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Lesson No. 2: How to get past the door Nazis
Check your look in a full-length mirror before you go out, because in clubland, the doorfolk are evil, superficial bastards. This is a strategy designed to tap into the deeply bred regard for social hierarchy. Luca Fidenzo, who tends to the needs of VIPs at the new club State, explains: "If it's five, six guys at the door, and they don't know somebody, they're not getting in. But they will come back, this time with women. The more they are turned away, the more they want to come back. That's psychology, you know."
Karen Geneppa adds, "You have to dress up like a tart, go by yourself or with girls. No guys. They won't let them in."
Keeping the crowd fabulous isn't just capricious cruelty. It's a sound business plan. High rollers are not going to pay ridiculous sums of money to hang out with the average or the unhip. Elaine Lancaster recalls one well-known doorman on the Beach who was notorious for letting people in if they tipped him. "One night this short, fat, bald guy comes to the door and tries to get in with his friend. Of course he can't because just look at him. The guy is ignored until finally, he slips the doorman a folded $50 bill. Then he goes in and the doorman opens the bill and it says in red marker, You're Fired!!!" Personal avarice is an admired quality in clubland, but the laws of pulchritude rank higher.
Peter Ehrlich, a real estate developer, recalls a recent evening in which he had difficulties with the doorman at Mynt. Ehrlich says he escorted a wealthy financier there who had brought his own jet to Miami and arrived with two attractive women. The foursome stood outside Mynt about 11:30 on a Thursday night, but the doorman declined to let them in unless the financier bought a couple of bottles. The wealthy man eventually agreed to this. "Then the doorman asks to see his credit card!" Ehrlich exclaims. "We're standing out on the street and this guido wants to see a credit card? Meanwhile some hairdresser with no money who's friends with the bartender sails in and drinks for free. We get in there and there's like twenty people in the club."
"If you're new, dress very well," opines Rudolf Piper, a carefully eccentric dresser. "That does not mean labels -- but you have to dress cool. Don't buy clothes on Lincoln Road, buy them on Flagler or in New York."
Promoter Max Blandford (who just opened State with former Level partner Gerry Kelly) laments that these days, "half of these door guys have no style and wouldn't know it if it slapped them in the face." Yet there is a method to the meanness. It's all about creating that illusion of a wild, yet exclusive party scene. Jeans and sneakers won't cut it unless you already are famous enough not to conform to the code. So you have to either be able to carry off an eccentric or cutting-edge style, or do what most people do: wear black. "If you have to ask what to wear, just wear black," Blandford agrees. "But try to get a look. Like, for a straight guy, look a little gay. Maybe add a fabulous scarf." The idea is that in the milling hoi polloi outside the ropes, the trained doorman is looking for the people who stand out, who will add something to the party inside.
As important as what you look like, however, is how you treat the people at the door. Really obnoxious behavior generally guarantees a dismissal and a conversation with the hand. "Calling the doorman a fucking asshole isn't going to do it," says Seth Browarnik, a photographer who shoots celebrities for Ocean Drive. "It's all about how you present yourself. Be polite, go every week for a month, and the doorman is going to recognize you."
And if you're going to pretend to have connections, be smart about it. Don't say you know the owner unless you do. "I hear the most hilarious bullshit stories ever standing outside the rope line for an hour," Browarnik chuckles. "One time, this ghetto guy with a chain was standing outside Mynt, and said, 'My publicist called,' but his name wasn't on the list. And he tried to play it like, 'Aw, man, my publicist is going to be fired!' Another guy said he was an advertiser for Ocean Drive, but it was a GQ party."
Yet sometimes the psychology of the velvet rope works in your favor; doormen can't always be sure you aren't somebody important, says Michael Teak, a 30-year-old catalogue model and singer. "Ninety percent of it is the attitude," he suggests. "If you believe that you're supposed to be in there more than the doorman believes you shouldn't, then your reality wins."
Lesson No. 3: The archetypes of clubland
Beyond the maxim to go forth and schmooze, there are different strategies for tapping into the freeloading vein. All of them seem to work at least some of the time. To get into this world without being rich or beautiful, you have to have something else to offer: personality, style, the right friends, something to trade, or a really good lie. Here are the major types, although the most successful freeloaders use more than one strategy: