Christo to Build Six-Mile Canopy Over Arkansas River

Good news for fans of both the United States’ 6th largest tributary, and the most popular Bulgarian-born, large-scale environmental artist in the world. Christo has been allowed to turn the Arkansas River into a massive work of art. The project, dubbed “Over the River,” will consist of eight silvery panels suspended across nearly six miles of the Arkansas River to form a shiny canopy.

“Over the River” will be Christo’s first work constructed without the help of his wife and collaborator Jeanne-Claude, who died two years ago. The pair’s last work was “The Gates,” 7,503 orange arches that dotted paths in Central Park. “The Gates” occupied the park for only 15 days, but were forever immortalized as the place where Tony Danza fell while rollerblading.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude had been planning “The Gates” for decades, but ran into relentless opposition from bureaucratic obstacles, until they finally got the green light from Mayor Bloomberg. Christo faced similar difficulties with “Over the River,” but apparently paperwork is all part of his artistic process. “Every artist in the world likes his or her work to make people think,” he told the New York Times. “Imagine how many people were thinking, how many professionals were thinking and writing in preparing that environmental impact statement.”

It’s worth noting that Christo footed the bill for said environmental impact statement (which turned out to be about $6 million), and he will also be providing the dough for the Bighorn Sheep Adaptive Management Fund, which will work to make sure “Over the River” doesn’t mess with the animal’s migratory or feeding habits.

The loudest opposition came from a group who called themselves “Rags Over the Arkansas River.” Their website cites concerns such as, “How the influx of the projected 344,000-400,000 tourists will create a traffic nightmare on the narrow 2-lane canyon highway,” and “Difficulty, or even impossibility, of fishing of these waters.” “Keep your rags in NYC,” one picketer’s sign reads on picture on the site, but clearly their efforts didn’t work.

The project is set to launch in 2014. No news on whether or not Tony Danza and his rollerblades plan to visit.

Weighing In on Quo’s Gary Malhotra

A call over the weekend came from a player over at Quo, that nightclub on 28th street that you people never go to. Quo is a club for outer borough non-hipster types who want a big city experience but can’t get into most places. It makes money for the owners, the staff and the food carts, as this crowd thinks meat on a stick is eating out. The caller was upset at me because of a comment in the New York Post that was attributed to me. According to the article the comment was in response to, Gary Malhotra, an owner of Quo, has been accused of coercing a waitress to allow her to let him snort cocaine off various body parts. The post article details allegations made in a lawsuit filed by the waitress. I did not make this comment and I assured the caller that if I had I would own up to it. He accepted this and told me he had a pretty good idea who used my good name.

The comment in the Post running under my name reads:

You heard it here first- this is the only the tip of the iceberg with this freak-show!!! Gary Malhotra is widely known as the most decrepit excuse for a human being in an already sleazy industry. People have been saying it was “only a matter of time” for him to be busted for YEARS. There are far more disgusting stories about him at Quo as well as his other club- Suzie Wong. Underage, drunk girls being forced to have sex and do blow for entry or work and plenty more. Watch how many girls will now come out of the shadows to tell their stories. NYPD and SLA should launch a full investigation! This guy is literally known as “Satan” within the industry.

Again, I did not make this comment, but I would be hard pressed not to agree with some of it. I received multiple calls from people I know applauding my “comment.” I told them I didn’t write it, but they continued with war stories about Malhotra. Gary Malhotra is not actually a bad person when he is sober and calm. I myself have been real close to blows with him on two occasions over this exact behavior. My ex, who was a waitron for him when the place was called Prime, called me in the middle of a night telling me he had demanded to use her in the manner the Post alleges. I went to his club with bad intentions. I was stopped inside by mutual and serious friends who assured me they would deal with him and it would never happen again. I was of course not satisfied and had intentions of meeting up with him at a later date to “clear the air.”

I debated writing this article because many of the people working at Quo are people I like. However, this column is dedicated to the truth, and the truth is that, from my personal experience, Malhotra does cross just about every line in the book in regards to sexual harassment of waitresses. I have seen it first-hand — he has admitted it to me. He needs help.

It is not as common as many would assume that waitresses and staff are harassed by owners or management. At Spa I fired a manager after he fired a bartender who refused his advances. When I ran joints I had a female employee with me during all interviews and interactions with employees. I always kept my office door open. To use fear of being fired to coerce inappropriate behavior is despicable.

Gary and I almost came to blows a few months ago when he confronted me at The Gates. I hadn’t seen him in over a year when he grabbed my arm and got loud. He objected to remarks made in this column about him; he said they were uncalled for. I said, “Gary, you tried to snort coke off my ex’s tits.” My tone was unfriendly and my eyes were glaring. Gary got into my face and loudly denied my allegations. My date stood with her mouth wide open as a crowd watched me move closer. I looked him hard in his eyes and said, “You’re a liar. You did it.” A long second passed and he slumped, got terribly sad and admitted it. He asked me to forgive him with much sincerity. I did immediately. He was embarrassed and broken and seemed truly remorseful. All the anger left me seeing him like this.

This is a sad situation, not an angry one. I’ve seen Gary picking his kid up from school and proudly wearing a suit after a day in court. He is a lawyer by day. He’s a guy you want to like. I am sorry to say that the allegations by the waitress probably will ring true. I feel obligated to share my experience even though I hold no grudge against the man. This is the kind of thing that can’t be swept under the rug, and I for one cannot remain quietly on the sidelines.

I’ve made it very clear very often that one of my favorite joints to hang my hat, put up my feet and shoot the breeze is Lit Lounge. The employees and regulars at the place are like a family, which is a feeling the the old clubs used to have and some of the new ones still do. Monika Piechoczek is a coat-check gal with an infectious smile and sharp mind. Tonight she is throwing a soiree called Animal House and will DJ for the first time. She says:

It’s my first time DJing ever! We’re trying to make it an awesome dance party ranging from old funk and disco hits to hip hop and newer indie dance. Drew, DJ SPlDIF, has been spinning for seven years. He’s new to New York, imported from Kansas and specializes in mash-ups. He takes the most awesome beats and makes them last. I just took the open night as an opportunity that needed to be seized, so I asked Foss. It’s like a leap into spring; make-out, dance, funk, anything goes. I’m hoping this will be a start of something epic and Monday night dance is the new business. Start your business days off right!

Anything goes? Well, no smoking for sure!

Image: Lit Lounge Via Supertouchchart

Industry Insiders: Roberto Vuotto, Hookah Master

After a five year stint owning the Chelsea restaurant Naima , Roberto Vuotto is reintroducing himself as General Manager of the brand spanking new triple threat, Veranda. The bi-level West Village space is a restaurant, discothèque and hookah lounge all rolled into one, and Vuotto, a Capri native who came to New York as a busboy over 10 years ago, has the substantial task of making it all run smoothly. With his latest endeavor, Vuotto hopes to keep the hookahs lit and the music thumping for the next five years, and the five after that too.

Describe your job as General Manager of Veranda. I coordinate a lot of things — from the opening of the kitchen to the lounge. We have a hookah lounge, so this is my first experience dealing with that. We have two rooms, which right now are opened as part of the lounge. Very soon one of the rooms will be opening as the restaurant.

What kind of food will Veranda serve? It’s going to be Contemporary/Mediterranean cuisine with accent on Middle Eastern. We hope to secure the chef to the Saudi Arabian royal family. Because this neighborhood is really demanding we want to make sure that the kitchen is perfect and ready. When you start doing fusion, it’s difficult to makes sure everything is executed properly. We want to feature simple dishes that are done well. There are going to be a lot of seats and in the summer there are an additional 126 seats outside. So, it’s best to keep it simple due to the high volumes.

After owning Naima, why the switch to management level? In these economic times, owning a place is a huge amount of responsibility in terms of making everything square at the end of the month. It was a good run and we had a lot of fun. We didn’t do as much business as we hoped and it wasn’t worth it for me for the amount of work that I was doing. Thankfully, I was able to sell Naima, and at the same time I had this offer from Mino Habib who I worked with for ten years at Le Souk and Max in the East Village.We started working on the same block on West 27th street when he was managing Suzie Wong and I owned Naima. He mentioned to me that he was about to open a big place and I was ready to sell, so it was perfect timing. I really wanted that challenge of something new and bigger.

Who in the business inspires you? Keith McNally. I had a chance to go to his first place before I was even living in New York. He started with a nightclub, which was what I did in Capri, Italy. Then he went on to open Balthazar and Pastis, etc. so, I admire how he set up his operations and marketing.

How did you end up in New York? I worked in the club business in Capri for many years and I had clients from New York. I had a lot of friends living here and I would come once a year. Eventually I was offered a job in a restaurant so I decided to stay.

What positive trends did you see occurring in the NYC lounge/restaurant business over the past year? With the economy the way it is, rents have gone down so there is more of a chance for people to open without having a huge amount of expenses and people are able to find a space they can afford. I’ve been seeing many new lounges and clubs opening recently. When I opened Naima, it was impossible to find a storefront in Chelsea. Now if you walk around, you see much more available.

Negative trends? Lounges and restaurants make a lot of revenue from corporate clients, but that’s not happening anymore because the first thing companies cut is the entertainment and dining. That’s what happened at Naima.

What do you hope that Veranda will bring to NYC nightlife and the neighborhood? I hope to bring something new, which is a culmination of a restaurant with a hookah lounge but very upscale, offering bottle service. In this neighborhood there isn’t a place where you can have dinner and then walk down a hallway and dance to electronic Middle Eastern music. We’ll bring an exotic element to the neighborhood, not only in dining but also in late night as well. Where you go in New York there is always the same music so this will be something new and more particular.

Go-to spots? When it comes to Italian food I’m very picky. My favorite restaurant is La Masseria. It’s a very classic Italian place in Midtown. I go out to 1Oak on Sundays, and I also go to Griffin and The Gates. Another place that I love is Onda down at the Seaport.

Michael Alig’s Progress, Liskula Cohen’s Prowess, Ted Kennedy’s Egress

I hear from Michael Alig quite often, although for many months I have stopped writing and visiting him. His bust in jail for illegal drugs indicated to me that he wasn’t taking my advice and efforts to reintroduce him to the world in a positive light seriously. He is in a repeat drug offender facility in solitary, with few privileges, about five hours from where I write. In a letter I received from him the other day, he was coherent and remorseful and understanding of my position. He has cut out many of the enablers from his ridiculous “fan club,” taking himself off their message boards. He seems to be trying again to get himself ready for the world. Our mutual friend, the brilliant artist Fernanda Cohen, visited him and read him the riot act. He swears he will embrace the “normal” and adult and creative friends he still has and forsake the Manson-like cult followers that celebrate all that is wrong about him.

Michael said, “That’s when it dawned on me … it’s really the only thing you could do. A time away, like a long ‘time out,’ is what’s needed to instill in me the importance of being good. If I’m really understanding this completely, you’re doing this because you really do care.”

The right words for sure, but their sincerity coming from Michael — the master manipulator — is of course in question. I am of course an optimist and will always try to find the good in people, probably because so many have tried hard to find the good in me. Michael has been shown some leniency from the powers that control his destiny, and he may be getting out sooner than previously thought. I think a year from next May is a good bet. I will give him a holler in the next couple of days, as you all knew I would.

Today I got a message from Malaysia. I took most of it out because Malaysia has all sorts of repressive rules, and I didn’t want to cause any pain. The writer speaks of Michael and his influence and that of the club kid movement that Michael helped create. The club kid movement gave hope to gay people and disenfranchised young people all over the world. The creativity and love at the core of the movement needs to be celebrated — possibly preserved and maybe reborn. A freed Michael surely will not be much more than a reminder of how wrong things can go if drugs and greed corrupt good ideas, but a Michael purged of his demons or in control of them can be a positive influence. Here’s the letter with certain elements redacted:

… I am a former club kid. In my last year of school, we had a club in Kuala Lumpur by the name of Boom Boom Room, which was the home to many of us. For the first time, we weren’t stuck in dingy, decrepit gay clubs which were really in a pathetic state then. Not so surprising for a country which is a Muslim majority nation and quite strict on a lot of matters. You may have come across the recent headlines of a Muslim woman to be whipped for consuming beer.

So Boom Boom became my home from 1993. I had never heard of club kids before that, and never read Disco Bloodbath or watched the Party Monster documentary or movie until a couple of years ago. The “freaks” in us — just bonded for some reason, and it just disappeared for no reason sometime in 1997.

While I’d say we were more Disney compared to the more hardcore partying that must have been the scene there then, fashion, sex, drugs and booze was very much present.

The scene here however is now gone. People don’t really know how to have a good night out now — and club inhabitants now don’t celebrate the whole clubbing experience. I have followed the comments to your articles on Michael with much interest, and I share your sentiment. I am amazed how you can hold on to friendship. I may have found it way too difficult in your position as I see Michael — the positive and beautiful side of who he is aside, extremely self destructive.

An interesting sidebar to the Liskula Cohen scandal. One of the most beautiful (inside and out) people I have ever encountered, Liskula went to court to find out the name of an anonymous blogger who called her a skank and a ho. The court ruled that she had a right to know who said these slanderous things. It turned out to be someone close to home, but that’s a well-covered story, and gossip isn’t my line of work. Coincidentally, the judge in this case was also the presiding judge in the Pacha trial, State Supreme Court Justice Joan Madden; she’s apparently getting quite an education in club life. I wonder if all those anonymous commentators over at DBTH and other blogs realize they can now be exposed with just a little bit of effort. Slander seems to be slander even if it’s on the web.

I will be attending the “Want to Be a Tabloid Whore?” Party tonight at the Gates, not in honor of the Liskula slander suit or because I’m hoping to meet … well, you fill in your own blank. I am attending because I was invited by my pal the beautiful Lisa Melezhik and by Justine McCarthy of Simply Chic PR. I also want to revisit the Gates where because I wasn’t too kind to the joint when it opened. Although it isn’t nor will it ever be the standard bearer of New York nightlife, it has survived and thrived and is enjoyed by many.

We seem to be flat out of Kennedys, and I for one am deeply saddened by it. Some sad truths and bad lies will be buried with this great man who was born with all the right chances and was later given some more. He used these chances to work tirelessly for those less fortunate than he, which covers just about everyone. How full a life he has lived, how inspiring his story. He was greatly flawed like all of us and made some bad mistakes. Maybe he was the most human of the clan because of it. Anyway the words Teddy spoke in his eulogy of his brother Robert seem appropriate now: “Remember him simply as a good and decent man who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.”

I never understood the egos of those living the club life. In light of the accomplishments of so many other great men and women, our “victories” are merely the flickers of votive candles.
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Expensive Sprinkles at UNICEF’s Next Generation Launch

“This seems like one big Republican party,” an unnamed guest with a distinct southern accent noted last night at The Gates. “Either that or it’s a Yale reunion.” Amid all of this week’s summery soirees, I was most happy to find myself at UNICEF’s Next Generation Launch Event. With Jenna Bush Hager as a committee chair, Grey Goose-sponsored cocktails, and Josh Madden playing DJ, this one particularly disinterested party guest could not sour the bunch — regardless if the bunch was made up of Republican Yalies or not. The event was hosted by the members of UNICEF’s Next Generation Steering Committee, a group composed 30 thirty young scenesters, including Barbara Bush, Lauren Bush, Maggie Betts, and David Lauren, who banded together to party for their very first initiative: Project Sprinkles, as they pledged to raise $175,000 for the program. Not to worry — the program isn’t raising awareness for your Crumbs habit, though the delicious cupcakes were passed at the event. These sprinkles are sugar-free and save lives.

UNICEF’s “Sprinkles” is a nutritional supplement in the form of a powder designed to be sprinkled over food, instantly fortifying the meal with iron, vitamin A, zinc, vitamin C, and folic acid. About 25,000 children die every day from preventable causes such as malnutrition. Though this number is worldwide, the group chose to set their sights on Guatemala, where rising food prices are compounding the problem, and the number of daily deaths is on the rise. The packets are known as “Chispitas” in Guatemala, and look much like small sugar packets — though, as one passionate UNICEF member admitted to me, they are tasteless.

The goal of the Next Generation Committee is to not only raise money for these Chispitas but also to engage younger generations in supporting the world’s children. They hope to reduce the number of daily preventable child deaths to zero through charitable donations, education, engagement, and advocacy. The young group certainly made headway last night, selling raffle tickets for ritzy dinner packages to the Waverly Inn, Hotel Griffou, and Kingswood. Ultimately, between cupcake bites and vodka sips, they were able to raise $45,000.

NYC Nightlife Report: Loving Where You’ve Never Been

Dining might be the new nightlife, so then where does that leave nightlife? Could nightlife be the new shopping? Could it be still alive and well, and hiding behind a bandolier of dusty velvet ropes? Our dear Foster’s existential breakdown and subsequent pocketbook damage got me to thinking about what everyone else (re: people with jobs other than chronicling New York nightlife) is doing with their free time in Manhattan. I cornered a Wall Street Dude, a New York Newbie, a Hipster DJ, a girl-about-town Socialite, a Fashion Intern, and a Lawyer to see what’s going on behind our editorial backs. Turns out actually going someplace isn’t a precursor for strong opinions, pro or con. For example:

WALL STREET DUDE So, what do you think is hot these days in nightlife? Minetta Tavern.

Minetta Tavern. Have you ever been? No. Then how do you know it’s hot? Because it’s impossible to get a reservation. Have you tried? No. Where else do you go? Listen, I’m really busy right now. My choice is Minetta Tavern.

FASHION INTERN Fashion interns always seem to know what the coolest place is before anyone else does; why do you think this is? I don’t know. Most of us are still in college, so we have that network going for us. Otherwise we’re furthering our careers by being fashion whores. Meaning you sleep around a lot? No, like we’re furthering our careers with other people in the industry, so we go where people in the industry go. They’re usually just places where people look cool and interesting, and where no one else really goes, until a bunch of people figure it out and ruin it like they did with Chloe 81. So where are you going these days? The Box has suddenly gotten a second chance at life. Chloe is totally over. The Gates kind of sucks, but everyone else goes there, so why not? Collective Hardware is pretty much the only place I can say I actually like. What about eating? What are the best new restaurants? [Laughs] Um, I’m broke as shit. I eat for a dollar on St. Marks. Otherwise I follow around this promoter, Monroe. He’s a model promoter. We go to STK for free dinner. And on Thursdays The Box has free dinners. Shhh.

LAWYER So what do you think of when you think of cool places to go to in Manhattan? [Wide-eyed] Is this a test of some sort? No, I just want your opinion! Um, okay well when I think of what’s cool in New York I think of downtown? Is that a question or a statement? Oh I don’t know! I’m so far behind. Well, Scarpetta. I like that place a lot. I think dell’anima was really fun and good, and the sister place L’artusi? Otherwise I have my go-to places: Little Owl, Spotted Pig. I can never get away from Freemans. When it comes to bars or clubs, do you think it’s important to spend your dimes on what people would consider a popular spot? Well, I have a screaming infant at home, so I don’t like to go to places like Bungalow 8, or the Eldridge. There’s this place in my neighborhood, Dutch Kills. Have you heard of it? The cocktails are so amazing. They are like designing potions behind the bar. They have like, four different kinds of ice cubes. What do you perceive to be a happening place? The last place I’ve heard of is the Eldridge. And 1Oak.

NEW YORK NEWBIE What do you think is “hot” right now in food and nightlife? I’ve been going to mostly divey places, but I would say Buddakan. Have you eaten or had a drink there?? Have not. Then why do you think they’re so popular? It’s a place I’ve heard talked about the most by my friends who live in the city. What do you think has been the “trendiest” place you’ve been to? Probably more classic than trendy, but the Union Square Cafe is the best restaurant I’ve been to in New York. What is the best meal you’ve eaten? Cuban food at Café Habana on Prince & Elizabeth. It sounds odd, but they have this insanely good corn on the cob grilled with cayenne pepper, spices, and cheese. Where are you from? San Francisco. But I just came here from Canada.

HIPSTER DJ Where are you going these days? I mostly go to BEast. Surprisingly I’m out in the Hamptons a lot, Sole East has gotten to be MAJOR. Webster Hall is great when they have good DJs. What places can’t you stand? I loathe typical places. I loathe the Jane Hotel. I loathe Avenue. I loathe The Gates. Have you been to Avenue? No. What about food? Where are your go-to places for grub? Les Enfants Terribles. The owner is amazing … when you call he answers with you first name, “Hello So-and-so.” He has his little dog running around, so it’s very laid back. I like Emporio — the food is great and they have a great patio. You seem to keep it in the Lower East Side a lot. Why? It’s basically where all of my friends are, and it’s where you hear all the good music.

SOCIALITE So, food. Do you eat it? Yes. I don’t care what people say about Monkey Bar — I love it. And Waverly will always be good; the truffle macaroni and cheese is still to die for. Gilt is good, and Sant Ambroeus for morning tea. I like Charles, Montenapo, and Macao Trading too. Why do you like these places? Well, the atmosphere is fantastic! It’s really personal, all of my friends go there, so there’s always a bunch of table-hopping going on. And if you are feeling mischievous, you get a lot of privacy, since celebrities usually go to these places too. So you feel like you can let loose without worrying. What about drinks? Unfortunately, my favorite places have shut down. I loved Socialista and the Beatrice Inn. I guess 1Oak is good sometimes, but when Scott is there it’s best. And Ronnie. Soho House is getting pedestrian, but it’s still quite nice during the week days. I still like Above Allen, and Raines Law Room.

Opening The Gates & Advanced Jameson Theory

imageA handful of posts ago, I reacted with what The Gates’ owners Redd Styles, Danny Kane, and Michael James thought was an iron fist regarding their soon-to-open club. My less than enthusiastic preview supplied a list of what I thought were glaring problems facing the place. These three guys are friends of mine, and my criticism was seen as a betrayal of sorts, but mutual associates pointed out that the analogy of telling a friend they have toilet paper on their shoe is meant to be helpful. I, as a nightlife writer with an editor and a public that need to see me as an honest broker and as friend, felt the need to point out what ailed them. It wasn’t as if I was the only person who noticed this stuff. Most just air-kissed them on the cheeks and said things like “congratulations,” while whispering behind their backs. And the types that revel in others’ failures spoke out loud. And though I’m not that kind of person, I probably spoke the loudest.

I wasn’t going to attend last night’s grand opening because I had other obligations, but I got a text message on my brand new Crackberry that said, “Please come to The Gates, they got the toilet paper off their shoe.” So I grabbed Dave Delzio and headed up. I had five major criticism last time I visited: sound, lights, DJ, cheap upholstery, and location. The first thing I noticed was the major adjustment to the lighting package. Now, the ancient marble and wood paneling were clearly visible. The sound was also much improved. I had spoken with Dan Agne, one of the best sound dudes in town, about the problems of this room. With hard surfaces everywhere, there is a “lot of bounce,” which creates these little echoes — and what you end up hearing is a muddle of sounds. They did a decent job of making it better; the music sounded better as well. Well, the cheap seats were probably still there, but I couldn’t see them because the place was jammed. As far as location there’s not much that can change that. It just means they have to be on point. A long time ago, I had a club, and my main rival was formidable but in a remote location. I attacked this club — yes, I used to attack my rivals — by concentrating really strong promotional events at their best night. I gave away free booze and wrangled celebrities. I did what was called “giving the house away,” in a Cold War-type atomic attack. Maybe I couldn’t survive long doing this, but I was going to take them down and then rise from the ashes to be the last man standing. It worked. By taking away their thunder even for a few nights, I made people think twice before they spent beaucoup bucks on cab fares to this far-away place. If you are in a remote location, you just have to be solid every night, or people will be reluctant to travel. The three amigos over at The Gates will have to be dedicated to providing a consistently good time if they hope to overcome their 26th and 8th location. The crowd was energetic and pretty — I didn’t see one person with toilet paper on their shoes.

Earlier I had attended my old and absolutely older friend Christine Cho’s birthday party. We ate at Charles, a very beautiful West Village restaurant. It’s located where 7th Avenue meets 10th Street and West 4th Street. I couldn’t find it. My assistant pointed out that my problem with locations may be just another sign of my senility. I do have a cure for that though — the summer intern season is near. I stumbled into Charles 15 minutes late. “I swear, Christine, I would have been on time if it was easier to find.” Her table was the gayest in the neighborhood (no small task) and something I loudly pointed out. “It just got gayer,” was offered from someone in the peanut gallery. Rachelle Hruska, my Guest of a Guest guru, squealed, “Look, they have Tanteo tequila,” and I told her I still hadn’t recovered from her BBQ.

Besides, for the last week I have been worshiping at the altar of that demigod Jameson. My newfound fondness of the sticky liquids is not a binge; it’s more of a research project, a sort of scientific journey to make sure my mental files on the effects of drinking are up to date. Rachelle is getting so much traffic on her GOAG blog that I had to look both ways and adjust my rear-view mirror just to chat with her. Dinner was great, but the $2,400 for 10 people wasn’t necessarily recessionary. Nobody was sober enough to check the check, and we regathered outside and took a leisurely stroll down to Greenhouse.

DJ Michael Cavadis, a.k.a. Lily of the Valley, and James Copalla entertained a packed house of revelers. The old-school mix of gays and straights of different generations that so many feel is impossible to find in this era was banging around the basement of the eco-friendly haunt. A promoter type waddled over to me and gave me the obligatory “love your blog” fist-pound hello. He loved the toilet paper shoe thingy and asked me if “those guys at The Gates knew how much of a favor you did them?” I told him I wasn’t sure, but that I had gone tonight, and we were all very friendly, and I liked it. He told me that my story about the Griffin was “spot on” and that two of the owners there, Chris Reda and Adam Hock, were “not getting along.”

A side effect of my Jameson scientific study seems to be a calm, detached, and rather kind view of life, and so I answered, “I hope they work things out.” I was told that Reda was upset at something I said about him the other day, and I told the promoter that “Chris has my phone number.” I’ll go on record that I like Chris and would not hesitate to do business with him again. Sometimes when a few people get together, they form this third personality that doesn’t act like any of the individuals. Maybe that’s the case here. Maybe Chris didn’t mean to say awful things about someone in my life, but in association with the people he chose to associate with — Adam Hock and Stevie D — it was that other personality speaking.

Anyway, it’s all business, and my business is telling it like i see it, or hear it. My firm, Lewis and Dizon (I’m the Lewis guy, and Marc Dizon is the Dizon guy) designed the Griffin. We therefore have an interest in it being a success. From all accounts, it isn’t. It may be that the combination of ownership personalities over there has formed this other personality that has no idea how to run a club. See, all this Jameson science stuff is helping formulate these cool hypotheses! Those guys have way more than toilet paper on their shoes, and no amount of great lighting, sound, DJs, or comfy couches is likely to hide the smell. Griffin is a beautiful product of hundreds of hours of work by my partner Marc Dizon. Marc is quiet, and in this way we are different. So when people say things about him, he is likely to bear it in silence, confident that he has done a great job. His partner, the dude who used to be Steve Lewis, is a bit more vocal. Griffin stinks, and it isn’t the shit stuck to their shoes that’s the problem. It’s the shit coming from their mouths. Was I too subtle, or do you peeps get what I’m saying? Ill be here all week.

Two New Gs & Mother’s Day Wisdom

imageI visited my mom on Sunday and had a real good time, but of course, not a club good time. My mom taught me a few things — like, look both ways before you cross, how to tie shoelaces, and if you have nothing good to say about somebody, keep your mouth shut. Well, I’m sure she’s as right about these things as she was about Jeannie Luvullo and some of my other exes, but it puts her at odds with my editor. Sometimes I’ve just got to say nay. I visited The Gates the other night and was swept off my feet by a bevy of beauties who spent dinner plying me with information and reminders of how much I liked Michael James, who seems to be one of the owners out there. I do like Mike; I don’t like The Gates. I like Michael’s partners Redd Styles and Danny Kane, but I don’t like what they’ve done to the place. The old Biltmore Room (previously Rome) has existed on 8th Avenue between 25th and 26th streets since the 80s. It is a magnificent collage of marble and wood located in the armpit of Chelsea and Clinton — a no-man’s land of cheap stores and restaurants there to service F.I.T. and the city housing. If real estate sales peeps can offer their mantra “location, location, location” to set a market price, I can use the phrase to underscore the problems this joint is facing right from the jump.

The Gates is in a location only my mother would love. The old Biltmore Room got about 3 stars from The New York Times and still couldn’t pay the rent. Rome, a gay spot in the same location, could not get its core crowd to cross 23rd Street. It was like that impassable energy field on Star Trek that kept everyone in the galaxy — the gays just wouldn’t venture that one block north. Faced with this first daunting strike, The Gates’ brain trust did virtually nothing to the place to make it a destination worth the trip. Are they depending on the vacuous memories of models — who aren’t checking anything out but each other — to lure bottle buyers who are so young that they have never seen the place? Although the magnificent marble and wood paneling still remain, the addition of uninspired vinyl furniture, awful lighting, and spotty sound give it a strike two. But the inevitable pitch count will have to wait because I was told at least 10 times that it wasn’t the real opening. The Gatsby-themed event this Saturday night — which baffled a Nick Carraway-type publicist and I as we chatted in the middle of the dim room — was a pre-opening soiree. I hate the pre-opening concept. Open right, or wait until you get it right. Five people told me that more (ugly) furniture was on the way. It reminds me of a story my mom once told me: Two old Jewish women were eating at a Catskills resort, and one old Jewish woman turned to other and complained, “Sadie, you know the food here is terrible?” To which Sadie replied, “Yes, Gussie, and the portions are so small.” If you don’t get that joke, feel free to call my mom. Again, I like the players involved, and I think they are generally liked, so I hope they tweak it and it’s a winner.

The other ‘G-named spot this month is The Griffin. Here “location, location, location” is really in the favor of management. The last time I mentioned The Griffin, I was poked because my partner Marc Dizon was the lead designer on the project, and I was “blowing up my own shit,” and it was “self-serving”. The Griffin is found where PM used to be, right in the heart of the Meatpacking — a location, location, location that dreams are made of. Diagonal from the Ganesvoort and Pastis, The Griffin will enjoy more foot traffic than a podiatrist. However, where The Gates’ management are a crew of nice guys, The Griffin’s honchos are less loved.

Although I enjoy a respectful relationship with Chris Reda, formerly of Room Service, there are many who ask me how. I don’t know Stevie D., (at least by that name) well enough to say anything bad about him, but I do know Adam Hock, and here I will take my mothers’ advice and keep my mouth shut — not without a small observation, however. Adam Hock has the honor of having presided over the last club in the Meatpacking to belly-up, which is PM, the current Griffin space. With a “location, location location” like 50 Ganesvoort, it seems almost impossible to fail there, yet it did. He did. In fact, I can’t think of another club that failed in the Meatpacking — oh, I just remembered one: “G Spot.”

Jobs & Dollars Return with the Sun

imageI’ve been talking lately about how my career as a hospitality designer can be used as a sort of canary in a coal mine to judge the state of our economy. As a firm, we picked up very little new work from mid-December until just recently. At one point, we had 16 jobs on hold while our clients secured loans. Ten of those jobs have in the last few weeks given us a call and indicated positive movement forward or in fact funding coming through. This means jobs. The restaurants and clubs I am building will need to hire staff two to six months down the line. People who have been futilely looking for gigs might be back on track.

We are entering a period where jobs will become more readily available naturally. This winter, I told scores of qualified workers — some of whom are dear, trusted, and extremely employable friends — that I couldn’t help them find work. With the warm weather comes lots of jobs. With Earth, Griffin, The Gates, the old Vento space, the old Lotus space, and a bunch of others opening in the next month comes hope. In addition to these redone joints comes the opening of more roofdecks than ever before. Hudson Sky Terrace will be joined by a newly invigorated Highbar (my firm will handle design) and a bunch of others. Before you can say Memorial Day, the Hamptons season will begin, and some staff will leave their Manhattan gigs for a life of timeshares and sex on the beach. Staff will be hired to fill their NYC spots. The warm-weather concert season will create new work in venues that do that sort of thing.

There are indications that the weak dollar will make some New Yorkers rethink their European vacations and opt instead to stay closer to home. Tourists from other parts of America might think a trip to New York is a better choice than a trip abroad, and foreign tourists might like to stretch their currencies with a dash to the Big Apple. These folk will fill some joints and create more shifts. The summer also creates more shifts during the weeknights as people use the weekends for other activities

Investors looking for a place besides real estate or the market are coming off the sidelines and searching for a solid return on their loot. In the last few months, out-of-work family members have been taking jobs away from the actors and musicians who usually work the joints. A turnaround in the economy will make these family charity jobs go back to the thespians and such. There is a sense from my clients that a bottom has been reached, and that financing is easing up. The club business has — with the decline of the bottle buyer — learned how to find other means of making money, including but not limited to door admissions and specialty cocktails. The clubs are leaner and more healthy as a result of this hard-learned economic lesson. One manager at a joint that still enjoys a generous amount of bottle service revenues told me yesterday that he sees a bottle of Goose dropping from 450-ish to around 300 as his customer has become less tolerant of getting beaten up. The long-predicted return to a smiling, caring waitress that services a table with a wide range of tastes — and the retreat from the bored model who drops the bottle and runs — will be the rule. Plus a stronger economy will create work for some of these actor/model types, and they’ll audition for a living and stop slinging booze, creating a job vacancies. A liquor manager at a major joint, just weeks from opening, told me they were hiring bottle gals and cocktail waitresses. There are lots of jobs out there, and the futility and hopelessness of this past winter will hopefully soon be forgotten.

One last thing before I dash for the weekend. In an article about the best Monday-night parties, it seems that there was a bit of confusion. The party at Le Royale was listed as 10th-best party out of 10. This was far from the truth. It was decided by the editors, after it was written, not to actually rank the parties. However, when the article was written, Cayte Grieve had Terry Casey’s soiree at number one. She loves it and votes by going there regularly.