The opening of the 18th floor at New York’s Standard Hotel in September drew everyone from Demi Moore to Calvin Klein. A few weeks later, Madonna hosted a party for Valentino at which her boyfriend, Jesus Luz, took to the turntables. Models like Lily Cole and Agyness Deyn turn up regularly. And when Bono and Mick Jagger needed a nightcap after their performance at the 25th anniversary concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this is where they came.
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Welcome to the Boom Boom Room. Many nightclubs have owned the New York nightlife scene since Studio 54 closed its doors in the mid-'80s—Area, the Palladium, the Sound Factory, Bungalow 8—but few have had anything approaching the glamour quotient of hotelier André Balazs’ exclusive new space. With floor-to-ceiling windows, and a martini lounge-look worthy of Mad Men (or The Stork Club), the 18th floor is the new oasis for the jet set, the city’s latest epicenter for those at the top tier of society, fashion, and Hollywood.
Says Vanity Fair contributor Bob Colacello, a Studio 54 regular and a frequent guest at parties at Balazs’ new pleasure den, “You’re in this big circular room with incredible views, there are those terrific columns, it’s beautifully designed. Other places like Bungalow 8 and the Beatrice Inn, they’re funky and cozy and downtowny, the people who frequented those places were glamorous, but the atmosphere itself was kind of makeshift. This is spectacular without being garish or over the top. It doesn’t feel like Las Vegas. It feels like Manhattan high style, updated and done in a new way.”
“I could move in and not leave,” says socialite Marjorie Gubelmann. “It has the most magical feeling—the lighting, the view, the crowd. It’s like the clubs in the '80s.”
Even the drama to get in is a throwback to another era, before bottle service became the centerpiece of the nightlife industry and AmEx black cards turned into the preferred form of ID around town.
The bulk of the 18th floor’s regulars are there because they’re social connectors who were placed in a database by Balazs. Each of these people has their phone number stored there and is caller ID'd when they make reservations. When guests call (preferably several hours in advance), a woman on the other end of the line asks what time the reservation is for, then takes a callback number and goes to the maitre d’ for approval. (Presuming he answers in the affirmative, there does appear to be some flexibility about the arrival time. Attendees generally aren’t held to a strict schedule, the way they are at, say, the Vanity Fair Oscar party.)
When the 18th floor first opened, it was officially called the Boom Boom Room, a reference both to the old jazz clubs from which its design was inspired and from the exhibitionistic quality of the windows. (Hotel guests have been known to put on sex shows.) Sadly, a San Francisco club apparently had a copyright on that name, so for the time being, the room is just called the 18th floor.
No matter: Among the sorts of people who frequent the place, not having a name just adds to its mystique.
The partying typically goes until 4, although the peak time is generally about 12 a.m. to 2. Weeknights tend to be slightly less crowded and slightly more high-end than Fridays and Saturdays. On a recent Wednesday night, Heidi Klum, Edward Norton, and Russell Simmons were all in the house. A DJ was cranking old disco tunes, everything from the Bee Gees to Chaka Khan. That Friday, the most famous people in attendance were Willem Dafoe and Mark Consuelos, who was hanging out at a banquette in the main room with a couple of pals. If there is one complaint heard somewhat regularly about the place, it’s that the room doesn’t have a proper dance floor, which means people tend to do more mingling and drinking than serious partying. Notes Colacello: “I just get tired of talking to people at a certain hour and if there’s a dance floor, you don’t have to.”
And unlike the good ol’ bad ol’ days of Studio 54, there are some rules on the 18th floor: No smoking, except on the roof (which offers 360-degree views of the city) or the smoking shaft (behind the main bar area), where the floor is clear glass. Look down and it’s an 18-story abyss. Even Lindsay Lohan seemed petrified when she went out back on a recent evening for a ciggie. Flagrant drug use is, if not verboten, out of style. And the dress code is basically designer.
“It’s like being at the ultimate fashion show,” says Gubelmann.
Adds publicist Peggy Siegal: “Andre’s brought fashion and style back to New York nightlife. It’s the first time in a long time people have really gotten dressed up. People wear beautiful clothes.”
You may talk to the owner when he’s in the room, but not about work. (Perhaps understanding that remaining silent to the press is the best way to build a sense of mystique around a nightclub, Balazs declined comment for this article.)
Reporters who make it past the doors are allowed to observe, but notebooks are frowned upon, as is walking up to celebrities for quotes (unless at parties like the Valentino affair, where press is pre-approved).
“That’s what makes it fun,” says one sometime attendee, who attended the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame afterparty. “It was just rock royalty, the most famous musicians in the world hanging out for a couple hours without anyone there to bother them.”
Jacob Bernstein is a senior reporter at The Daily Beast. Previously, he was a features writer at WWD and W Magazine. He has also written for New York magazine, Paper, and The Huffington Post.