Mighty A-Rod Strikes Out, Lavo Strikes It Big

A giant pin-striped cloud hangs over Manhattan, as mighty Alex Rodriguez has struck out. But there’s still joy in Mudville. Alex has proven once again that he’s no Casey, or Babe, or Lou, or Joe, or Derek, or even Jorge. Alas, there would be no story-book ending (unless of course you were from Lansing, Michigan or some such place). But that’s alright, as A-Rod seems to be a real nice fellow, especially when you see him out in those seriously tailored suits. As a movie star once said, “there’s no crying in baseball,” and it is hard to cry for this guy or his teammates, who are making tons of money while most people are trying to just get by. The good ones make over a hundred grand a game, sometimes more, even if they don’t play.

In the end it wasn’t the maligned pitching that let our hopefuls down but the vaunted bats of our gaggle of 20-million-dollar men. What does this mean for nightlife? Who are the winners besides Detroit and the losers besides the Yankees and their followers? Early October is still the off season for nightlife. Most of the tourists are back where they live, and aren’t due back until the Christmas shopping season or next summer. The students are studying, or spending their trust fund loot on keggers. Everyone is a little ill as various viruses and bacteria celebrate our chills and dampness. It gets dark way too early, and that can be so depressing.The weather is much colder at night and people go home to change and stay there. The Jewish holidays occupy a great deal of the population and everyone is still trying to pay for there summer frolicking. Finally, nobody knows what to wear.

September after fashion week until Halloween is rough. Throw in the baseball playoffs with a local team involved and it’s a disaster. The crowd at Snap sports bar was nervous as I popped upstairs while taking breaks from the renovation I’m doing downstairs. The place was packed with concerned citizens munching burgers and fries and more exotic fare, washing it all down with gallons of swill. It won’t get better than this. With the Yankees out of it, these sort of parties will be reserved for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday night football. The sports bars took a big hit because the Yankees couldn’t make one. The regular joints no doubt owned by sad Yankee fans will rejoice as the early exit of the home town heroes will have the hordes seeking other distractions. DJs and booze will help them forget.

The game ended while I was on the L train going home to Brooklyn. I stopped caring about Baseball and football and especially basketball a long time ago. Maybe it was that sequence from A Bronx Tale where Sonny tells the kid to stop hating Bill Mazeroski, the Pirates slugger who had made Yankee legend Mickey Mantle cry. Sonny asks the kid whether if his dad needed money, would Mickey come up with it? I’m not going to cry about the pinstriped millionaires now off to an early vacation with their movie star/model girls. I’m concerned about building joints that pinstriped suits enjoy enough to spend a thousand dollars on a bottle of booze. Love Derek and Alex to death, but we all have bigger problems.

I was a real Nowhere man last night. I had every intention of heading back to the city to celebrate with Rocco and Jayma and Andrew and Noah and the rest of the gang as Lavo turned one years old. I remember Noah asking me if I thought it would work. It was a sort of a redundant question, as he and his very sharp partners had crunched the numbers and dotted all the I’s before investing the millions it takes to build such a place. I told him it would be a home run. It’s more than that — It’s the grand slam the Yankees never managed. It has spread nightlife up and to the right of its familiar zone. I will be up there for brunch on Saturday to support and celebrate.

Last night, I walked Lulu and chatted up my neighbors on the way. The air was chilly and me and my crew headed to The Brooklyn Star to find hearty fall fare. We were joined by a real movie star and his gal and enjoyed the food and vibe of this seriously great restaurant. The desserts made the eyelids heavier than the coffee could handle, and we said good nights. Somewhere, a Yankee was taking off his socks in his luxury apartment surrounded by the stuff that dreams are made of … but he wasn’t thinking or caring about me, and frankly the feeling is mutual.

Morning Links: More Kardashians Ready to Date, Scarlett Johansson Flirts With Ashley Olsen’s Ex

● When things got dicey between Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, Jen’s mother did what any reasonable mother would do and e-mailed Ben Affleck for advice. Mom’s love Ben Affleck. [Us] ● Ear pressed against Yankee Stadium, a New York Times music critic hears a symphony. [NYT] ● There are two new Kardashians on the market! Kendall and Kylie, 15 and 13 years-old, are ready to date. “I guess we’re allowed to date, but we have to find a good guy, I guess,” they said, sounding less than excited. [E!]

● Kim Kardashian is suing Old Navy for using a model that looks a little too much like her in an ad campaign. There’s only room for one curvy brunette on the television these days, and Kim got there first. [NYDN] ● Scarlett Johansson was “engrossed” by Ashley Olsen’s ex, Justin Bartha. “It looked sometimes flirty, but also they seemed to be involved in a deep discussion,” said the source. Flirty and deep, just like their love. [PageSix] ● “I’ve been hiding this secret inside me for too long,” announced Zach Braff’s website yesterday after hackers broke in and posted a fake “coming out” note. Braff denied the statement’s truth on Facebook, saying that he loves his girlfriend at least as much as he loves musicals, brunch and Doogie Howser. [TMZ]

Bernie Williams on the Yankees, Easy Listening

The name Bernie Williams usually conjures images of the Yankees center fielder during his record-breaking days, or the four World Series wins he has under his belt. But Williams fans are now talking about an entirely new kind of record. The Puerto Rico native is trying his hand at the music game, with two albums, The Journey Within and Moving Forward, that combine eclectic influences like smooth Jazz, Latin, and Pop for an easy-listening effect. Here, the baseball star talks about moving from team to band.

You attended a performing arts high school. Was your goal to become a musician then? No, I didn’t really have any idea what I wanted to become at that point. My parents had a nice vision of me being a well-rounded person. So they decided to put my brother and me in the Escuela Libre de Musica in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I started playing guitar and my brother played the cello. It wasn’t really with any aspirations of being a professional musician, but little did they know, I got really into it. I was actually at the top of my guitar class. All of that fell to the side when I started playing baseball professionally, but I never stopped playing music.

How does your album Moving Forward differ from The Journey Within? It’s different in the sense that Moving Forward was a lot more hands-on. As far as making the arrangements of the songs, hiring the musicians, the recording, and the mixing. I think my playing [guitar] is better on this album, as opposed to five years ago. I’m hoping that shows in the album, kind of an evolution of my abilities.

How do you feel when fans sport Yankees gear to your shows? It makes me feel good because obviously, as they say, “Once a Yankee, always a Yankee”. However, the catch is once they come in and start listening to the music, I hope they’ll become Bernie Williams music fans. We have two sets of people that come in for the most part. Yankees fans who want to see an ex-Yankee do his thing on stage, curious and not really knowing what to expect. The other set is the people that don’t really have anything to do with sports at all. Of those two sets of people, hopefully they’ll come out of the show thinking, “Wow this guy really has a good idea of where he wants to go”.

How did you hook up with the musicians who play in your band? For the most part, it was decided for me. I’d been in touch with Richie Cannata, who is our musical director. He was the musical director of a concert that I did joining José Feliciano at the Paradise Theater in the Bronx. From that moment on, he put a band together and then we’ve been playing more or less with the same band ever since. A lot of these guys have played for years for great bands like Spyro Gyra and Billy Joel. They’re really digging the music and doing what they do. They’re adding to the whole experience of the band.

What are your favorites venues? I love a 200 to 1,000 seater. I don’t think my music is suited for big arenas like Giants Stadium. I get very intimidated playing in very small clubs. I think I feed off the energy from the fans and the crowd. If they get into the music, I get into the music. It’s a great dynamic that goes back and forth. The more the better but, not too much.

You were nominated for a Latin Grammy in ’09. What have you been most proud of in your music career thus far? People who’ve been in the industry have favorable reviews of my music. I’ve played with Bruce Springsteen, and James Taylor wrote some minor notes in my album. To have somebody like that say nice stuff about me tells me that I’m in the right place.

You credit your musical experience with helping your baseball career. What’s the connection? I think it all comes down to preparation. What people see on stage and what people see when they come to the ballpark is just the result of hours and hours of intense preparation. You go through trying to develop your skill level to the point that you don’t have to think about your technique. You need to know your scales, pages, need to know your music theory. Then, once you know all of that, you need to forget all about it and play whatever comes out of your heart.

What are your aspirations for future albums? I’d like to leave my imagination and creativity free to do whatever comes to my head. I think I’m going to go back to school and just learn a lot more theory. My goal is to be able to play all kinds of music, with any kind of musician. I’ll be able to have my musical horizons go so wide that I will be considered a complete musician. Obviously it’s going to take a lot of time, but you know, I figure I have a lot of time now to spend so might as well do it.

How Clubs, the Lakers, and Fans Celebrate

I never much followed sports. Whether the Rangers beat the Knicks or the Yankees defeated the Celtics was of little importance to me, except that the games often interfered with my business. Yesterday’s NBA finals left local pubs and sports bars sated and clubs empty—at least early in the evening. While many ignore all the hoopla, big games like these keep patrons away from nightclubs for many hours, and often altogether. The games are a great excuse for house parties and visits to the local watering hole. Patrons that go to the clubs after the game, when the interviews and the replays are finally over, are often close to their saturation point on local swill or deli beers. This week’s subway series will have a smaller but similar effect. Come late September and October, if the Yankees—and maybe even the Mets—are in contention, every game becomes a big one, and the bottom line is impacted. Club doorman yawn and check their Rolex, knowing they will be slammed about an hour after the all important clashes.

A loss usually leaves devout fans staying in, but a victory may mean a celebration. Fanatic fans and winning gamblers may help the bottom line, but it’s never really enough to make up for the late start and the broke-ass losers. Although professional sports teams have striven to keep games from ending too late, the pressures of advertisers often have games going past midnight. The bridge and tunnel crowd invariably stays close to home.

The emergence of the easily hidden flat screen TV means that owners often opt for a viewing option, even in sophisticated joints. Placement of state-of-the-art projectors and screens is becoming a more important consideration, as the opportunity to make extra cash becomes more and more important in this every-dollar-counts economy A comedy club that my firm is designing has installed a half dozen screens to accommodate sports fanatics. The World Cup is having an effect on the local club economy as well. The accented amongst us are up early to watch games from South Africa. They either don’t have the energy to stay out late and pop bottles, must get up early for the next game, or they’re getting plastered by noon. Again the local saloon is reaping the benefits with booming breakfasts and daytime crowds. Sports, once a male dominated distraction, has gained “broad” appeal, and it is much more often a couples thing.

My firm is designing a sports bar for a September opening, which will cater to club crowds, celebrities, and social types. Our national and international pastimes are being embraced in what will be a very women-friendly environment. Clubs are often nothing more than a distraction from wars, oil spills, and a flailing economy. Sports also serve that purpose. They are, therefore, often in competition for the same bucks. Operators that understand and adjust or pre-engineer their joints to embrace the games have happier accountants.

A very famous baseball player was standing with me one night and told me that the so-called “home team” advantage wasn’t necessarily anything more than a reflection of the behavior of young, rich, traveling studs. He said that talented athletes on the road have a lot of time to kill, and big bucks in their pockets. Many choose to spend their time in the pursuit of local talent. Players on the road often have a special friend in every port of call, or they go out at night looking for adventure. Players are like rockstars, they have groupies, and sometimes celebrity status. Home team players have wives, girlfriends, dogs, familiar beds and sleep a wee bit better, waking up without hangovers or complications. The home team advantage is not the unfamiliar field. My guy says 5 minutes into the game you’re focused on the game, and the pro players are used to playing on unfriendly turf. They have done it since they were little kids. Clubs cash in on the cash and credit cards of these nouveau-rich studs, on and off season.

Many sports stars are real celebrities. I always defined a celebrity to my staff as someone that might entice customers to come check out my joint if the patrons had seen certain bold-faced names aligned with my place in the paper. Players without the actress, pop star girlfriend, or the 20 million dollar smile, were just normal guests to be given special treatment only if they were in a spending mood. I never accommodated large entourages or bad dress just because they played some game. But, Go Lakers!

Where in NYC to Watch the Yankees-Phillies World Series

Sixth borough, my ass. Call Philadelphia whatever you want any other time, but this week, in New York, we call them one thing: “Fucked.” Because the Yankees have the best team they’ve had in years, and they’re about to win their first World Series since 2000. Granted, it’s eight years late, but sometimes we need to play catch-up. For those who will have to tolerate watching the seven games with you — or watching the Phillies lose in four — we’ve come up with some decent alternatives to your average digs you’d watch baseball, for those who might find this a less-than-pleasurable experience. Batter up.

Warren 77: The New York Rangers’ own Vogue intern, Sean Avery, has a stake in this swank Tribeca sports bar place. People have said the food tastes like something you’d dig up on the third baseline, which: possibly true! Though we’ve never tried it. To their credit: for a sports bar, pretty stylish digs in a pretty stylin’ neighborhood with a lack of decent, upscale places to watch a game. Bring your pre-Avenue gaggle of girls here and drink to Damon maybe — just maybe — not throwing like a girl scout for once in his life, tonight.

Brooklyn Bowl: Oh, you better believe it. A big, beautiful hi-def screen in front of every one of their lanes, and they’ll be blasting the game and the jams each night that they’re playing. Throw in Blue Ribbon’s table/lane service of awesome, awesome bites and oh yeah: bowling. Bowling while watching baseball. With Blue Ribbon food. And jams. A win-win situation on all fronts.

Brass Monkey: Go West, Young Adventurer! Or if you’ve been dragged into the District of The Packing of Meat, or the District Where Figurative Meat Is Now Packed In Place of Literal Meat, and you’re (A) not the clurrb’ing type or (B) would rather be watching the Yankees game somewhere DJ Asshat isn’t raping you in the ears at deafening volumes with his Pucini/Oakenfold/Shakur mashup, go to Brass Monkey! It’s right in the ‘hood, it’s gritty, it’s old New York, and it’s gonna be a party, sans bottle service and/or Jersey’s “Finest.”

Milady’s: Again, an important joint for how unlikely it is, but god only knows how long Milady’s has been around (answer: for-ev-er). Step off, SoHo House: you and your anti-suit eugenics can find some balls here, an honest-to-god neighborhood joint of the highest pedigree. Everything at Milady’s is just decent, but isn’t that just how you need it, sometimes?

Blaue Gans: You want actually good food and the game? Tall order! Tribeca’s Blaue Gans — projecting the games on the “big screen” taking up the entire back wall that he’s also used for the elections and European soccer — is classic Kurt Gutenbrunner: sure, you can hit hard some ‘Weizen, and snack on the free soft pretzels and roasted almonds, but seriously? Go Gutenbrunner or go home: at least get a brat. You can pretend you’re uptown as it happens, except your “hot” “dog” will actually taste substantial and you won’t be embarrassingly gouged for it.

Corner Bistro: Asshole staff? Check. Great jukebox? Check. Overhyped burgers? Check. Yup. Plenty of people will be watching the game at the Corner Bistro. There’re worse places. At least it’s not Brother Jimmy’s?

Old Town Bar: Right by the BlackBook offices, the Corner Bistro that Corner Bistro wishes it were, cool beers, good burgers, great chili. Hell yeah, you’re going to Old Town, and you’re gonna enjoy yourself, too. Remember, as the sign out front will remind you: no bluenoses, and no bullshit, neither. Perfect location, mixed crowd, this should be your final answer, your fastball, down the middle. Oh, and they make a decent cheesesteak, too. Eat that, Philly fans.

The Yankees Might Just Win The World Series Again

Everything is relative in the Bronx. Watching their team take home a record 26 World Series titles including four from 1996-2000 made Yankees fans accustomed to greatness. By most standards the team has done pretty well since the end of their late-nineties dynasty but they haven’t won the championship, and that’s all that matters to most of the Yankees faithful. Now, after missing the postseason in 2008 for the first time in thirteen years, the Yankees are entering the postseason with more wins than any other team in the Major Leagues. After beginning the playoffs with a victory against the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday, the’yre just six wins away from the World Series. The pressure is on to bring home the title.

This is the team’s first season in a new $1.5 billion stadium that’s a gleaming monument to the excess of professional sports. It’s a sleek mess of bright lights, polished stone, massive LCD screens, and high-priced luxury suites. Across the street, the ballpark that, until last year, was home to the Yankees for nearly a century, sits darkened, covered in scaffolding, and waiting for a wrecking ball.

It takes a special organization to demolish their own legacy. The original Yankee Stadium was baseball’s hallowed ground, the diamond where all-time greats like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio, and Mickey Mantle became legends. None of that mattered to Yankees management who wanted the new stadium built to make more money from luxury seating and services. Since George Steinbrenner bought the team in 1973, the Yankees have outspent every other team in baseball to justify a ruthless “must win” mentality. It’s a blend of capitalism and naked ambition that fits perfectly in New York.

On Wednesday evening I was working late, so I watched the first part of the game on television. The Twins jumped out to a two run lead in the third inning, but the Yankees struck back in the bottom of the third. Shortstop Derek Jeter, the team captain who’s know for dating celebrities and postseason heroics added another characteristically clutch hit to his resume with a two-run homer off Twins pitcher Brian Duensing to tie things up.

After Minnesota scored early in the game, ace starter C.C. Sabathia, a bear of a man who is all sweat and rumpled pinstripes on the mound, shut down the Twins’ lineup. By the 7th inning the Yankees had continued to have their way with Minnesota’s pitching and were winning 6-2 so I felt comfortable tearing myself away from the television and taking the subway up to The Bronx to see the rest of the game up close.

A short train trip later, I stood outside the gates of Yankee Stadium peeking at the massive TV screen in the cavernous “Great Hall.” Drunk fans eager to beat post-game traffic were already streaming out of the building cheering as they poured into the streets. It was the eighth inning. Sabathia was no longer in the game, but the bullpen, which is often the Yankees’ Achilles Heel, actually hadn’t imploded and the score held steady at 7-2.

A woman named Cherie also stood outside of Gate 6 with a handwritten sign asking fans “can i please have your Used tickets?” Cherie said ticket stubs are “big business actually, every ticket from every game is worth money and especially the first playoff at the new stadium.” Cherie said she sells “all the giveaways from the Stadium.” Last week, she got a bunch of Beanie Baby dolls that she said are “worth $40 a piece.”

Every piece of the Yankees has been monetized. A store inside Yankee Stadium sells dirt from the old ballpark encased in crystal starting at $70 a pop.

When Yankees closer Mariano Rivera put the Twins away to end the game, I went to the bars along River Avenue where stumbling groups of fans celebrated the team’s victory. One fan wore an Elmo costume with a furry, red bodysuit.

I asked two police officers watching over the scene if they enjoyed working the beer-soaked playoff beat. One of them said “I hate the Yankees,” his partner said “I’m tired of this shit too.”