Club 57 rules on Saturdays
The midtown party provides a new reason to go out.
Mon Nov 2 2009
It was just after 2am on a recent night at Providence, and the new Club 57 Saturday soiree was in full swing: On the main floor, a diverse crowd of adorable boys gyrated under a massive chandelier to the club sounds of DJ Mike Cruz; in the intimate lounge above them, a slinky DJ Lina churned out soulful hip-hop for an East Village--looking crowd; and below, DJ Xavier took a break from his youngster-geared pop set for a lip-synching show from drag queen Epiphany, who was resplendent in a mirror-covered catsuit. In every corner, the party, just a month out of the starting gate, looked like a smashing success—and that's no accident, say the party's promoters, Brandon Voss and Tony Fornabaio.
"Other promoters are rarely seen, and spend the night sitting at a VIP table with their friends. We try to reach everyone, and that's what people really respond to," says Fornabaio over his lunch of cobb salad at Chelsea's Elmo recently. "Even just giving a hug, you're ahead of the game."
Voss, dining on his own cobb, adds, "When we go to our parties, it's like we're hanging out with our friends."
The duo's welcoming presence, on full display on a recent visit, is certainly a huge element of their success. But they also owe much to a combination of timing, sweat equity and extensive nightlife experience.
Voss, 30, a Florida native, has been in NYC since 2000. Though he has a background in finance, with past stints as an IBM consultant and an investment banker under his belt, he's spent much of his time here moonlighting as a bartender and promoter at hot spots including Bowery Bar, G, Splash, XL and Avalon. "I got to know everyone in the club scene," he says—which was a lucky thing, since he was laid off at the start of the year and soon after decided to make nightlife a full-time gig. That was right around the time he met Fornabaio: "Even though I know everybody, he really knows everybody," Voss says.
The Bronx-born, Chelsea-raised Fornabaio, 44, is a successful interior designer—as well as a longtime veteran of the gay club world. In the '90s he worked with Rande Gerber of Whiskey and promoted parties at various clubs, also working as a doorman at straight clubs and eventually hosting gay nights, including one at Glass in Chelsea. His favorite nightlife scene was one that attracted "young, old, trannies, drag queens," he says, "though no one does that now; this was years ago, and parties have been very segregated since the '90s." But he's trying to change that now with Voss, whom he met through a mutual friend—and they've done it, to a certain degree, with the popular Rockit Fridays (with DJs Keo Nozari and Lady Bunny), which they rolled out together in March.
"Our friend owns Amalia and he wanted a gay party," Voss says by way of explaining Rockit's swanky midtown digs. "We were really apprehensive about doing something on 55th Street, but we fell in love with the space."
Next up for the two was tackling the rest of the weekend, because "Saturday night there was nothing going on," Fornabaio says. Voss, meanwhile, lives in Hell's Kitchen and had often walked by Providence—the former Le Bar Bat that now functions mainly as a special-event space; he cold-called the place, and found it was eager to house a regular party. Its opening night in September drew so many folks excited about a big club night, there was a line around the block.
"We're very detail-oriented, and we know what our crowd wants," Fornabaio says, explaining how they show up at the club with a truck every week, using it both to unload their own high-tech lighting and sound equipment and to fill up with the tables and couches that Providence keeps scattered around the dance floors for its various events. "Our crowd wants every space available," he says. Also a part of their formula is bringing in a well-known DJ-producer for the main floor each week (like Cruz, or Tony Moran or Escape), balancing their sound with Lina's in the lounge and various popsters in the basement.
Until Club 57 started, the one weekly Saturday-night club option for the gay community had been the long-running John Blair Saturdays party at Splash; but Voss and Fornabaio believe there is plenty of room for both, maintaining that competition is healthy. "People come up to us all the time and say, 'Splash must be hating you!' But we're a different crowd," he says. "Plus, promoters all have waves. It's important to be a part of the big picture."
Club 57 is on Saturdays at Providence.
Club 57 slideshow