by michael ventre
photography by ramona rosales | October 22, 2014 | People
LA, an early town? No mas! As the sun sets, the hills (and valleys), from SM to DTLA, are alive with the sound of revelry. Meet the guys who are changing the face of Los Angeles after dark with all the night moves.
David Cooley photographed at his home in the Hancock Park section of Los Angeles. suit ($2,995), dress shirt ($415), and tie ($175), Dolce & Gabbana. 312 N. Rodeo Dr., Beverly Hills, 310-888-8701
David Cooley exclaims with glee as a thousand impeccably toned gay men lift him above their heads and carry him through the streets of West Hollywood to the cheers and applause of adoring throngs in thongs. Okay, fantasy aside, the level of appreciation for the CEO and founder of The Abbey in WeHo overflows like a pitcher of Peach Red mojitos during happy hour. Cooley is the onetime banker-turned-entrepreneur who transformed a 1,100-square-foot church like coffee house into a 14,000-square-foot institution.
A two-time winner of the “Best Gay Bar in the World” award from MTV Logo, The Abbey is both a local watering hole and an international tourist attraction. And it is a survivor. In a notoriously fickle business where turnover is status quo, The Abbey is celebrating 23 years of operation, with most of the same staff Cooley started with. “You get that family feel here,” he explains. “It’s not corporate. Customers always like to feel, ‘Oh, I know the owner,’ or ‘I know the bartender.’ That’s a big part of our success.”
A native of Solon, Ohio, the 55-year-old gay power broker has hosted top Democrats like Hillary Clinton in his club, is active in LGBT causes, leads toy drives for Children’s Hospital, encourages other local businesses, and goes a bit over the top on special nights like Halloween and New Year’s Eve. Soon he will open Cooley’s around the corner from The Abbey, a restaurant he describes as “the opposite of The Abbey—no dancers, no loud music, no lights. Just a great place to socialize with friends.” Cooley says he created The Abbey because when he first came to West Hollywood, many of the area’s establishments were still somewhat closeted in their approach. “I always had a dream to do something better… to be proud of who I am,” he explains. Cue parade dancers, please.
John Terzian (LEFT) and Brian Toll photographed at Bootsy Bellows in West Hollywood. ON JOHN: Jacket, Etro ($1,871). 9502 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, 310-248-2855. Shirt, The Kooples ($215). 100 S. Robertson Blvd., LA, 424-335-0041. 511 slim-fit jean, Levi’s ($58). Madison, 8745 W. Third St., LA, 310-275-1930. Sisto sneaker, Salvatore Ferragamo ($595). Bloomingdale’s, 8500 Beverly Blvd., LA, 310-360-2700. Watch, John’s own. ON BRIAN: Suit jacket ($2,695) and pewter Pulbury shirt ($295), Burberry London. 9560 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, 310-550-4500. Watch, Brian’s own
Imagine a fantasy nightclub in the trendy heart of LA, in which A-list celebs and the best and brightest from entertainment, fashion, business, and technology commingle in a private, but festive environment—and where table service can typically run into six figures during primo late-night party hours. Well, that club actually exists; it’s called Bootsy Bellows, and if you dream hard enough, you might just get inside.
The Sunset Boulevard hot spot’s concept is high-end exclusivity, and right now nobody does it better than John Terzian and Brian Toll of H.Wood Group, gatekeepers and owners of Bootsy (along with actor David Arquette)—with its Rat Pack-era décor and burlesque touches—as well as Hooray Henry’s on Beverly, Shorebar in Santa Monica, and Bootsy Bellows Aspen. “We’ve had plenty of opportunities to buy up clubs in Hollywood and mass market them—charge at the door, not care who’s inside,” says Toll. “That’s not our strong suit. We care more about having the top people in every industry in there.”
Terzian and Toll, both 34, grew up in LA (Terzian went to Harvard-Westlake; Toll, to Beverly Hills High), met at USC, and after working individually for a while, formed H.Wood in 2007. They later joined forces with partners Adam Koral and Markus Molinari, building a following for their venues through friendships and networking. “What we’ve focused on and still do,” Terzian explains, “is the people we grew up with, friends of friends, inner-circle LA, the home base and its extensions. It helps you build a brand naturally.” Leonardo DiCaprio and Katy Perry have graced the VIP room. Bottle service at Bootsy Bellows ranges from $425 to $30,000. The brand: Exclusive… naturally.
Mark and Jonnie Houston photographed at Harvard & Stone in Los Angeles. ON MARK (LEFT): Suit jacket, Burberry London ($2,295). 9560 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, 310-550-4500. Shirt, John Varvatos ($348). 8800 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, 310-859-2791. Pants and shoes, Mark’s own. ON JONNIE: Biker jacket, John Varvatos ($998). SEE ABOVE. Navy shirt, Burberry Brit ($250). SEE ABOVE. Boot, All Saints ($285). 100 N. Robertson Blvd., LA, 310-432-8484. Pants, Jonnie’s own
While deveining shrimp as 9-year-olds in the kitchen of their mother’s Thai restaurant, Jonnie and Mark Houston made a vow: No more long hours, thankless work, little time to relax. But something either went horribly awry or blissfully correct. Today, the fraternal twins operate seven establishments—including Harvard & Stone, Pour Vous, La Descarga, and the accessible-to-all Piano Bar—where they attend to just about every detail at every venue at all hours.
These days, they’re giving the business a big kiss on the lips. “It’s funny how things go full circle and you wind up going back to what your upbringing was,” Jonnie explains. While most nightspots promise a social component, some do it better than others. For the 36-year-old Houstons, native Angelenos, it’s less about selling booze and more about the vibe. Their club No Vacancy, for instance, is ensconced in the 1902 Victorian Hollywood abode known as the Janes House. But to access the New Orleans brothel themed premises, you either have to have a connection to the NSA or know about the secret speakeasy entrance.
And they’re constantly adding playful touches to their establishments: Tightrope dancers. Roller-skaters. Fullsize trolley cars. “They say you shouldn’t work with family, but it works for us because we can be honest with each other,” Mark says of the duo, whose latest entry is Butchers & Barbers, their first restaurant, which opened in Hollywood in September. “We can get into an argument and then five minutes later go to lunch.” Sometimes they even have shrimp.
Josh Goldman (LEFT) and Julian Cox photographed at Brilliantshine in Santa Monica. ON JOSH: Jacket, Salvatore Ferragamo (PRICE ON REQUEST). South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, 714-979-7654. Sweater, All Saints ($160). 100 N. Robertson Blvd., LA, 310-432-8484. Jeans, J. Brand ($165). Ron Herman, 8100 Melrose Ave., LA, 323-651-4129. The Classic Black Automatic watch ($3,800) and chevron bracelet ($395), David Yurman. South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, 714-444-1080. Copeland chukka, Johnston & Murphy ($145). Westfield Century City, 10250 Santa Monica Blvd., LA, 310-551-2656. ON JULIAN: Sweater, Todd Snyder ($295). Unionmade, The Grove, LA, 323-965-2248. Tyndall cap-toe chukka, Johnston & Murphy ($175). SEE ABOVE. Jeans, Julian’s own
This is just one example of an artisanal cocktail that Julian Cox and Josh Goldman once dreamed up, a take on a Charles H. Baker recipe: “Demerara Rum Swizzle: El Dorado 8 Year, Lemon Hart 151, lime, grapefruit, falernum, and pomegranate.” Clearly they are not the kind of bartenders you belly up to and tell your problems—unless your problem is a lack of imagination in beverage menus.
As partners in the Soigné Group, a restaurant and bar consulting firm, these two modern-day barkeeps have contributed their liquid assets to beverage services at some of the top eateries in town, including Picca, Sotto, Acabar, and Circa. And now they have their very own establishment: Brilliantshine in Santa Monica, which they opened in August. “It’s a unique bar and food experience,” Cox explains. “It’s kind of entering another world. There’s not another space like it in Santa Monica.”
Both are in their mid-30s. Both are alumni of Pacific 12 schools (Goldman went to UCLA; Cox, to Arizona State). And both love bopping around Los Angeles like Pied Pipers with cocktail shakers. “We’ve been fortunate enough to be working with beverages all over the city in different neighborhoods,” Goldman says. “Every time we move into a different area we learn something new about the city and the people who live there. It’s funny how things vary from one neighborhood to the next, but they’re separated by only a few miles.” Anybody want to grab a quick Pan American Clipper?
Jason Harder photographed at Shiraz Events in Los Angeles. Officer’s blazer ($1,875) and pant ($690), Marc Jacobs. 8409 Melrose Pl., LA, 323-653-5100. Dress shirt, Neil Barrett ($535). Traffic LA, Beverly Center, LA, 310-659-4313. Bow tie, Title of Work ($225). Maxfield, 8825 Melrose Ave., LA, 310-274-8800
If you’ve ever planned a major event—wedding, anniversary celebration, Mad Men viewing party—you know any such endeavor comes with a gnawing anxiety that threatens to eat you alive before the fi rst appetizer is consumed. Jason Harder knows it, lives it—and craves more. As West Coast event director for Shiraz Events, he’s responsible for designing and pulling off some of the more dazzling afterdark soirees in Los Angeles… and just about anywhere west of Dallas, for that matter.
He’s been working out of the company’s West Coast office in LA for three years now, and pressure is his date for every affair. “Every single one of them,” he says with a laugh. “You have to make sure you’re just as good as your last event.” A native of Tampa, Florida, the 35-year-old Harder began as a bartender in New York City, later worked as a consultant for bars and lounges, moved to Miami to work in nightclubs, and eventually segued into events by joining Shiraz’s office there. Now he oversees an operation that throws elaborate fêtes for the likes of the Los Angeles Philharmonic (including September’s high wattage annual gala), Unicef, Make-A-Wish, and a vast array of companies in fashion, business, design, and beyond.
He and Shiraz have their eyes on more challenging party prey, too. “In LA, it’s hard to get your foot in the door,” he says of potential clients, especially in the entertainment business. “But once they see our work, they give us that one opportunity and they never look back.” Of course, when he isn’t toiling, he’d prefer not to orchestrate his own fun. “Since I plan so much for work,” he explains, “I’m like, ‘Someone else take the reins.’ Dinner parties at other people’s houses are perfect!”
Darren Dzienciol and Scott Sartiano photographed at 1 OAK in West Hollywood. ON DARREN (LEFT): 18k yellowgold, geode, and yellow-diamond lapel pin, Kimberly McDonald ($7,500). 8590 W. Sunset Blvd., Ste. 10.1, 310-854-0890. Royal Oak self-winding watch with 18k pink-gold case, silvered dial, and black strap, Audemars Piguet ($32,000). Westime, 254 N. Rodeo Dr., 310-271-0000. Suit, pocket square, bracelet, and shoes, Darren’s own. ON SCOTT: Tuxedo, Givenchy ($3,375). mrporter.com. Dress shirt, Dolce & Gabbana ($415). 312 N. Rodeo Dr., Beverly Hills, 310-888-8701. Sterling bar with raw diamond and tie ($400) and pocket square ($125), Title of Work. Maxfield, 8825 Melrose Ave., LA, 310-274-8800. Royal Oak Offshore watch, Audemars Piguet ($36,900). Westime, SEE ABOVE. High-tops, Converse by John Varvatos ($250). Barneys New York, 9570 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, 310-276-4400
When John Lennon first met Paul McCartney, he had a decision to make: continue to be top dog or embrace an equal partner. We know the rest. The success of nightclub brand 1 OAK in LA is the result of a similar strategy. Scott Sartiano and Richie Akiva of Gotham-based Butter Group, who established 1 OAK in New York in 2007, realized they needed a savvy Angeleno to establish a Los Angeles branch of the nightclub in the old Key Club space on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood.
So they joined forces with Bartelier Group’s Darren Dzienciol, a 28-year old grad of Beverly Hills High with an impressive background in both fashion and nightlife. “They really wanted to bring the New York brand here and go against everybody’s idea of what that might be,” Dzienciol says of the club, which opened last fall. “They wanted to build upon the cachet they created in New York.”
While the El Lay edition of 1 OAK thrives on sophistication and impeccable attention to detail and caters to an eclectic clientele that draws from Europe and the US (including a formidable celebrity base comprised of H’wood players such as Jay-Z, Leonardo DiCaprio, and tip-top DJs), the boys strive to present all that with no pressure. “We want to create a cool vibe for people,” says Sartiano, 39. His partner concurs. “We want to make sure people are being relaxed and having a beautiful time without us being pains in the ass,” says the 36-year-old Akiva. “You want them to get to the point where they’re happy and they want to spend money, rather than forcing anything down their throats.” There’s also a 1 OAK in Mexico City, another soon to open in Japan, and the trio has plans to expand in LA. In the nightclub world, think of them as the Fab Three.
Andrew Meieran photographed at The Edison in Downtown Los Angeles. Sweater, Canali ($795). South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, 714-662-1800. Pant, Todd Snyder ($395). Unionmade, The Grove, LA, 323-965-2248. WW1-96 Grande Date watch, Bell & Ross ($4,200). Feldmar Watch Company, 9000 W. Pico Blvd., LA, 310-274-8016
Andrew Meieran shares DNA with Don Quixote. That’s really the only reasonable explanation as to why the 47-year-old filmmaker/real estate developer embarks on seemingly impossible endeavors. But the key difference between Cervantes’ fictional crusader and Meieran is that the latter takes on decrepit Downtown spaces and turns them into astonishingly cool nightspots.
His latest project is Clifton’s Cafeteria, a legendary melding of cuisine and kitsch that first opened in 1931 but hit the skids in recent years. Meieran, fresh off the wondrous rehab and repurposing of The Edison, is set to reopen Clifton’s this fall after a major remodeling that began in 2010 and ran north of $5 million. “The more somebody tells me it’s absurd or crazy or it shouldn’t be done,” he explains, “the more I’m intrigued, because I don’t think great things get built by people who shy away from frightful-looking projects.”
The new Clifton’s incarnation—open 24 hours—will retain the old forest-themed look in the main dining areas, but there will be new inspired touches, like a tree that extends through three of the five floors and a Polynesian-accented bar-restaurant. It’ll be a distant but still simpatico stylistic cousin to The Edison, a steampunk-themed space in the basement of the Higgins Building in Downtown LA, which originally opened in 1910 and once housed the city’s first private power plant. Although The Edison debuted in 2007, partygoers still line up around the block to enjoy the industrial cool, the rare silent films that play in the background, and the specialty cocktails. It’s all part of what Meieran likes to call “experiential nightlife.” He’s got his eyes on other Downtown projects, too. Naturally. Ride, Don Quixote!
All portraits styled by Stacey Kalchman @ Bryan Bantry