Beatrice Inn and the Jane Hotel were closed by prissy neighbours. Downtown stalwarts like Lit and the Box face constant scrutiny from the city. So the newest hangout for celebrities (not to mention strippers and transsexuals) is a random apartment.
Mike is from Rumson. He lives in a reasonable-sized studio/loft downtown somewhere. His decor is sparse; the former dance studio is painted battleship gray with a large L-shaped couch around a coffee table, which has a copy of Wine Spectator magazine on top. There are Phish and Wilco posters, abstract paintings and a Yucca plant. His wireless password is Nirvana1.
Over the last couple of weeks Mike's apartment — it has no other title — has hosted rockers like Guns'n'Roses and Sebastian Bach of Skid Row and the soul singer Daniel Merriweather. An after party for the third anniversary of the Box (where a transsexual threw up on Susan Sarandon) came complete with boxers, debutantes, strippers and models. Promoters from Avenue, 1OAK and Greenhouse bring their crowds here in a steady stream, for pre and post club debauchery. As many as 150 people have crammed into the space.
It happened because Mike has worked in the restaurant industry for nearly a decade. While developing a new nightclub project over the last few months he accumulated some fairly unorthodox nightlife friends — who eventually started hosting impromptu parties at his place. "I get text messages and phonecalls whenever anyone wants to bring a crew through," he explains.
You enter the building through a red door — the buzzer is broken so you have to call someone inside to let you in (there are rumors that Mick Jagger fell at this hurdle last week). You walk past a trash can, up some rickety, black-painted stairs and turn left. There is no cover charge, or door guy — you have to be invited to have someone come down and open the door. Most party-goers bring their own booze, although some events are sponsored.
During the evenings, ashtrays and bottles are filled with cigarette butts and thick smoke curls through the air. There is no smoking ban here. The neighbors in the six story building are either at the parties or don't care about noise. Unconstrained by licensing laws, the parties tend to go until sunrise — or until the last of the booze is gone and CIA analysts and starlets are strewn across the floors and couches in unfeasible positions.
Over the next two weeks, along with the usual crowds, a high-end New York fashion house will have a party here, and an artist will host a reception for a major exhibition. Mike is mostly happy about the development.
But it's not all harmonious. Mike keeps his expensive whisky and wine collection in an unlockable wooden cabinet. Inside are several $500 bottles of Opus One Cabernet. He estimates that $5000 of whiskey has been sneakily consumed since his apartment turned into an unexpected hotspot — despite the hardest door in New York. He gets particularly upset when guests give it away to mysterious unknown women who sometimes turn up, invited by someone. "I'm like dude she's probably a hooker, don't give her a $50 glass of MacAllan."
In the same cabinet is Mike's pickle collection — he's been collecting and making pickles for about three years. It has remained mysteriously untouched. "This one," he said, on a recent afternoon, holding up a jar of green, unripe tomatoes in spiced brine "is my favourite because my mom grew the grape tomatoes herself."
Journalists from the New York Post, NBC, and the New York Times have been through. "But everyone seems to be sitting on it, keeping it to themselves," said Mike. And we're not mentioning Mike's full name, or the location, or running any pictures that might give away either, so as not to ruin perhaps the last refuge for New York debauchery in the era of smoking bans and wealthy neighbors who expect perfect quiet downtown. "No one is here, and this doesn't exist," said one regular as he reached into the cabinet for a nip of Glenfiddich 21-year-old whiskey, on that recent afternoon. "There will never be a Tweet sent from this apartment."