EMM Group Opens The General, A Sure-Fire Hit

I’ve was invited to the friends and family opening of The Generalthe new restaurant from EMM Group at Bowery and Spring. EMM is Eugene Remm, Mark Birnbaum, and Michael Hirtenstein. They are the force behind Abe & Arthur’s, CATCH, CATCH Roof, CATCH Miami, Lexington Brass, SL, SL East, Tenjune, Chandelier Room, Revel Nightlife, FINALE, and Bow, and lots of other stuff. Bow and Finale are the other parts of the Spring and Bowery space that once housed Boulevard and Crash Mansion. Executive chef Hung Huynh of Top Chef fame offers up modern Asian cuisine in a red-chaired gilded wallpapered paradise. All the inside-info is here.

Opening up this time of year is interesting. Most operators look to open in the early or late stages of spring or fall, and with 300 seats, there will be a lot of kinks to be worked out. Groups like EMM have fewer kinks than most.  Opening now allows the place to hit its stride as the nice weather and affluent snowbirds return. They can do no wrong in my book. The General stretches the Bowery strip from its previous above-Houston Street border where joints like Daniel Boulud’s DBGB, Gemma, Peels and many others serve neighborhood residents and well-heeled visitors. This is not the Bowery of my youth. Little Steve Lewis trivia: my great uncle was one of the famed Bowery Boys.

Most clubs reported near-normal attendees for the week after New Year’s but much lower revenues. People went out but seemed to be tapped or burnt out.  For all except for the very top operators, New Year’s Eve is a loss when you account for the naturally slower nights preceding it and the after-effects. I’m still beat up from all the rushing around, and Christmas bills are still being paid. Getting me out requires special coaxing.

Many people obviously get terribly drunk on New Year’s Eve and try hard to slow it down for a couple of weeks. Then there are those resolutions which often include a step back from the boozing. My resolutions always end in a vow to break all my resolutions ASAP. We are still enjoying tourist dollars, but those will fade away as vacation bucks tend to fly to warmer climates this time of year. The cold keeps people in and, well, you get the idea.

EMM group is way ahead of this game. They have a built-in clientele that’s enamored with all their other joints. CATCH is still more than killing it, and the word "NEW" is always a sure draw. The General, a NEW offering from an established hospitality group enters as a sure thing. I’ll keep you posted.

EMM Group’s FINALE Brings The Edge Back to NY Nightlife

FINALE, the long-awaited EMM Group entry at 199 Bowery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, has finally opened – and it’s a game changer. This is a place created by a well-heeled, bottle sales-based group with creativity at its core. To those who pooh-pooh bottle service and blame it (and Rudy Giuliani) for all the terrible things that have ever happened to New York nightlife, I say pooh-pooh to you. Without bottle service, burgeoning rents, insurance, and salaries would have buried nightlife. The problem is that clubs banking for big bucks have catered to the bores with black cards, a scene that’s unbearable to the artistic set. FINALE embraces the downtown scene with performance types on staff, and bartenders and waiters dressed and ready to perform at the drop of a beat.

For far too long, entertainment in major nightclubs has consisted of little more than a forced smile from a wannabe model rushing through the crowd holding a fiery stick while a DJ plays tracks the rich dudes and their lady friends love to hear over and over again. But FINALE offers the hope that, in an effort to set themselves apart from the pack, operators will once again employ creative types to define their brands.

Back in 2007, The Box thought outside the box with its Did-I-just-see-that? brand of entertainment. For some, it went too far, but The Box is still there, and Sleep No More and other nightlife fringe concepts are bringing in creatives and spenders in equal measure. Their devotion to pushing downtown artistic programming has been justly rewarded. FINALE offers an opportunity for the public to expect even more. If it continues its success, other operators will follow its lead, and maybe the suits and ties will no longer dictate club programming. From my experience, once you start traveling towards the edge, a great deal of the public becomes interested and wants more.

EMM provides balance as they balance their bottom line. The artful mixing of downtown with the swells has worked for eons and is working at FINALE now. Plus, having a management team that’s in tune with the times helps.

Some words from the founders:

“Nightlife in New York is a bit stale at the moment—nothing new or different has opened in several years,” says co-owner Mark Birnbaum. “Both the timing and the new Lower East Side location of FINALE are perfect to attract new customers who don’t go to the Meatpacking District or Chelsea to eat and party, while bringing many of our current clientele along with us.”

“Moving down to the Bowery puts us in a unique position,” adds partner Eugene Remm. “Just as Bungalow 8 emerged on West 27th Street, and Lotus took root in the Meatpacking, we hope to be the first to bring an entirely new concept to the area. With this project, we break away from our current mold and create something entirely new on all fronts, from our music format to the location itself and the ways in which we can creatively program the entire space.”

Whether the big spenders will continue to be comfortable heading that far downtown to experience an increasingly weird mix of entertainment—and whether the creative set will keep emerging from their Brooklyn lofts to lend artistic authenticity to the nightlife venue—is far from certain. But with success stories like Abe & Arthur’s, CATCH, SL, and Tenjune in their portfolio, EMM’s Birnbaum, Remm, and partner Michael Hirtenstein are just the men to turn the mix into magic.

Industry Insiders: Eugene Remm, Mark Birnbaum, Michael Hirtenstein, & Hung Huynh

It looks like it’s going to be a while before Eugene Remm, Mark Birnbaum, and Michael Hirtenstein (seated, left to right) get a vacation. While they’re already busy running such white-hot New York nightspots as Tenjune and SL, the EMM Group partners now have two exciting new restaurants to oversee. The first, Lexington Brass, is a stylish New American bistro in the Hyatt 48 hotel that serves three meals a day, seven days a week, along with signature cocktails and craft beers. The second, Catch, is poised to become nothing less than Manhattan’s seafood Mecca, with multiple levels, a glass-enclosed rooftop lounge, an outdoor terrace, and some major firepower in the kitchen courtesy of Top Chef Season 3 winner Hung Huynh (standing).

“Catch represents a dream come true,” says Remm. “It keeps our company expanding while maintaining the integrity and standards of our other properties.” The restaurant fits the Meatpacking District to a tee, while offering an experience that is at once comfortable and invigorating. “From the outside, Catch fits in with the industrial aesthetic of the neighborhood,” adds Birnbaum.  “Inside it’s such a warm, glowing space – people have raved about the interior, and, most importantly, they’ve loved the food.”  As striking as the design is, it’s the people that complete the experience. “It’s a beautiful space, and we have the staff and team to do it justice,” says Hirtenstein. But what can the dining public expect from a trio with a background in nightlife? “When we opened Abe & Arthur’s there was a lot of chatter that we were just club kids, and that we would be one-hit wonders in the restaurant world,” explains Remm. “That just motivated us to put out an exceptional product. Our food is excellent, but our client base wants more than that, and we know how to deliver it.” For his part, Executive Chef Huynh is in his element. “For as long as I can remember, all I ever wanted to do was cook, and every day I’m striving for perfection,” he says. “I turned down a lot of opportunities in search of this. This is my dream kitchen.”

Tell me a little bit about your background. Where were you born, where did you grow up, and what kinds of things were you into as a kid?

Remm: I was born in Russia and immigrated with my parents, first to Queens and then to Bergen County, New Jersey, where I grew up.  I’ve always loved sports – basketball and tennis in particular.  And I’ve had a passion for music from a very early age.

Birnbaum: I was born and raised in Long Island. As a kid I liked driving go-karts and playing tennis.   And I played video games … Constantly.

Hirtenstein: I was born and raised in New York City and hope to never leave!

Huynh: I was born in Vietnam, where I lived until I was 9 years old.  I then moved to America, to Pittsfield, Massachusetts. For as long as I can remember, all I ever wanted to do was cook.  It was the only thing that interested me. I was always cooking and eating, from the time I was five years old in Vietnam. I would cut myself every day.  

What kinds of jobs led to what you’re doing today?

Remm: I started out in public relations and promotions, working at Harrison & Schriftman here in New York. From there I went on to work at Midnight Oil, where I was the promotions coordinator for their properties.  I then landed at B.R. Guest Restaurant Group where I was lead of promotions and operations for Level V, among other spaces.  It was after that that I joined forces with Mark to form EMM Group and open our first club, Tenjune.   

Birnbaum: While in college, I ran a club in Ithaca, New York.  I also promoted parties in NYC from the time I was 17 years old to roughly 22.  I tried my hand in insurance but left at age 23 to return to nightlife, opening my first club in 2002 and starting EMM Group with Eugene in 2005, when we pitched W Hotels for the bar deal at the then-under-development W Hotel in Hoboken, New Jersey.   

Hirtenstein: My background is in telecommunications and real estate – which I still do to this day.  I came to know Mark and Eugene as they were first making a name for themselves in hospitality.  I knew they were on their way to building an empire so when I was invited to be a part of it I happily came on board.  

Huynh: When I came to America my parents had a restaurant – I started working there, washing dishes, when I was 9 years old.  Then I started filleting fish and slowly getting acquainted with all aspects of the kitchen.

Tell me about Lexington Brass and Catch. Where did the idea to open them come from, and what was the process like? Do they represent a dream you’ve had for a long time? 

Remm:   With Lexington Brass and Catch we sought to add something new and different both to the hospitality landscape and to our own company portfolio.  We don’t want a customer coming into Abe & Arthur’s one night, and then feeling as though they don’t need to check out Lexington Brass or Catch.  Lexington Brass is a three meal period bistro and Catch is a seafood restaurant with a raw bar. Each place offers a different experience, but with the same standards of service.  With Catch in particular, we saw the space open up seven months after opening Abe & Arthur’s.  We love the Meatpacking District,  we work here, we live here, and we knew there wasn’t a seafood restaurant of note in the neighborhood.  We wanted to bring in something different.

Birnbaum:  Lexington Brass and Catch are very different from each other – Lexington Brass is a 100-seat brasserie on the ground floor corner of the new Hyatt hotel  in midtown that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner 7 days a week.  Catch is a much bigger operation – three floors, 275 seats, a glass-enclosed rooftop lounge and outdoor terrace.  We jumped on both spaces as soon as they were presented to us.  We knew they were the perfect locations for us to create new concepts and expand without having to get on an airplane to do it.   

Are you having fun?

Remm:  I Love what I do. I get to spend my days working with my best friends and colleagues, with all of us working towards the same goal.  We’re willing to take enormous financial risks to keep doing what we do.  There are always challenges – I encounter something new every day.

Birnbaum: Lots of fun! If we didn’t love what we did it would be impossible to do this job.  The things I enjoy most are working with ICRAVE to design and build out new spaces, and brainstorming with our team to come up with original concepts for people to enjoy.  The biggest hurdle has been dealing with community boards and finding the perfect spaces.   

Hirtenstein: Yes I’m having a great time.  My background is in telecommunications and my other current endeavors focus mainly on real estate, so anything having to do with EMM Group is a nice change of pace – I enjoy being a part of this world. 

What do you do to relax when you’re not working?

Remm: Music is my passion. I have a DJ booth in my apartment and it’s something I take real pleasure in doing. I love to work out. Boxing and spinning at Flywheel are so therapeutic to maintain a balance with all that we have going on.

Birnbaum: I love to travel when I can – and I try to unwind a little during the summers and enjoy weekends with friends at our house in the Hamptons.   

Hirtenstein: I am extremely active –a healthy lifestyle is important to me.  I swim, golf, play tennis – I love it all.  I also love to travel and like to escape to unwind.

What’s the secret to your success? What advice would you give to a young restaurateur or chef?

Remm:  There’s no blueprint for success in this town – the landscape is constantly changing.  I think we’ve managed to do what we’ve done based on an unwavering commitment to consistency and attention to detail.  

Birnbaum: Take your time in developing any new concept – make sure you have the menu and the service on point before opening.  Also, if you’re opening your first place, find a manageable space, nothing too big with too large an overhead.  A great location is also essential.

Huynh: There is no secret to success, but every day I try to improve and get better.  My words to a young chef would be that this is not glamorous, this is nothing like TV.  Put your head down, work hard, be dedicated, and work your way up.  In a kitchen, there are a million things that could go wrong with each dish you put out. Every time I show up to work there’s a new challenge to address, but it’s part of the excitement.

[Photo: Brett Moen]

Calling All Fashionistas! W New York Downtown & Refinery 29 Throw a Party Together

When it comes to nightlife, the W New York Downtown finally seems to be taking the “downtown” part of its name seriously, as evidenced by the line-up of DJs they’ve secured for a new bi-weekly party at the hotel’s Living Room Terrace. Starting tomorrow, with DJ Mia Moretti and her violinist friend Caitlin Moe, and then going every other Tuesday until August 30th, the “Summer Jam” series (lazy name, guys) will feature in chronological order: sophomore clothing founder Chrissie Miller, Paul Sevigny, Jesse Marco, and Jus Ske. (Admittedly, those last two favor the 1Oak/Tenjune/Avenue crowd more than the fashion/art element that’s recently cannibalized New York nightlife.)

The W Downtown is also partnering with Refinery 29 in an effort to attract “fashionistas,” as the press release calls them. Summer Jam will also feature signature drinks from their resident mixologist and a menu that carries the trendiest bites this city has to offer: tacos, ceviche, sliders, and because you asked for it, pork belly. Tuesday nights in New York have officially become the new Saturday.

Eugene Remm Talks SL East

Eugene Remm, the sovereign of Tenjune and SL, is opening SL East in the Hamptons this summer, bringing all the hype of his expanding EMM empire to bear at the Lilypond space. Operators believe that they must have a presence out East, because that’s where their clients are heading. It’s also an opportunity to make new friends.

Relationships made during the summer can sometimes carry through to the rest of the year. If a bottle host or waitron woos a client, that client may not be buying bottles back at the NYC joint once the weather brings everyone back to town. Protecting and servicing your client base and poaching other absent operators’ clients makes the bottom line more palatable. Although the smart set will be spending amazing amounts of cash out there during the season, the season is only four months long, and rent and other fixed costs are paid for the full year. Here’s a short conversation with Remm about SL East.

Tell me about your foray out East. EMM Group is pleased to announce the grand opening of our East Hampton outpost, SL East. It marks the opening of EMM Group’s sixth property, and their first nightclub venture in the Hamptons. Our guests can expect a variety of special events and live performances set amidst the same high level of quality, service, entertainment and celebrity clientele that our Manhattan counterpart, SL, has become known for. We will surely make a definitive mark on the Hamptons nightlife scene.

What will be going on? We will have appearances by world-renowned DJs and today’s leading artists. We are located at Three Mile Harbor Road in East Hampton, and we boast over 7,000 square-feet of indoor and outdoor ultra chic space, suited with sleek and stylish décor, a brand new state-of-the-art digitally processed Martin Audio sound system, and DJ booth with all the bells and whistles to accommodate any ranked world class DJ.

What’s on tap for this weekend? Saturday night will feature DJ ChaChi behind the turntables with a live performance by Dawn and Kalenna of Diddy Dirty Money, singing their hit, “I’m Coming Home.” On Sunday night, international DJ’s Jesse Marco and Sinatra will showcase their signature sets.

Attend a Dinner Inside Andy Warhol’s Mind for $95

Diners will soon have the opportunity to eat at a pop-up restaurant manned by 15-year-old wunderkind chef Greg Grossman, where “Guests will feel like they are dining inside an artist like Andy Warhol’s mind circa 1982.” Sounds disorienting and uncomfortable! The dinner will consist of “molecular gastronomic masterpieces” inspired by pop artists like Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.

Organized as part of serial pop-up event The Feast, the dinners will take place on three nights starting March 10th at Midtown’s Sanctuary Hotel, which will itself be pop-arted out. I think this whole thing needs one less unexpected stunt. Either choose the baby chef, or the pop art theme, or the pop-up nature of the event. All three and it’s just way over-themed, like a Jersey Shore-meets-Gilligan’s Island party. The flyer for the dinners kind of looks like an invite to a party at Tenjune. Oh, and teen prodigy chef Grossman told Eater NY that he dislikes the term “molecular gastronomy.” Well then.

Where I’ll Be for Halloween

It’s time to get Halloween serious and dust off my Elvis costume. For at least 15 years I have been Elvis. Not the skinny young one used by the U.S. Post office in the early ‘90’s for white envelopes, but the fat old one they used for bulk mail. The first time I put on my white sequined suit with the wig, the shoes, the bangles, and the sunglasses, I could feel the King’s energy in my veins—it transformed me. As Elvis, I have hosted many a costume contest, and sung on the subway to thunderous applause. I have walked in the parade and had a zillion photos taken with babies, girlfriends, and tourists. Each year I add a little more padding, and the wig gets a little more gray, as art imitates life. Last year, I added real freeze-dried flies to the wig, but the schtick is getting a bit old and it may be time soon to bury the old codger. This year Elvis will appear two more times: as I DJ as him at the Hudson Hotel’s monster soiree with my pal Paul Sevigny, and as I jet out to LA for the actual night of Halloween, a Standard Hollywood gig. Should I just wear the costume on the plane? Will they let me board if I decide to?

When Halloween falls on a Sunday, many celebrate on the Saturday before. The big gig at the Hudson on Saturday has something seriously delicious in each of its hospitality spaces. London-based new wave/electro-pop duo La Roux will DJ in the Hudson Bar space. I’ll be right beside them with Paul in the Library. 4AM will host Hudson Hall with their elite DJs Jus-ske and Jesse Marco on tap. Good Units will have Suzanne Bartsch doing her annual Halloween Party, with Patricia Fields hosting and a bevy of downtown’s glitter crew. It will be a fabulous night for all, and with its mix of cultures, possibly the closest thing in a long time to resurrect the ghosts of Halloween clubs of yore. Also on Saturday, the gorgeous, fabulous, and famous Tinsley Mortimer will set the tone at Horror on the Hudson, a monster bash on Pier 92. With its 75,000 square feet of floor space and super-star DJ Mel Debarge, this event is the in place for the crowd who has everything. I expect lots of rented costumes and hand held masks. If that isn’t enough try Porn Star Halloween at SL, or the EMM group’s other party at Tenjune, with a live set by Slick Rick. Devo is at the Hammerstein. Every joint in town will be banging. There will be a million house parties to boot. Getting a taxi will be a nightmare.

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And that’s just the pre-October 31st happenings. DJ extraordinaire Jeannie Hopper is getting into the mix with a boat-bash at the Chelsea Piers on Thursday. Has Sunday become a redheaded stepchild for the week of events? Will people actually have energy, money, and a clean costume come Sunday? To the purists, its all about Sunday, and it all starts with the parade. Joonbug has taken over Capitale and its 40,000 square feet, and will judge costumes and such, but I believe there will be a little less Halloween this year than usual. With work the next day, and so many things happening all week, costumes will be a mess and pockets a bit empty.

Halloween is a great windfall for clubdom. It’s a mini New Years Eve without the crash of the first week of January. These days, big ticketing and promotional companies like Joonbug and Club Planet rent out all the joints in town for New Years Eve, and sell tickets using e-mail, text messaging, and on-line lists numbering into hundreds of thousands of interested parties. Their clientele are looking for a sure thing on the big day, and use these companies to design – and define – their festivities. The clubs do well in this agreement mostly because the energy normally used in promoting this event has gone to these people, and they can work on the all-important Christmas season. Their efforts are focused on ways to make money during the chill of January. New Years Eve, unlike Halloween, kills all things clubby for days before, and days after, as people spend it all in one big blast or go away on holiday. Halloween brings much-needed revenue for the entire week leading up to it, and doesn’t kill the next week completely. What happens in costume stays in costume, and people quickly return to their normal routines. Unlike New Years, the Christmas season and all of its expenses is far off. For these reasons, I believe that Halloween is the biggest night/week in clubland. For the first year in two decades I will not be in town to enjoy it.

Nicole John’s Life Ends, Blaming Begins

Nicole John’s late-night nosedive from 20 stories is destined to plunge nightlife into a dark era. The blame game has begun, with criminal charges being filed against Ilan Nassim, who took the 17-year-old, almost-Parsons student and a group of revelers back to his place to part-tay. Tenjune, the place where the action began, is under criminal investigation for serving alcohol to the minor. A promoter, the bartenders, owners, security, and other staff members are also on the hook. Authorities, newspapers, blogs, parents, and the hoi polloi will seek a culprit—a specific person, persons, or institution—to blame. There is enough blame to go around, and in a way we are all to blame for Nicole John’s death. Start with the family. Nicole’s Dad was rushing back from Thailand, where he serves as the U.S. Ambassador. All accounts paint his daughter as a party girl with affections for Xanax and Vodka. If the family knew about their wonder child’s problems, what did they do? If they didn’t know, well, that seems worse. The father’s lofty position, power, and influence will surely send the blame into the cracks where we all dwell. He will distance the blame from himself, and those who had a real chance of nipping the problem in the budding girl, and seek retribution. We must blame the person, or persons, who got her the ID. The underground network where kids get the hall pass to booze, celebrities, and action.

Technology can be blamed. It’s becoming increasingly easy for anyone to obtain a fake ID that will pass airport security, let alone a bored bouncer with a scanner. These days, my young sources tell me that they just get real IDs from friends because they scan well and security guards barely look—they just rely on the scanner. If it scans, it’s all good, even if the drivers license says you’re 5’3” and you stand 5’9”. If someone asks, you can blame it on the Jimmy Choos. Security at clubs do check IDs, but most take the attitude that if it scans, the’ve done their job—and everybody lets the young hotties in anyway. Underage party people know that IDs from some foreign countries won’t scan. Brazil is very popular, and almost always works. Nicole John presented a Brazilian ID. I’ve read that it was fake—others tell me it was real. It doesn’t matter, because either works, and both are easily obtainable for a monied set used to getting anything they want. They buy, and use, and don’t have to speak a lick of Portuguese.

Most security guards work in clubs for the easy cash, and to meet babes. A cute young thing like Nicole John wouldn’t be pushed into the night. This is not to say some places aren’t extremely vigilant. It’s nearly impossible to stop determined young folks from getting in. A 19 year-old I am familiar with goes out every night. She learned which places are easier to enter than others. She told me she rarely gets turned away. Her ID looks a lot like her, with her hair dyed blond, and she is too hot to let go. A tattoo on her always exposed upper breast distracts and attracts—the only line of defense the bar has in place. There is no downside to her actions. There is no penalty for her presenting the fake. The worst that happens is she gets a scowl from security, and even then he usually smiles and lets her inside. They don’t take the fakes away anymore.

The blame can also be passed around to her friends. Surely every one of them knew Nicole’s game. They are all co-conspirators in her demise. The blame will most likely fall on the clubs, because they are the easiest to target, penalize, and get to pay up. As Ambassador Eric G. John collects what’s left of one of his dreams, he will demand answers and payback.

There is an answer a solution, a better way to deal with this terrible tragedy. Quit placing blame on the young real estate broker Ilan, and the dozen people who were with her when she fell—or instead of blaming the club that handles thousands of people a week, and handles them well, but is on the hook for this slip up, or instead of blaming the parents, a bit too busy to notice or correctly evaluate and deal with her “problem,” or the security guard who scanned, flirted, then yawned, or the server who just assumed, or didn’t care how wasted the gal got, or Gossip Girl and a dozen other shows that glorify, justify, and almost demand underage drinking, or the pushers of fake IDs, or the city officials who merely punish without passing laws that could easily prevent this type of thing from happening. The blame lies thick as shit in a pigpen. The medical examiner is performing an autopsy that includes a toxicology test that will determine what was in Nicole’s system that led her to mindlessly step onto a very small ledge at a very large height. The autopsy will reveal a large amount of alcohol and maybe some more distracting stuff. It was reported that her Facebook post earlier in the evening was, “losing track of the rounds.” Her last entry, at 2:42AM, was “all a blur.” Ninety minutes later she was history. Huffington says, “police believe the apartment might have been cleaned up by the time investigators arrived.” They believe as many as a dozen people there had been drinking. All scattered like roaches in the light. Ilan Nassim was left holding the bag, while others further up the the alcohol chain lawyered up, and shut up.

I spoke to some involved. They’ve been told not to talk. The politicians who are paid not to hide will point the fingers and be appropriately aghast at the players who caused this death.

Nicole John had a lot to do with her own demise. If she hadn’t gotten whacked at a club, or this dudes apartment, she would have gotten it elsewhere. It could have been in a fast car, taking 5 people out with her. It could have been in a basement or a hotel room. Nobody was watching, nobody was counseling her enough. Nobody thought she was doing anything all of her friends weren’t also doing. Nothing can stop a determined 17 year-old from getting wasted. You can’t stop anyone from getting booze, not a 17 year-old, or a 13 year-old. I saw that movie. The only way to stop consumption is penalties that really hurt the consumer. A long time ago, when a similar horror occurred, I proposed a different approach. The 2006 death of Jennifer Moore led to a crackdown by law enforcement, but little in the way of solving or preventing the problem. Back then there were new laws to push the blame on clubs, and the clubs acted responsibly. They got state of the art identification scanners, and trained their staffs. It’s 4 years later, and we are back to square one, as another young girl has been lost. Back then I proposed imposing severe penalties for the use of a fake ID in order to gain entry to a licensed premise or purchase alcohol. A penalty of 5 years loss of drivers license, starting when the person turns 18, or immediately if they are 19 or 20, will make users think twice. If they are thinking, you got a shot at preventing. Additionally, a misdemeanor for first offense, and a felony for second, would scare young ones from walking up to that club door. Enforce this law, and have a cop at every club door to supervise ID checks, prevent terrorist attacks, and honking cabs, and real change could occur.

Call it the Nicole John/Jennifer Moore Law. There will still be parties at dorms, homes, and rented rooms throughout the town, and I don’t know how to prevent booze being consumed there. Maybe Mr. Nissim will be an example not to follow. My checkered past had young ones in the mix. It was 18 to drink at one time, and so 16 was common. Looking back, it was way wrong, and I was lucky that nothing bad happened. Nicole Moore died from a fall but it was beauty and youth, and a society that screams from ADs and TV that “it’s all good.” It’s all part of growing up. There’s enough blame to go around, and we all need to just stop looking the other way, winking at this type of thing. There are going to be thousands of kids with a thousand fake, or look-a-like documents, drinking it up tonight, while society cries and looks the other way. My wise old mom used to say “it’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt”.

Damon DeGraff and Yoni Goldberg Have Oprah’s Favorite DJs

Damon DeGraff and Yoni Goldberg are dGi Management. They handle a stable of celebrity type DJs who are the hottest commodities in A-list clubs. However, DJing in clubs is only a small part of what they do. dGI books their talent for Rolex money at corporate affairs all over the world. The landscape has changed and the DJ with a rap who plays rap, house, disco, 80’s and rock, and is often a bold-faced name in the funny papers, is a commodity that can get maximum value with help from proper management. If it’s the right party, chances are dGi has one of their players playing. The music at these events must often appeal to a crowd with a wide range of tastes, so a mashup DJ, with a well-stocked Serato is called for. I’m going to just put up their press release because it really does tell the story.

“dGi Management is a New York based company offering fully integrated talent management and corporate consulting services. dGi Management’s work is offered on a retained or project-by-project basis. dGi Management manages recording artists, celebrity DJs, record producers, and cultural influencers. Perhaps most widely recognized for its unrivaled position in the global DJ marketplace, dGi DJs are staples of the most exclusive parties around the world. These stellar artists routinely play for a celebrity client list that includes Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Prince, Jay-Z, Diddy, Kanye West, Will Smith, Naomi Campbell, Paris Hilton, Michael Bloomberg, and Shaquille O’Neal. In addition to its celebrity clientele, dGi DJs provide music for the world’s leading fashion labels, including Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Nike, and The Gap. Their services also extend to industry leaders in media, film, music, and art, including Conde Nast, Hearst, Viacom, Sony, Warner Music Group, Disney, Miramax, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Louvre Museum. Similarly, dGi record producers have established a track record of success, working alongside internationally-acclaimed and platinum-selling recording artists, like Usher, Janet Jackson, Lil Wayne, Jennifer Lopez, and Katy Perry dGi has provided consulting on a wide-range of music, fashion, and cultural initiatives. In particular, dGi has provided consultation services to Fendi, Valentino, Revlon, and ESPN. With an expertise in social and interactive media and unparalleled relationships with event planners, public relations companies, marketing agencies, and celebrities, dGi offers unique insight and forward-thinking strategies to its clients. In addition to its talent management and corporate consulting, dGi partnered with dance music mega-label Ultra Records in 2009 to establish an imprint label dGi Records. dGi Records debut releases are scheduled for late 2010. dGi has been featured in The New York Times, The New York Post, Us Weekly, Complex, BlackBook, Spin, and countless other newspapers and publications”

You guys have an agency. You rep DJs. Yoni Goldberg: It’s called dGi Management. And certainly I think we do a few things, but the primary thing that we do is rep celebrity DJs.

List the DJs you rep. Damon DeGraff: The DJs we rep, we do Rev Run, we do The Misshapes, we do Paul Sevigny, we do DJ Ruckus, we do David Berrie, we do Mel DeBarge, we do DJ Kiss, we do DJ M.O.S., and we have a new producer/DJ by the name of Cory Enemy. YG: And we have DJ Rashida in LA.

I saw Rashida in Atalantic City. She was amazing. I gave her a plug a couple months ago, and while I was down there Molly Sims told me M.O.S. was her favorite DJ. YG: Molly Sims was talking about M.O.S. And then Tammy wrote me the next day saying Molly wants a CD or something.

You rep these pretty hip DJs, and music is mostly mashup music? Or what do they call that type of music now? YG: I think they call it open format music. I think by and large our DJs play open format music. But people like Paul Sevigny and The Misshapes I think have a different style than what Tenjune considers open format.

More rock based as opposed to hip hop based? YG: Right. But ultimately I really don’t think we try to put the DJs into a certain genre of music. Our primary business isn’t doing nightclubs that are formatted with a certain sound. Our primary business is doing celebrity parties and major corporate events. And I think each of those have an expectation that the music is customized for them on that night. So it’s very different than someone who is going to play at 1 Oak on Thursday.

When I talk to house DJs, or purist hip hop DJs, and the people who book the kinds of clubs that feature that kind of music, they look at the open format kind of music as not real DJing. They discount it completely. There’s a major disconnect between these two types of clubs. The clubs that play house, the purist clubs, and you could say Cielo and Pacha and the majority of joints where open format is king. When I did that big event at Mansion for the New York Night Life Association ,which you helped me with the house heads saw no value in the guys playing open format. How do you speak to that? DD: I think to be honest, it’s on the individual and what they like and what’s their preference. There’s always been the difference in DJs. Meaning there’s always been the Grandmaster Flashes that were the originators of the hip hop style. There’s always been the really big house guys who have done their thing in their way. And I think what we did with the DJs that we represent is created a niche where you can mix the two. If you look at say dance music, it’s becoming more popular within the open format clubs. Or there’s some hip hop guys who are now getting on dance records. I think music as a whole is just merging into itself. There’s still the purest form of it, but to be honest, it’s up to the individual. YG: Purists always discount alternatives. I don’t think Jean Georges thinks Italian food is the same as French food. I don’t think that a baseball historian thinks of golf as something as significant within the American fabric as baseball.

You think that the difference between house music and open format is that profound? Like golf and baseball? Is it that much of a different thing? YG: No, but it’s an explanation for why a purist would find an alternative to be something less.

Indulge me: in the 60s, when I started going out to clubs, it was rock and roll—classic rock. In the 70s, disco changed everything. It was this unbelievable breakthrough in music. In the 80s, new wave, punk, and hip hop started to happen. And at the end house and electronic started coming in. These were genres. Was there a new genre in the 90s? 2000’s YG: I think alternative was pretty significant, maybe not in clubs.

The 90’s saw open format ,I think that’s when it really started. Is open format a genre? And if it is, what is the next genre of music? YG: It’s not a genre of music. It’s a style of DJing, but it grows out of changes in how people listen to music.

Well in the 50s we had folk, and the beginning of rock and roll. Has there been a genre of music since AIDS? Since the mid 80s? DD: I think what open format is, it’s the mixture of all of those. And I think there hasn’t really been, probably up until the 90s, when you look at say, Mark Ronson. He was probably the first one to really start the open format trend. From taking hip hop, to rock, to whatever, and not just mashups. Meaning like taking records and making them blend in a way to where everybody, white, black, Asian, you name it, in a spot can really relate to his set.

What’s going on in the culture of America, in the world, that there hasn’t been a real breakthrough or definable genre of music since the mid 80s? YG: I don’t know how to answer that, but I do know part of what makes open format a sound you hear at a lot of clubs today is technology and the way people get their music. When I grew up, and I’m 28, I spent fifteen dollars on a CD. I was going to listen to every one of those rock songs, or every one of those hip hop songs. Now, if you buy your music, you’re buying singles for 99 cents, or you’re listening to the music for free—illegally downloaded, on MySpace, on YouTube—and it allows people to be exposed to a vast and wide range of music. And people can like an electro song without spending fifteen dollars on the album. They can like a hip hop song without spending fifteen dollars on the album.

So it’s exposure and the way music is available. You have a stable of DJs. What are they doing? What is a typical DJ in your stable? What are you guys working on? DD: It’s funny that you mention, I think now besides doing the majority of the celebrity and corporate events, we have like David Berrie just did a deal with Ultra, which is one of the biggest dance labels in the world. We have a single that’s coming out at the end of the summer. DJ Ruckus did a deal with Orchard Street, he put out another single, he has another one that’s coming out.

What is Orchard Street? DD: It’s another label, an Indie label. I think they bought out TPT after whatever problems they had. So they do a wide assortment, from hip hop, to dance, to you name it. We also have a group by the name of party crash, which is Cory Enemy and DJ Ruckus. They have a group called Party Crash where we have a single coming out on Chuckie’s label Dirty Dutch this summer, a really incredible record. And then we have Cory Enemy, who is probably the most insane producer/DJ that you’d ever want to meet. Like literally. But he’s already done a remix for Oh My God, he has the new Katy Perry single remix, got a bunch of other records that are going to come out soon. I think aside from just the celebrity side and the event side of things, I think we’re definitely starting to move our clients into say a more artist and producer realm.

Back in the day, when I was booking DJs, I used to say when a DJ truly becomes a producer, he becomes less of a DJ. Because as a producer, he looks for a certain type of sound. And that sometimes translated nights where he’s only playing music that agrees with that sound. And the sets for many of these famous DJs became fairly monotonous. Is this something that could happen for open format DJs? YG: I think it could happen, but I think it’s challenging to be an open format producer. You can’t produce every single genre of music. I guess unless you’re Rick Rubin. You speak about producers and their DJing becoming monotonous, David Berrie used to DJ at the hottest clubs in New York and around the country five or six nights a week. He was the most in demand club DJ in America. And he stopped to become a house producer and a house DJ. And he stays at home, and will work 36 hours in a row producing house music. He just had his debut at Pacha last week in New York, he’s headed to Pacha Ibiza this week. But I can say in Berrie’s case, it certainly has not made his performance monotonous. I think his background as a DJ, and establishing himself first as a DJ, before establishing himself as a producer, which is the opposite of many house artist, makes him a far more exciting and thrilling house DJ when he performs than most of the people who play at Pacha.

These are all great DJs, and they’re all social DJs. Every one of the people you mention who I know, are extremely club social. Do they have to play, in your mind, a club gig now and then just to stay in touch with it? DD: I think totally. I think always, even going back to the origin of open format with Mark Ronson, you always have to have to the clubs to keep you edgy and keep you fresh. Because a lot of times with the events, the music that you’re playing is not so club-oriented. So if you want that to be a huge part of who you are and to keep your skills on point, you kind of have to.

Otherwise you’re just playing what’s expected from the corporate client. Do the DJs understand that or do you have to drill it into them? DD: They understand it. I think that’s what makes us the best at what we do. Because we understand from A to Z what has to be done from the client to the clubs.

I interviewed DJ DB the other day. And DB was talking about how hard it is as a DJ to make money these days. He basically needs somebody like you. Most DJs, even the established ones who have been used to getting gigs for this much money, even though there’s all these clubs and a world wide audience, with the expenses of travel and all that they need to do corporate events. DJs cannot survive, or should not be able to survive too well, unless they are Tiesto or Roger Sanchez. For the DJ coming up, they need an agency like you, don’t they? Because they need to barter their way with corporate money. This is new. YG: I think the reality is, most DJs don’t really fit into the corporate DJ landscape that Damon created. DD: Because when you look at when this was created, I looked at it as the DJ being an artist. And when you look at any artist from Madonna, to Lady Gaga, to Jay-Z, to Kanye, to anybody, it’s the music aspect, which I think is a large part, but it’s also the marketability.

The visual. All your guys have charisma, they dress well, and they have pride in their appearance. And so the visual is very important. YG: They’re very good looking. DD: So that’s pretty much how we look at it. I think visual, charisma, how you deal with the client is a very huge part. And then to come back to your point, and not to pat ourselves on the back, but I think with any manager, or agencies, or anything, it’s how that person represents the artist as well. Because people don’t want the representation to be some guy who doesn’t really care. You always want to make the client feel 200% comfortable. So whenever they call, their experience from the first interaction to when the DJs going home, it’s a comfortable experience. YG: Steve, too, I don’t think you get established as a corporate DJ when you’re trying to make your way and having trouble paying bills by DJing at clubs. I think you graduate to doing the corporate and celebrity stuff.

Would you groom a DJ? If you see a hot girl, or a good looking guy, who has all the basic stuff, is there a school for this? Would you take people in the future, as your business grows, and train them to be part of it? YG: I see our business growing by seeing the artists that we represent grow. I hope very much that their careers grow to the point where it’s difficult to take on new DJs and train and groom them. I want Berrie to be DJing all over the world, every day, like a Roger Sanchez or Tiesto. I hope that creates a situation where we don’t have the means or time to groom DJs.

I used to book DJs, and I remember a thousand dollars to Frankie Knuckles or David Morales was a lot of money back then. Now DJs get six figures? What are the highest prices your DJs get? Are they getting fifty thousand dollars for some gigs? YG: Yes.

Are they getting more than that for some gigs? YG: Occasionally.

You’re booking your DJs all over the world, how are you picking the spots? Is it more important to be in” the “ spot? Or is it just at the end, man this motherfucker is giving me a hundred grand. YG: I think we’ve always looked at our DJs careers as building a career and not a short-term situation where were trying to get the most money every night. Depending on the job, and this goes for New Years and every other night, I think we evaluate all of the factors, a leading one being money, but a secondary one being the relevance of the job or the impact that the job has on their career.

You named about nine DJs. How many will you end up with in a year? Will it be twenty? Are you comfortable with growing the DJs you have, or having more DJs? YG: We’re not a booking agency. How does your agent mantra go?

Right. It goes mosquitoes, leeches, fleas, cockroaches, rats, agents . Agents are generally frowned upon. They’re traditionally looked upon as some of the lowest forms of life. YG: We are not agents. We’re managers. In managing these artists, we book a tremendous percentage of their jobs. But ultimately, what I like about what I do and the way I identify myself, is by managing the artists and helping to build and grow their careers. One of the ways we do that is through the jobs we book. But whether it’s March 13th or December 31st, we’re always trying to find the jobs that make the most sense for our artists to grow their careers. And obviously money is a part of that, but it’s not the only part.

What about Hollywood. DJs for film and soundtracks. Are you there yet? I wouldn’t say any major motion pictures, but we’ve definitely been involved in supplying music for various things like fashion shows. I think the DJing part is the main source, but to go back on what Yoni said and to answer your question, in terms of growth I think we’ve always been a tight-knit company. Like a velvet rope of the elite. And I think what we’ve always wanted to do was always have the best of the best. It’s almost like private school and public school.

Defining the word “best” is really difficult. Best means to you a person who has a lot of qualities. DD: You’re right, I should say best for what we’re looking for. In some other peoples’ eyes who we have might not be, and that’s their opinion.

What you’re saying is you can have this great DJ, but he’s really not personable, hes not friendly, and he punches the clock and leaves. This guy would not be interesting to you. So the best means, this guy may be the best DJ, but he’s not well rounded enough to be part of your stable. Intern Alice Urmey interjects: When you’re selecting one of your DJs for an event, do you take into account his style? Or does he conform to the event he’s playing? Do your DJs vary enough in style where you would pick one artist for a certain event because of the type of event it is? YG: Fortunately we’re in a position where very often people are calling for a specific DJ because the DJs we represent are very recognizable. That said, when we’re approached open-endedly about a job, I think we do try and make it so that the job and the DJ fit. And I think part of that is our recommendation. But of course part of it is the way the DJ plays on that night. I don’t know that I would say we conform to what the event wants but I think we customize the sound to best fit the event.

Tell me about Ruckus. What’s the rumpus with Ruckus? YG: Ruckus is the most in demand celebrity DJ in America. A few years ago, Ruckus was living in Atlanta and would get good jobs here and there. His career has really exploded. He’s one of, if not the most gifted DJs I’ve ever heard. Incredible personable, incredibly good looking, manages his relationships unbelievably. He’s booked through May of 2011 now.

May of 2011? Every day? YG: There are very few open days.

Do you travel with your clients? DD: Depending on the jobs. YG: I’ll be in Chicago with Ruckus on Thursday and France with him next week.

Does he maintain an apartment? Or does he just live in hotels? YG: Yeah he lives in LA. DD: He lives in LA but he’s hardly ever there. YG: I mean he doesn’t keep a car there or anything. DD: For instance we’ve partnered him with Rev Run, and they have a really awesome show. We’re doing a bunch of festivals this summer in Europe with a bunch of really big house DJs. Everybody from Fatboy Slim, to Calvin Harris, Martin Van Buren, David Berrie is on that as well. So again, we’re branching out into doing a bunch of other stuff. I’m doing some dates in London and Croatia.

I remember Rev Run back in the day, Run DMC and all that, he’s new to you guys. He wasn’t with you last time we talked, was he? YG: I think we were maybe beginning the process.

What is the demand of Rev Run? What kind of crowd is drawn to Rev Run? He’s a really wonderful person, he’s really fun. YG: I think what makes Rev Run so attractive is he’s relevant to a wide audience. They’re sixteen year old white girls who love his show on MTV, and there are sixty year old black guys who think he’s the greatest rapper of all time. And there’s a lot of space in between those two. His music appeals to a tremendous amount of people, and his TV show and twitter has kept him in the spotlight for a younger audience as well.

Do you manage all of the social media for your clients? DD: I think from the beginning we’ve always done pretty much everything for the clients. We’ve been somewhat agent, manager, publicist, whatever it takes to really get the job done because at that time there wasn’t that style of DJ. It was either like the straight hip hop guy who his cousin managed him because that’s just what they did, or it was the big house guy who had the agency. So I think in creating that field, it was new. So we had to be there every step of the way for everything, and it’s just kind of carried on with how we create and handle our business. I guess with the new forms of social media and all these other things, that’s like being a publicist at this point. Magazines are few and far between. YG: I think this gets back to the difference between management and being an agent. Sunday night I was up rewriting Ruckus’ bio, I think I must’ve emailed it to you at 5 in the morning. Last night I was on the call with a magazine in Manila at 2 or 2:30 in the morning. We were on the phone yesterday with a guy who designs MySpace pages for 90 minutes. I don’t think agents do that. We have our hand in every aspect of the artist’s career, including the music that they make. To me that’s exciting to watch and help them build their entire career rather than just commissioning the job.

When was the eureka moment when you guys realized that this was a business? YG: I was in college, Damon must have figured it out. DD: I’m trying to think of that exact moment. I remember the exact point, we did this Armani exchange party on Broadway. And it was New York Magazine, Armani Exchange, and celebrities designed these jeans. I don’t know if it was fashion week or something, but you had everybody from Wyclef to you name it. And Mark was DJing and I was there all suited up and feeling great, and I was just meeting everybody. And in my mind I was like, man it’s at least ten clients in here that I do business with already, either just on the phone or whatever, and I think at that moment was just clarity and saying man we really have something special that were offering these people. Because nobody else was really really doing it. I think at that point I had to look at it as it’s a business. Because if not, and I think a lot of times people think oh it’s just DJs, and I remember people used to say to me, you think you’re just going to manage DJs and that’s going to make money? And I’m like well I’m in it, so I see it and I feel it. And I see one, how corporately people react to the DJs because what we’re giving, but also when they were in clubs. Or even when they were out you would see how the club kids or how whoever would react to what that is. And it was almost like man, we have something special.

You keep mentioning Mark Ronson. YG: Mark was Damon’s first client. DD: Now Mark’s producing and doing whatever. To give a quick back history, I started dGi like ten years ago. Mark was my first client. Then we brought on Samantha, then we brought on Beverly Bond, and DJ Cassidy. And that was the original four people that we had. And then I think from there we just grew the business. So hence a lot of the references to Mark was because that was the beginning. When Mark was doing four or five jobs a night, there were no other DJs. I think even that point too made me realize it was a business, because there was a demand for something and you didn’t have enough to supply it. So I had to be the supplier for the people.

Mark helped immensely with my career. He was my regular DJ at Life. AG: How much were you paying him?

I think 500 bucks. Maybe 1000 AG: Were you commissioning the club stuff? DD: It think I was just coming in then. I think I was very young then. I was working for this other company.

Well Mark could’ve gotten a lot more money someplace else, but that’s really at the time what we could pay for that job. I think everyone else was getting 300 by the way. AG: Did you do Spa? I think he saying Paul was getting 800 dollars or something and Mark was getting 1250 or something. And Paul said none of the DJs could believe that Mark was getting 1250. Obviously Paul went on to DJ for a lot of money.

Yes at Spa Paul was promoting as well. And Mark was a promotion in himself. The thing about Mark was not that he drew more than anyone else, which he did to some extent, but he drew more girls than anybody. The girls came, and they would be standing around the DJ booth and it was just this phenomenon. When you booked Mark Ronson you just had women all over the place. He was hot. Everybody knew he was the next big thing. DD: And he was a really excellent DJ, especially in terms of that format. Because nobody else at that time was giving you hip hop, rock, a little bit of salsa.