Paradise on the Hudson

I admit, I haven’t been to the Hudson Hotel for a minute. I rushed in and out of Good Units for an event to support fellow designer Robert McKinley when it debuted. About a year ago, I just had to attend a Carmen D’Allessio affair, but alas, it was at Hudson Terrace. I wandered around the splendor of the hotel looking for her and ignored the crowd that was partying hardy. At that time, it was a predictable working class crowd. Cloned yuppies, all wearing almost the same slacks and patterned button downs and young girls with A-line dresses from the same shops. There wasn’t a soul in sight that I recognized. I imagined it was like being in a boutique hotel in Atlanta or Chicago. I smiled and avoided knocking people over as I walked through the property, absorbing its beauty and intelligence. It was a bit like walking through a museum of hospitality design. The place is magnificent, a monumental achievement from Philippe Starck and former owner/operator Ian Schrager. Over time, the real foliage has overgrown the fake stuff and the property has become a wonderland of restaurants and watering holes. There are rooms for dining and drinking everywhere, and a couple of Gramercy Park Hotel-type roofs. One is for guests and the other is for weddings and affairs and such. All-in-all, I don’t venture up to 58th and 9th much. Until now, I had no reason to. My mind’s been changed. The cloned crowd might still be there, but new light has descended on the palace and added a high note of style and grace.

A downtown hipster crowd as beautiful as the surroundings has been curated by “Regional Director of Nightlife Promotions,” Salvatore Imposimato. The Morgans Hotel Group, which operates the property, added a new restaurant that’s made me a firm believer that something special is happening up there. Hudson Hall opened two weeks ago and is fabulous, functional, stylish and fun. 30 foot high walls are covered with hundreds of screens (or is it really only one?). Black and white rock stars, hipster hippies and beautiful people from a still-inspiring era gone by, are projected 360 degrees, surrounding diners with reasons to be cheerful. They cavort and play as if to show us how it’s done. It’s described as an “Ivy League Mess Hall” and you get orange trays and pick up your food from the kitchen in the center of the room and sit on wooden communal tables. Chef Brian Young’s food gets more than a passing grade. Small plates of exciting fare “created from premium sustainable-organic products, indigenous to the New York-Hudson Valley area” makes you wonder why so many others just don’t grasp this concept.

I ran over to DJ Princess Starlight when she put on Paul Mccartney’s “Band on the Run.” She played track after track of fun rock and a crowd of fun rocksters constantly came over to say ‘hey.’ The Tuesday night party “Ladyland,” usually in the outdoor “Private Park,” was moved inside due to the cooling rain. Princess Starlight is getting lots of buzz because of her association with Lady Gaga. Now everyone goes goo goo over Gaga but I’m here to say that the Princess needs no one to validate her. She’s the real deal. The party also has former DJ Kelle Calco who ran those Rolling Stones parties over at the Belmont Lounge that had me gushing. His crowd is the freshest, hottest, coolest newbies.

My favorite misnomer, Miss Guy, brings her old school/new school following and DJ flavors to Thursdays. I could spend a whole day telling you how fabulous Guy is. I guess I’ll have to do so soon. Debbie Harry came to visit recently. Chris Shipps who brings a sharp model-heavy, rocker crew is also on hand. They have fabulous dinner parties before each soiree and as I looked around the “mess hall” I forgot about the troubles, trials and tribulations that defines the hot mess that is New York nightlife. I can’t recommend parties more. It was enough to keep me from going to Brooklyn (again!) last night. Okay, I went late. The Hudson’s nightlife experience is expanding with ex-Amalia/d’Or/Highbar promotional player Alex Ancheta helping with bookings. DJ’s Junior Senior, Andy Rourke (Smiths), Ilirjana Alushaj of Apache Beat, The Rapture, etc. are forthcoming. The hotel absolutely gets the idea that they’re physically a bit off to the side and up at 58th and 9th, and are spending money to attract a sharp set that gives the complex, hip New York vibe that its guests are expecting. This bit of flavor is taking on a life of its own and is fast becoming a scene.

A former employee took me for a walk through the bowels of the hotel, through secret passages to undeveloped rooms. There’s one room where an ancient swimming pool awaits a redux. It was supposedly built in the ‘20s for Danish women, or something like that. It stunned me. A rusting iron railing protects a balcony and the old tile and no diving signs channeled me to Jay Gatsby. It’s a thousand photo shoots waiting to happen. We passed through Good Units as it lay dormant just waiting for a fantastic event to bring it to life. My friend told me Susanne Bartsch will be hosting a weekly Thursday there come September. The Hudson won’t stop ‘til we get enough.

There’s an old adage in nightlife that has almost always been true. Uptown will often travel downtown to party (or as they say “slum”), while downtown will never go uptown. There have been a few notable exceptions to the rule. I recall Arthur Weinstein’s Hurrah, and sometimes downtowners ogled the swells at Studio 54. There have been smatterings of moments at the sadly gone Tavern on the Green. The Hudson Hotel is a wondrous palace where anything seems possible. Years ago, I attended some party for some movie. I was hanging with my old friend Johnny Ramone who was playing pool with his new friend, Nicholas Cage. At the time, it just seemed awkward. The leather-jacketed punk rock star and his movie star friend who was trying so hard to be cool and accessible. Cage shook my hand and looked me in the eyes and seemed so sincere that he actually became likeable. I never got Cage. Over the years he would pop by my joints and I never understood what he was made of. I surmised that hanging with the ultimate punk was sort of like marrying Elvis’s daughter. Anyways, they didn’t seem to belong in these lavish quarters. It was the last time I saw Johnny who died too young, and in California, no less. I never intentionally went back to the Hudson as I also didn’t feel I fit. Yesterday, I didn’t feel that way at all. The difference, I believe, between the Morgan’s incarnation and Ian’s is the staff. With Ian, they’re always beautiful, well dressed, smart and well-versed. The Morgans crew is all that and something more. They’re super friendly. As I wandered around the place and peeked at this and that, I was smiled at and offered help. I saw managers quietly solve problems and help guests with caring smiles. It’s warmer now at the Hudson. The crowd may soon catch up to the aesthetics. It’s got my vote. It got me up there and has me planning to come back.

Tonight, I’ll be out celebrating Avenue’s one year anniversary in addition to my usual shenanigans.

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