The Rope Is in Your Mind

Doormen share the secret to cracking the Clubland Matrix

You want to know how to play the game out there in the mean streets of clubland? You want to know how to get with the in crowd instead of having to call it an early evening and retiring to some nameless hole-in-the-wall bar mourning the notion that you don't have what it takes to make it to the paparazzi pages of Ego Trip and Ocean Drive magazine, right?

You can almost see it now: J.Lo and Ben, Prince Albert, Lenny, J.C. (Chasez -- not the Christ), the Hilton sisters, and you, all tucked away in the secluded and well-shrouded section of the party. You can walk the walk and be a regular Neo in the Matrix of nightlife.

Are you saying I can jump velvet ropes?

I'm trying to tell you that when you are ready, you won't have to.

Become the envy of your friends with all the invites that will pour in once you apply the wealth of knowledge that is now being offered you. Your traditionally spotless social calendar will fill with openings and exclusive engagements. You can become a recurring fixture on Tara Gilani's "Trend Tracker," having her hang on your every word. Yes, Clubbed comes to you as Morpheus providing the pressing answers and unlocked secrets to help your dreams of joining the nightlife elite become a reality.

Sitting down with some of the more recognizable faces in the social maze of hip that is South Beach, the doormen ("agents"), Clubbed has put together a "How To" guide for novices to follow when out and about.

But remember: Clubbed can only show you the ropes; you're the one that must walk through them.

The experts agree that before leaving to hop that cab or push it across the MacArthur it is particularly important to dress the part. Unless you are one of the many rap artists who seem to spend more time hanging around town than making good music these days, sweatshirts and sneakers won't cut it. Rich, the doorman at Rain on Tuesdays and crobar on Thursdays, points out the socially obvious in saying, "Unfortunately, when you don't know people, appearance does play a big role."

Yes, P. Diddy may roll up with his entourage wearing his label Sean John,leaving you to say to yourself, "Damn, self! I am wearing fly gear too!" But realize that you are not P. Diddy. Game over.

Door god Fabrizio Brienza (yes, he was anointed a "door god" by an article in the Village Voice), the tall Italian model/rope-guarder at Michael Capponi's Wednesday-night party at B.E.D. and at crobar, says his policy is simple: "Scumbags out; cool people in."

Even if you are sure you're not a "scumbag," don't get excited; you may not necessarily get the "cool people" sticker either. Entrance can boil down to just knowing the right "cool people." When you want "in," rapport with one of these gatekeepers is the key. Sure, you have heard it and seen it in practice, but it is still an adage worth referencing: Who you know goes a long way.

Spouting off the name of someone you don't know, much less have never seen, is not a good strategy either. Be sure never to be among the throngs of psychotic students of glamour who make the mistake of looking Fabrizio square in the eyes and saying, "Hey, I am Fabrizio's best friend, can you get me in?" You can be certain to hear him give the blithe reply: "Hold on, let me go and get him!" And while he goes to find "him" you may want to pack it up and head to the aforementioned hole in the wall for a nice cold one.

The fabled filtering process that separates you from the crowds gathered in bacchanalian bliss may appear to have no method to it. But it actually does. And that method may not be in your favor, but Clubbed continues to interrogate Rich in order to unlock the "secrets" behind the Matrix.

"If you've ever had a party at your house, you know that just one asshole can ruin it," Rich expounds. "Think of inviting 1500 people to your house and you get the idea."

It is so clear now. The code is beginning to make sense.

The general consensus is that bribery doesn't work to expedite entry either. No amount of money can do you any good on the outside. You may want to hold on to those hundreds to reserve a table with some of your new celeb friends once you make it in. Women offer sexual favors, but our tactful gentlemen made no comment on the success of that practice. Steeped in such a morally sound environment as they are, it is safe to assume that they take the high road on that one.

Watching the door gods operate, it did become evident that women stand a far better chance of getting into their prospective establishments. Unescorted groups of guys stand about as much chance of getting in as tennis player Anna Kournikova does of ever winning a major. Better to travel in small groups and sit tight.

If the doorman seems aloof, understand that he deals with desperate people night in and night out. "It's hard for me to believe the way people behave sometimes, especially when they're the ones asking for the favor," Rich offers. On several occasions, Clubbed has seen such ill behavior firsthand by otherwise sensible people. "You get their best behavior at the door," Rich continues. "So if they're restless or obnoxious there, they'll be more trouble inside."

Threats of violence are common whenever some unfortunate sap has been denied access to some seeming end-all of existence. Social decline can rarely be better demonstrated. But keep your cool even if you're deemed uncool. Fabrizio tells Clubbed that he has been turned away at the door. And the tall Italian did not resort to Cosa Nostra strong-arm tactics. "In L.A. I got denied at the ropes," he admits. "My girlfriend and me went for cappuccino instead."

With all the owner's relatives, children of dying mothers, and convicts celebrating a last night out before prison sentencing ("It's amazing what people can reveal about themselves in a few words and not realize it," marvels Rich), the whole trial can be exhausting. Rich and Fabrizio agree that after a long night's work, their idea of going out usually involves not going out at all. "I don't really go out because for me it's like going to the office," explains Fabrizio. And who wants to be in the office when you aren't working? Even if working is playing.

Clubbed's time with the masters of nightlife destiny proved one thing: Unlocking the key to the velvet-rope Matrix just comes down to being, in Rich's words, "patient and polite and everything will work out fine." There is no secret. Going out and having fun should be just that: going out and having fun.

Neo, if you have learned nothing else know this: There's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.

Um, that somehow means something really profound related to getting into clubs, but it is late and the liquor makes more sense than I do.

How about this: There is no rope.

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