Industry Insiders: Mark Baker, Mansion Master
Mark Baker of Mansion and Lotus fame (among others) rises early, loves Russia, accepts responsibility for the superficial lounges he helped create, and has fun while trying not to get stabbed by irate, rebuffed club-goers (again).
How did the day start for you today? Actually, today was an early start. I get calls from Europe [early] because nobody [there] has any idea what time it is here, so my day started at 7 a.m. I always leave my phone on because you never know what catastrophes or overdoses or suicide cases or whatever our friends and clients … People with suicide these days is a really heavy deal. There’s a lot of kids out there who just give up, and that’s part of running a network of friends and clients, basically just keeping an eye on everyone. And being accessible.
You get a lot of these crises? I get crises, I get idiots, I get friends I get … models.
Is there one you can talk about? Unfortunately it resulted in somebody, a top model [Ruslana Korshunova], that basically fulfilled her thing…and she jumped, unfortunately.
Was Korshunova a friend of yours? Yes. And I’ve had other very close friends who have definitely attempted … it’s just crazy. But there are other happy stories, too. It’s not just bad.
Why do you think this is? Does nightlife attracts a certain kind of person? I just think that New York is a young city. This is the crux of it: New York is a young city. Nobody who goes out in New York, nobody who’s here in New York, is from New York. They’re all from somewhere else. There’s no family here, so we are each other’s family. And where does the family get together to meet? In our nightclubs.
Yeah, ‘cause you have these little tiny-ass apartments. Well I have a big-ass apartment.
But by and large, the public space is important. By and large we are each other’s family. So obviously, the older you get within this family, this society we have, the more responsibility you have to take on, and the young people who you know socially come to you for advice, because I’ve been here 25 years, because I know who all the doctors are, know the clinics and all of that, so it’s full service. It goes hand in hand, if you come to my nightclub, it’s, “Come help me out when I’m in trouble if I need something,” or, “I need advice,” or it’s “My boyfriend just left me.” You know, it’s just everything, so the phone’s always on, and sleep is a rarity. Not just because of alcohol and drugs, which is what most people think people in nightlife are into. We spend most of our time dealing with crises.
Dead sober. You fucking have to be dead sober, and if you’re not, you get sober in a matter of seconds. If you’re fucked up, you can’t run a multimillion dollar operation. It’s a fallacy. I still enjoy going out of course. You’ve seen me in meetings today, so you know I’ve been here since 10 this morning. I’ve been in the office every morning at 10 a.m., and I work till 6 p.m.. I go home for an hour, till 7 or 8 p.m., and then I go out again. And then I’m out till 2, 3 a.m. So if you figure you’re getting 5-6 hours of sleep a night, there’s no way you can party and do crazy shit.
Your body will shut down. [laughing] Especially at my fucking age! But this is the Mansion experience baby! We wanted to do something fun. We had a big venue. We didn’t just want to do another pop-a-pill, rip-your-shirt-off, and go bump and grind in a big sweaty, industrial venue. We didn’t want that. We wanted to do something more intimate, more sexy, more entertaining, more diverse, and just basically a more fun experience. And that’s Lo — er, what Mansion is.
You almost said “that’s what [Baker’s former club] Lotus is!” [laughing] Yeah, well, this has much more space to do much more creative stuff. Mansion’s a playground, and it’s a Mansion. And we have a ballroom, a study, a library — you know the theme of Mansion? We have fashion shows, performances, all the rest of it. On top of our speakers here, there are two giant elevators that go up and down with girls inside, dancing go-go girls. They’re fun, they’re dressed in themes.
I was just talking to one upstairs. Yeah they’re great, they’re sexy, fun, We have this whole light theme, and the sound system is probably one of the best in Manhattan. It’s a custom-made million-dollar sound system. These giant subwoofers also serve as platforms for our beautiful, beautiful, beautiful Russian dancers … most of them are Russian.
Why Russian? ‘Cause Russians are the best. They’re sexy, they’re beautiful, they’ve got the best bodies, and they’re fun. Obviously, you know, girls these days who dance can go and get a thousand dollars a night as lap dancers, whereas we obviously pay considerably less for a girl who just dances. But my friends in Russia hook me up with a constant stream of girls … We have aerial performances. The whole lighting system goes up and down and twists and turns. The aerial performer flies around, I have gospel choirs who come in during the middle of the night and belt out gospel. I have opera singers who come in and sing opera to Paul Oakenfold. It’s a theater, it’s dance, it’s performance, it’s fashion, it’s art, it’s entertainment.
So it’s coming at you from all angles. It’s not just a stage in the front. Yeah! It’s not just like, let’s walk into a fucking room .Look at 20 other clubs in this city where all you do is go into a little room, you get squashed into a little table, listen to music, and everyone checks each other out, and then they leave. This has got shit going on everywhere. Also, if you look, the tables are spaced quite far apart, so the people are never sitting right on top of each other. I have 40, beautiful … uh …
Russian girls? Well yes there are 40 Russian girls. We love the Russian girls.
I spent 10 insane days in Moscow. Yeah, so you know Moscow. I get a lot of my ideas from Moscow these days because they’re so creative. They have no guilt partying up there. There’s no such thing as guilt. I love America, but there’s too much fucking guilt here. Get over it. Have fun. Enjoy it — don’t feel guilty about it.
Because Russia is a godless society. That’s right! They have no religion to give them the fucking guilt. I spend a lot of time in Russia. I just knew that Russia was gonna be hot. I could see it coming, just their energy and their creativity and now they’re rockin’, and they’ve got all the money in the world. They’ve got the hottest girls in the world, and let me tell ya, Moscow is off the charts. And not just in Moscow, other places within Russia and Ukraine and even out to the Black Sea.
Do you think that this is the most fun spot in New York? I have no question, no doubt about it. I mean look, it’s not one of the smaller VIP venues in Manhattan. And having done those smaller VIP venues for 25 years … look, everybody wants to have “the” hotspot. I don’t mind not having “the” hotspot right this second. I think that there’s all types of nightlife in New York, and there’s room for a Double Seven, a 1Oak, and a Rose Bar in Manhattan. My friends own and operate those venues, and its great. I like to go there sometimes and have a drink. I think that a lot of people are missing out on having a really good time in New York because they’re just so conditioned to go to these places and just look at each other. It’s all very well to go look at each other, but, guys, girls: There’s fun here. People have fun!
Well, people in New York don’t seem to care about fun anymore. People kind of want exclusivity, and it’s kind of your fault! We definitely created a monster with the whole model/celebrity scene. During the course of the month, I get most people in the city that come through. We get a ton of celebrities here. But I try not to tell them about it beforehand. I just say, “Look, come check us out, and tell me afterwards if you had fun.” And everybody that comes through — pretty much everybody, unless you’re completely phobic of big venues — comes here has an amazing … they have fun. I get no fucking hate mail for this place. I get hate mail for every other venue that I’ve owned.
What kind of stuff? You get the “I hate you for Lotus!” mail? No, the classic is like, “Hi, how you doin? I haven’t seen you in a long time, it’d be great to see ya.” Then they say, “Hi, I’m coming down to your club so can you put me on the list?” Then it’s like, “Hey I’m on the list I’ve had a hard time getting in.” Then it’s like, “Listen, I’ve been stuck outside for 20 minutes you asshole! What the fuck is your problem?” And then it’s like, “Fuck you! Watch your back, man! I’m never going here again. Fuck you!”
Did that happen at Lotus? Yeah I had some wacko fucking stab me ‘cause he couldn’t get into Lotus. He stabbed me in the chest. There are a bunch of wackos out there. And then another night, this guy misfired and hit me in the face, then he tried to pistol-whip me. He was beating up on his girlfriend, and we had to take him out. There are a lot of people who take this shit way too seriously.