Look, I hope you won’t be insulted if I keep this short today. I am way too busy to chat or be profound or funny or whatever it is I am doing these days. I got to get to the 17 Stanton space, formerly called The Elsinore, to finish up with the construction so you guys can go oooh and ahh or say …"What in God’s name was he thinking?" According to Scott Solish at Eater yesterday, nobody cares, but sometimes he is a little left of right. I read his take on my column yesterday and noticed just a little error…a right when he should have gone left. He said that Noel Ashman had changed the name. In reality, the name was changed over Noel’s strenuous objections. This will play out, as revelers attend the space and play with tables and bottles and other toys. Seventeen Stanton has a new name, which will be seen and heard sometime in the next few days. The place is almost ready. It feels good-to-go. After this writing and the day-job designing, I’m off to Hotel Chantelle to DJ with Sam Valentine and Michael Tee and a slew of others.. I’ll get home at 6am-ish. I was up at 7am, so it’s a 23-hour day for me. I figure I’ll get all the sleep I need in 20 or 30 years.
Man about town Steven Greenberg has passed and I’m going to put my two cents in. I’d put in three but I have a feeling, if he could, he’d scold me for overpaying. Over many years, Steven was a friend, mentor, and a go-to-guy when I needed a big brain and an honest answer. He was always more than pleased to help. A couple of years ago when I was putting together some nightlife community thing, he advised me about the people I was dealing with and why it would fall short of my expectations. He was unrelenting, unforgiving, and spot-on. I was in too deep to go back, but his wisdom had me prepared for the inevitable.
After the recent passing of Zelda Kaplan and Steven Greenberg, an experienced club operator asked me last night, "who’s next? …these things always happen in threes." He called me this morning and answered his own query: gaming/casino legend Dennis Gomes has died at 68. He was the co-owner of Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City and was a sort of mythical guru to the industry as a whole. Atlantic City is in shock. I had the opportunity to work with Dennis a few years back. I had developed a fancy dessert restaurant at the Tropicana, which he was operating at the time. He loved it and wanted more from me and my then-partner Chris Sheffield. We hit it off like gangbusters. Thing is, he once was a real-life gangbuster back in Nevada. He was the top dog casino corruption investigator there and his good deeds were brought to the big screen in the Scorsese film Casino.
He was the consummate showman with chickens, naked ladies, and presidential look-a-likes popping out of his extravagant promotional bag of tricks. The projects I was working on with him never materialized, as he suddenly left the Tropicana, and the concepts were too far out there for anyone but him. I won’t tell you about those ideas as I may someday find a place for them. When we met, he was all energy and enthusiasm. He approached everything with a "we can do it" attitude. Once, he asked me if something I proposed "could be done" and I answered " Why not …they put a guy on the moon in 1969." He looked me in the eye and said "I like you" and I was sure he did. We worked fast and furiously. He crunched numbers faster than a speeding bullet train, which he needed so badly to get the New York crowd down to AC. I take the ACES train these days when I go down to visit Atlantic City. I remember him saying it would someday happen. Before there was gaming in Atlantic City, I came down to play in the sand. It was even sleazier then than it was 10 years ago, when people really started to flow there and the prostitutes and crime clashed with the new developments and patronage, and were pushed a few blocks away. Back in the Louis Malle’s film Atlantic City era, I wallowed in the muck and grit, enjoyed the beach and the boardwalk by day, and the harsh bars and dirty denizens of the night. Now it’s all slick and clean and purged of most of it’s demons …as long as you don’t stray too far. Families come and top chefs make wonderous meals and international stars perform. Posh hotels with thousands of rooms sell out. It’s a huge success and Dennis Gomes was a huge part of that.
Dennis was a gentleman and an honest broker. I never worried about getting paid, just impressing and working for a man that "got it." Working with him was an honor. Being in the same room – a privilege and an education. I met his family a couple of times and my heart and prayers go out to them.
Once in a while, someone writes a comment to this column. The process of commenting here is too difficult, takes too long, and as a result we don’t get as many as some publications. I have been trying to change this for a couple of years but I am just a lowly writer. My editor asked me if I had seen a comment on my Steven Greenberg tribute. I read the following by "OHNO:"
"I am truly perplexed about this article, I have never in my life felt so torn about writing the following, but it must be said… I feel like everyone has stockholm syndrome after his passing. He was difficult to be around, especially to work for… unless you had a bit of money. There is still that little "class action lawsuit" thing that is ongoing from stealing from his employees. I pray that this "predatory nightlife" era has finally ended. If you truly know him, you know what I mean. I apologize if I hurt anyone by writing this, I mean no ill will, I hope the man is finally at peace. But god damn… someone has to speak up for all of the people he screwed"
OHNO didn’t seem to receive the respect Steven doled out readily to thousands of people. OHNO hints that maybe he didn’t have enough money to get Steven’s attention. He says Steven was difficult to be around and work for. It seems obvious to me that OHNO didn’t get respect because he doesn’t know the meaning of the word. To come in after a man who has passed and can’t defend himself with this sort of disrespectful statement shows the reasons why Steven obviously dissed and discounted OHNO. OHNO is a classless ass and didn’t "truly know him." He alludes to a class action suit and accuses Steven from stealing from his employees in a tip skimming scam.
I don’t know the merits of the case but I truly knew Steven. He didn’t need to steal to make money. He knew how to make money. I have met hundreds of employees of 230 Fifth over the years and all said they made bank working there. When the cold weather came they would look for work elsewhere and those interviewing them for jobs knew that when the warmth returned they would run off to get their 230 job back. Did he run a tight ship? Of course, but he fed hundreds at a time even when jobs were scarce. I and thousands of others found it wonderful to hang and work with Steven. OHNO is getting his 15 seconds of fame hiding behind an alias. If Steven was alive he wouldn’t have hidden and he probably would have explained away this griping as the laments of an employee he shouldn’t have hired. He’d admit to that mistake. He was a warm, loving, charismatic, bon vivant but is very human and therefore imperfect. Rest in Peace, Mr. Steven Greenberg.
I will be out and about tonight, attending the last Sam Valentine Wild Ones party at the soon-to-close White Noise. I designed the joint with a great deal of help from the friends and family that made that place great. White Noise was a project built with a $25,000 budget and a great deal of bells and whistles, smoke and mirrors, and cheap or free labor. I thad a great run and I will miss it…but not before a blast tonight.
A game of musical chairs is being played by most of the major promotional entities as the summer roof season is upon us. While the highly successful 230 Fifth will still dominate this market just as the Empire State Building dominates its incredible view, some places remain unsettled or don’t have a clear opening date due to a myriad of problems. Highbar is getting a quick polish, while the roof at the Stay Hotel is still under construction. Mixed reports come from Cabanas and The Park, and the highly-touted Above Allen will finally get to open its windows amidst hopes that the sound spill doesn’t disturb too many hotel guests and nearby residents. Daemon O’Neil, Rose Bar’s patient, sweet, and very good-looking door guru (not to be confused with Damion Luaiye), is packing his clipboard and heading over to the Bazaar Bar at the upcoming Trump Soho hotel. The economic downturn, a weak dollar, and a laundry list of safety issues make travel abroad a lot less attractive this season. I hear reports that Hamptons summer rentals are sluggish, yet the Surf Lodge in Montauk is riding high.
I caught up with super duper and uber owner/outdoor space promoter Jeffrey Jah of 1Oak and other fabulous places, and he told me he was bringing back the “changing of the guard” at Groovedeck at Hudson Terrace this summer. “With Groovedeck, we’ve assembled an insane team from Bijoux (Dimitry and Francois) to Pavan and the 1Oak team. We’ve booked the Hamptons Magazine summer kick-off party as well as Lydia Hearst hosting the last International Film Premiere event.” I asked Jeffrey how the whole outdoor summer club thing started for him.
It’s pretty simple … the first real outdoor parties were “Groove on the Move,” with Mark Baker and I back in the early 90s, moving from the Central Park Boathouse to Tavern on the Green, and then permanently at Bowery Bar with Eric Goode and Serge Becker. There really were no other outdoor parties; then in 2000, I moved to Pier 59 Studios and created the deck with Scott Sartiano and Richie Akiva — that’s where Remi Laba and Aymeric Clemente were given their fist taste of club promotions. They were low-level maitre d’s. In 2003, we were forced to move it to BED (the same team), and then they tried to get smart, and Baker, Remi, and Karim sold them on a cheaper deal without the 1Oak crew, but they were done after four weeks. We missed two seasons, and we’re now back at Hudson Terrace.
I asked Jeffrey if the problems with international travel these days, the weak dollar, and pandemic diseases would keep people closer to home. “Yes, the economy will keep people here. New York is the capital of the world. What’s more important is that Europeans will venture more to America with the weak dollar and get more value for the buck. We will see a lot of Euros this summer. New York is resilient, we’ve seen worst times apres 9/11. People want to blow off steam, and if the product is good, they will come again and again. A lot of people are not taking houses in the Hamptons this summer because institutional money and jobs evaporated over the last half of 2008 and first quarter of 2009. Hence I’m betting that we will see a much stronger city summer.”
I also asked Hudson Terrace co-owner Michael Sinensky about the economic impact. “If you can build one of the nicest venues in New York City, people will come out to escape what’s going on in the world. In this economy, you have to really service the customer and think outside the box to keep your patrons entertained, happy, and feeling satisfied enough that they’ll come back. I don’t think it’s all about having the best promoters and DJs and strictest door anymore — I think that’s a formula to stay open 6 to 12 months. Hudson Terrace wasn’t built to follow the models-and-bottles formula and meet their steep table minimums. Instead, we’ve taken pages from our other successful eating and drinking establishments such as the Village Pourhouse, Sidebar, and Vintage Irving, with offerings like pitchers of sangria and margaritas.” They’re pitching a happy hour concept from 5-7 p.m. I’m proud to say that Hudson Terrace was designed by my partner Marc Dizon.
The roof parties and a stop-start economy will get us through the heat of summer. An added value is that outdoor parties are generally blessed with quieter music, as sound travels and Manhattan gets more crowded by the minute. The music played in most clubs theses days — especially the clubs catering to these particular crowds — has stagnated. The isolation of Hudson Terrace and Jeffrey’s commitment to play it a little forward should educate a crowd to new tastes. Steven Greenberg’s 230 Fifth bans hip hop altogether in favor of mostly rock fare. This space is the highest-grossing joint in New York nightlife history. I know only a little about music made in this century, but I do know this: The crowds I DJ to these day are growing, and my CD collection isn’t. I play almost an entirely rock set, and there seem to be a lot more people interested in it than a year ago. Oh, if you want to hear me DJ or toss an egg or discuss clubdom, I’ll be at 38 Howard Street off Broadway tonight; I go on at 12:30 a.m., right after the bands.