Marisa Tomei & Lit’s 7th Anniversary

imageLast night I watched the Academy Awards over at Aspen Social and Amalia event coordinator Kevin Crawford’s house with the last of my Life-era friends. I was scheduled to DJ over at Southside, but I only found out about the gig through a Facebook flier so I opted out when I realized I had to see the Oscars with the old gang. Everybody had a Mickey Rourke story, but I had a Marisa Tomei story. When I started that Monday-night bowling thing over at Bowlmor Lanes back in the day, Marisa always came by, being friendly, enthusiastic, and real. One day she was hanging out and chatting with me as I was buying my bowling ball in the old pro shop that used to be there. As the guy was engraving my ball “Steve,” he realized that my companion was the Academy Award-winning actress, and he slipped up; the engraving came out as “Sneve” instead. That became my nickname for quite awhile. She’s as fun and cool and genuine as she seems, and it was wonderful to see her honored once again.

Our little Oscars party had lots of club types from the old days and the present, like Octavia, Robert Escalera, Teagan, and my good friend Dean Winters, who was once a bartender and now is doing great as an actor. We all squealed when Wass, Marquee’s door king, appeared in a commercial. For many, clubs are a means of support while developing a career. At cocktail parties, when you hear people say “I’m an actor,” someone invariably quips, “What restaurant do you work at?” This economic downturn can have a secondary affect — if talented and aspiring art types can’t find employment in hospitality, then they may not flock here. The old lyric “if you can make it here you can make it anywhere” may become too difficult to challenge. Dustin Hoffman, Bruce Willis, Debbie Harry, Keith Haring, and so many more paid the bills with nightclubs before they made it.

Anyway, after a brief “hello I’m alive but I’m too late to DJ” appearance at that wonderful Southside Sunday party, I went over to Lit for their 7th anniversary soiree. Here I was actually scheduled to DJ. My boy Eric Foss who owns the joint asked me to spin, not having ever heard me — he’s a brave man. In his invitation he mentioned some of my past “heroics” but threw in a stint at Studio 54 that wasn’t me (that was Steve Rubell). I’m only half the man he was (although I am taller). Eric was also amused by a New Yorker piece that showed a single patron at his bar with a storyline about the bad economy’s affect on such places. The story implied that Lit wasn’t Lit anymore, but that’s junk. Lit is vibrant, packed, and relevant. It is my favorite joint, and the 7th anniversary was off the hook.

I entered the DJ booth as the last of about 10 DJs, and Carlo McCormick of Paper Magazine was to ping-pong with me. I put on one record and he the next in a sort of sparring match. I was ready to rumble. But, alas, Carlo was off doing Carlo things, so Leo Fitzpatrick, an extraordinary DJ talent, showed me how to use all the knobs and hi-tech things. With the onset of the Serato computer era, I am finding that each joint I spin in has a different setup for the CDs as fewer guys use them. Last week, at Southside, the setup was on the floor, so I had to do a squat every time I changed a disc. It’s better than going to the gym. I offered up punk, punk, and more punk, and the tattooed gals on the dance floor seemed to love every minute, although it was late and I’m sure they were quite drunk. How drunk? One of them told me I was cute.

On the Cusp: Marquee Turns Five

Jason Strauss called me up one day about six years ago and wanted to meet me in an old building in a derelict neighborhood over on the West Side. The area was inhabited by badass hookers, their friendly associates, and the fellows who find thrills in such people. It was raining hard, and lightning was screaming at me to go home, but there was Jason smiling and working some ancient lock “can’t waiting” to show me his dream space. There was virtually no roof on the abandoned sanitation truck garage, and a single exposed bulb swayed and sparked in the waterfalls that were quickly turning the floor into a wading pool. “Isn’t it amazing?” gushed my young friend. I would spend the next year trying to make it so, and Marquee would open and take the nightlife game to an unprecedented level.

The layout of Marquee, a machine of a bottle-club, was the result of many meetings, which included people like Andrew Sasson of Light Group, Vegas, Noah Tepperberg, Mark Packer, and many others. Philip Johnson Alan Ritchie Architects even came on to up the ante. We all worked hard contributing and tweaking, and the result is the defining club of what will be known as the bottle-service era. Not since Pangea or Life has a club been so obviously the place to be — but only for a certain crowd. When asked recently by a New York Post reporter how I would rank Marquee overall in comparison to the great clubs of history, I said it wasn’t up there. He was actually interested to know how it compared to a Studio 54, and I think he was a little shocked when I said it could not be compared. Yet, when baseball writers try to determine if a player is worthy of the hall of fame, one of the questions considered is, “Was he a dominant player of his era?” Marquee is absolutely the dominant player of its era — the thing is that it’s a pretty boring era.

In order to make my top 10, it’s important that a club have musical chops. Although many a great DJ has worked that room, I can’t imagine anyone comparing its offerings to that of, say, Cielo, another viable candidate for the dominant club of the last five years. Marquee also never had much racial or sexual diversity. Although there were certainly great gay-ish parties, it is mostly known for a straight following. It might be too soon to judge, however, as Marquee is still with us, still banging, and certainly still changing. In the next five years, there could be nights or weekly parties that add dimensions to its legacy.

Marquee’s floorplan has no real defined dance floor and relies on people dancing at their bottle-laden tables. I can see a time when that furniture will be stored on a few nights, and an improved sound system will allow a kick-ass, musically based dance night. Although ranking clubs is a sport which amuses some writers, editors, and readers, to the people who own and have invested in Marquee, the reality is that the club has generated a great deal of money for five years, and that is certainly a measure of success. Everyone involved should be congratulated for reaching this milestone.

I asked Wass, Marquee’s superstar doorman, what it was like to be doing the door of this five-year anniversary party on the night before The Wrestler, a major movie in which he has a significant role, is about to be released. He said he felt like he was “on the cusp.” Wass has been a top-tier doorman in New York for a very long time. His ability to support himself while pursuing his dream of becoming a successful actor is one of the many reasons nightclubs have been my obsession for so long.