Las Vegas New Year’s Eve: To Drink

You may have noticed a significant omission in our last New Year’s Eve story—after all, how could we write a party round-up without including one of the biggest party cities of them all? But that’s only because what’s planned in Las Vegas for 2012 is so big, it required its own day. Herewith, our guide to the best of New Year’s Eve festivities in the hotels on the strip:

For a straight up club experience, the Spectacular Spectacular at The Palms sounds like it will be just that, with Paul Oakenfold playing at Rain, the John Legend afterparty (more on that later) at Moon, Miss Nevada USA hosting at Ghostbar, and a horde of Playboy bunnies taking over the Playboy Club. Naturally we’d suggest the VIP pass, for unlimited access to a selection of top-shelf liquor from 10pm to 1am at all the venues. At the Venetian and Palazzo, there’s a similarly comprehensive situation, with their five combined bars hosting Midnight Mix from 10pm to 2am, while DJ Sam Ronson spins on the terrace at Lavo, in the Palazzo, from 9pm to midnight, finishing up with a major fireworks display.

For a loungey experience, the heavenly bodies of Cirque du Soleil will be lighting up the room at Gold Lounge at the Aria Hotel, while the heavenly bodies of the Kardashian siblings will be spread around town, hosting (for better or worse) what are sure to be hot tickets: Kim at Tao at the Venetian, Kourtney and Scott at Chateau Gardens at Paris Las Vegas, and Rob at Tryst at the Wynn. And make room for some nostalgia: Pamela Anderson will host at Studio 54 at the MGM Grand, a big goodbye bash at the 14 –year-old venue, which will be closing early next year, while starlet Taryn Manning will be hosting at Tabu with DJ Kid Jay.

Stay tuned for our guide to Las Vegas’ most lavish eateries, up next…

Jesse Waits on Las Vegas’ Electronic Renaissance

In a city built on excess, Las Vegas’ XS nightclub raised the bar. I once described it as the Godzilla of nightclubs. That was meant as a positive description. Jesse Waits remains firmly in charge of this Wynn hotel mega-masterpiece. He has weathered the competition, the daily grind, and other distractions, which might have dampened the spirits of a lesser man.

XS has won a ton of nightclub awards, but in Vegas, the bottom line is the bottom line. XS is a moneymaker on a scale unforeseen before its entry into the fray. Jesse Waits took Vegas to another level, and is here to talk about improving the perfect storm of accolades, fun, and moneymaking he helped create. The pairing of Vegas-style service with huge international DJs brings a sort of undeniable credibility to Nevada’s wonderland. The residencies of world class DJs at the club add another layer of excitement to a city that seemed to have an excess of it already.

What brought the shift of marketing strategies to focus more on electronic artists? I’ve been a fan of electronic music for some time now, and it’s something I’ve been closely keeping my eye on, from both a personal interest and business perspective. The shift of focus for our marketing efforts came solely based on demand. We experimented with bookings for a while, and once we saw the return, we knew this was where our attention needed to lie, on bringing in the biggest and best talent in the world to XS. What can club-goers expect when they see one of these performers? Electrifying energy. It’s all about the exhilarating atmosphere when we have an electronic headliner performing. I walk on stage and look out on the dance floor, and everyone is absolutely entranced, dancing in synchronization to the beats, exuding pure bliss as they let these DJs take them on a journey throughout the evening. Who is the game changer right now? I think Tiesto and Deadmau5 are the two superstars right now. I love what Afrojack is bringing to the scene, and I see a lot of potential in R3HAB, who is a major talent on the rise. What kind of crowds are you seeing (numbers-wise) when booking these artists? On a busy weekend, XS will pull in about 7,000 people a night. We have focused on bringing in a lot of these artists to our Sunday Night Swim and Monday industry night parties. On what would normally be an off-night, we’re pulling in close to the same numbers as a Friday or Saturday during our busy season. For holiday weekends like Memorial Day, we packed our lineup with A-Trak on Friday, Afrojack on Saturday, Deadmau5 on Sunday, and Feed Me on Monday. The reaction from fans was like nothing we’ve ever seen before and blew every other holiday weekend completely out of the water. Do you think this genre is facing the same push into the mainstream as rock ‘n roll in the ’70s or hip-hop in the ’80s? DJs are the new rock stars. They’re going through the exact push we saw with hip-hop in the ’80s. They are taking it mainstream, collaborating with everyone from Black Eyed Peas to Rihanna. We had Afrojack perform the night after he won a Grammy for his remix of Madonna’s “Revolver” with David Guetta, and it felt like a historic moment to celebrate in the club. What kind of reaction do you see when announcing a new performer? When we have major announcements on new performers, we like to push it through social media first, so our fans and followers feel that they have an insider’s advantage. We announced that Deadmau5 was going to be performing at our two year anniversary in February, and he was trending on Twitter in Las Vegas within an hour and a half. When we broke the news he’d be back for Memorial Day Weekend, it was 45 minutes. Nevada leads the country in Twitter usage, so obviously to have something like that trending, it’s a major topic of discussion. Where do you see this going in the future? The genre is only going to get bigger. We saw the popularity first explode through dance music, but now that there is interest, the fans are really ready to explore further. When Deadmau5 performed over Memorial Day, the crowd went crazy when he transitioned into a dubstep set. The enthusiasts only want to hear more, know more, and experience more at this point. They’re hooked. What does an event like Electric Daisy moving into the city do for the credibility of the scene? When North America’s largest electronic music festival decides Las Vegas is where it needs to be, it gives major credibility to what the nightlife scene has been building over the past year. The Insomniac team saw that the interest was here, and the city was ready, and having a festival in Las Vegas made a lot of sense logistically. But more than anything, it just goes to show that what we’ve been building and working on with these artists was absolutely the right strategy and investment for our venues. Are old spaces being retrofitted for sound proofing and new ones engineered with sound isolation? Wynn and Encore are more recent developments that took into account sound when developing the nightlife venues inside the hotels. How does a casino determine revenues from a club? Are projected incomes from nearby restaurants, rooms, and other services figured into value evaluations of a clubs bottom line? XS and Tryst naturally have a higher-end clientele because they are located inside Five Star, Five Diamond resorts at Wynn and Encore. The revenue from the nightclub is completely separate, and our venues have really excelled in offering immaculate service and innovative marketing to attract these customers. Since opening, XS has been voted the #1 nightclub in the country on Nightclub & Bar’s Top 100 contest consecutively, both years of operation based on revenue. Tryst came in this year in the #9 spot as well.

When Bachelor Parties and Las Vegas Come Together

The trickiest thing about writing a recap of a Las Vegas bachelor party is remembering the details. My original plan involved tattooing myself throughout the night à la Guy Pearce in Memento, to help jog my booze-ravaged memory the next morning. But after the first night there, I awoke (next to my half-naked friend) with the words “insane” tattooed on my forehead, “cleavage” on my chin, and “break up with my not-a-VIP-hostess girlfriend as soon as I get home” on my finger. So, scratch that idea.

Instead of providing a recap of a scandalous weekend in sunny Las Vegas, I’d like for you to use this as a primer when deciding what clubs, restaurants, and hotels to hit while celebrating one of your buddies usually ill-conceived plunges into adulthood.

The key to planning the ultimate Vegas ex-stag-aganza with a handful of your closest friends is locking down the perfect place to stay. The Vegas strip is teeming with the country’s most prominent pot-bellied vermin, and your hotel will be your reprieve from all things named “Rusty.” Nineteen of the world’s twenty-five largest hotels can be found on the strip, but bigger isn’t always better. For better, go with The Wynn or Encore, two adjacent towers that are the sleekest on the strip, and, combined, hold more Forbes five-star awards than any other casino-resort in the world. Steve Wynn’s opulent pleasure palaces are an orgiastic mix of Asian influences, thick greenery, and top-of-the-line luxury that will satisfy top-level executives and testosterone-fueled meatheads alike.

Owner Steve Wynn has made sure that guests won’t have to ever leave the sprawling premises to experience the best that Vegas has to offer. For the necessary group dinner where you and your boys make one last-ditch attempt to convince the groom-to-be that he’s throwing his life away, try Botero, the steakhouse inspired by Fernando Botero — a Colombian figurative artist for all you philistines). Though Botero does a mean surf, come here for the turf. With the exception of Miss Piggy in a thong, Botero is a carnivore’s ultimate wet dream.

After the symbolic last meal, it’s time to get your drink on, and luckily The Wynn/Encore is home to Tryst and XS, two of the hottest nightclubs in Vegas. Owned by prolific nightlife impresario Victor Drai and his managing partners Cy and Jesse Waits, these pleasure dens are all about spectacle. Tryst features a lake in its center with a breathtaking, illuminated waterfall, perfect for the inevitable Facebook profile picture. But if Tryst is spectacular, then XS is downright mind-melting. The 40,000-square-foot behemoth has been called “the Godzilla of nightclubs” by our very own Steve Lewis, and the place lives up to its name. Extravagant without being cheesy, XS extends out into Encore’s pool area, and if you’re willing to drop the necessary coin, that’s where your booth should be.

Once every big-haired floozy in town is done downing all your Patron, head to Drai’s, which is located in the basement of the nondescript (by Vegas standards) Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon. If you follow her on Twitter, you’ll know this is where Paris Hilton heads after her bathroom antics get her thrown out of everywhere else. But if the fall-over-drunk crowd at Drai’s isn’t showing you and your friends any love—and with that shirt, why would they?—we have just the place for you: Rick’s Cabaret has had a stranglehold on the Gentleman’s Club industry for years, and its Las Vegas location is its mecca. There’s no better place to lessen the blow of a night’s worth of rejections than at this silicone sanctuary located a stone’s throw from the strip.

For the ultimate Rick’s experience, have their party bus pick your crew up from anywhere in the city and take you directly to the club, for what will surely be a night of you giving beautiful women money, and them giving you false hope in return. Just make sure your friends don’t leave without you. The walk from Rick’s to your hotel is long, lonely, and cactus-filled. At least that’s what the tattoo on my inner thigh said.

Cy and Jesse Waits, Two of a Kind

“It’s the Godzilla of nightclubs.” That was the reaction of our nightlife guru Steve Lewis when I asked him about XS, the mega club at casino maven Steve Wynn’s Encore hotel in Las Vegas. But unlike the fictional Japanese monster who stomped on citizens and cities with uncontrollable glee, XS is a tightly controlled, carefully calculated environment designed to redefine nightlife and provide customers with the ultimate Vegas experience. As Lewis later put it, “This is the machine.”

The operators of this machine (which at $100 million, makes it one of the most expensive nightclubs ever built), are identical twin brothers Cy and Jesse Waits. Growing up in a dusty Southern California town, they had no inkling that by the age of 34, they’d be sitting atop one of the biggest nightlife empires in the country. But that’s exactly where the brothers find themselves, after forging a lasting partnership with legendary club impresario and film producer Victor Drai on a number of amazingly successful endeavors, including XS, Tryst nightclub at the Wynn, Drai’s after hours inside Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall and Saloon, and Drai’s Hollywood, which recently opened in the W Hollywood. “We grew up in such a small town, I never even thought I’d meet anyone that I saw on TV,” says Cy, who now schmoozes on the regular with stars from the film, music, and sports worlds.

So how did the Waits’ find themselves at the forefront of West Coast nightlife? After all, there isn’t a school that teaches you how to master the inner workings of a mega club. The answer is experience. Growing up, they were the kids in the neighborhood who threw the house parties. “We were always trying to make everyone comfortable, making sure everyone is set up and feeling good about themselves,” says Cy. “We were the social butterflies, walking around and getting everyone’s input.” Jesse was the first one to move to Vegas, leaving the sleepy beaches of Hawaii for the blinding lights and monolithic hotels of the Strip. There, he cut his teeth at some of the city’s best clubs, excelling at everything from bartending to promoting. Soon, he was joined by Cy, who initially planned to work in the industry for a year, before returning to California to pursue other endeavors. But Las Vegas is a revenue beast, with billions of dollars being sucked up by its nightlife and entertainment industries, and Cy quickly realized the boundless opportunity a partnership with his brother could bring. “We started from the bottom up. We did everything in the nightclub business so we get it. We understand the aspect of what it takes to bartend or what the door guy goes through. We get it,” he says.

Eventually, Jesse found himself managing the popular Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay, where they met Victor Drai. “We just kind of befriended each other,” says Jesse. “He was just a nice guy who would buy bottles. We started hanging out as friends and eventually, after three years of knowing him, decided to join him at Drai’s After Hours.”

Their big break came when La Bete, hotelier Steve Wynn’s first nightclub, failed to do the kind of business necessary to succeed in Vegas’ cutthroat landscape. “It was designed poorly for a nightclub,” says Jesse. “Their structure, management, and promotional team was not as well thought out as it should have been. To run a nightclub, it takes more personality than it does a corporate structure.” Drai and the twins stepped in, and after redesigning and rebranding the club, Tryst was born. Around the mid-aughts, Tryst nightclub at the Wynn rose to become Vegas’ premiere nightlife destination. (You might recall the infamous night when a pantless Britney Spears’ partied with Paris Hilton. That happened at Tryst. “It was pretty bizarre, she was asking for the attention” says Jesse.) With a hundred-foot waterfall cascading over the dancefloor, the never-seen-that-before opulence of Tryst was only the beginning.

image The waterfall at Tryst. image XS.

It’s difficult to fully grasp the scope of XS without experiencing it for yourself. Both Jesse and Cy seemed at a loss for words when trying to convey its epicness. They both told me it’s something I need to see to believe. At 40,000 square feet, XS is such a behemoth, it effectively stole its sister club’s clientele. “It’s a black hole, basically,” says Jesse, “not just for our business, but everybody’s business.” Indeed, as far as most are concerned, the extravagance on display at XS will be difficult to match. Lewis, who’s been designing nightclubs for over a decade, went as far as calling it “the best nightclub in the country.” With a capacity of 4,000, XS is designed with a high style and to allow a particular flow so that it never feels crowded. “It was not another building that we renovated to make into a nightclub. It was built for that purpose,” says Jesse.

XS’ unabashed extravagance is best bottled up (pun intended) in the Ono Cocktail, which, if ordered, is the equivalent of drinking liquid gold. Invented by Cy, the drink is more a muscle flex than a thirst quencher. When someone orders one, the XS staff makes sure the whole club knows it. At $10,000, it’s composed of Charles Heidsieck champagne and Louis XIII de Remy Martin Black Pearl cognac, and each glass comes with gold XS cufflinks for the men, and a black pearl. “I would say we have sold at least 12 or 15 of them in a year. I mean that’s pretty good for a cocktail that’s $10,000,” says Cy.

The twins admit the look of the place is mostly thanks to Victor Drai’s distinct vision. He’s the mastermind, they say. “He doesn’t think about how it’s going to work, all he focuses on is the look and flow,” says Cy. All of Drai’s spots are created to look like lush, dense paradises that avoid any tawdriness. Drai’s After Hours in Vegas is dotted with red velvet couches, leopard print carpeting, and Tamara de Lempicka prints. It all stems from his trailblazing sense of style. “He was popping his collar long before anybody else was doing it,” says Cy. “He’s got his boots and his swagger. He’s amazing. You have a conversation with him and you’d be surprised he’s 65. It feels like he’s 22.”

But after 12 years in the nightclub industry, the Waits brothers have also developed a sixth sense for what makes a club work. Once Drai has exercised his particular brand of showmanship on the place, Cy and Jesse will work on the club’s personality. They’re after the little things, the details customers don’t notice, but nevertheless that enhance their experience. Says Cy, “We’ll sit down in booths and make sure everything is comfortable. Everything needs to have a feeling to it. Where are the table sides? How big is the booth? How far are your knees from the ground? How many stripper poles should there be?”

Once the club is open, it’s the twins’ job to make sure it has legs. And, like any cohesive partnership, they’ve adapted and split their duties to play to their particular strengths. As Jesse tells it, he’s on the “marketing” side of things. He’s at the door every night greeting clients, whether it’s the governor of Nevada or someone looking to spend their roulette winnings on a bottle of Goose. At a club with thousands of people, personal attention from its top personnel can make nights. That’s what Jesse, and to some degree his brother, provide. He sees himself as the club’s diplomat, on the front lines with the clientele. Cy, on the other hand, thinks of himself as the problem solver, the fix-it guy. He handles the staff and ensures all the cogs of the machine are running in unison. Neither brother is ever without his BlackBerry, except while practicing martial arts.

Cy and Jesse are constantly traveling between their permanent homes in Vegas (they live in mansions on a golf course, Cy on the 8th hole, Jesse on the 2nd) and their temporary ones L.A. (they have neighboring penthouses at the W). Cy had eighty thousand tons of sand installed in his yard, a personal beach in the middle of the desert. Both brothers have multiple motorcycles, the product of a riding, hippie father of the Easy Rider ilk. They’ve made several Most Eligible Bachelor lists, although Jesse is now in a long term relationship with former Playmate of the Year, Jayde Nicole. They rarely, if ever, drink. Their sobriety is part dedication to a healthy lifestyle, but also, it’s impossible to control a nightlife empire after you’ve had seven gin and tonics.

Most siblings have a competitive edge, but for identical twins, that edge is sharpened. “When we were kids, it used to be who can throw the biggest rock through the window,” says Cy. That they work so closely together is an achievement, even if they admit to butting heads occasionally. “It’s war sometimes,” Cy says. “A couple of years ago, there were times when we almost got into fist fights over the most ridiculous things. We’ve gotten past that. When we first started working together again, we were in each other’s face. If Jesse’s really emotional about something, or I’m really emotional about something, one of us will just back off and we’ll just not talk for a few days until we cool down, and then it’s like nothing ever happened.”

Adds his brother, “The best thing about working with my brother is that out of anybody I know, I can trust him because he has my best interest at heart. If anything went down, I know that he would protect me and back me one hundred percent. And in a work environment where people are constantly trying to move up, that’s hard to find.”

Uncle Stevie’s Vegas Vacation

If you see me today please talk softly and slowly. Please, no sudden movements or complicated questions. Just like oil and water, Israelis and Palestinians, Bill and Hillary, some things should never be put together. That’s me and Las Vegas. I went for business. My partner and I are designing a big time nightclub in a big time hotel. I swear. The porn star convention just happened to coincide with our stay. The closest I got to a porn star was the limo driver at the airport holding up a Terra Patrick placard. Ok, ok there were a few around, at night, at our tables, but, again, a mere coincidence and completely unsolicited. I have no interest in such matters.

I don’t gamble, whore around or take in shows. The only things I like about sin city are the fantastic restaurants and the desert itself. I spent a great deal of my wonder bread years in the high desert of California. I lived in a little town called Quartz Hill. I had hair down to my waist, ran an organic health food store, lived on a commune, knew how to roll a joint and had sex with hippie chicks. I used to take long hikes in the desert and the Tehachapi mountains, an environment similar to the one I was dragged to this past week, except for the city of sin Bugsy Seigel put there. Sometimes, when hiking way back then, if I was real lucky, I would come across a herd of wild mustangs and my heart would just stop. Their beauty and the primal sense of freedom they imparted lives within me still. There were many herds of horses in the high plains. You were taught that the domesticated ones took no notice of you, while the wild ones looked up and followed your every move.

That life lesson became very relevant in the hallways and casinos during the porn convention. I was told that you could tell the difference between the hookers and the porn stars, as the hookers will take notice of you, smile and watch your every move while the porn stars just ignore you and blow right past. It’s truly amazing how all these lessons from my past can be applied today. I had to get out of this place if it was the last thing I ever did, but we were there for a purpose. We are designing the next big thing.

I had an amazing lunch at the Mesa Grill. Management told me how chef Bobby Flay regularly checks in to make sure the quality is maintained. Everything about the place works. Great service and great food. It is a great experience. Our meetings went well during the day and we were whisked around like VIPs at night.

Pure seemed tired and old. There weren’t a thousand people fighting to get in like I remember it. As we were whisked to the best table in the place, it seemed like it had had its night and was just going through the motions. The crowd was mostly an uneducated, unstylish mass who learned long ago that a couple grand makes you look grand in Vegas, and unfortunately, in many cases, NYC too. LAX was even more tired. I liked the place and could see how it was such a huge hit in its day.

Everywhere at every joint the door staff was buttoned up. Vegas is geared to extract money and the spider web begins at the door. Every waitress had porn star boobs and the go-go dancers helped sell the message that you can have it all, if you spend the money. Vegas is no place for a romantic warrior like me. Vanity was very clean. The crowd was better than the others, the walls were smartly finished, tables nice. The staff was a little bit more sophisticated, but it lacked an energy, a center and it didn’t hold my interest for very long. Tryst was just awful. I was there long ago when the hotel opened and hated it. It’s been redone and it’s a million times better, probably 10 or 15 million times better, as they did throw some money at it. The music everywhere was the same old same old, but seemed even older here. The crowd was less mixed and had fewer really unbearable people than LAX or Pure, but the whole place seems like an afterthought. You have this billion dollar casino/hotel complex and you have to stick a club in there someplace. So the club is downstairs, out of the way, you take a couple of turns… The planners gave it a big beautiful wet rock and not too much else. With Steve Wynn’s quest for the best, Tryst is surprisingly subpar.

Tao never disappoints. Yes, Jason and Noah are my friends, but that opens them up for harsher criticism than the rest. Tao, five years later, is banging. The important tables had important people at them—players, some even recognizable from Manhattan’s hot spots. There was a nice blend of classy women and sexy slutty Vegas types. The music didn’t drown out conversation, but was still driving the room. They added a tier above the owner’s section, which really added to the experience. Also very important, the experience for the general public was better. Most of the places treat the public like the second-class citizens they are, which is very wrong. The general public makes up at least 30 percent of the revenue of these places and should be treated like they are important. I think that Tao treats the GP better than the rest and has them coming back for more. Tao’s high end is cultivated on different levels. It is indeed pushed now to Lavo and will move with the strategic group crowd to the next venture. The public pays lots of bills. That concept seems to escape most of the other places, which treat the masses like seitan. The public areas of Tao had a sexy environment where even an old codger like me was flirted with.

I wasn’t impressed with Haze. Everywhere I traveled within the place security was not so politely moving me along. Flow is terrible and it’s not much to look at. It has “new’ going for it and was packed, but we all know “new” grows old. I chatted with a slim and quiet Andrew Sasson, Haze’s owner, while at Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss’ table at Lavo. I congratulated him on his major success in Vegas. Last time I was here he showed me around. He knows everyone and the city’s workers pour big fish and players in his direction. Haze is the least impressive thing I’ve seen him do. It lacks the subtleties of the other Lit Group properties and the real hospitality chops he is known for. The crow flow, lighting and overall experience need to be rethought.

Then came XS. XS is the best club of this sort I have ever seen. It is executed perfectly. It was not an afterthought, but designed to win. It is winning. A zillion tables with few bad ones. The lighting, the decor, the staff were all visibly better than the rest. It features a beautiful, romantic pool, which will take this place to another level when the weather warms. The crowd was more diverse and better dressed than the rest. Xs takes Vegas clubdom to another level. I will be hard pressed to better it. But I will.

Our meetings ended two days early but we couldn’t escape. The porn people and a massive tech convention ate up every flight and car rental. I was going bonkers. I was playing Wheel of Fortune and fantasizing about Vanna White and mumbling a lot. I was telling my penguin joke to senior citizens from Decatur, Georgia and Butte, Montana. We all yelled “wheel of fortune” and screamed with glee at our jackpots. When I was down to my last two cents, I won twelve dollars and 40 cents on a penny slot machine while waiting for Claire Council from Rapid City to free up a chair at the Wheel of Fortune machines. Poor dear needs to go potty a lot.

I was thinking of going to see Bette Midler with her and the gals before my partner Marc Dizon, seeing my rapid deterioration, devoted himself to getting us out of there. We decided to go to LA. We pulled in a ton of favors to get ourselves a new mustang convertible. We headed away from Vegas into the familiar, friendly and romantic desert. Redbulls and starbucks and the thought of seeing my old crew in Venice drove me all night. I slept in Echo Park and walked around Venice the next day kissing baby Indigo and hugging old friends. I hate to say it, but I really loved it. After our BBQ we headed to the Chateau Marmont where my best friend Patty Doria has found a niche at the hotel restaurant. Andre Balazs’ place is wonderful. He doesn’t need me to say it. Everything he touches is gold. There was class all around– a welcome change from the “crass all around” Vegas environment. Leonardo Dicaprio was playing backgammon with Lukas Haas while we sipped fine wine and munched on perfect appetizers and chocolates. Everyone was dressed. Laughter and good conversation had replaced the head banging debauchery of sin city’s strip. What happens in Vegas can stay in Vegas. Hopefully, it will not be exported anywhere else. What happened in LA may make me stay in LA next time I go.

Industry Insiders: Joao Daniel, Brazilian Export

UPDATE: Joao has actually moved on from Le Royale — see here for details on his new gig.

Upon his arrival in New York, Joao Daniel started working in restaurant kitchens hoping to become fluent in English, but he ended up picking up more Spanish than he anticipated. Like most newcomers, he eventually started hitting the club scene, and surprisingly, this was where he honed his language skills. His nightly activities quickly snowballed into a profession. Now the charming Brazilian has his weekly schedule consistently booked with hosting gigs on Monday nights at Le Royale,Wednesdays at 60 Thompson, Thursday through Saturday at Pink Elephant, and Sunday nights at The Eldridge. He’s also in on the Saturday and Sunday pool parties at Hotel Gansevoort. Joao gives us the scoop on where we should be going out.

How’d you end up in the big city? I’m Brazilian; I came here three and a half years ago and started working at Pink Elephant as a busboy. I didn’t speak English at all, and I had to work my way up.

And that led to … I did the door at The Box for awhile. I hosted at Mansion. I hosted at Cain. I host Pink Elephant at the moment, and I work there three nights a week. I’m really good at organizing these parties. I also used to do Monday nights at Stanton Social. I moved to Vegas and passed off the Monday night gig. When I came back, I wasn’t interested in getting involved with that again because it was a very different crowd. A mutual friend of mine and Terry’s told me about the Monday night at Le Royale. Not too many people in the city knew about the party, like they do now. I know a lot of people in the industry so, it’s really become well-known. I left Le Royale recently, and now my focus is the weekend pool party at The Gansevoort.

Why’d you move to Vegas? I went out there to work, but ended up back at Pink Elephant in the summer of last year. I worked at Tao in Vegas, because Rich Wolfe of Stanton Social is also an owner there. I got offered a job to work at Tryst at the Wynn, and Rich said, “No, you have to work for us.” But I finally got the offer to work as a host for Pink Elephant, and because I started there as a busboy, it was important to me to work as a host there. I especially missed New York.

What did you miss about New York specifically? New Yorkers don’t say things that they don’t mean. If they say that they like you, it’s because they like you. If they don’t like you, then they’ll show that they don’t like you. It’s very black and white, and I love the style. People like to dress up, and people like to be in fashion. It makes the city more alive.

Best thing about Le Royale? The place is completely music driven, and that’s why I love it so much. The music at Le Royale on Monday is a little of everything, but not the cheesy stuff we hear at other places in New York right now. Stuff you’ll hear at other clubs, you’ll hear at Le Royale six months before. They have the real hipsters there. I try to avoid promoting too much, because it’s industry night. We end up having promoters from other places that just come because they like the party.

Is there live music? Terry is so well connected with the music industry, so some Monday nights we have special events. We had Shiny Toy Guns play, and usually, when they play in New York, they play for 300,000 people. There is a cover, so we can have bands to open the night. We can have big DJ’s, and I think we’re one step ahead of every place in New York City in terms of music and a good crowd. Now, bottle service is in a big crisis because of the economy, and Le Royale wont die because it doesn’t depend on that. It depends on the music and people go because the music is amazing.

What’s the best night, for parties/nightlife in New York, in your opinion? I work on the weekends, and I’m having a lot of fun at Pink Elephant because I really love house music. My favorites are definitely Sundays and Mondays. On Sundays, I never miss going to brunch. Brunch parties are taking over the city. Via dei Mille and Sol are the best. People get drunk and dance their asses off until 9 o’clock at night. After brunch, I go to Felix, and then I hit up GoldBar.

What are your spots in the city? I love going places with amazing cocktails. I like the bar at 60 Thompson. It’s out of control. I like Employees Only. For restaurants, I go to Jewel Bako sushi in the East Village. I love Stanton Social, which is great if you have a big group and want to share food.

What are you doing tonight? Getting ready to go to Le Royale.

A Touch of Class at Southside

Door guru Timothy Sheldon rules the gate at Southside, one of my favorite haunts. Let’s talk about larger than life — he already measures up to about 6′ 5”, but on a weekend night he still stands on a wooden crate to pick through the crowd. Southside and Timothy have a firm attitude about their door; they firmly believe that mixing up the crowd and having a variety of enthusiastic patrons is the key to long-term success. Timothy is a classic figure — invariably dressed to the nines — and he takes being a gentleman very seriously, both on and off of his little box.

In 2006, Timothy was employed as P. Diddy’s assistant and stylist. He traveled extensively with him as movies were made, fragrances were launched, and events were nonstop. He lived in his house, woke him in the morning, put him to bed and generally kept him on schedule. After his Diddy experience, he went to Vegas, where he handled VIP services at Wynn’s Tryst nightclub and Drai’s as well. Tryst, as a club, grosses more than any other club on our small planet (Tao figures include food). “I learned hospitality at a high-volume monster venue with yearly revenues over $50 million. It’s a place where hosts drive Lamborghinis!” he told me. After that he touched down in DC and planned an excursion to New York City to work at trendy club run by a couple of buddies. Timothy still feels that owning a joint is in the future, but he’s more than content with learning and meeting fabulous folks until that night.

With the continuing success at Southside, Timothy can be found — in case you’re looking for him — Wednesday through Saturday at the door. I DJ there for fun, friends, and no money at the Sunday party, and he’s always there as well. The truly good ones just can’t stay at home because a good club becomes a child that needs to be nurtured. At my clubs, I was always the first to arrive, I answered phones, did the schedules, booked the talent, worked the room and the door, and at the end of the night swept out the place. He does the door because “it’s an opportunity to network with all that’s cool in New York. I meet creative people from all crowds.”

Timothy lives in my hood, so I run into him in delis at 4 a.m. after we’re both weary from having conquered our own little worlds. He is always impeccably dressed, extremely well-mannered, and his home is described to me as based on Andy Warhol’s Factory, where creative people are always gathering and pushing agendas. Timothy is obsessed with returning traditional service values to hospitality. Besides the door-god job, he is also very hands-on with the all-important table seating of clients — making sure that tables are compatible is an art that can make or break a good party. In a world where bottle service is going the way of the dodo, Southside is selling more and more without compromising the crowd with another rare bird — yuppie scum. Timothy takes the door seriously, and he sees it as an opportunity to teach the people who aren’t quite getting in how to close the deal and become next month’s customer. I’ve always felt that to be all-important. He tells me that he’s looking for a great attitude from people trying to get in and that “a sense of entitlement won’t work here.” There is a great deal of cross-pollination between Southside and around-the-corner neighbors La Esquina and GoldBar, where my man Jon Lennon mans the door, but that’s a story for another time.

[Photo: Patrick McMullan]

Industry Insiders: Elizabeth Blau, Restaurant Queen

Elizabeth Blau, founder and CEO of Las Vegas restaurant consulting firm Elizabeth Blau & Associates, was recruited by Steve Wynn early in her career and has helped shape the Vegas restaurant landscape. She caught up with BlackBook about having the occasional truffle, getting hooked on Wii, and where the Vegas connoisseurs dwell.

What establishments do you like in Vegas? I love Blush. I love Tryst for more of the big night club, and I love The Bank at the Bellagio. I love Bartolotta at the Wynn, I love Nobu and Cut as well.

What’s your job description? I am a restaurateur. I have four restaurant operations with my business partner, Kerry Simon — one of which is Simon at Palms Place, and another restaurant with my chef husband, Kim Canteenwalla. I’m also a restaurant consultant.

And a judge on Iron Chef, right? Yes and a judge.

How would you describe what you do among all of those pictures? I am very lucky because I have the most amazing job in the world, and I get to travel all over the world and eat. I work with amazing people, and I run concept restaurants, make restaurant partnerships, and do everything involved in restaurant deals.

Who are two industry icons or people that you admire in hospitality? There’s a gentlemen named Shep Gordon, and he is just this amazing guy. He represented lots of musician and he represented the Shaft. He’s the one that got Wolfgang and Emeril involved in the Academy Awards. I also have to say Wolfgang Puck. I just think he’s extraordinary.

What are some positive trends you’ve seen recently in your field? I think we got to an unattainable level of success, and this current economic crisis is bringing all of that back around. We started to have restaurants with $60, $70, $80 entrees, and now it’s coming back to the experience of an evening of dining and entertainment. The hoopla over a $1,000 bottle of wine has waned a bit, and now it’s more about the experience: great service, being treated extraordinarily well, and cooking great food. Food may be simpler and more approachable now — however, I don’t mind indulging in a truffle every now and again.

What’s something that people might not know about you? People may not know that I’m a mom. I have the most adorable four-year-old little boy, and he likes to get into boy things. So we are constantly out hiking and trekking around for animals at the zoo and things like that.

Does he have a love of fine dining? Has he taken that from you? He does. He likes to cook, and he has his own kitchen. He’s traveled so much that there was a time where instead of going to a hotel we rented a condo at a resort, and he said, “Mom, I don’t know if I like this place, there’s no room service.” And I thought, “Surely we’ve been traveling too much.”

What’s on your radar right now? I’m obsessed with the Wii. My parents got the Wii and the Wii Fit for the holidays. It’s exercising mixed with video game competition. Everyone in our house goes on. You’ll find yourself a champion on the Wii, and then you’ll get dethroned. It’s a good way to get some exercise and competition — plus, it’s fun.

What’s on the horizon for 2009? We are working on a new restaurant that opened at the Encore at the Wynn called Society. We just started working with the Kor Group, and they’ve got hotels opening up all over the world.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure? I love junk food candy, like Jujubes. Only the really bad stuff — not the expensive chocolates.