How Insider Josh Wagner Throws Down

Last weekend, BlackBook Industry Insider Josh Wagner, the regional director of nightlife for Morgans Hotel Group in Miami, celebrated his 30th birthday with no remorse about getting older. He threw down. With the help of close friend Lil Jon (who shares the same birthday), Wagner and 100 of his closest friends re-lived the glory of their college years in honor of the big 3-0 in South Beach. Details after the jump.

(‘DiggThis’)How’d you celebrate turning 30? Lil Jon and I actually share the same birthday and we’ve been friends for years. We decided a couple of months ago that we were going to do our birthdays together at the Florida Room. Lil Jon and Pitbull were on the mic all night doing their thing and there was a bevy of Miami DJs that include everyone from DJ Irie to Ross 1 and Ruckus was on the bill and Jon was spinning and Matteo Di Fontaine who was DJing with U2 for the last six months on tour . There were about seven different DJs who passed through during the night and it was just a pretty ridiculous, raging party. We also had the Big Bounce perform before that from 10-midnight.

How are you and Lil Jon friends? Jon and I have known each other for years, from Skybar at Shore Club. He came down and there was a massive birthday cake with both our pictures stenciled on it. There was lots of champagne and more importantly, tons of tequila being thrown around the entire night.

Did the festivities continue? On Sunday, at The Standard Hotel, we had a non-conventional South Beach day with a 90 pound pig roast with beer pong and flip cup foosball and mud baths and spa treatments. It was just a bunch of Miami’s finest enjoying a Sunday afternoon trying to re-live their college days. It was keg stands and college’d out. I was in a fraternity when I was in college at University of Wisconsin and you would have definitely known it by seeing me last weekend.


How’d you survive a full weekend of that debauchery? To be honest with you, I had a lot of my friends fly in from out of town who do not work in this industry, and they were so much more inebriated than I was, so I actually felt good the whole weekend. Maybe it was sad because I could consume a lot more than they could, but it was very funny to see on Sunday , a bunch of models in bikinis and old frat boys play flip cup together. Very funny.

Biggest highlights? My 63 year old mother was spotted chugging a bottle of tequila at Lil Jon’s table.

Was this your best birthday party ever? 25 was pretty amazing. I was utterly surprised and I’d never been surprised before. I had about 30 of my friends unbeknownst to me fly into town and completely shock me. This one was a wonderful way to enter my 30’s.

Photo: Seth Browarnik/ Red Eye Productions

Miami: Top 10 Spots to Get Laid

Rose Bar at the Delano (South Beach) – For you more classy folk, find your way to the bar and order a round of bubbly. There’s nothing like champers to attract some female attention. ●Prive (South Beach) – School is back in sesh soon, and this is where the hungry frosh head to get their groove on. All it will cost you is a screwdriver. ●B.E.D. (South Beach) – Because sometimes all it takes is a few cocktails and an accessible BED.

Skybar (South Beach) – Out-of-towners come here for a chance celeb encounter. If you keep the tonic flowing, chances are they won’t be disappointed you aren’t John Mayer or one of the Jonas Bros. ●Casa Tua (South Beach) – Find a pal with entry upstairs, and you pretty much have it in the bag. ●Plunge (South Beach) – This is where the Magic City’s most eligible skirts and shorts find themselves lingering on a Thursday night. ●Club 50 (Downtown/Brickell area) – Rumor has it this is where all the “good ones” have been flocking on Friday nights. Well worth a trip off the beach, even if you don’t get lucky. ●Florida Room (South Beach) – Grab your wingman and get down with SoBe’s 20-something crowd. ●Space (Downtown/Brickell area) – Debauchery ensues at about 6a. ●Mansion (South Beach) – Promiscuous Girl should be the anthem at this fist-pumping club. Throngs of scantily clad chicks wait impatiently for the next round or free entry.

Miami Itinerary: The Bachelor Party

Oh, ye old time tested and treasured art of the Bachelor Party. A rite of passage. It signifies an end of one era, heralds another, and reveals just how brilliant or sleazy your male counterparts may be (as if you didn’t already know). Some celebrate with strippers, steak, and one-night stands. Others keep it classy, opting for a day of golf, steak, and cigars. Whatever your forte, gentlemen, South Beach on the Ocean Drive home stretch has this male bonding event covered. A little bit cheesy, a little bit rock ‘n’ roll. Let the male bonding commence.

Stay: The Clevelander. Enough debauchery for your cousin; enough class for your fiancé’s brother.

Friday 9 p.m.: Arrive to Miami International Airport and prepare for a Rock Star host — your Clevelander concierge for the weekend — to pick you up in a fully stocked H2 limousine. 10 p.m.: 1020 Music Boxx. The signature Lynchburg lemonade and margarita pitchers should put you in the right mindset for the evening, or perhaps will render you mindless, which are essentially one and the same condition. 12:30 a.m.: The Florida Room. Suitably tipsy, the Lucite piano and the fact that Lenny Kravitz designed it will all start to make sense.

Saturday 10 a.m.: You may have taken advantage of all that Miami nightlife has to offer into the wee morning hours, but do yourself a favor and unwind on SPF4, The Clevelander’s small open-air deck overlooking the pool and beach for your eating and lounging pleasure. Order up Becca’s Egg Sandwich — a hearty bacon, egg, cheese, and pesto sandwich on San Francisco-style sourdough toast. Down several Bloody Marys and you’ll be back in action. 12 p.m.: Have your Rock Star concierge hook you up with Jet Skis for you and your troupe. Charge it to the room so the best man can pay for it later. 3 p.m.: News Cafe. Spinach dip and sandwiches after water sports. Feel like a local with the other tourists. 4:30 p.m.: Splash Model Showcase. Watch a weekly bathing suit competition from under the Yogurt Bar back at The Clevelander. You can promise your wife-to-be that you never went to a strip club! 8 p.m.: Kobe Club. Shower and after shave on, it’s time to eat, and really eat here; a den of dark leather, steak, and steel weaponry. When the boys get together, these things must be involved. 10 p.m.: Casa Tua. You’re in Miami — may as well try to weasel your way into this clandestine Mediterranean-style beach house for a pre-drink with the boys. Everyone (whether famous or fame-challenged) eventually drops by for a drink. Do as the everyones do. 11 p.m.: LIV. This is why you’ve come to Miami. The ‘Bleau has opened a Vegas-style megaclub for SoBe, the type of place where you could see Brit losing her stuff next to Hilton and Kardashian, and you’ll inevitably find yourself in a long bathroom line. Party like a rock star all the way back to your rock star suite.

Sunday 11 a.m.: Ice Box. You’re feeling like you might want to stick your head in an icebox. Cozy up to the classic comfort food until you and your mates are comfortable once again. Cream cheese French toast should soak up the syrup and everything else you did last night. 1 p.m.: Richard Petty Driving Experience. Sure, you could golf, but judging from last night you’re in the business of making bad decisions, and jumping into a tiny race car sans air-conditioning is a bad idea — until you and your groomsmen are barreling down the Homestead-Miami Speedway at 160mph. Then it’s a great idea. 5 p.m.: One last drink at Plunge. The roof pool promises lots of ladies in bikinis providing one last look at all that South Beach is most known for.

Industry Insiders: Josh Wagner, Hotel Barman

As regional director of nightlife for Morgans Hotel Group in Miami, Josh Wagner oversees Skybar at the Shore Club, Sunset Lounge at Mondrian, and Florida Room at the Delano. Here, he talks to us about cachaça, Grace Jones shedding tears, and growing a beard.

What are your favorite places in Miami, outside of Morgans properties? The pool at The Standard Hotel is the most relaxing place in Miami, period. There’s an incredible place called Silvia’s. It’s this inland restaurant on the canal where nobody speaks any English, and you can pick your fish in an icebox right there, and they cook it up right on the spot for you. I love the bar at Smith & Wollensky. I like Abbey Brewing Co. because it’s a tiny bar that just has beer and a dart board, and on any night off, there’s nothing better than a pint and a game of darts.

What does “regional director of nightlife” entail? I make sure that we have the proper finger on the pulse of what’s happening. Plus I control the decision-making on anything from special events, music and entertainment, any programming. Anything regarding nightlife or entertainment.

What’s the most difficult part of your job? Sleeping and not being able to find enough time to sleep.

How would you describe yourself? As a gentleman who is calculating and knows what I would like to accomplish in my life.

And what would you like to accomplish in your life? I’d like to have a hotel chain that features great public areas, that has great food and beverage options. It’ll be very much the equation of successful boutique hotels. Then I’ll retire from that, become a politician for 15 years, and teach history to college kids wearing a corduroy jacket with elbow patches and a pipe and a big beard.

Every night, do you jump around between all three places? I spend most of my time at the Florida Room because my office is at Delano, but I bounce around to the three as much as I can.

How do these three spots differ? Symbiotic with the actual hotel properties themselves, each of the properties offers something unique. The properties share certain characteristics that are similar and very distinct to Morgans, but they are also three completely different experiences. Skybar at the Shore Club is a larger venue where you can sit and have a club-like experience in the Red Room, or have cocktails outside in the garden or poolside. You have Nobu and Ago on that property as well. The Florida Room is the smaller, more intimate gem sitting under the basement of Delano. When Ian Schrager built it, the mentality was that we have to build an iconic lounge underneath to follow suit. It’s a Latin-style speakeasy piano bar, and every night, we do live music followed by atypical DJ sets. It’s a very non-South Beach formula of 70s, 80s funk, old-school hip-hop. The clientele at the Florida Room is very mature, and it’s not a forced mentality of bottle service. Any night, you’ll walk down and you can see a performance of anyone from Grace Jones to Perry Farrell. Between all three of our properties, you can really roam and experience something completely different.

How’s business at the Mondrian? The Mondrian is our newest property down here, and the Sunset Lounge is there because Miami has kind of always lacked a place for the people who have a regular 9-5 job. This is a place to have cocktails right after work, or use as a pre-dinner/post-dinner venue for cocktails. The Mondrian is the first hotel built in 40 years on the west side of South Beach, with beautiful views at sunset. We really wanted to create an offering for people to sit and have cocktails and not feel like they’re being forced to enjoy Miami clubland. It’s relaxed and chill. There we have a cachaça bar. Cachaça is what tequila was 15 years ago. We have 60 different types of cachaça, and we infuse 8 different flavors. You can enjoy a wonderful, tropical environment with a properly made cocktail with crushed ice, and anything from cardamom and pineapple to passion fruit and chili. You genuinely feel like you’re on a tropical vacation at the Sunset Lounge.

Are there any personal touches that you’ve added to these venues? The people that work there. One of the things that we really pride ourselves on is seeing people succeed, and for us, it seems that at all of our properties we have our family. You’d experience that when you go there, that there’s someone who cares about their job, and they see their future potential in it. I’m really proud of the teams that we’ve created.

What do you look for in potential employees? I look for people who care, who smile and are friendly. We’re in the business of engaging with guests and talking with people. You have to be a people person. We help create experiences, and when people come out to enjoy themselves at Morgans hotels, they’re looking to make memories, to have positive experiences. I look for staffers who want to help make moments, and we’ve done a pretty good job finding them.

What’s your favorite property? I’d have to say the Florida Room because you never know what’s going to turn up there. Lenny Kravitz designed the lounge, and some of the most intimate moments of live music that I’ve ever seen have been in the Florida Room.

Most memorable experience there? When we had Perry Farrell performing in the middle of the room, surrounded by a cocoon of people … everybody was just completely entrenched in the fact that they would have this man sweating on them. Grace Jones was sitting and crying in front of an audience that she was actually touching in a room that fits no more than 250 people.

How was Lenny Kravitz involved in the design of the Florida Room? Lenny has a design company called Kravitz Design, and the Florida Room is actually their first public project. They created this gorgeous room with Swarovski crystal chandeliers and a $150,000 custom-made Schimmel lucite piano. There’s only three in the world, and the other two are in Lenny’s apartments in New York and in Paris. There are leather ceilings and glass-beaded wallpaper. The place oozes sophistication and intimacy.

What’s going on in nightlife in Miami from a general perspective? Nightlife in Miami is at a major crossroads, and bottle service is obviously dead. It was uncool two years ago. It was a means to be able to gain access and purchase real estate that nobody else was able to buy. But 2009 is the year of the bartender. That guy who used to go out and spend $2,000 on a table is still going out, but now he’s spending $200 at the bar. Places that have great bartenders and great cocktails are places that are not going to see a real dip in sales at the bar. Happy or sad people always like to drink; that’s one thing that always needs to be remembered. The juice in that bottle, that stuff is liquid gold. Go down to Wall Street now, you look at the pubs around Wall Street, and they’re absolutely packed. Those guys are having rough times, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t afford a couple beers at the end of their day.

Miami: Top 5 New Year’s Eve Parties

imageWe tried for a top 10, but settled for 5. After all, we are in recession, people. If Cup O’ Noodle and sparkling cider is on your New Year’s Eve menu, may we suggest rolling out a blanket on Ocean Drive and 8th Street for some free-of-charge fireworks viewing. If, however you wanna be a baller, consider the following. 1. The Mondrian Miami hotel is teaming up with Tommy Pooch and Alan Roth to ring in “Recessison,” a.k.a. NYE 2009. Two hundred bucks will buy you an entry into the Sunset Lounge, where a 20-piece orchestra will mix with tunes spun by DJ Tavin. Resident eatery Asia de Cuba offers a range of packages depending on your wallet and/or appetite. 2. If you’re a reality TV junky, head on up to the Shore Club, where Kristin Cavallari is set to make an appearance. Organized by Skybar and New York’s Tenjune, live performances will include Busta Rhymes, Ron Brownz, and Pras. Mos Def spins while you pay — $275 to be exact.

3. The Fontainebleau’s New Year’s Eve approach is diversification. Adam Levine and Maroon 5 are set to entertain the masses poolside, while Diddy, in his usual style, is king at LIV, the hotel’s nightclub. 4. The Delano’s evening agenda is equally impressive. $350 will put you front and center at the Florida Room for an exclusive performance by the Roots. Janelle Monae will perform poolside. 5. If you follow T.I.’s criminal drama, then Gansevoort South Hotel is where it’s at. Watch him perform “Whatever You Like” flanked by federal security guards. Yeah, that is how T.I. rolls these days. Chloe Sevigny should do a fine job hosting, while Wilhelmina Models, celebrating their official New Year’s Eve party, will collectively try to figure out how to pop a champagne bottle. That alone is worth the $400 ticket.

Art Basel Insiders: Tommy Ryk, Scenester DJ

What do you do? I’m a filmmaker and a DJ. I like to surf and bang as well.

What are you planning on doing for Art Basel? Convention Center, Downtown, Murakami at Louis, Adult at the White Room, Kanye West at Florida Room.

What are 3 restaurants/bars/clubs you recommend for people visiting Basel this week? Louis, Rokbar, Florida Room.

What do you like about Art Basel? Girls with some style, cool art too!

What don’t you like about Art Basel? Sparing use of deodorant by too many. What’s up with that?

image DJ Tommy Ryk gets crunk at Louis with artist Takashi Murakami during a Basel event this week.

Art Basel: Champagne Pyramids & Pharrell Williams No-Show

A cluster of nearly nude baby-faced models holding one of twelve artist-designed pop-up books greeted guests entering the Krug champagne/Visionaire 55: Surprise party at the Raleigh Hotel. The celebrated boxed set of hardcover books includes designs by photog legends Steven Meisel, Mario Testino, and Steven Klein. I couldn’t help but marvel at Testino’s subject focus on male models — how incredibly fitting.


Once I tore myself away from the initial eye candy distractions, I laid my eyes upon the unofficial hedonist icon of Art Basel, a perfect picture of extravagance: a towering pyramid fountain of oversized, overflowing champagne flutes. It was a stunning sight, and I almost shed a glistening tear, until I realized that the liquid was not, indeed, a surplus of Krug champagne. It was all for aesthetic appeal. Should have known better.


Marilyn Manson, Bruce Weber, Marc Jacobs, Pharrell Williams, and Rachel Zoe were among the attendees at the open-air beach event. And no party in Miami is worthy of talk unless it includes a throng of drag queens.

The after party for the Byron Theatre screening of Che was taking place in close vicinity — the Raleigh ballroom — where Benicio del Toro and Steven Soderbergh sat outside surrounded by overwhelming praise for the film (running time: over four hours). I know of quite a few who opted out of the screening for this reason specifically … time is money, after all.

Post-Pharrell appearance, the party buzz back at Visionaire confirmed that he would perform at the Florida Room with surprise guests (some heard Timbaland, others Kanye). Those in the know hustled over to the Delano and vied for a place inside. Turns out the rumor was a fabrication; Pharrell would not wow us with his talent. His business manager claims that there were issues involving his fee; we’re in a recession, remember? Much of the New York clubby set left to hit Mokai nightclub, where the party continued, Pharrell or no Pharrell.

Art Basel: Cartier Dreams, Forbes Yacht Party, Caviar & Grace Jones

Recession schmession. At the Art Basel events in Miami, the champagne is still flowing like Fiji water. From the rumor that UBS would not tone down their annual dinner and gala — even amid scandal speculation — to the abundance of caviar on hors d’ouvre trays, it all smells like decadence to me. Cartier hosted a preview of “Diamonds, Gold and Dreams,” an approximately seven-minute film by David Lynch projected inside the Cartier Dome in the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens. The transfixing film features cascading diamonds and Cartier jewels on 180 degrees of ceiling projection with an equally mesmerizing score. It played once every hour, leaving partygoers hungry for more. The Dome, built specifically for this event and film, took two weeks to construct and will be disassembled directly after Basel.


Kelly Klein and Andre Balazs hosted a book signing at the Raleigh hotel for Klein’s new book, Horse, where Palm Beach socialites and Miami transplants such as Fabian Basabe had the opportunity to purchase the monstrous collection of equestrian-inspired photographs. Luckily, the option to ship was available. None of the Basel-savvy would really want to tote that around.


The Forbes family threw their annual gala aboard the Highlander, the legendary Forbes yacht. Among attendees were Ivana Trump, and Kipton Cronkite of KiptonArt. Ivana stole the show and caused a decent amount of excitement among the fairly reserved crowd.


Photog Patrick McMullan recruited a posse of young ladies here — myself included — and zipped us off to the Versace mansion for a cocktail toasting Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia and the jewelry collection bearing his name.


The Euro-intensive crowd was stereotypically Versace … big jewels, big money, and big cosmetic enhancements. The most expensive piece on display around the perimeter of the Versace courtyard was a double emerald ring with a retail value of $2.3 million. Pocket change.


Although caviar was in abundance, they did run out of Veuve at an early hour. I speculate that the party’s organizers cut costs on the musical entertainment: Violin players appeared to serenade the crowd from an upper-level balcony, but after taking a closer look, I realized that they were not actually touching the strings of their musical instruments, just swaying with the beat of pre-recorded pop music.

Patrick’s posse eventually disbanded and headed to the Audi fete for Grace Jones at the Florida Room of the Delano. Grace rocked the house, and the smoky space seemed to bob in unison to her hits “La Vie en Rose” and “Libertango.” The music legend attracted celebs such as Benicio del Toro, Kirsten Dunst, David LaChapelle and an Olsen. Once the open bar closed, the Basel crowd flocked in and settled into the Miami hotspot for a long night of dazzle and broken champagne flutes.

Miami: Top 5 Most Anticipated Openings

imageShiny. New. Can we play with it?

1. Florida Room at the Delano Designer Lenny Kravitz makes old school new again. Super tight entry for live music that shifts to latenight DJ tracks. 2. Gansevoort South Bringin’ the party to vaunted 1926 landmark. Rooftop pool packs more heat than even the New York original. 3. Pacific Time Chef Jonathan Eismann finally reopened his famous Pan-Asian haunt. Trendier Design District incarnation trumps Old South Beach version.

4. Domo Japones New eatery run by Buck15/Miss Yip’s and Bond St. peeps. Fish is proper and the scene pops ’til 2am every night. 5. Kobe Club SoBe outpost finally opens to pamper globe-trotting movie moguls, Miami scene makers, and splurging snowbirds tucked into secluded booths.