The Gates Shutters, Tammany Hall Opens, & Facebook Remembers

Although I hadn’t noticed it myself, word comes that the Gates, an unbelievably boring and predictable place I didn’t believe in, has shuttered. It was off to the left, a little too high up, and not cool enough to survive. To close right before the holiday cash-in tells a tale of deep dark failure. The guys who brought people to the place, Redd Stylez and Michael James, seem to have taken their show on the road – Redd to Studio XXI and Michael to Chelsea Room. Gates was snobbish without reason and badly managed. Although they made changes to correct initial blunders, this isn’t a second chance town. Their door was a disaster, all attitude with little knowledge or experience. Making mistakes at the door at a venue off the beaten path ensures failure. There are plenty of other places in town that desire “B” crowds and their money. At best, that’s all it was – a B, C, or D crowd in a badly conceived place. They spent what looked like 20 bucks rehashing the formerly beautiful Biltmore Room. They lasted way longer than I expected, but then again, I hadn’t heard a whisper about the place for 6 months.

“As one gate closes another opens,” said a fortune cookie. (Or was it a fortune teller/ or some guy at some table spending a fortune and being philosophical? In all this Christmas confusion I fortunately have forgotten). I went by the new 152 Orchard Street hang Tammany Hall yesterday. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion had played there this past Monday. Tammany honcho Eddy Brady and Sailor Jerry Rum sweetie Dana Dynamite were texting me and e-mailing me to attend, but alas Monday is Bingo night for me and my clan. The new Sailor Jerry pin-up calendar release event was a smash I hear, and the early reviews for Tammany seem to be as well. Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs was on hand, and the press people sent me pictures to prove it. I toured the joint with Eddy and Dave Delzio. Purist rocker, man about town, and all around good guy Dave will be upfront on this project, which prominently features a stage, proper lights, and appropriate sound. As I was walked around, workers were painting things red, while old school posters and photos of Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall were being unfurled. They will be plastered on the walls to add some panache to the place.

My old pal Arthur Weinstein, who passed a couple years ago, celebrated his birthday on Facebook yesterday. His contributions to nightlife, and to my life, have been chatted about here, and cannot be underestimated. It’s amazing how many people took the time yesterday to wish him a happy one on his still-active Facebook profile. Facebook founder and Time’s Man of the Year Mark Zuckerberg has not only changed the way we live, but how we pass. Arthur is remembered and visited. His friends still stay in touch with each other years after he’s moved on. A special friend talks Arthur’s talk, and we suddenly feel like he’s with us. We see new images often, as people upload them. He lives in cyber space, and although I miss him terribly, I find solace there. Facebook is a relatively new phenomenon, and I see our present use of it as just the tip of the iceberg.

I bought an old 1930’s era phone for the restored Nells phone booth, which is part of our design at Darby. Many of the young crew working on the downstairs yesterday had never seen a rotary dial before. They couldn’t believe there was a time before push button technology. I told them that as a kid in Connecticut, we lived in a rural area and shared a “party line” with our neighbor. If the phone rang once it was for them, twice for us. Sometimes you would pick up the phone and they would be chatting on it. You would say “excuse me” and they would politely wrap up their call in a few minutes so you could make yours. It was a time when we had two channels on the television, which was the size of a sofa. There were no cell phones, and the only computers were in the Pentagon or NASA. As we approach the new decade, it just doesn’t seem cliché to me at all to ask, What will they think of next? I miss my pal Arthur, but will find consolation and comfort after I wrap this up with a “Hey” on Facebook.

A Very Important Night in New York

To V.I.P. or not to V.I.P., that is the question. I am always conflicted about which New York to show clients. Should I take them to La Esquina, Lit, White Noise, or Don Hill’s? Should I venture out to my beloved BK for Brooklyn Bowl and Manhattan Inn? The Manhattan hot spots are designed for client relations and the special white-glove pick-pocketing that goes with it. It seems to be a dollar-and-cents thing that makes sense when the deal is sealed. My clients with limos and expensive expectations wanted the V.I.P. New York that they understand, because it’s quite similar to the V.I.P. experience they know from Vegas and Los Angeles. We were to meet at Avenue after my DJ gig in Chelsea.

I almost DJ’d at the APM models holiday soiree at The Chelsea Room. I walked in, looked for APM V.I.P. Penny Basch, and watched the crowd jump to that special House music only played in the most swanky joints around town. I knew every track and wished I didn’t. I very much doubt superstar DJ David Guetta, who begins Pacha’s 5 year anniversary celebration tonight, will be offering up this drivel. Anyway, the crowd at The Chelsea Room was living for it, so I opted out. My special blend of tracks produced long before Penny’s long-legged crew were born would have stopped the show. I walked out after gaggles of fake giggles and double-sided cheek kisses, and headed west to meet my clients. The party was fab and the place accommodating, but my business took me elsewhere.

Noel Ashman, the former operator of the Chelsea Room, called me as I departed. In some sort of cosmic karma coincidence, the long call ended as I passed Darby, the other space he once operated as N.A. and Plumm. Amanda found 2 bowling trophies by a lamp post and we promptly dropped them off at the ever-developing SNAP, which needs some more sporty stuff. The trophies were for “lowest score” in some tournament, and the receiver I guess dumped them when he had lost the people who thought that was cute. The double coincidences were not lost on Amanda and I. We bought a lottery ticket. The great Willie Sutton, who robbed over 100 banks – a career decision that had him in jail for most of his life – once said, “A man should place a bet every day. Otherwise, he could be walking around lucky and not even know it.” We lost our money, and with it, respect for Willie Sutton’s advice.

We arrived at V.I.P. joint Avenue and were whisked to a table. Avenue has some of the best “whiskers” in town. The door people whisk you into the hosts, who whisk the clients credit card to some safe spot as the waitrons whisk bottles of sticky liquids into glasses that are in a position nearby just waiting to be whisked. In no time at all, thousands of dollars were being whisked from one bank account to another. Everybody on staff smiles impossibly wide smiles with immaculate pearly white teeth. A trip to the men’s room had a security guard, who recognized that I was at a table, whisk me to a small private bathroom. That level of service separates the great whiskers from the boys. My clients were ecstatic, surrounded by movers and shakers and beautiful women. Hotel magnates told of projects and I heard the name “Dubai” 3 different times from 3 different folk. I bet there’s a whole lot of whisking going on at that Dubai place. Avenue is all that it should be and an absolute goldmine. Everybody was having fun and knew that they were in the right place. And then suddenly we were to be whisked “elsewhere,” as intelligent phones carried the news that “elsewhere” was better. “Elsewhere” would be more perfect than this perfect.

Cars were outside to whisk us to Lavo, where our beautiful crew was whisked inside by proprieter Noah Tepperberg to other proprietor Mark Packer’s table. Jayma Cardoza – the best whisker ever – grabbed my girl by the hand, and with unbelievable glee made friends with her. Somewhere nearby, someone was putting some credit card in some safe place. Promoters to the left and promoters to the right, with tables full of 6 foot beauties, came over to say hello. The 6-footers smiled perfect smiles at me, and whisked perfect hair from their almost-perfect faces. I remembered the old days, when beauty could also be found in shorter people as well. Alas, I’m sure that’s still true in other non-V.I.P., non–whisking, non-credit-card-maxing places. I wondered if some promoters were paid by the inch. The same music was being played at Lavo that was offered at The Chelsea Room. Avenue had the hip-hop or open format version of that music.

After a while, when the business talk had been shouted out over the din, it was time to leave. Nearby, men in nice suits danced like bobble head dolls with women who truly loved them for their personalities. I imagined them talking about Dubai for a minute, but then noticed nobody was really talking. For the most part, the loud, almost-house music, took the talking out of the mix. What was there to talk about, really? We all have money, we all look good, and we spend all the rest of the time of our lives talking with cell phones and computers. Now was the time to sway, pump it up, and flirt with eyes, and celebrate our successes and desires. Hot-as-hell go-go dancers would have been great conversation pieces, but due to the volume, were perfect just as pieces.

I double kissed a dozen people, and I pointed at a couple bottles on the table, and shouted to my client to take 2 of these and call me in the morning – or tomorrow night. I offered my giggly joke to all, waved to people I didn’t want to say goodbye to, and headed to the street. Lavo is amazing, wonderful, and banging. But of course, not for me. I headed to Williamsburg in a fast yellow chariot and stopped at Kellogg’s Diner before home. The lobsters in the tank by the door greeted me with confused stares. They belonged at Kellogg’s about as much as I belonged at those V.I.P. spots. The music on the radio at Kellogg’s was pretty much the same stuff offered up at the clubs, but it came with a cheesburger deluxe, and I accepted it.

Soft Sells vs Big Bangs

Traditionally, joints open with a bang, but more and more the concept of one big go-for-broke opening is fading. When Lavo NY recently opened, there were a series of invitations to events designed to showcase the restaurant/club to various groups. Was I invited to the “for real” opening? Was I invited to the press preview? Or was I invited to the secondary event geared to downtown sorts? I think all of the above. I went once, enjoyed myself, and wrote about it. My first impression of that evening has become my lasting impression of the space. I don’t travel to that neck of the woods often, but I recommend it to friends that do based on that one visit. Places invariably have the familiar “friends and family” opening parties because pals and relatives have to come see the place, but operators might not want Mom or Uncle Herbert exposed to their “A” crowd. In the case of Snap, a sports bar on 14th street and 8th Avenue, people are being invited to check out the joint even while some decorative items are still being shipped.

Snap’s slow movement towards the goal line of success is controlled by whatever sporting event is on their TV. The World Series had friends – and a few strangers – popping by, and various football games and a fight have been attractions. They are eking into existence. Occasionally, a dude will wander in seeking the warm comfort and cheap booze of McKenna’s next door. He soon realizes that he is in the wrong place, or at least at the wrong part of his life, and moves on.

I never did it the soft way. I believed in a splash. All gears going full out, best face forward. I would book talent to set the tone—Grace Jones or someone fabulous would perform. I always opened on a Saturday with the next soiree’ on the following Friday. This gave me a chance to fix anything that was wrong. There’s always a light that needs to be dimmer or brighter, there is always a garbage receptacle needed somewhere unanticipated. Usually, tweaks would be in personnel. I would move one bartender here, or add an additional cleaner there. Occasionally a speaker needed to be added or tilted in another direction. I was very capable of changing what didn’t work quickly, or improving upon what I had created. I never rested on my laurels or assumed I had it right: I went in believing in my creation, but open to change.

Not all openings went well. LIFE, which was to become the joint I was most famous for (as opposed to other joints that made me infamous), had a really bad opening party. Despite all the efforts of myself, Mark Baker, Jeffrey Jah, and a list of names who now dominate New York nightlife, we bombed. I tell everyone that all of us fail at times, but it’s how you react to adversity that separates the players from the wannabes. You must look at your opening with honest eyes. You must be willing to criticize yourself and accept blame. You must make a plan to fix what ails you that very night and immediately adjust before the crowds gather again. You must have the balls to be wrong and make it right. In the club world a first impression is important, but even the haters must return for a super-duper event that you book down the line, and you will get a second chance.

One good reason to spread out openings is capacity. If you have one event, many people won’t get near the front door and either give up or be alerted by tweets and texts not to bother. In this era when communication can clearly define who is coming, it probably is best to divide things up. Restaurant-based places need to unveil over time. So many joints are being built in that ever-popular food up/fun down boiler plate. Restaurants need tastings to insure that the kitchen staff learns to work as a team, and that the service peeps coordinate with them, and learn the menu, wine list, and room—but they better be on point by the time the food critics come. Even at almost-perfect organizations, like the Tao group, tweaks are made. After their Lavo opening, weak doormen were replaced and adjustments made as they seek to get it right for the next 20 years. Over at the Chelsea Room, bottle guru Bey decided the fit wasn’t right and moved on. The best minds in the biz coordinate leases, investors, concepts, and build-outs over long periods of time to get to that point when the public can put in their two cents or $2,000. The nightclub professional and restaurateur will adjust every day, as they find out what really works, as opposed to the theory they had going in.

The Ghosts of Chelsea’s Past

I disagree with that dude who said, “You can’t go home again,” because I did. I went home to the Chelsea Hotel and it was creepy and swell. A couple of social run-ins with Cameron Winklevoss got me out of BBurg to catch a late show of The Social Network in Chelsea. I am an avid Facebook fiend, and my stop-and-chats with Cameron made the movie a must see. It was grand. I still don’t know what really happened, but I’m satisfied that the flick got pretty close to all involved. There I was on 23rd Street, feeling no urge to go back to my home. So I decided to visit the Chelsea Hotel.

It was my former home, and often a home away from home when I was between apartments. Over the years I lived and loved there too many times to remember. The front desk greeted me like a returning neighbor and I took Amanda to the 2nd floor, where I spent so many years visiting my fabulous friend Venice and the late great Arthur Weinstein. I smelled the familiar pot as I climbed the stairs. It was always in the air when Arthur was around. It hit me like his ghost, as if he was the only one who ever smoked the stuff. Still, it was a surprise and unsettling. I showed Arthur’s photographs, stopped at the Roy Cohen, and told Amanda I’d tell her all about him. The tribute to photographer Marcia Resnick, from my long-gone pal, the artist Hiroya, still hung in its place on the stairwell. I checked out Interview magazine cover illustrator Richard Bernstein’s old pad and remembered Herbert Hunke as I passed by his room. Amanda and I hit the streets and I showed her the bronze plaque commemorating Sir Arthur C. Clarke, who wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey when he used to occupy the penthouse that eventually became mine. I used to talk for hours with Dee Dee Ramone in front of that plaque.

Next door, a crowd that didn’t really appreciate where they were and probably never heard of any of the ghosts I just mentioned were celebrating the opening of The Chelsea Room. Bey and Giorgio cajoled me into stepping in to see the joint. It was alright inside, looked good, and the crowd wasn’t hard to look at, either. They were enjoying themselves. It was nice to see new life in the hotel made famous for the death of Sid’s Nancy and the aforementioned heroes. Dylan Thomas and Dee Dee would have loved the energy, and if not for this particular crowd, then the ones on another night. Ladyfag is doing Fridays and I hear my pal Viva is involved. I never know what to do on a Friday, so now I do.

The Chelsea Room was storage when I lived and played in the little town called the Chelsea Hotel. It was like a small town back then. Everybody knew everybody and there was lots of sugar being borrowed between neighbors. Every week new, hip tourists would arrive to occupy the half of the hotel kept open for them. They were new meat and they fed us all. I have many regrettable moments/memories from that era that I can’t remember very well. When Stanley Bard ran the joint with his son David, it was a land of enchantment. Poets and writers and club royalty and hookers and rockers and bon vivants were the denizens of the deep, downtown space. A Grace Jones or a Bowie or a Ginsburg or Burroughs would bop through the lobby on their way to some fabulous, uniquely appointed room for a rendezvous. Now, like the rest of New York, it is sanitized and safe. I hear Rene Ricard is still there and Suzanne Bartsch and a handful of others. April Barton is still cutting hair in Suite 303. Stanley wanted to turn the basement room into a literature-friendly coffee shop where Chelsea frequenters like Ethan Hawke could read and write and bring back that element of the ancient building’s past.

Alas, one gin mill after another occupied the room. None were very successful. For a bit, Serena’s was really nice, but in time it became a bit too serene. Star Room then came along and it was anything but stellar. Both battled location, but that’s not a problem anymore. Crowds have been educated to try new things in off-beat locations. The Chelsea, although not a typical spot for the a, b or even c crowds, is located centrally and is an easy cab from anywhere.

They gutted the room, took out silly walls, and exposed the ancient vaulted ceiling. Other than that it looks like they spent a buck fifty on design, not including sound. I could here the sound rumbling as I made my way back outside. It was hip-hop and house in what was always a rock hotel. I’d seen what they were selling before, many times over many years. It’s not a bad place. In fact, I recommend it to those who like that sort of thing. I just feel more comfy in the trenches. As a poet once said, “Seeking out the poorer quarters, where the ragged people go. Looking for the places only they would know.” My night still needs a bit more edge and I never look for it in a toot or a bottle. So I headed to White Noise, which is just seedy enough for me to relax.

What’s Going On with the Chelsea Room?

The Hotel Chelsea won’t be reviving the spirit of any of its famous ghosts with the Chelsea Room, the lounge that’s just opened in the bowels of the infamous hotel. An after-dark destination since 1883, the hotel has seen Jimi Hendrix, O.Henry, and Tennessee Williams check in, and is famously haunted by Sid’s murdered girlfriend, Nancy. But the Chelsea Room is getting devoured by PR piranhas and promoters too soon, which seems to suggest that it may be dead in its tracks already. While the initial news that Surf Lodge’s Marcus Bifaro would be taking over the defunct Star Lounge was met with skepticism by the blogosphere (especially after it was reported that he would be taking the space “back to the early 1900s” with “exposed brick and barn wood from upstate”), I was hopeful for a spot that would do the beloved hotel some justice. Sadly, the subterranean lounge is now being promoted like a Times Square hotel during New Years Eve, announcing grand opening parties on a weekly basis and offering perks like “one hour free Champagne served by hot lingerie models.”

The first opening announcement I caught wind of was for Saturday, October 9th. As I trolled the Internet for party recaps and photos, I received another email from one Michael James of Epic Group Worldwide, which boasts the tagline, “Securing the Velvet Rope.” While searching for more information about said Group, I found yet another grand opening announcement from the kids at Sam n’ Jo, a company which essentially does mass email promotions. Their invite, which notes “Samnjo offers limo all night long to groups of Ladies (8-20 people) to go to the Chelsea Room from anywhere in Manhattan to please you” and “some of you may know this very arty venue,” was placed on sites like internations.org, Metromix, Model Mayhem, and Plancast. It was also promoted on Twitter by this guy.

It certainly doesn’t look like the Chelsea Room’s management cares about who’s showing up. Not that it should be an exclusive hang, but another lounge without a clear concept of what it is, with no plans to curate for the sake of ambiance, combined with the terribly cliche trend of slapping together some barn wood and exposed brick, scans like they’re just not trying here. Which is a shame.

But I could be wrong. To be honest, this comes as speculation, as I have yet to set foot in the new spot. But if it’s a soft opening, create buzz softly. On the upside, Ladyfag will be hosting a party this Friday called Clubber Down Disco, which might create buzz for her band of New York club kids hankering for a dose of house music, with help from resident DJ Honey Dijon and Jason the Black Teen Wolf. Also on the upside, a Yelper had this to say about her experience:

The Chelsea Hotel is a NYC landmark with a raucous rock and roll history. Creating a club/lounge out of the basement could easily disappoint diehards but this was plain fun, the old fashioned way. I look forward to watching it evolve and just hope they keep it simple.

Still, I fantasize about the Chelsea Room drawing the kind of crowd that has a bit of reverence for the ancient space, or at the very least, finding a proper promotions company that can take care of building a clientele, one that’s slightly more diverse than “hot lingerie models.”

Exile from Mulberry St.

Did you miss me? I missed you. I have now realized fully that Brooklyn is not just a state of mind but an actual place, with a river between me and what I have always known as home. I still live in boxes and my computer is awaiting the services of the cable guy. I’m not good at moving, better at shaking. I have deigned to try writing from an internet café, but it’s going to be tough. Everything is vegan and soy and I was told by the nice man that the honey lavender corn muffin made with spelt is awesome. Today, as boxes are recycled and the normal chaos of my home life crawls out from under the piles of stuff, I return to write. Napolean leaving Elba is a fair comparison. I even learned a palindrome: “Able was I ere I saw Elba.”

Besides the moving, I’ve been doing things. I visited Michael Alig up in his joint where he is awaiting imminent news of his fate. He is hoping to move himself from his DJ booth-sized cell back to the street. He is sharp as can be. All who visit him for the first time are amazed at how aware he is of the real world. He reads everything and is preparing to enter the world 14 years after his crime, which summarized an era that went way bad long before the exclamation point of his murder. His remorse permeates every conversation as well it should. He is chomping at the bit, aching for the opportunity to redeem himself and repay a society he feels he owes big time. He wants to reconnect with friends who have forsaken him, tried to forget him, or have succeeded in doing so. Larry Seidler, who flew in from San Fran for the visit, united with your humble writer in trying to convince Mike to wade into the pool of his new life rather than jump off the diving board. A splash isn’t necessary. A period of adjustment, adaptation, and understanding surely is.

Promoters for the most part are driven by a need to be loved and accepted. Critics will say “and the money,” but that isn’t what drives them. The great ones could make millions in a million ways. They are charismatic, quick on their feet, and unstoppable. A great club promoter would be a great lawyer or ad man or banker. I have always believed that a big hole exists in all of them, that only love can fill. When I was the general, I looked for that hole when hiring captains and privates. Knowing how big that hole was and how to fill it was key to controlling them. Michael has the biggest hole I ever encountered. It is rarely filled these days—a visit, a letter, a care package. He will soon or eventually walk amongst us again. Visiting him, one becomes aware of the word rehabilitation. Michael is rehabilitate , remorseful and ready to do his part.

I have been invited to peruse the Chelsea Room, that basement boite at the Chelsea Hotel. I was first shown the joint by the legendary hotel’s former owner/operator/curator Stanley Bard. He envisioned it as a literary hangout/coffee shop/ bar/gathering place for artists and intellectuals. It has opened under a bunch of names, always catering to peeps who rarely if ever associated with the hotel. Bottles have been peddled with limited success and maybe that’s best. The crew inviting me are a real disconnect from my Chelsea Hotel. I guess that isn’t fair. The days of Dylan Thomas, Herbert Hunke, Arthur C. Clark, Dee Dee Ramone, Arthur Weinstein and the rest are gone, memorialized by some bronze plaques that are sometimes the focus of tourist cameras. The Chelsea Room was never part of that. It was a storage room, an afterthought. Jeff Krauss invited me down to look and so I will, as he is a really nice person.

Today’s piece will be short and sweet as I too need to wade back into things. I have been booked to do Halloween as a DJ. I will do the Saturday at the Hudson Hotel’s Library with my pal Paul Sevigny. In all the years I have known him I can’t recall DJing with him. Paul is very smart. The place has every room booked with great parties. I’ll tell you all about it after I settle in. On the Sunday, the actual Halloween night, I will DJ at the Standard Hollywood with my dear friend Christine Renee and a still to be determined guest. I was born out in Queens but I’ll represent Brooklyn.