Confessions from the Velvet Ropes: The Glamorous, Grueling Life of Thomas Onorato, New York's Top Club Doorman

Overview

New York's top doorman, Thomas Onorato, raises the ropes and gives readers a sneak peak into some of the world's most exclusive parties.

"If you are not on the guest list or if I don't know you or if I don't like you, you are NOT GETTING INTO THIS PARTY!"

The doorman. The gatekeeper of the night. These silent observers see it all and yet say nothing. Until now. In Confessions from the Velvet Ropes, New York's top club doorman, Thomas Onorato, lifts the ropes and lets ordinary ...

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2006-07-11 Paperback Like New Remainder Mark--New York's top doorman, Thomas Onorato, raises the ropes and gives readers a sneak peak into some of the world's most exclusive ... parties. "If you are not on the guest list or if I don't know you or if I don't like you, you are NOT GETTING INTO THIS PARTY! " The doorman. The gatekeeper of the night. These silent observers see it all and yet say nothing. Until now. In Confessions from the Velvet Ropes, New York's top club doorman, Thomas Onorato, lifts the ropes and lets ordinary readers into this exciting world. The book is an entertaining and hilarious collection of tales from the worlds of nightlife, fashion shows and celebrity parties. Highlights include: The night Madonna DJed at an intimate downtown club, Courtney Love's surprise concert that ended in her arrest, the crazed stalker who attacked Pulp's Jarvis Cocker, the aerial attack on Adrien Brody's birthday party, Diddy's surprise appearance at an electro-punk event and more. Onorato was always on hand Read more Show Less

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Confessions from the Velvet Ropes: The Glamorous, Grueling Life of Thomas Onorato, New York's Top Club Doorman

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Overview

New York's top doorman, Thomas Onorato, raises the ropes and gives readers a sneak peak into some of the world's most exclusive parties.

"If you are not on the guest list or if I don't know you or if I don't like you, you are NOT GETTING INTO THIS PARTY!"

The doorman. The gatekeeper of the night. These silent observers see it all and yet say nothing. Until now. In Confessions from the Velvet Ropes, New York's top club doorman, Thomas Onorato, lifts the ropes and lets ordinary readers into this exciting world. The book is an entertaining and hilarious collection of tales from the worlds of nightlife, fashion shows and celebrity parties. Highlights include: The night Madonna DJed at an intimate downtown club, Courtney Love's surprise concert that ended in her arrest, the crazed stalker who attacked Pulp's Jarvis Cocker, the aerial attack on Adrien Brody's birthday party, Diddy's surprise appearance at an electro-punk event and more. Onorato was always on hand and brings his insider info and nightlife wisdom to readers of Confessions from the Velvet Ropes. Combining elements of juicy gossip columns, rock star fan memoirs and nightlife social studies, Confessions from the Velvet Ropes is a tell-all with style, including humorous side-bars and tips on how readers might make it past the velvet ropes.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Glenn Belverio has a devastatingly urban eye. An ultra-hip arbiter of style, he commands the fine line between fashion and flash. He is a superb guide to the underworld of earthly delights." —Bestselling author and Culture Critic Camille Paglia

"Belverio's corrosive humor cuts to the quick of the social body. He has Wildean wit and a superb sense of the absurd. His wry, entertaining writing style puts you right at the center of any V.I.P. event. This is gonzo journalism at its most compelling, full of celebration and sharp insight." —Bruce Benderson, author of The Romanian: Story of an Obsession and User

"Imagine a literary cocktail composed of equal parts Suzy Menkes, Truman Capote and Jacqueline Susann, then add a twist of New York street smarts and the result is Glenn Belverio. If David Sedaris wasn't a virgin, he might write something like Belverio." —Bruce LaBruce, filmmaker and author of The Reluctant Pornographer

Publishers Weekly
Belverio follows Thomas Onorato, a Manhattan club doorman, night after night, event after event, punctuated only here and there with glimpses of his personal life. Journalist Belverio put in considerable time gathering his material, interviewing and apparently hanging out with his subject because the narrative has an immediate vividness. The deluge of up-to-the-minute detail (in this context meaning proper names, from designers to mashup bands to celebrities whom most haven't yet heard of) matches the gossip-column commotion a doorman is trying to create, or avoid. The focus occasionally shifts to other doormen around New York, and the book includes sidebars on subjects like "Bad Party People" (the promoter and the disgruntled reject) and "Myths of Studio 54" ("Marc Benecke didn't let Cher into Studio") The result is the literary equivalent of a Bravo reality show or a dinner composed entirely of chocolate: gimmicky yet entertaining; irresistible yet containing little nutritional value. Though this chronicle becomes tiresome at points, it could become a quirky hit, along the lines of The Original Preppy Handbook. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312354596
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 7/11/2006
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.45 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Onorato has worked the door for the Coral Room, Plaid and Crobar and has also produced a number of NY fashion shows, including B-Rude by Boy George. Currently he is the doorman for the largest rock and roll party in the US, Motherfucker, and MisShapes, a weekly dance party.

Glenn Belverio is a New York based journalist who is a veteran of the city's nightlife and fashion scenes. He was the New York editor of the cutting-edge fashion magazine Dutch and has written for Conde Nast Traveler, i-D, Black Book and numerous European and Asian publications. In 2003, he received the award for Editorial Excellence from the Society of Publishers.

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Read an Excerpt

Confessions from the Velvet Ropes

1.

I got a date with the night.

—YEAH YEAH YEAHS

 

 

 

 

 

"Hi." "This is a message for Thomas Onorato. My name is Sarah Goreman and I'm the fashion editor for Irish Márie Claire magazine." The shrill, nasally voice that is being emitted from Thomas's answering machine has the aural appeal of a car alarm. Thomas rolls his eyes as he applies a layer of Shu Uemura pancake foundation. There's no such thing as an Irish Marie Claire, he says to himself. "And I'm calling to find out if I can get on the list tonight for the Cirque du Soleil party at The Roxy. I'd like to bring the photo editor from Ocean Drive magazine, his two assistants, Omarosa's stylist—" Thomas throws his makeup sponge down in disgust at the mention of the C-list celebrity name. He stomps over to the phone and picks it up.

"Hi, this is Thomas and I'm very sorry, but the guest list is closed for the night." He tries to sound sweet, but after dealing with dozens of calls like this tonight, he's more than a bit exasperated—and late for a meeting with the club's staff. "Andjust so you know—it's not a party for Cirque du Soleil, it's Motherfucker's fifth anniversary. The party has a circus theme." He hangs up and punches in the number for his car service, hoping that the ten minutes it will take the car to get there will be enough time for him to apply his eye makeup—just a dab to complete his rocker chic look—and get dressed.

Thomas arrives at The Roxy thirty minutes late, which, in club time, is about an hour early. Maura, an assistant to one of the party's organizers, is standing by the coat check counter opening up boxes that contain CD samplers and copies of Paper magazine, which will be distributed to the party's attendees. She is dressed in a vintage 'fifties black swimsuit and a yellow bolero jacket. "Hi Maura," Thomas says. "Love the look." He begins organizing the various guest lists for the evening. "Are the midget, er, 'vertically challenged' go-go dancers here yet?" he asks.

"I think I saw a mini Alice Cooper over by the ice machine a few minutes ago, but I'm not positive," she tells him. "I was up late last night working on a paper, so sometimes I imagine things when I'm overtired." Maura is studying "feminist geography" at the New School and is working on a thesis about the "gender and geography of dance floors." At one point she sets down a stack of CDs, whips out a notepad, and reads a passage from her thesis. "Motherfucker has always appeared to me to be inclusive to all things feminine. At any given moment I could look around the room and see many bodies parading around in short skirts, high heels, and fabulous wigs—yet this scenenever seems defined by biology in the decision of who 'gets to wear the pants.'"

"That's fab, doll!" Thomas enthuses. "It puts me in mind of the time Susan Sontag showed up at Jackie 60. Apparently Betty Page and bondage were on her menu that week."

Tonight is the fifth anniversary of Motherfucker, a very successful, multisexual party held at changing venues, that blends timeless rock 'n' roll attitude, androgyny, retro cheekiness, and the music trends of the moment. It is often described as a "rock 'n' roll Studio 54," except there are no quaaludes in evidence and there isn't exactly a twenty-first-century equivalent of Andy Warhol or Truman Capote on the guest list—even though there are probably a few who would lay claim to that stratosphere. Aside from that, though, there are enough similarities to justify the comparison. Which brings us to the scene at the door.

Like Studio 54 and later clubs of that caliber, Motherfucker is a dictatorship at the door and a democracy on the dance floor. So, once you get past the doorman's discerning eye, you end up dancing among an eclectic gathering that includes celebrities, glam gays, neo new wave girls, goth rock transsexuals, and ambiguously bisexual boys from the boroughs. For the four years that Thomas has been in charge of dictating the club's ropes, he has earned a roster of not-exactly-flattering nicknames. "Door Bitch" is the most famous—and the one that's stuck—but there's also "Door Whore," "Velvet Ropes Nazi," "Glam-osaurus Rex," "Buzzkill Bitch," or simply "That StupidQueen"—that last one is usually uttered by an underage, Staten Island homophobe who never gets in.

Whenever a camera or a reporter's tape recorder is thrust in Thomas's direction—which is often—he enthusiastically rises to his own defense.

"People think I'm an elitist asshole, but I'm actually not. I don't want to ruin anyone's night," he will say earnestly, again and again. "If you want to get into a club where I'm at the door, you need to think ahead. Pick a look and work it: Bowie, Bauhaus, or Blondie—but not Limp Bizkit." Like Steve Rubell—the manager of Studio 54 who also acted as one of the club's doormen—Thomas believes in creating great parties by "curating" the right mix of people. The job is a dictatorship, nonetheless—and there will always be some pissed-off party-hoppers who won't make the grade and will be sent straight to the nightlife gulag. If only they had invested in that vintage Deborah Harry garbage bag dress instead of a beige Anne Klein suit.

Before the Roxy opens for the night, Thomas and Maura busy themselves with scattering copies of Paper and promo CDs around the club. A crew of workers are hanging multicolored balloons and freak show murals around the dance floor and plugging in popcorn and cotton candy machines. The organizers of Motherfucker have chosen a circus theme that not only channels the literal idea of the big top, but also Circus, a hard-rock magazine from the 'seventies. As far as New York nightlife is concerned, the circus has always been a reliabletheme, from the roller boogie clowns at Studio 54 to the cross-dressed trapeze artists at the darkly decadent Disco 2000—an early 'nineties club that was hosted by Michael Alig, a club kid who was later sent to jail for murdering a drug dealer.

"Okay, everyone," Thomas addresses the gathering of bouncers, assistant door people, and promoters who are standing in a circle near the coat check area. "There's going to be two lines tonight: general admission and will-call will line up against the side of the building and guest list guests will form a parallel line. Max and Phil will be in charge of the guest list, while I'll handle the VIPs. Also press and industry people who need to get in right away." Clearly, Thomas is the ringleader of tonight's door scene circus. Patrick, one of the evening's bouncers, looks slightly bored. Even though the Motherfucker crowd is known to love their cocktails in excess, it's rare that fights break out that would require revelers to be forcefully evicted. This isn't the sort of party that attracts a significant number of déclassé rogues, like the people who flock to scores of other clubs around the city. Still, Patrick will be there to back up Thomas's swift door judgments—in the event that a ruthlessly rejected clubgoer gets out of hand, he'll be there to keep things in line.

Thomas, Max, Phil, and Patrick file out to the front of the club where a pair of workers are installing an arch made from silver foil, letter-shaped balloons that spell out "Motherfucker." The door staff takes their positions around "the box"—the busiest area within the velvet ropes, where guestsare admitted, their IDs checked, and their hands stamped before they are hastily shuttled into the venue. Of course, things don't always move as smoothly as the door staff wishes: without fail, there are plenty of people with tall tales of why they don't have their IDs ("It's in my gold lamé jeans, but I decided to change into this chartreuse tube skirt and forgot about it."), the zoned-out girls who wait till the last minute to start rifling through their cluttered handbags in search of their driver's license, and the chatty Cathys who linger around the doorman so they can fill him in on such topics as the eight different products they put in their hair that night.

"That's very nice, darling," Thomas will inform them in a tone that adeptly blends diplomacy with a spritz of impatience, throwing his head back for a burst of stagey laughter when need be. But the gales of laughter can instantly shift to torrential downpours of tongue-lashings if things get chaotic—a high-volume burst of disciplinary vitriol that would make a dominatrix blush.

"I don't want to see ANYONE standing IN FRONT OF THE BARRICADES! If you are not on the list you need to LINE UP AGAINST THE WALL and have your IDs OUT and IN. YOUR. HAND!"

Or, if a venue is nearly full to capacity, Thomas will turn to the waiting crowd and in a booming voice announce, "If you are NOT a regular or you are NOT on the guest list or if I DON'T KNOW YOU, or if I DON'T LIKE YOU then you are NOT GETTING INTO THIS PARTY!"

Often, about five seconds after this doomy proclamation, some frothy little drag queen—some whisper of a geisha—ensconced in nineteen yards of mauve tulle and five layers of delicate white face powder, will float haughtily past the long line over to Thomas, who welcomes her with open arms and a shower of drink tickets. The two hundred people stranded outside, who now have zero hope of the hedonistic evening they've anticipated, will want to surge forward like ravenous ghouls and devour the entrails of the geisha and the doorman in one fell swoop. But they won't dare. They may groan and beg—more than a few will even burst into tears—but they will not jeopardize their chances of getting into the club on their next visit. No one wants to be permanently branded a party pariah by the Door Bitch.

Tonight's rock'n'roll circus is hosted by a club that is large enough to accommodate all who are eligible for admission (i.e., they are at least eighteen years old, are "working a look," or have some kind of inner glamour—like, say, writing for The New York Post). As guests begin to arrive and obediently file into one of the two lines, as per Thomas's constant haranguing, gaggles of clowns on stilts begin juggling bowling pins and flaming batons in the street in front of the Roxy. In between juggling bouts, a few bitch-slap each other with their outsized clown-gloved hands. A clown with Marilyn Manson-influenced stage makeup—who seems to have indulged in some "powdering" earlier in the evening—hops back and forth, from one stilt leg to another, in front of Thomas.

THOMAS'S TOP TEN TIPS for GETTING PAST THE ROPES

1. GO WITH STELLA McCARTNEY OR IN STELLA McCARTNEY. If Stella isn't available, Alexander McQueen, Marc Jacobs, or Isaac Mizrahi for Target are acceptable plus ones (or ensemble choices).

 

2. WORK A LOOK! Don't look like you've just been hit by a Banana Republic delivery truck. Think Carlos D. of Interpol at the opening of the new Dior Homme boutique in Transylvania, not Josh Groban at a Celine Dion fragrance launch.

 

3. DON'T FALL FOR THE SEX AND THE CITY FACTOR. Don't get us wrong: We love what stylist Patricia Field has done with raising young women's fashion awareness. However, there is a downside to the SATC phenomenon. It's one thing to look as if you've just stepped off of John Galliano's runway, but it's quite another to look like you've mugged a transvestite hooker for her outfit. If your skirt is too short, you're wearing animal prints that don't match, or you're wearing heels that you can't walk in, there's a good chance the door bitch will feed you alive to Joan Rivers..

 

4. ALWAYS HAVE YOUR ID READY, PLEASE. This will enable the expedient flow of traffic and make the doorman's job easier. Acceptable forms of ID include: driver's license, passport, or birth certificate. Unacceptable forms of ID include: fake ID bought in the Republic of Congo, the before and after photos from your recent niptuck, or your mom. (This actually happened once—a boyish clubber of dubious age brought his mother along to vouch for him.)

 

5. BE POLITE AND OBEDIENT. Try this: Walk up to the doorman—who is almost always busy—and apologize for interrupting him. Apologize for breathing his air. Apologize again for your very existence. Follow his instructions closely. If the doorman says "If you're on the list, go stand in line #4" or "If you're not on the list, please fill out these forms in triplicate" or "Pop quiz! Please recite the lyrics to LCD Soundsystem's 'Losing My Edge'," it will be in your best interest to comply.

 

6. KNOW THE NAME OR TITLE OF THE GUEST LIST YOU ARE ON. This way, you won't be confused with the Brooks Brothers suit-wearing broker standing behind you. How do hopeful clubbers get on a guest list in the first place, you might ask? One way is through a night club's Web site. Another is to attend a party and ask the doorman if you can meet the promoter. If all else fails, try writing a letter to your local senator, your rabbi, or Michael Moore.

 

7. TRY A LITTLE CHARM. A compliment never hurt anybody, and the doorman usually has an ego that needs constant stroking. Try: "You look really young and thin ... tonight!" or "Your hair smells terrific!" or "Oh my god, your new tan looks so natural!"

 

8. STRATEGIC NAME-DROPPING. If you're going to resort to namedropping, know the right names to drop. Names that tend to work are club owners, club promoters or the head of security. Names that do not work are the club janitor's drug dealer, the bartender's manicurist, or Paris Hilton (everyone thinks they're friends with Paris).

 

9. BE PREPARED TO WAIT. Patience is a virtue and good things come to those who wait. Due to space limitations, there's always a chance that the doorman will ask you to wait for thirty minutes or more. We suggest you come prepared to amuse yourself. Chat with your friends about which "over-the-counter" medication you took before you went out that night, call your mother from your cell phone just to say "I love you," or bring the New York Times crossword puzzle. Continued

 

10 . TRY ASKING "MAY I COME IN?" Many people are too busy deviously thinking of ways to get past the doorman—lying, bribing, threatening, pulling together a look from a nearby garbage can—but don't realize that the easiest way to get past the ropes is simply to ask. You may be pleasantly surprised by the doorman's reaction (or you may flee in terror with your tail between your legs).

"Did you see me catch that flaming baton with my mouth?" he asks Thomas with teeth-grinding excitement. "That's great," Thomas says dryly as he navigates around him to catch the attention of a tall young woman with a black bob haircut who is wearing a circus-influenced couture gown by designer John Galliano. "Darling! You look amazing!" he gushes as he places his body between her and the hyper clown. He kisses both cheeks and places some drink tickets in her black-lace-gloved hand. "Loved your story on chinoiserie and celebrity homes," Thomas gushes.

"Thank you!" the woman smiles warmly. "I saw your pals, the Gastineaus, last night at the Avenue mag party." Thomas, who also wears the hat of publicist, recently worked on some public relations for the Gastineau Girls reality show. "That's quite a fashion competition those two have going on," the woman remarks as she tucks the drink tickets into her Dior handbag.

"Oh, those gals," Thomas says, as his eyes begin to look past the woman's ruffled shoulder, making sure there are no flaming batons careening toward her. "I'm just glad my mother doesn't compete with me like that. She just wouldn't look right working a Vivienne Westwood cummerbund and face glitter." Thomaslifts the rope for her and she sweeps through, gliding past the bouncers. A young man sporting a Lords of the New Church T-shirt and a Robert Smith hairdo seems transfixed by the fishtail hem of the woman's gown as it disappears into the darkness of the club. Thomas surveys the crowd of people who are waiting in front of the ropes. The two lines stretch past the length of the club and around the corner where Eighteenth Street meets the West Side Highway. The gathering resembles a casting call for a Tim Burton remake of Vampire Circus—acid rock clowns, transsexual lion tamers, sadomasochistic Siegfrieds and Roys, KISS doppelgangers, rockabilly cat girls, shirtless lean boys in black leather pants with ringleader top hats, kabuki white-faced dominatrices, metallic, silver-faced Pierrots, lipsticked and bewigged male Satanists, Chucky the killer clown, Bowie-meets-Bozos, Ozzy Osbournes on a Barnum and Bailey bender. Even a few blasé boys in Led Zeppelin and Iron Maiden T-shirts have taken the time to lipstick red clown mouths on and around their lips. The clowns in the street have graduated from flaming baton juggling to full-on fire breathing. A cliché of New York nightlife—"Fellini-esque"—applies.

"HAVE YOUR IDs OUT AND HAVE THEM IN YOUR HANDS!" Thomas thunders again and again. A girl in a sequined trapeze artist leotard covered with rock band buttons—the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Blondie, Berlin—opens her purse, but pulls out a compact mirror instead of her ID. Thomas shoots her a disapproving glare. Suddenly, the sea of clowns in the street parts for a long limousine that is pulling up to the front of the club. The door opens and a thin, androgynous man clad in a white Yves Saint Laurent-like woman's suit and flowing white silk scarf emerges. Mirrored sunglasses, Rocky Horror red lips, the hauteur of a young Faye Dunaway ... every head in the long line turns in this thin, white duke's direction and all conversation is put on pause. Michael T., the reigning DJ and founder of Motherfucker, has arrived. Thomas is already holding the ropes open to ensure Michael's diva march from limo door to club door maintains its fashion runway smoothness. Michael gives Thomas a quick air kiss, ignoring a few shouts of "Michael T.!" that erupt from the crowd.

"I'M NOT SEEING ENOUGH IDs OUT AND IN PEOPLE'S HANDS!!" Thomas snarls, snapping the crowd out of their brief glamtrance. Tonight has a dual system for entry—eighteen-to-twenty-year-olds receive a red stamp on their hands, which means "no alcohol," and twenty-one and over get the green stamp, which allows them to buy drinks—and there is a high surveillance agent in charge of filtering out those who show up with fake IDs. That agent, Derek Neen, is a bit of a New York club legend and has been a doorman in the city since 1989.

"You can smell the mendacity in the air on a night like this," Derek says slyly, paraphrasing Big Daddy in Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Judging from the glee that Derek sometimes derives from toying with people at the ropes, a more apt sentiment might be the notorious line from Apocalypse Now: "I love the smell of napalm in the morning." Thomas's senior by more than a decade, Derek is a seasoned doorman, albeit a low-profile one.

A girl who seems to have imagined herself to be Siouxsie Sioux as a Weimar Republic-era circus performer makes it past the ropes but is pulled over by Patrick the bouncer and handed over to Derek for ID interrogation. Seems the punkette princess has arrived with no ID. "But I'm twenty-three," she pleads, her red-glittered top lip quivering slightly. Derek looks her up anddown and then fixes his cool gaze on her now-moist eyes. "When is your birthday?"

"July tw ... elfth ... nineteen seventy-nine," she says, stuttering slightly.

"Well, that doesn't add up," Derek says. "Try again, sweetheart." She adjusts the date, then her age, then makes a last-ditch effort by citing her high school graduation year. Derek frowns. She gets the red stamp.

Meanwhile, Thomas has his own headache to deal with. Two Latino boy/girl couples, who have waited patiently in the general admission line for over thirty minutes, have been denied entry. The guys are slim and dressed in white T-shirts and olive drab army fatigues, and they resemble Nicaraguan guerrillas apart from the fact that one of them has his hair in pigtails. The girls are wearing short skirts and mildly flirty blouses—very Jennifer Lopez lite. "I'm sorry, but there's a dress code tonight," Phil informs them calmly and asks them to step aside. They make a second appeal to Thomas, who brushes them off with a curt "Sorry, my door team has made their decision. Please step away from the ropes."

"This is discrimination!" one of the men howls angrily. "What's wrong with the way I'mdressed?!" He lingers by the ropes and begins surveying the clubgoers who have passed muster. A group of late-forty-something, potbellied drag queens wearing tatty sequined polyester dresses, who look like they've been exhumed from the original production of La Cage Aux Folles, are waddling toward the entrance of the club. The door staff doesn't bother to ask them for their IDs. "Look at her!" one of the Latinos yells angrily while pointing at the portliest of the queens. "I'm much better looking than her!" Patrick tells him they need to take their cause up with Thomas. "That bitch won't give us the time of day!" he screams, gesturing at Thomas, who has coolly turned his back on the whole scene. Patrick walks over to Thomas to verify the decision and returns. "The doorman has cited 'dress code.' I'm sorry, you can't come in," he tells the couples. They eventually give up and leave.

Thomas's decision to back up Phil's call is controversial. "I think Thomas was intimidated by their urban Latino vibe," Patrick says discreetly to Derek.

Derek nods. "They seemed like they were right on the edge of getting rock 'n' roll freaky ... like, they would have had a few drinks and the boys might have taken their shirts off and all of them would have had a good time. I would have let them in."

"Yeah, but sometimes it's hard to judge the crowd and how some people will act once they get inside," Patrick adds diplomatically.

As the crowd swells outside the ropes and more and more cabs begin pulling up to the club, the number of people beingturned away is well into the double digits. Loitering in front of the barricades, away from the ropes, this carnival of lost club souls ponders their options: Try again and hope the doorman has a change of heart? Try another club? Go back to Staten Island for a change of clothing?

One such group—three Italian-American men—who are donned in untucked button-down shirts and unremarkable jeans, and whose hair is drenched in the requisite amount of Gotti-strength hair gel, stand a few feet behind Thomas, clinging to a few shreds of their dignity. The Guidos, the scourge of any hip club, have made their predictable appearance. No club with even the slightest edge of cool wants them, and there is an almost unacknowledged racism in the ceremonious shutting-out of the Guido. Thomas—who happens to be an Italian-American from New Jersey—knows how to deal with the Guidos who dare to defy his door decree.

"Honey, I'm from New Jersey, okay? And even I'm cooler than you," he will say with a calculated air of self-deprecation and cartoonish arrogance. Such put-downs occasionally reap rewards: there have been more than a few Guidos who have returned to subsequent parties in ripped, nipple-exposing, Alien Sex Fiend T-shirts, cascades of glitter clinging to their arms, faces, and Gotti dos. At a recent Motherfucker, one Guido made a reappearance with his industrial-strength gelled hair dyed orange, a safety pin in his ear, and a shredded and paint-splattered "Kiss Me, I'm Italian" T-shirt. Thomas dubbed him "Gianni Rotten."

But tonight, the trio of Guidos outside the Roxy possesses no glitter and no chutzpah; their working-class assertiveness momentarily caught in a deer-in-the-headlights haze. They stand silently outside the club, gazing longingly at a pair of reed-thin drag queens in Pucci sheaths, who are arm in arm with a muscular young man who is sporting a red clown nose and wearing a shirt made entirely from safety pins. Thomas turns around and notices the gawking Guidos and lets out a growl that causes all three of them to jump in startled unison. "EXCUSE ME. You CAN'T stand there, you need to MOVE along!" They move closer to the barricade and make a meek appeal to Patrick, who tells them there's nothing he can do.

When they return to their position on the sidewalk, Thomas begins spitting nails. "You need to MOVE ALONG and if that's too much of an effort for you, I can have the bouncers PUUUSH YOU DOWN THE STREET!" He makes a sweeping motion with both arms as he pronounces "puuush," as if casting a banishing spell. The Guidos hang their heads and saunter away slowly, leaving behind the perplexing visions of a world that is rarely experienced beyond the confines of their TV sets.

At around three A.M., the crowd outside has dwindled to a few beefy boys in David Barton Gym T-shirts, who have wandered over from a nearby weekly gay event. Even though there is nothing vaguely circus or rock 'n' roll about them, Thomas charitably lifts the ropes and welcomes them in. "Have a good time, boys," he says before turning to Patrick. "Okay, I'm goinginside now, I think my job is done. If Courtney Love escapes from Bellevue or wherever she's holed up now and decides to show up, give me a holler. I'll try to rustle up some drink tickets for her."

Despite his exhaustion, Thomas sprints up the carpeted steps of the Roxy, which are littered with burst balloons, squashed popcorn bags, feathers, sequins, and trampled, unopened condom packages that were given out by an AIDS prevention group. When he enters the main ballroom, a performance has just started on the main stage. The heavy metal circus midgets who had been gyrating atop the bar for hours are now sitting in pools of spilled cocktails, happily enjoying the show. On stage, a large group of drag queens—led by a performer named Peppermint Gummybear—are reenacting scenes from the 1980 film Fame. A chorus line of queens bedecked in leotards, tiny spandex shorts, and leg warmers are lined up for a mock theater tryout. "You want fame?" Peppermint shouts at them. "Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying. With sweat."

The crowd—who now have more than a few cocktails under their Alexander McQueen belts—erupt in ecstatic cheers. The onstage queens begin dancing and leaping to the Fame theme song. As Thomas is laughing at Peppermint's Debbie Allen send-up, a young man in a Rancid T-shirt slides up next to him, slips something in his pocket, and kisses him on the cheek. "Thanks for another great party," he grins, and then disappears into the crowd. Thomas reaches in his pocket and findsa joint. He smiles and plunges into the crowd on the dance floor where more than a few people grab him, kiss him, yell out his name. A person of indeterminate gender, who is wearing tight red patent leather pants, a matching jacket, and a striped red-and-black top hat, grabs Thomas's ass as he moves through the crowd. "Hey, sweetie" Thomas says, perhaps a little too wearily. Very New York Dolls, Thomas thinks to himself, smug in his knowledge of rock 'n' roll's more ephemeral fashion statements. More people sidle up to him to say hi and he wonders—as he does on many nights—if he is really among friends or just fickle party people who rely on him to skirt the long lines and admission fees of the clubs he works. He tries not to dwell on that for now, as he pushes his way past the made-up masses, toward the DJ booth, the nerve center of Motherfucker.

Looming over the control panel, like a shining, white Valkyrie who has hijacked the Starship Enterprise, is Michael T. "Hey baby," he says, looking up for a second before returning to some lever-and-knob adjusting. "How did the door go?"

"Great. It's an amazing crowd. I had to do very little editing at the door," Thomas says as he surveys the revelers on the dance floor who number close to one thousand. Like most tastemakers working in New York—designers, fashion stylists, publicists—he relishes the use of the word "editing." In fact, many discerning urbanites fancy themselves the offspring of Diana Vreeland, the legendary Vogue magazine editor who turned the art of "editing"—separating the wheat from chaff,as they say—into a sort of style Darwinism. "The fags, freaks, and fashionistas are out in full force tonight," Thomas declares grandly.

"You can say that again," Michael says, as if he is only half listening, checking his lipstick in a small hand mirror. "And people thought downtown was dead."

"The cynics have been decreeing that downtown has died since I was in the fifth grade," Thomas jokes. "Or was it just Michael Musto who was doing the decreeing?" he adds, referring to the longtime columnist for The Village Voice. "That is, until he pronounced Motherfucker 'the party of the millennium.'"

"Thanks for that commercial break, dear," Michael says with rehearsed bitchiness. "Chips on my Shoulder" by 'eighties band Soft Cell starts booming through the club's sound system as the Fame imitators are leaving the stage. Thomas watches a group of kids who are wearing disturbing doll masks spastically bob up and down. He pulls out his cell phone and scrolls to the number of his car service.

A few minutes later, Thomas is collapsed in the back of a Lincoln Town Car, counting the money that Johnny T., one of the organizers of the party, has paid him for his night's work. Emotionally and physically exhausted, the people and events from the night's proceedings are still swimming in his head. All the kids and the looks—was New York like this five years ago? He knows it was like this twenty years ago ... he's heard many stories and collected the old magazines documenting thescene: Details, Interview, Project X. He wonders if he has helped shape the revitalization of the club scene. Am I being grandiose in thinking that? he wonders. And how long will it last? There are some nights when he goes home feeling unhappy, lonely, unfulfilled ... like an unmarried, clipboard-wielding casting agent overseeing a cattle call of desperate, lackluster ingénues. But not tonight. Tonight was nothing short of a triumph for New York nightlife. Or, as close as one can get these days ...

Thomas enters the tiny apartment he shares with a fashion writer named Anya. Strewn about the kitchen and mini living room are his roommate's sequined dresses, elaborate hats, and polka-dot print pumps. "This place looks like a new wave flophouse," Thomas says out loud into the semidarkness. He stumbles into his tiny, cluttered bedroom, knocking over a towering pile of magazines, which crash into another tower comprised of stacked videos—a mix of porn, promo music videos, and a few obscure 'eighties films—sending the tapes toppling to the floor. Thomas merely sighs, clears a path through the debris, and collapses onto a pile of dirty clothes that camouflage a narrow mattress that lies frameless on the floor. As the first rays of the morning sun peak through the disheveled blinds, the Door Bitch is out cold.

CONFESSIONS FROM THE VELVET ROPES. Copyright © 2006 by Glenn Belverio. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2006

    My favorite book this summer

    I love to read NYC celebrity gossip columns mainly because I love to imagine all the excitement going on in the Big Apple. I've heard about nightclub line ups and doormen and the horror of rejection. This book not only made me feel like I was standing next to the doorman getting an insider's view, but by the end of the book, I felt like I really knew Thomas and that I really had been there. I can't think of another book that's been able to make me forget I was reading a book. I laughed out loud - this book made me laugh out loud. It made me see that anyone can feel like a star - the glamor is in the attitude not the pocketbook. Confessions of the Velvet Ropes is like a guidebook to cutting edge NYC nightlife complete with tips on how to pull off a look, to get into the club and how to have a wild time without getting hung up on being an outcast from NJ. It was a thoroughly fun book to read.

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