What moves are you about to make in the aftermath of all this?
I would love to get my own venue again like I did at XIX. I think I walked a really fine line at XIX. The same fine line like Jonny walks at Goldbar where he does those people and he doesn’t do a lot of those people. He mixes the room. Ten percent of everything in there and it feels like New York City. That’s it, man. That’s what New York is about. Ten percent of everything. Every type of person. Of course, more percentage of women, but of course, all types. That’s what makes New York beautiful. People party together. Fashion people. Art people. Music people. Sports people. Celebrities. That’s an eclectic group. Ne-Yo would be on one side of the room. RZA would be on the other side of the room. Jusske’s DJ-ing. Those days when it was good. The models. Kate Moss and those girls would come in without being told to come. They just came because it was the place to be.
Centro-Fly basement was the place to be for years. We would all be in there. Ice-T and Coco on one side. We gotta bring it back to that. You can’t just do a whole room with Jewish kids. You can’t do a whole room with just hip-hop kids. It has to go back into a melting pot because that’s what New York City is.
Centro-Fly basement was the place to be for years. We would all be in there. Ice-T and Coco on one side. We gotta bring it back to that. You can’t just do a whole room with Jewish kids. You can’t do a whole room with just hip-hop kids. It has to go back into a melting pot because that’s what New York City is period. If I have my opportunity to get my own place again, that’s what it would be. That’s what I try to do at my doors and that helped the club W.i.P. turn into a melting pot since I got there. I took a piece of everybody and put them in the room and they were happy with the music. They were happy with the energy and the ambiance and that’s what it’s about. We have to stop standing in the corner at a party, staring at each other. It’s not cool anymore. We are just trying to have a good time again. Celebrate life.
I’ve been in W.i.P. many nights and I felt like it was that type of feeling in this room. I would love that some Meek Mill shit would come on and then some techno shit next and you can see all types in the crowd reacting.
You don’t care. When you’re in W.i.P. and the music is changing to techno and you’re talking to a fine girl, the music becomes secondary at that time. People just want to have a good time.
People don’t give urban groups enough credit. Obviously, we know white kids love hip-hop, but dudes feel like because someone likes rap or is Black that they can’t appreciate a night where Avicii drops.
Yeah, exactly. These young kids love everything. I had them all. I had them at XIX. I cater to everything. They love everything. They love Cam’ron and they love Deadmau5. Skrillex. When I was young, I used to like Kiss and I liked Sugarhill Gang. You are a certain type of person. I guess that’s why I live downtown now. Some people stay pigeon-holed in their own shit.
I watched The Radiant Child, that Basquiat movie and you had Debbie Harry in there with the Zulu Nation. That’s the best type of party to me.
Fab Five Freddy came from the Bronx and bridged that shit and motherfuckers loved the shit. He liked The Clash. That was the shit he was doing in the Bronx. I remember growing up in the Bronx at the time and that shit was cool. The dude played The Clash that was some funny shit, but it was cool. That was alright. I fuck with them British dudes. And they fucked with us. The first time Furious Five came on stage was with the rock band. They booed them. Strummer came on stage and was like, “Chill, don’t boo these people. This is the next generation of music. Listen to this shit.” And they dropped their joint and the people went crazy. It was the support and the open-mindedness.
What’s the deal with XIX and Kenmare closing down? What are the insider circumstances? I’m sure money is involved, but I’m sure it’s deeper than that too.
When I got to XIX, they had nothing going on. They had a venue that I loved that I felt like I could do something with it. But they had nothing going on. They weren’t from New York. They were from Australia. They tried to work with people that were really finicky people and don’t work with any people. Of course they entertained them, but it didn’t work out. They just didn’t understand the intricacies of New York City nightlife. So I came in and I started to do the party. I was fresh off a year in L.A. auditioning and shopping my script, so I haven’t been in New York for a while. I guess my mystery was high so people followed me and came when I let people know I was there. I kind of—marketing-wise—I set myself beautifully.
You should have seen the three tourists, when they came. You should have seen when they run back upstairs and say, 'Oh my God. Drake is there. I see Chris Brown.'I can’t believe it. I’m sitting there and Juelz is over there and standing on the table. I can’t believe it.' These people—you can make their life with that night.
I never had a social network. Facebook. Twitter. None of that in my whole life. So what I did towards the end of my last stay in L.A., I opened up a Twitter account and then I started getting followers for what I was doing in L.A. Then I drove back from L.A. to New York to start XIX. So people started following in the car from state to state to New York to XIX and that started the party. It was crazy. And then followers went crazy on Twitter. And I learned how to use Twitter. Now I got 7,000 followers or whatever. All those little marketing schemes helped. I took that little intricate, intimate room and put the best DJ in there. You can’t name one DJ that didn’t DJ there including Skrillex and Jesse Marco. I started with Sinatra.
Through all my connections in nightlife, I was taking care of these kids for years. I know Cassidy since he was a kid through Jon Lennon since he was 14. All these guys came to the rescue and when people heard that, it was so different. It was a basement bar that had the best DJs going in there. People wanted to know why. Why was Sinatra DJ-ing at this little bar? It was packed. And when it got packed, I started to sell tables at a decent price. I never ripped people off. I never was comfortable with that and I always thought that minimums were bad and bar tabs were bad. I didn’t do bar tabs and I didn’t do minimums and people saw it and they were like, “What is my minimum?” “No minimum brother. Enjoy the table.” And people started to get comfortable and they started to spend $800 and $1,500. I had clients doing $2,500. $3,000. $4,000. And this is how it works. I did it my way. The way it should be done. People open clubs and stuff, flooding with all these promoters, every single promoter in New York started raising the minimum to four grand. That shit scares us quick. I let the thing progress through the music and through the energy. That’s what’s it’s about.
What are these intricacies that you speak of? I know you talk about working a room and making sure the music and the party is right each night, but from a business standpoint, and maybe stepping back from the actual party, what does it take to be successful in the business?
You know why Noah Tepperberg is so successful? Because he respects his employees. I learned that a long time ago and that was one of my main things. I got the employees to respect me and I respected them. I didn’t treat them like shit. You got to put your ego away and speak to the people properly. Once you get the backing of your employees, they trust you, and they’ll go to war for you, you can’t lose at that point because everybody is putting their hand in any way they can. Even if it’s a bus boy who cleans extra to just make sure the place looks clean because he’s happy and he wants the people to be happy. That’s what matters. A lot of people treat their staff like crap. A lot of guys have egos. A lot of guys are in the business and insensitive towards women and that shit never works. It’s just a minor intricacy, besides using the relationships with your client, to have in your place, that’s so important. The bathroom lady is like my best friend. That bathroom lady is never doing anything wrong. She’ll always tell me if there’s something wrong. I made her my best friend. Love and energy. If you have that shit in the room, you can’t beat it. Yeah, you can work the room, but that’s elementary stuff. Say hello to everybody. Make yourself look like a big shot. You run the place. Wow big deal. The bathroom guy respects you and he’s not back there hating you? [Laughs.] You know what I mean? The bartender slipping a couple more 50s because he hates your guts because you talk to him like shit every day? There’s so many things going on.
Are you as mad at Drake and Chris Brown as your tweets make it seem?
I’m not really hating on Drake or Chris Brown. Yes, I am upset with those dudes. I work with them and they’re in my place. I welcomed them in my living room.
On Twitter, I saw someone say, “This shit happens when you suck out of town dick.” What is that even supposed to mean? How do you feel when you hear someone says something like that?
Yo, here’s a perfect example. You should have seen the girl, the tourist, the three tourists, when they came. You should have seen when they run back upstairs and say, “Oh my God. Drake is there. I see Chris Brown. I can’t believe it. I’m sitting there and Juelz is over there and standing on the table. I can’t believe it." These people—you can make their life with that night. Not everyone is like me and you where you’ve been to the hottest shit and you’re sitting next to Angelina Jolie. Not everybody is used to that shit. You can make their whole life. They can go home after that club and you made their life right there. They kissed Chris Brown on the cheek and said hello to him. It was crazy.
Sammy Adams. I don’t know if you know him but he’s one of my best friends now. Three years in. He supported me from the beginning at XIX and everything. That’s my man. I’m the type of dude, once you fuck up, I don’t fuck with you anymore. You’re dead to me. I don’t fuck with you. Especially if we became friends. When I say I don’t fuck with you, I say I don’t eat with you no more. I know you when you come to the club. I’m not gonna dead you and take it personal. But I don’t eat with you no more. But the kid is mad consistent. The girls be kissing him. I seen the tweets. “Yo, my life is set. I met Sammy.” You gotta understand that they are touching people. You gotta understand, if a girl met Drake, “Oh my God.” You gotta understand that’s a gift you are giving people. It’s not violent. I’m not with any of the dudes in the room because I get happy when other people are happy. I laugh when girls run upstairs, “Oh my God.” It’s funny. It’s cool. And they blowed that shit.
Realistically, do you think that incident is going to have an effect on bottle service?
I don’t think so, man. There’s too much money being made through bottle service. What could they really do? How are you gonna control that? What are you gonna tell them? Nobody gonna tell you can’t put those rich guys with bottles. No way. That shit ain’t happening. You can’t just do bottle restriction on one club; it gotta be all the clubs. The entity is too strong at this point. Bottle service… I still can’t believe to this day when guys pay 5K. It’s not realistic to me financially and people are like, “Wow. That’s amazing.” If the clubs are getting that, then that’s not gonna stop. I doubt that stops at all.
With all that money being made, do you feel like bottle service killed New York?
What kills New York is people who don’t know how to do parties the way I just told you. I just gave you the secret of the party. Ruddy will tell you straight up. I did Ruddy’s birthday party. I had a surprise for him on every table in there. It was a mad house. That what’s it about.
You know what Jon Lennon does over there? Every time it’s his birthday, they smashed a cake in your face. That’s what it’s about. We love you. We smash a cake in your face. It’s not intimate anymore. People aren’t walking in clubs and giving 100 pounds. People walk in and they don’t know nobody. It’s wack. The intimacy factor is gone. When people start doing that again, you can do bottle service, you can do everything. Because you know why? The dude is so happy. When I was at XIX, that motherfucker would be happy to spend money. You know why? When he looked around, it was a small room. Vin Diesel was in there. Gerard Butler. Scarlett Johansson and a whole bunch of regular kids. And guess what? They were dancing and the music was popping. People loved it. People start realizing that the mechanical aspect of it-- Kind of break a little couple rules, make people happy. As far as you can go without hurting yourself. People want to be happy. When I want to walk into the club, I want to be happy.
What do you feel like the outcome for W.i.P. is going to be? Will people want to come back or are going to start looking for other options?
I think we are so strong. I think the team over there is so strong that if we opened up tonight it would be packed. That’s a definite. Once we are allowed to be open again, how far will the police allow us to have a good time? That’s the question. How long will they allow us to let people have a good time? Are they going to come in every night and check the room and clear the room and check everybody’s IDs every single night? Or are they going to stand outside, which is okay. We’ve done that for a while. They can stand outside, as long as they don’t come in. It depends on NYPD and the city of New York, how hard they go on us. They leave us alone. I guarantee we will be on and popping by the end of this week. Packed. Especially with all this happening, it’s crazy publicity. If it wasn’t Drake and Chris having a fight in there, nobody would give a shit. But it’s two A-List celebrities. Of course it makes it a lot more special than it would be if it was two regular guys.
Random detail: Do you have any idea what song was playing during the fight?
[Laughs.] Sinatra was playing. He was going in because they were so many artists there. He said Fabolous loved him. Sinatra was having such a good time until that happened. I felt bad for the dude. He’s one of New York’s hardest working DJs. The hottest behind the DJ booth.
They would have to come back at me respectfully and humbly and apologizing if we even think of letting them back in at all. It would have to be their whole energy. Seriously. That goes for Chris Brown, too. Any one of those guys.
[Ed. Note - Rivera texted later to confirm that DJ Khaled’s song with Chris Brown, “Take It To The Head,” was playing. Ironic.]
What would you do if either one of those guys came back?
I would definitely have a good long talk with them about a lot of stuff I just talked to you about. My feelings about it, before I let them in. If I decided to let them in. I would definitely have a long talk with them and the manager and whoever is with them. It would be a long talk like, “I can’t do it tonight.” They would have to come back at me respectfully and humbly and apologizing if we even think of letting them back in at all. It would have to be their whole energy. Seriously. That goes for Chris Brown, too. Any one of those guys. That goes for everybody from now on.
I love Maino, that’s my man. I was just in Miami with Maino. Me and Maino became friends over years of nightclubs. Maino has never given me a problem ever. But I would even have that talk with Maino now. Talib, that’s my man. If Talib comes up, I’ll be like, “Talib, check it. You already know what went down. I’m not going to have that shit here. I can’t have that no more. I can’t be doing any more rappers or whatever.” But eventually Talib will get in and come back with me like, “Yo, you know that ain’t my style.” Nine times outta ten, I gotta do the energy check. The character check for these people now. That’s what I do. I read your whole person before I let you in. If I’m not feeling it by the time we are finished talking, you are not coming in. I don’t care who you are.