le Bain.

There is so much going on these days. One of the best (most fun) parties I have been to in recent years is Wednesdays at DL (Ludlow and Delancey). The second floor Dorian Gray weekly stars Kayvon Zand and his fellow creatures of the night. Kayvon DJ’s with Anna Evans and Xris SMack and it is insanely beautiful, eclectic fun. This week Icona Pop is casting for their new video. The roof is headed up by DJ Prince Terrance and The House of Fields crew. This group is a younger, more mixed version of the fashion, gay/straight, hip crowd. The two scenes mingle and flirt and out dress each other and it’s all grand. I can’t recommend a more brilliant evening.

For me it’s deja vu all over again. As one door opens up to the fabulous, alas another must close, as in Max Fish actually, really, I swear closing. The usual reasons … rent going sky-high in a neighborhood that got its cool from places like Max Fish and St. Jerome’s and Motor City, which soared with cool while the streets were deserted. Nowadays a fratboy and gal nightlife mall scares the rats and the cool kids away.

[Related: BlackBook New York Guide; Listings for GoldBar, Ken & Cook, Soho Grand, Le Bain, DL; Susanne Bartsch’s On Top party; Follow Steve Lewis on Twitter]

The New Year’s Eve Hotel Roundup

Planning on getting out of the house for New Year’s Eve? Of course you are. And if you don’t feel like going home that night (falling into your own bed can be a little anticlimactic after popping bottles all night, don’t you think?) it’s the perfect night to indulge in a hot hotel escape. There are a lot of offerings around the country, but these are come of the most exciting.

For their friends in New England, Boston.com rounded up some great last-minute deals. All Kimpton properties, like the modern boutique hotel Nine Zero are half-off on Jan 1st to make the most of your long weekend, while the upscale XV Beacon is offering a bottle of Taittinger to stay in and enjoy in front of your in-room fireplace, after checking out the city’s First Night festivities or else a reception in their wine cellar and fireworks on the rooftop terrace, followed by brunch at Mooo and late checkout at 2pm. They’re also featuring some deals at the Hyatt48 in New York, and The Joule in downtown Dallas.

Another Southwestern property we can always count on to go big for a holiday is the W Scottsdale, who’s making a weekend of it with their $2,012 “New Year’s Eve Fiesta Bowl VIP Experience.” Football fans kick off the four-night weekend stay with top hats and Champagne in their room, a vintage-circus themed party throughout two of the hotel’s venues (be sure to get onto the terrace for the midnight fireworks) entrance to the Fiesta Bowl block party on January 1, and two club level tickets to the game on January 2. It’s just one of the many W-hosted New Year’s soirees; check out your local location for details on theirs.

The club hoppers at Guest of a Guest have put together a great roundup of parties for the night in New York City, including several hot hotels—it’s showgirls and circus performances before an indoor ball drop at the Tribeca Grand, Debbie Harry hosting at the Standard, and a massive open bar at the Empire Hotel rooftop, as well as other festivities at the Jane Hotel and the Soho Grand.

Midnight Snacks: A Few Suggestions For Your Friday Night

Party: Carmen Kass hosts cocktails and hors d’oeuvres to celebrate the launch of beyond7boutique.com with Reet Aus. Time: 5PM-8PM Perks: Music by The Misshapes. More: Dear Carmen Kass, I love you. You could be hosting craptinis in your grandmother’s basement and I would be more than thrilled to go. Also, can we be friends? Thank you for having us, Holly.

Party: Join StyleCaster to celebrate the launch of Qwiki (www.qwiki.com) at Backstage (152 Orchard Street, LES, NYC). Time: 9PM Perks: Music by Neil Jackson + iPad DJ Rana Sobhany. Complimentary cocktails courtesy of VeeV Açaí Spirit. More: Backstage? Qwiki? iPad DJs? I have no idea what is going on here, but I like it. And drinking spirits made from Açaí berries make me feel better about my liver and general lack of concern for it. PS: Space is limited. RSVP: rsvp@StyleCaster.com.

Party: T*n*A at Thompson L.E.S Time: 10PM-2AM Perks: Drink specials, and elbow rubbing with fashion-y elbows. Timo Weiland and Alan Eckstein host. Music by, you guessed it, T*n*A More: Does T*n*A stand for tits and ass, as the old adage goes? Also, you should really think about changing the asterisks to periods. It must be murder to BBM that to your friends mid-drink, amirite?

Party: Franco V’s 4th Birthday Celebration at the Bunker Club. Time: 11PM-4AM Perks: Franco V More: Darling, it’s tacky to pretend to know somebody just to get into the club of the moment, so don’t even think about pulling that trick, not for a second, do you hear me?

Party: Steven Rojas is DJing at the Soho Grand Tonight Time: 10PM-4AM Perks: What a GrandLife, right? More: The grands, Tribeca and Soho, have been powerhouses with staying power. Powerful stuff.

Party: Refresh Refresh Refresh at Happy Ending Time: 8PM-12PM. Perks: Ever wanted to be one of the cool kids on the internet, or just meet them? Those cool kids, including Leon Neyfakh, Katie Baker, Sasha Frere-Jones, Akiva Gottlieb, Nick Sylvester, and Mike Taylor will tell stories. More: I heard about it from the intranets, what does that tell you?

Party: Bear in Heaven plays with Twin Shadow, and Sun Airway at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. Time: 8PM Perks: All bears go to heaven. More:

Party: Tame Impala plays their second consecutive sold out show with Stardeath And White Dwarfs, and Kuroma at Bowery Ballroom Time: 8:00 PM Perks: Tickets will release at 9:30PM, and will also be found on Craigslist, along with everything else you could ever want. More: Video from last night;

Yoko Devereaux’s Rebirth

NYC menswear brand Yoko Devereaux is back in action thanks to a resuscitation by Gilt Groupe. After emerging on the scene in 2000 as a line of t-shirts, the brand expanded to include an entire collection that combined elements of casual sportswear with expert tailoring. Then, after losing funding from its parent company in 2009, it was forced to close. Now, for a limited time only (today through Wednesday in fact), Yoko Devereaux is experiencing a rebirth by way of a capsule collection designed exclusively for Gilt Man. A resurrection fête was thrown Friday at the Soho Grand, but the real party started today at noon when Yoko’s new wares hit Gilt’s virtual racks.

The Victorian Vampire tee has already sold out, but there are still plenty of overcoats and sweaters up for grabs. Overall, it’s a collection that’s sure to speak to the urban, fine-tailoring crowd that coveted Yoko Devereaux during its heyday. The sale is also exciting in terms of future collaborations with designers on hiatus, or defunct brands ready to come back for one last stroll around the sartorial park. Besides, fresh editorial content and emerging designers helps to breathe new life into Gilt Groupe, whose flash-sale territory has been heavily invaded in recent years.

Nightlife Try Outs: Amanda Leigh Dunn’s Week of Parties

It’s 10:30 on a Wednesday night and I’m in gym clothes crossing Union Square wondering if I’ve anything good left on TiVo when I first hear them. “Let’s just get drinks here,” a California blond squeals to her fellow interns, a group of smiley, freshly implanted college girls. “This part of the city is amazing—there are so many places to go!” Suddenly I feel refreshed, the soggy, angry heat evaporating around me. I immediately recall those same, remarkable feelings of excitement when I was new to this city: every step was one outside my comfort zone, and the possibilities were endless—the night was a mystery. Now, since I’ve settled into the groove of actually living in this city, the knee-jerk reaction toward their enthusiasm is a swift eye-roll at their naïveté and a silent recitation of the latest snarky blog post about this exact area going to hell in TGI Friday’s hand basket. These days, the trend is to speak about nightlife as you were attending its funeral. I’ve grown bored with the idea that there’s nothing new or provocative happening in this metropolis. Nightlife isn’t dead, it’s just different, and it’s different for everyone. It’s been a while since I first started covering nightlife as “Holly GoNightly,” but my interest is once again piqued to seek out new ways to look at New York after dark. While some longingly wish for their days at Studio 54, Tunnel, or the Beatrice Inn, there are many more seeking out the new. The internet has given everyone a certain kind of access, diversifying trends and experiences. There’s something for everyone, and the only way to find out what works is to step out and try it on for size.

So this is what I’m hoping to do: like those transplanted interns weighing their options with gimlet eyes, I’m going to set my sights on stepping out of my own comfort zone, on noticing, trying, and doing more, on venturing out to see nightlife through other people’s eyes. To start, I’ve asked Amanda Leigh Dunn, a quintessential ‘Girl About Town’ who’s always at the “It” place with a band of cooler-than-cool kids, to fill me in on her own little black book of go-tos. Her’s is an agenda not for the faint of heart—a week of non-stop partying with an array of eclectic and truly hip characters.

image Amanda Dunn

Professional Resume: I own a company called Cross Street Productions Inc, a Manhattan based firm specializing in brand integrated events, artist management as well as fashion, beauty, and lifestyle public relations. I also run an event space on Greene Street. One Word to Describe Nightlife in New York City: Endless.

City Loves:Favorite lunch spot: Cipriani Downtown, I pretty much live there. • Favorite dinner spot: Fig and Olive, Ilili, Hotel GriffouFavorite nightlife trend: Le Bain, the new spot at the top of the standard. Naked girls, water beds, and the best view of the city—what more could you want? • Drink of choice: I’m mostly a champagne kinda girl. • Meal of choice: Tuna Tar Tar • Favorite group of people to bump into: My night kiddies: Becka Diamond, Stef Skinner, Carol Han, Sami Swetra, Paul Johnson Calderon, Timo Weiland, Jane Bang, Matt Kays. You know, the cool kids.

image Le Bain

City Gripes:Nightlife trend you loathe: I hate Juliet Supper Club, the Empire Hotel roof is a clusterfuck of ugly people. I hate places that anyone and their mother gets let into • Drink: Cafe Patron, sick. • Meal: fried food, ick. • Group of people to bump into: Hipsters, teens, and coke fiends—and the usual uninvited crowd, you know who you are.

Her Hotspots: Monday: Dinner with my closest, plotting the week. Tuesday: Lit Lounge Wednesday: Soho Yard, the “Everything’s Ridiculous” party with Spencer Product and Becka Diamond. Thursday: Avenue, BEast for Main Man Thursdays, Norwood with Timo & Alan. Friday: Le Bain, Tribeca Grand Salon with Matt&Maia and Andrew Saturday: Pianos for the Mile High party with Jane Bang, Easthampton Boathouse, hosted by the Eldridge Sunday: Sway, Goldbar

image Kenmare

Every night: Kenmare, we call it Kenitis, or La Bain. Wouldn’t be caught dead here: Greenhouse, Tenjune. For special occasions: Depending on the season, every drink occasion with my closests is a special occasion. But if I had to say, it would prob be the Plaza Hotel (the have the best bloodies in NY). Brunch is usually: Cafe Cluny, Schiller’s, Serafina, Soho House (Essex House is the Greenhouse of brunch).