New York is known as “the city that never sleeps.” And for some, the town turns into a nocturnal playground as soon as the sun sets over the Hudson. After all, going out in a place like the Big Apple is really all about the scenes that play out under dark shadows and sketchy half-lit back alleys.
Draped in an aura of mystery and downtown cool, we’ve gathered a few familiar faces from elite late night circles to offer a glimpse of the city’s current movers and shakers. From rock and roll revivalists to the era-defining living legends, these are the nightlife elite that are helping to shape New York after dark and beyond.
Photographer: Spencer Wohlrab, StyleCaster
Makeup: Michelle Coursey, OCC Makeup
Hair: Britney Williams, Bumble and bumble
Writer: Susie G, StyleCaster
Shot on location at GunBar, New York, NY.
Dani Baum, Actress/Downtown Darling
What do you find exciting about New York nightlife?
The unknown. I never quite know where I'm going, who will be there or what's going to happen. I love that. I like to go out a lot by myself. I like to watch other people. At this point, most of my closest friends are people that I have met when I was out. That may be a weird concept for a lot of people to understand because "the nightlife" tends to be associated with pretension, fake people or mischievous behavior. But over the years I have found some incredibly interesting, quality people.
Who are your favorite DJs?
My favorite friends who DJ that I hear all the time are Kelle Calco, Ian El Dorado, Justin Dean Thomas & DJ Louie XIV. I also love Peate Suzuki...we go way back to the Snitch days, and he's going to DJ my future wedding (we already worked it out).
What song makes you want to get up and head to the dance floor every time you hear it?
"Paint it Black" by The Rolling Stones is my absolute favorite song to hear when I'm out.
Dani Baum and Kelle Calco
Kelle Calco, Host, DJ, Musician
What or who influences your style?
My face and my sewing machine are the two biggest influences on my style.
Favorite song to listen to when getting ready for a night out on the town?
The Rolling Stones' "Waiting On a Friend."
Preferred mode of party-hopping transportation?
I drive my van everywhere.
GrandLife Hotels (From top left to bottom right): Sam Walker, Door girl; Steven Rojas, Director of Social Media; "Spiky" Phil Meynell, Manager of Food & Beverage; Tommy Saleh, Vice President & Creative Director; Yadira Martinez, Director of Special Events and Promotions; and Alicia Polmanteer, Assistant Creative Director
Steven Rojas, Director of Social Media
What does GrandLife do in creating this community between the Soho and Tribeca Grand Hotels?
We work closely with artists, designers, DJs, musicians that really have their roots in NYC culture, and I dont want to say deviant, but definitely not your run of the mill people. Its creative types, trouble makers, and everything in between. We just kind of bring that to the Hotels...we give them a stage to do their art, or play their music, or DJ, or throw a party. And then through the website we really amplify that to our guests and anyone searching a little bit off the beaten path.
Can you give us examples of some of these platforms or events?
During Fashion Week, for example, the GrandLife Team, led by Tommy [Saleh], headed out to London and Paris, and we do these events called The is New York. And we take established and unestablished DJs, hosts, artists, musicians, and basically take them from one place to another, and give them this British/French platform to host New-York-style parties at these places. And it works out really well because when you go to Paris for Fashion Week, and you have Harley [Viera Newton] and The MisShapes, and Mike Nouveau, and Franco [V], and Tommy and myself, and Mandy [Brooks]
and every New Yorker you see out in our usual riff-raff night, you wanna be there and say, Oh, were all in Paris. Lets go party. And then the French people come, and it become this fun, crazy, debaucherous, family good timeits good.
You guys incorporate fashion bloggers with a lot of the GrandLife events. Whats the reasoning behind it?
I think its Tommy, the hotel(s), myself includedwe all appreciate what these kids are doing. You look at the lens through Bryanboy, or Susie Bubble, or Phil Oh, and you see what they see and get a feel of not just one persons perspective, but a bunch of other people. Theyre creative types so why not bring together these people who...all share a common goal at the end of the night. We all want to have fun and listen to good music, and be around like minded individuals who care about the same stuff you do. I think the hotel aims to bridge the gap between, not just that bubble but other bubbles too. Have hosts that normally wouldn't know who Bryanboy is, and have a DJ come in and play this music that theyre not used to but we know theyre gonna like.
What has been your favorite GrandLife party?
Alicia Polmanteer: The Venice Biennale party we did in June of this year. It was at this insane Palazzo in Venice, on one of the waterways. It was just extremely posh and beautiful.
Yadira Martinez: Sorry, its six years of parties Ive been there for. I dont know if I could say [just] one. I think theyre all so individual and unique. I love the DJs and the bands that we bring in, and I think thats what makes us unique. Every single one has something exciting and new so I cant pick.
Sam Walker: I would say, I was lucky enough to be at the event in Paris and it was the best group of people. Everyone whos going to the shows comes afterwards to this very cultural aesthetic that New York brought to Paris.
What are some interesting things youve heard people say to get into a GrandLife party?
Sam: "I own this place." "Im friends with Tommy." "I know Steven Ro-jas." "I am Steven Rojas." "I am an editor" (that theyre not).
Yadira: Someone came up to me and said, "Im really good friends with Yadira," which was good. Always, "Im friends with Tommy."
Whats your favorite spot to go to after a party or long day at work?
Sam, Yadira and Alicia: Kenmare.
Jermaine Jagger, DJ/Fashion Designer
Do you prefer to be behind the decks or out in front of the decks on the dance floor?
I like to be behind it because you get to control the environment and music and the atmosphere. Plus you get to see the reactions of people depending on the music. Im the type of DJ where I dont play the same stream of the same type of music -- lets say youre going to play Britney Spears and Beyonce, then pop into like Guns N Roses, or some obscure 80s or 70s thing...sometimes you dont get what you really want when you hear music when you go out. But when youre behind the decks youre controlling it, so its good. I like the mix.
What are you favorite regular parties?
On Thursdays its like Grey K's party at the StandardZig Zag. Skinny Tuesdays is really fun because its crazy hip hop but then theyll play, like, Robyn. Avenue on Tuesdays is really fun...Ghe20 G0th1k...Home Sweet Home...Southside is really good on Wednesday because your friend has a table, and youre just getting wastey.
How would you describe your personal style?
Its completely random...I think Im mainly influenced by music. Like, Grace Jones versus Siouxsie Sioux, versus Björk, and The Sex Pistols, and Vivienne Westwood. Its a mash-up of mainly music and cartoons. All my life Ive loved music, and I loved cartoons and illustrations. Like art, and Andy Warhol, and pop stuff. I dont dress to please people.
Last question: favorite cartoon?
Mickey Mouse. He's just legendary.
Zac Sebastian, Photographer
How did you get into nightlife photography?
Truthfully, all the credit should go to a couple different people. First, Merlin Bronques for introducing me to the nightlife world and for inspiring me to pick up a camera once I realized throwing parties wasn't as fun as it looked. Secondly, and most important, the MisShapes for being friends and supporting me from literally my first nightlife gallery (which they were in) and for having me as their photographer when they relaunched their website. It was their party that introduced me to what I love about New York nightlife, and it was their support when it counted that opened the door for me to be where I am today. Lastly, I would be amiss if I didn't mention my dear friends Steven Rojas and Tommy Saleh for giving me the support of the Grand Hotels when I was just starting out. Basically, I love my job because every day I get to work with some of my oldest friends in New York.
What do you look out for when on the prowl for snapshots at a party?
That's such a difficult thing to put into words and still sound nice. Basically, I'm looking for that moment when something interesting is happening to or with someone interesting...that combination is what a great nightlife photo is all about.
How long have you owned that awesome hat of yours?
I have a plethora of hats. More recently I'm in love with my handmade panama hats by Valdez which I think they sell at Opening Ceremony. Something amazing about wearing a hat that took a month to make.
Where is the best place to take party snapshots?
Every Thursday I shoot a party with my friends at Le Bain called Zig Zag. The other week we had Debbie Harry, Kanye, Ricardo Tisci and Brad Goreski all within 30 feet of each other. But even more important is that the rest of the people are fun and beautiful as well...so it's the atmosphere from the regular people that attract the big names, not the other way around.
Ladyfag, Party Promoter/Event Producer/"Magic Maker"
How did you get introduced into the nightlife circles of the city?
I didn't know anyone in the city so I'd get all dressed up and go to parties and just dance. The anonymity was quite liberating. Kenny Kenny saw me dressed in a crazy outfit crawling on the floor of a nightclub. He asked me to come try out as a gogo dancer up in a neon cage at Happy Valley. The rest is history.
Who or what is your biggest style influence?
I love ornamentation and details...lots and lots of them! For someone who doesn't seem traditional, I'm actually quite old fashioned in my tastes. I love the dark and the delicate of the Victorian era. I love the craftmanship and stories of traditional dress. I'm particularily drawn to Mexico, Eastern Europe, the "Stans," the Berbers. I'm much more inspired in an antique market then at Barney's.
Who is your favorite bartender in New York?
Anthony Phillips. I've worked with him for years at Vandam. Then took him along to my Clubber Down Disco party at the Chelsea Hotel. He might not remember everyone's name, but he remembers what everyone drinks, and thus everyone's sure to remember his name!
What is one thing in your wardrobe you can't live without?
My capes. Doesn't matter if you're the witch or the fairy princess of the storyyou need a cape.
Mike Nouveau, DJ
Can you tell us about the best party youve ever DJd at?
Thats hard. Theres been a lot of fun ones. I usually do the Purple parties in New York during Fashion Week. A lot of the GrandLife events we do, like Halloween and New Year's parties -- those are always really fun. I did the Marc Jacobs party at Boom Boom a few seasons ago; theyre all fun.
How important is the role of fashion for you?
To me its important but I dont know if anyone else notices or cares. Its not important that anyone else knows about it, but to me its my entire lifenot just nightlife. Fashion is important to me because its something I enjoy participating in. It doesnt affect my nightlife anymore than it affects my daylife. Its one of my interests, so itll naturally seep into a portion of my life.
Which fashion designer would you love to DJ for?
Luckily I 've done parties for a lot of my favorite designers, but I would love to do a party for Ann Demeulemeester. Id love to do a party with Rick Owens, but thats the obvious one. COMME des GARÇONS, for example.
Whats your go-to spot in the city right now?
Itd probably be restaurants. Takahachi on Avenue A...Rubirosa, which is awesome Italian food on Mulberry Street...Bar Pitti. If Im not working and Im going to go out, which is rare, Ill go to Kenmare or Boom Boom Room.
Franco V and Mike Nouveau
Franco V, DJ
How would you describe the current New York nightlife scene?
Its hard to say. Its not like it was a few years ago when there were specific parties with names and you knew a certain group of people were going to be at. Its random now. Theres not one place. At 3 oclock theres one place where everyones going to be and thats Kenmare. Thats every night. But other than that, it can be anywhere from Le Bain to Boom Boom, Electric Room, [to] Westway.
Whats your "go-to" outfit?
It depends. Its seasonal. Definitely about how I feel, but mostly seasonally. Spring-summer I like to sort of be a little Miami Vice, and fall-winter Im slightly more dapper. Mike [Nouveau] likes to call me his investment banker. I think of it as more of American Psycho, also mobsterish in a way.
Do you have some tips for anyone trying to make it as a DJ in New York?
Tell them to contact me, I need an internjust kidding. It can suck a lot of the time, but stick with it even when it sucks. You just have to keep going and paving your way.