Social Promotion

Empire Events parties attract the high rollers and boldface names who are the life force of clubland

Robbins soon got an offer from Kelly to help promote Saturday nights at Level. Later he garnered another gig, on Friday nights at Club Space. He left those jobs to work for the owners of Opium Garden/Prive. At Prive he ran into another ambitious club kid, Florida International University student Perry Sasson, an Israeli by birth, raised mostly in Miami (now age 25). "I'd hired ten guys to promote," Robbins recalls, "and he was the only one who brought a hundred people. I fired the other guys and kept him."

Robbins knew Levine as a connected UM business student involved with a lot of campus organizations. "There were cool kids on campus," he shrugs. "He was one of the more influential." Levine, now 24, says he doesn't remember how he got involved in nightlife. "I have no fucking idea," he grins. "I got suckered into this shit."

The thing about Levine, a tall, moon-faced Italian-Jewish mix from New Jersey, is that once he's in, it's balls-out time. For instance, Levine says, he was recruited by fellow students to run for vice president of student government as part of a slate. He treated the race as if it were a nightclub promotion. "They were passing out lollipops, and we were passing out T-shirts," he remembers. "I was in the Grove and even saw a bum riding a bike wearing one of my shirts. The Grove was covered." Levine won.

Seth Browarnik
Michael Robbins got his start handing out nightclub flyers to cool-looking 
people on the street
Jonathan Postal
Michael Robbins got his start handing out nightclub flyers to cool-looking people on the street

There's a pause while he answers his cell phone, which rings frequently. It's one of his regular "friends," a Sony Music exec wanting to make sure his guests get a primo table at Prive, a high-end club Levine promotes on Saturdays. "The problem is the cast from The O.C. is sitting out there tonight," he explains. "I gotta check on that. Don't worry. Call me later." All promoters refer to clients as friends, even though this is mostly bullshit. Empire Events claims a pool of 4000 to 5000 people who attend their events on at least a semi-regular basis. Of this group, each partner has a personalized list of a few hundred really good friends who get special treatment based on their spending habits, their looks, their coolness (often consisting of access to other people in the above categories or those who work in the entertainment industry).

This is what the game is all about, selling wealthy people the idea of an exclusive world of beauty and sex. Why else would anyone accept a 1000 percent markup on a magnum of Grey Goose when he could get a couple of bottles from the corner store and drink them in the limo with a $250-per-hour escort and an eight-ball of booch for roughly the same price? The trick is to find the right mix of actors to fill the stage.

Enter the model kids like Logan, a winsome lad perpetually oozing the spoiled indifference of a sultan in repose. He is stretched out on the central platform at B.E.D. but sits up as Sasson approaches. "Hey, it would be great if we could get a bottle of wine," Logan begs immediately. "These girls want to drink with their dinner." Also on the platform are two more model boys and pneumatic young women who might possibly be as old as 21.

"Go ask Kevin," Sasson instructs, waving vaguely at the bar.

"Everything is rigged," he whispers in an aside. "The girls eat and drink for free."

And guys like Logan, who flock to Miami Beach from northern climes during the season to pick up modeling work, also frequently hook up with promoters to make extra cash by pimping out their model friends as eye candy. They're like promoting subcontractors. "If we pay them $100, give them dinner and drinks, we expect them to bring 30 to 50 people," Levine says.

On this night, Sasson is displeased with Logan's performance. "I'm not happy with the crowd tonight," he grumbles. "Not enough girls. My crew slacked. I don't care how cute these girls are, three of them don't cut it. He's going to get paid, and then he's going to get bitch-slapped through the phone."

"You usually have more girls," Sasson complains.

"Dude, I've only been back in town five days," Logan replies carelessly. "Give me time."

Models are not sufficient to make a good party. The mix also requires enough different cliques that neatly balance the dual social needs of comfort and excitement. So the trio hire other types of "hosts" who bring in niche elements of their contacts, maybe richie-riches or athletes or celebrities or successful hangers-on who make those people feel important. They also work with other established promoters hired by the clubs. For several of their parties, Antonio Misuraca, frequently a first mate of Michael Capponi events, brings in a slightly older, wealthier crowd. Or as the blue-eyed, cracked-voiced 32-year-old veteran puts it with a cackle: "Guys my age, girls their age," he says, indicating Sasson and his partners. "It's a good mix." Gold diggers and pussy hounds, the twin pillars of nightlife.

It's all part of the glitz. "You need a model kid out there in ripped jeans and a trucker hat, the guy in a jersey spending ten thousand," Robbins explains. "You need Steven Tyler dancing on his bed, drinking bottled water for three hours, or P. Diddy, Busta Rhymes, Jermaine Dupree busting out a free performance with the DJ."

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