Nightlife Ramblings: Tripping Through the Meatpacking

The first thing I think when I approach the Rebecca Taylor shop and lay eyes on a mini-red carpet hemmed by actual paparazzi is: “Looky here, a surefire blogger circle-jerk party!” Actually, the first thing I’m thinking is “It’s fucking March and I’m getting pelted by hail and freezing rain.” But back to circle jerks.

A while ago, a journo I admired taught me about blogger circle jerks, otherwise known as “the plight of the boring party with the bold-faced name.” Basically, it’s when pseudo-gossip bloggers—the most rampant kind—attend parties only to post generic photos of whatever star was in attendance the next day. These sort of people are to blame for the downfall of events as we once knew them: They ruin the atmosphere as they wait with a puss on until a celebrity appears, and then wreak havoc as they swarm said celebrity like moths (with bad manners) to a flame. And this, boys and girls, is where celebrity handlers come from. You can’t even have a proper tequila shot or do a proper line in a bathroom with a celebrity anymore, because they need their handlers to beat off these eager bloggers. It’s like a big circle jerk with no climax.

Anyway, this is what’s happening when I first arrive to the Rebecca Taylor opening party in the Meatpacking District. I can’t even make it through the front door, because the sight of 30 Rock‘s Katrina Bowden has turned some perfectly normal folks into slack-jawed zombies. Then I’m moving toward the corner to dump off my umbrella, and even when a glacier of ice slides off it, and lands on a girl’s bare back, she doesn’t so much as flinch. The celebrity trance is powerful. So I’m stuck in the front of the store, utterly aware that the bar and general sanity is located in the back. The masses are pushing toward Bowden, who looks so skinny, by the way (you’re welcome Kat! Kiss, kiss). So I start pushing too, with polite “excuse me’s,” naturally. Katrina is wearing both Rebecca Taylor and a general look of annoyance, because this kid in front of me is all up in her business, telling her handler that he needs his 5 minutes with her because he has “a dinner,” which, in case you didn’t know, is the new way to sound busy and important. “A dinner reservation” sounds too generic, but “a dinner” could mean something else: Lagerfeld could be present at “a dinner.”

I make it past this very important blogger and his dinner plans, and I’m home free, a straight bee line to the bar. No champagne left, and martini it is! Rebecca Taylor is looking proud as a peacock because she’s celebrating 15 years in business with this store opening. She’s looking radiant too, because inside it’s spring and we’re all surrounded by frothy frocks on hangers and on people like Alice Eve, Tika Sumpter and Selita Ebanks, who looked absolutely gorgeous. I really wanted to talk to her, since I had interviewed her once for a magazine article, but just as I went to set down my Baked by Melissa cupcake, I remembered that she wasn’t too happy with a quote we used thinking she would laugh along with us. She did not, and we had egg on our faces. Or I did, actually. So instead, I just spent the evening staring at her like everyone else.

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Then, of course, there is this guy here that I see at absolutely every party I go to. You know him, even if you don’t. He’s always with a Russian or Swedish girl with huge breasts, or taking pictures of Russian/Swedish girls with huge breasts. I don’t know how he does it; the partying and the girls. I ask him about it, too. His newest big-breasted Russian is one he recently met on Facebook a few weeks ago, and now she’s living in his apartment. He’d call her his “Penthouse Pet,” but he lives on the second floor. She’ll stay for a few weeks and then move on, that’s what happens. “They want the party penis,” he tells me. It’s weird to hear the word penis around such precious spring dresses, and I look at them as if they’ve overheard.

image Then it’s off to Soho House, which is crawling with people who have the same sort of game as this playboy, and then to Villa Pacri, which has the Last International Playboy’s art hanging in it. Villa Pacri is a really great place, and the friends who have gathered in a quiet corner booth are a nice departure from playboy land. But I’m too drunk from Pacri’s Latin Lovers—a cocktail that tastes like a smoothie, but is actually a lethal combination of Tanqueray Ten gin, Carpano Red vermouth, fresh orange, passion fruit and berries topped with Aranciata Pellegrino. I trip through slush to find a cab, and head home to take it out on my boyfriend, who in all actuality, is not friends with any party-penis hunting, big-breasted Russian Swedes on Facebook. It’s only midnight.

Harvard & Stone Descends on Los Angeles

Last night, I saw the future of Los Angeles bars, and it was good. Harvard & Stone held a pre-opening party in advance of their public debut tonight, and it was pretty much perfect. The party was for music video director Dean Karr and just about everyone in attendance swooned over Harvard & Stone’s smart design — exposed brick walls offset by warm woodwork, lightbulbs with exposed filaments, and industrial-looking iron — which comes across as a more rock & roll version of San Francisco’s Bourbon & Branch.

The Houston Brothers, the twins behind the bar, went to great lengths to ensure that their latest endeavor lives up to their reputation (the two won over just about everybody in Los Angeles with their still-popular Havana-meets-L.A. themed La Descarga, which opened over a year ago).

So what makes Harvard & Stone so special? To start with, the bar has a soul. Long before hipsters flooded the area, 5521 Hollywood Blvd had history as The Stone. While the design of the Stone was 100% dive, the walls seem to have soaked up years of debauchery that can’t easily be washed away, and the Houston Brothers smartly left the lineage of the sleaze roiling under the surface — exposed piping juts out from the walls and a concrete smoking area inside the bar near the back should still entice a few former Stone patrons.

But most will end up coming to Harvard & Stone (inspired by 1940s American industrial icons such as Rosie the Riveter) for the kind of cocktails on which The Stone would have turned a whiskey-blind eye. Think classics such as the bar’s “American Smash” (applejack, rye, honey syrup, lemon and mint) mixed by a stellar team of bar fiends, some of whom you might also find at Soho House on different nights of the week. Most drinks are reasonably priced at around the $10 mark.

The icing on the cake, however, is the bar’s live music permit, allowing Harvard & Stone to host the occasional big-name band wanting to play for friends (keep an eye on this spot during Coachella). Last night, Mark Houston said he would not be having bands nightly (even though a band played Monday evening at Karr’s party, organized by Jenn Laskey) as he said he wanted a scene to be able to develop organically. Expect Harvard & Stone to dominate 2011, at least for the Silver Lake set.

Nicholas Brooks Formally Indicted in Death of Swimsuit Designer Sylvie Cachay

Nicholas Brooks, boyfriend of swimsuit designer Sylvie Cachay, who was found dead in a Soho House hotel room two weeks ago, has been indicted in the death of the 33-year-old. Brooks was the last person seen with Cachay and was a suspect from day one. Cachay was found dead under eerie circumstances on December 9 in an over-flowing bathtub at the posh, members-only Soho House hotel. Prescription drugs were found, but the bottle had not been opened and there were no illegal substances. Her body was discovered with red marks around her collarbone and neck, indicating possible strangulation.

Nicholas Brooks is the 24-year-old son of Academy Award-winning songwriter Joseph Brooks, who tragically also has a history of sexual assault against women. A friend described the short, intense relationship between Sylvie and Nicholas as “tumultuous” and according to Cachay’s mother the two had broken up two weeks prior. Details on the exact charge have not been released. Brooks is being held without bail in a New York County jail.

Swimsuit Designer Sylvie Cachay Found Dead

Very sad news today. Thirty-three-year-old swimsuit designer Sylvie Cachay was found dead under mysterious circumstances yesterday morning at Soho House, according to the New York Times. A hotel guest noticed leaking water on the floor below and alerted the hotel staff, who subsequently contacted police. Upon arrival, authorities found Cachay dead in an overflowing bathtub. There were prescription drugs in the room, and she had bite marks on her hands, red marks around her neck, and bleeding in her eyes—possibly indicating strangulation. Cachay’s boyfriend, Nicholas Brooks, who checked into the hotel with her, is being questioned. Brooks, 24, is the son of Oscar-winning composer Joseph Brooks, who won for writing the ’70s hit “You Light Up My Life.” Brooks says he had no involvement in Cachay’s death and claims she was alive when he left.

Apparently the two had only been dating for a few months and it was a “tumultuous” relationship, according to a friend. Nicholas Brooks has not been formally charged with the crime, but is a prime suspect. Sylvie’s family and friends released the following statement, “The world has lost a beautiful soul. She will be deeply and painfully missed.”

Get Your Meatball On at Soho House

Exclusive, suit-hating Soho House is making membership feel a little more homey this fall with weekly, family-style dinners appropriately dubbed Meatball Mondays. In October, Soho House teamed up with the New York-based arts non-profit Slideluck Potshow to present a version of their art slideshow, called Slideluck. The crowd dug into the rotating meatball menu and unlimited vino while enjoying the work of 20 established and emerging artists in the Club Room of Soho House. It felt like a big, friendly, non-aggressive Sunday dinner with the ‘rents. That is, if your family consists of superbly well-dressed, semi-international jet-setters. Not quite comparable if you grew up in Omaha.

Meatball Mondays will return to the calendar next Monday, November 8. Reservations start at 6pm and it’s all-you-can-eat (unlimited portions) presented with more class than has ever been witnessed before in the history of all-you-can-eat dining. Or as Soho House so graciously puts it, Family Style, for $20 per person.

The best part is, to encourage the family vibe, you can send your meatball recipes in for consideration. Unlike your crotchety Aunt May, Soho House will actually consider using your recipes. Just email Amanda@sohohouseny.com.

Soho Beach House Miami Brings Membership, Madness, & Bittersweet Memories

As I begin to report on the opening of the new Soho Beach House in Miami, I can’t help but let memories flood back from when I worked front desk at Soho House New York back in 2004. My experiences were enriching: Losing Charlize Theron’s Lacoste gift bag (on purpose, actually, if that’s any indication of how she treated the staff); bringing Posh Spice a suspicious pack of matches every night at 2am; giving 007 director Mark Forster my screenplay, him frowning; getting fired by the then-manager for not sleeping with him after he buttered me up with backstage access to the Calvin Klein fashion show (he then got canned for membership abuse). Such a riveting environment, with a cast of characters and office gossip to rival Gawker.

I was truly envious of the members who had unparalleled access to the exclusive club and rooftop pool, where the celebrity regulars kicked back with celebrity visitors. I’m assuming not much is going to be different at Soho Beach House, slated to open October 11. Surprisingly, it’s located in Mid-Beach, just a little north of South Beach in that Fountainebleau kinda way.

Also surprising is the fact that a hotel chain of its reputation couldn’t muscle its way into the prime South Beach strip. In any case, the hotel will offer 50 guestrooms ranging from 350-1500 square feet, two pools, a beach club, a screening room, and Cecconi’s restaurant. The staff, if tradition serves, will be aspiring models, actors, film makers, and singers. I’m pretty sure they’ll all have stories to tell after getting the boot for not sleeping with their manager. Merely tradition.

New York Classics: Pre-Nell’s to the Darby

Damn Monday nights. A little while ago I’d use Monday nights to get rid of the idea that the weekend was over, and the next one so far away, by promptly leaving work and tossing back copious amounts of open-bar booze at some after-work affair. This would be promptly followed by a barrage of whiskey on the rocks at Lit Lounge, until I would promptly go to bed around 5 a.m. It made me feel better about participating in the workforce. These days, I’m a bit gun-shy about pulling the trigger on a Monday night. It’s dangerous when you’ve got some real responsibility, but I still get a little antsy. So I’m home in my gym clothes, still trying to look cute for my bf, who is clearly more interested in whatever spread sheet he’s glued to. Could be work, could be some kind of fantasy football thing, could be some kind of elaborate date plan he’s mapping out. Right. I pour myself a monster glass of wine and think about the fun things I could be doing if it wasn’t 10:45 already, and I wasn’t an hour away from looking decent.

The list, just to prove how strong my willpower is these days: Eric Richman’s game night at Soho House with a bunch of swells and tarts; The Swarovski Elements 22 Ways To Say Black Charity Auction, held at Phillips de Pury & Company, my invitation to which, judging by the guests who did attend (Halle Berry, Sofia Vergara, Julianna Margulies), I’m quite certain was a mistake in the first place; Women: Inspiration and Enterprise cocktail party hosted by Sarah Brown, Donna Karan, and Arianna Huffington, an event I’m not sure I was actually invited to, but rather a party-crashing friend bribed his way in somehow.

Instead, I’m sitting on the couch with the aforementioned monster Rueda, reading a book set in the ’80s where all these little party girls overrun Nell’s, and I’m thinking about how every generation of partiers is basically the same. Only the sets change. I’m sort of tired of old writers talking about “the good old days” of nightlife, without actually telling me what made the old days that good, so I decided to find out myself. What was Nell’s will soon be The Darby, with owners Scott and Richie, who are about to be as famous as Steve Rubell himself. (Don’t tell any of the older writers I said that, because until there is a movie made, that statement can’t be totally true.)

Part of the fun of sitting at any bar in the city is the realization that someone sat there before you. I’m talking about a hundred years before you. One of my favorite places to sit around and contemplate this is anywhere on the Bowery, with its flea-ridden tramps and easy women. There’s the Mike Lyons Restaurant that shuttered in 1910, which brought together politicians and musicians and people from all walks of life around the Bowery’s dance-hall days, before the Bowery was punk rock alley. The space that was Nell’s must be just as rich in sordid history. So this is becomes my Monday night: replacing uncomfortable shoes and cab fare with a quick history lesson near the eve of the opening of The Darby.

Birthdate: Nell’s opened in 1986, and the 246 West 14th Street spot was run by Rocky Horror actress Nell Campbell, presiding in see-through shirts and wacky Rocky outfits, though it was actually Keith McNally and then-wife Lynn Wagenknecht, who were probably responsible for the daily grunt-work of the operation. Before it was known as Patrick Bateman’s favorite spot, it was known for transforming nightlife. It was the trend that lead A-listers and other New Yorkers away from the giant discos popular at the time. It was also known as one of those places that actually turned away celebs. In the ’90s it had a rebirth as a rapper’s haven. Biggie Smalls shot “Big Poppa” there, and Tupac was a fixture.

image Nell Campbell

Neighborhood: 14th Street between 7th and 9th Avenues was once a community that housed mostly Spanish immigrants. Across the street from Nell’s was a famous speakeasy that thrived during prohibition called the Tammany Tough Club. Next to that was the Andrew Norwood House, an esteemed mansion built in 1847, whose exterior is a designated landmark. The mansion was sold after Raf Borello, the owner of the house, died in February 2005 after lovingly maintaining the estate for 29 years. What you see now is the members-only club, Norwood. Signatures: $200 black membership key rings given out to a lucky few, shabby-chic gentleman’s club interior, peep-hole door. Famous Patrons: Calvin Klein, Bono, Warren Beatty. Vibe: From the New York Times article “Glitz, Funk, and Victoriana Enliven New York’s Discos” published in 1987: “As if emerging from a Ralph Lauren ad, many here seem to inhabit a world blending bored detachment and grand theatricality. Black taffeta regularly appears next to faded denim, and English accents – both real and fostered – abound. An artist from New Zealand, lounging on a sofa with a cigarette, mused as to why he was admitted: ‘They go for people who look like they don’t care whether they get in.'”

Post Nell’s

NA Birthdate: Noel Ashman’s baby (and for who the club was so-named) opened the Bungalow-esque NA in 2004. Damon Dash and Chris Noth were some of the high-profile investors involved. Signatures: Resident DJ Mark Ronson spun, $1,086.25 membership fee, palm fronds. Famous Patrons: Ivanka Trump, Puff Daddy, Mischa Barton.

image Noel Ashman

Plumm Birthdate: In 2006, after a nasty investor battle, Noel reopens the spot with Michael Ault, who was known for Spy Bar. It was co-owned by Chris Noth, Samantha Ronson, Joey McIntyre, Damon Dash, Jesse Bradford, and Simon Rex, to name a few. Signatures: Purple, no membership fees, Lindsay Lohan, Agyness Deyn, and Joel Madden guest DJed, Tommy Hilfiger and Axl Rose got into a famous fight. Famous Patrons: See investor list. Vibe: Fashionable, purple, “My ideal mix would be an underground kid from Williamsburg, some models, a few European aristocrats, socialites, and a hip-hop mogul or two,” says Ashman.

The Darby Birthdate: Set to open, um, soon? It’s missed all of its perceived opening dates, no doubt because of the city and her licensing ways. Should be ready next month. Signatures: Butter/1Oak‘s Dream Team, Butter’s chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli Famous Patrons: So far Jay-Z threw Beyonce’s birthday party here, so there’s that. Vibe: “I want to bring back an old-fashioned sense of class from the ’50’s and ’60’s, like El Morocco, a place where you can dress up, have an amazing dinner and some music and entertainment,” Akiva told the Times.

Grey Goose & Soho House Attract Stars at TIFF

If Fashion Week seems oddly C-list this year, there’s a good reason why. The best place to spot celebs right now is the Toronto International Film Festival, and this year, the very best place to rub elbows is the London-based, private members club Soho House’s festival outpost. We spent Friday night in the elegant enclave alongside cinematic luminaries Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Paul Haggis (who we hear had trouble getting in), Josh Brolin, Harvey Weinstein, and Javier Bardem. The occasion: to celebrate Bardem and Inarritu’s wrenching new film Biutiful, which will no doubt earn Bardem his third Oscar nod. While the brooding Spaniard sipped cola all night (they didn’t have his first choice, non-alcoholic beer) and defiantly smoked inside, we guzzled back TIFF-inspired cocktails aptly titled “The Torontonian,” “Canada Goose,” and “Hollywood North Martini.” Personally concocted by Ludovic Miazga and Dimitri Lezinska, Grey Goose’s resident mixologists and global ambassadors, using locally sourced products (maple syrup, blueberries, ginger beer), the titillating drinks were designed to tell Toronto’s story: The CN Tower is tall, so let’s serve our drinks in a tall glass! You get the idea.

Rumors of Blake Lively’s imminent arrival to the fete floated through the dimly lit room all night, and eventually materialized when the stunning blonde graced the room, where she and Brolin chatted until the wee hours. The bro-fest was officially off when Marion Cotillard showed up soon after, suddenly elevating the night’s status from well-attended to star-studded. The real bro-fest actually went down on night two, when Josh Hartnett, Woody Harrelson, Dominic Cooper, James McAvoy, and newly-minted Spider-Man Andrew Garfield joined forces to celebrate the premiere of Hartnett’s new film Bunraku (Apparently, he still acts). The film’s other star, Demi Moore, was noticeably absent, so we set our sights on extracting information from the future Peter Parker. Despite our attempts to find out who Spidey will be up against in Marc Webb’s highly anticipated reboot, Garfield was tight-lipped. He may be new to the fame game, but clearly the soon-to-be household name catches on quick.

Industry Insiders: Stephen Seo, Adman of Action

Once a New York adman, Stephen Seo was so inspired by the bespoke tailoring of London’s Savile Row that he decided to study the process on his own. Now based New York, Seo works with Scottish wool and Italian silk, meeting with clients to discuss design options, select fabrics, and take measurements. A typical suit starts at $1,800, rather reasonable, we think, for the estimated 50 hours Seo and his team invests in each garment. Seo is looking to the ready-to-wear market for future seasons, though he maintains that each garment will keep a personal touch. See his creations on Entourage this season.

On finding his calling: I was working at an ad agency and traveled back and forth to London. One trip, I got a suit made on Savile Row. My body never really fit in suits off the rack. I had a nice denim suit made. When I got back to New York, my clients and friends kept saying, “Where did you get that suit?” I decided to start making them, and that’s how it started off as a hobby. Then I decided to leave the industry and open up my own store. It’s just my passion. I like glamorous things.

On the process of making a suit: Now, we’ll get a call from a client through friends and referrals. Before that I had a store in Princeton for about two and half years. I closed September 2009. I work in my studio and then I travel to different places. Basically, we make an appointment, they come in and then if they’re new clients I like to get to know them. We talk about what type of profession they have, and what type of wardrobe they need to build. Then we take measurements. Picking fabric, design, cut, is all done together. About three weeks later, we’ll cut the fitting molds. No buttons, no zippers, very rough molds that we try on them. And then we do a lot of pinning and adjusting with sleeve length, jacket length, waistline, and shoulder to create the perfect silhouette.

General misconceptions about men’s fashion: Big guys always think they don’t deserve a nice lean cut because they have bellies, shoulders, and large chest. So they always tend to go for the very boxy American suit. Once they’re here, we accentuate the waistline to make it very sexy. Men have curves, so we like to accentuate those and highlight the right parts. I cut the jacket length based on his proportions. Most of time when you go off the rack, the jacket length is the same. But once you put on my finished garment, you look like you’re a model. I try to give everyone the confidence that they’re six feet tall. I understand the frustration of not having everything fit perfectly. That happened to me all the time.

On the ready-to-wear line: It will still have a very limited-edition concept. Each one will have all the serial numbers and certificate. It’s like when you adopt a puppy, you want to know where it came from. It’s all very high-end lifestyle.

Number one client request: I get a lot of wedding consultations. People come in here to get a tuxedo. I always say, ‘Tuxedos are very high-end and very formal.’ If you’re going to only wear it once or twice, why would you spend time and effort, why don’t we make a tuxedo suit? I cut it a certain way, so that they can wear it as a suit. They can go to work.

Least favorite trends in men’s fashion: There’re many details that I look at on the street. People still wear three button jackets. It makes your upper torso really long. If you eliminate two or one, it’s simple. It makes you feel that you have the right proportion. On all of my designs, the pocket flaps are slanted. This simple trick looks slimmer and taller. It’s comes from my own experience but the same time its become my signature. People love it.

On future hopefuls: I met Mickey Rourke a few times, and we kind of kept in touch. One day I’d like to change his look. But that’s a risk because he has his own, distinct style, and he does have very high-end, bespoke, tailored clothing. My ultimate goal is to dress the new 007.

Go-to’s: For sushi, I go to Morimoto. I also go to Nobu 57. I like Capital Grille and Delmonico’s. If I go for a quick drink after work, I go to Trinity Place. I use to hang out a lot at SoHo House. I like Greenhouse as well.