On the Cusp: Marquee Turns Five
Jason Strauss called me up one day about six years ago and wanted to meet me in an old building in a derelict neighborhood over on the West Side. The area was inhabited by badass hookers, their friendly associates, and the fellows who find thrills in such people. It was raining hard, and lightning was screaming at me to go home, but there was Jason smiling and working some ancient lock “can’t waiting” to show me his dream space. There was virtually no roof on the abandoned sanitation truck garage, and a single exposed bulb swayed and sparked in the waterfalls that were quickly turning the floor into a wading pool. “Isn’t it amazing?” gushed my young friend. I would spend the next year trying to make it so, and Marquee would open and take the nightlife game to an unprecedented level.
The layout of Marquee, a machine of a bottle-club, was the result of many meetings, which included people like Andrew Sasson of Light Group, Vegas, Noah Tepperberg, Mark Packer, and many others. Philip Johnson Alan Ritchie Architects even came on to up the ante. We all worked hard contributing and tweaking, and the result is the defining club of what will be known as the bottle-service era. Not since Pangea or Life has a club been so obviously the place to be — but only for a certain crowd. When asked recently by a New York Post reporter how I would rank Marquee overall in comparison to the great clubs of history, I said it wasn’t up there. He was actually interested to know how it compared to a Studio 54, and I think he was a little shocked when I said it could not be compared. Yet, when baseball writers try to determine if a player is worthy of the hall of fame, one of the questions considered is, “Was he a dominant player of his era?” Marquee is absolutely the dominant player of its era — the thing is that it’s a pretty boring era.
In order to make my top 10, it’s important that a club have musical chops. Although many a great DJ has worked that room, I can’t imagine anyone comparing its offerings to that of, say, Cielo, another viable candidate for the dominant club of the last five years. Marquee also never had much racial or sexual diversity. Although there were certainly great gay-ish parties, it is mostly known for a straight following. It might be too soon to judge, however, as Marquee is still with us, still banging, and certainly still changing. In the next five years, there could be nights or weekly parties that add dimensions to its legacy.
Marquee’s floorplan has no real defined dance floor and relies on people dancing at their bottle-laden tables. I can see a time when that furniture will be stored on a few nights, and an improved sound system will allow a kick-ass, musically based dance night. Although ranking clubs is a sport which amuses some writers, editors, and readers, to the people who own and have invested in Marquee, the reality is that the club has generated a great deal of money for five years, and that is certainly a measure of success. Everyone involved should be congratulated for reaching this milestone.
I asked Wass, Marquee’s superstar doorman, what it was like to be doing the door of this five-year anniversary party on the night before The Wrestler, a major movie in which he has a significant role, is about to be released. He said he felt like he was “on the cusp.” Wass has been a top-tier doorman in New York for a very long time. His ability to support himself while pursuing his dream of becoming a successful actor is one of the many reasons nightclubs have been my obsession for so long.