Tucked away, in the recesses of The Standard, Hollywood, there is a glossy black room, with disco balls submerged halfway through dropped ceilings, and sumptuous black banquettes and booths that beckon from its edges. Mmhmmm (for that is its name — and has there ever been a more fierce sobriquet for a nightlife venue?) is accessible only by traversing the kitchens of the hotel, and upon entering one’s eyes take a moment to adjust to the black-on-black-on-black palate, lit only by pin-spots and laser beams, made more full for the smoke being billowed into their beams.
It is here, at Mmhmmm, that a revolution has occurred. Well, less of a revolution, perhaps; and more of a renaissance — and it is disco that has risen here, like the fabled phoenix from the ashes, at the weekly dance party known as Giorgio’s. Back in 2013, at the behest of hotelier Andre Balazs, producer Bryan Rabin partnered with Adam Bravin (aka DJ Adam 12), and a movement was (re)born. The musical format was strictly disco, period. If it was produced after 1986, it isn’t played, here. And they called it Giorgio’s — a tip of the Treacy to the man who had produced some of the greatest songs of that or any subsequent era.
And the people came. And not just people, mind you, but those beautiful people that nightclubs have sought-out and fought-over for decades. And while I could regale you, for hours (or certainly, dozens of column-inches) with tales from Giorgio’s; it is this past weekend’s 2 Year Anniversary Party celebrating the release of Giorgio Moroder’s new album, Déjà Vu — featuring a live DJ-set by Moroder, as well as a surprise bathtub burlesque performance by the legendary Dita von Teese — that I’m writing about, today.
It should go without saying that my 45 minute flight took roughly two hours, because that’s just the way my life works; and likewise, Uber wasn’t available at LAX — but since my life also has a remarkable way of evening things out, there was no line at the Taxi Stand, and my incredible driver got me all the way to the Sunset Strip in 25 minutes, so things were looking-up! After checking-in, I raced to my room, and following a quick wardrobe change, jewelry selection, deodorant application, and a thorough perfuming — I was ready.
I left my room (dressed in black skinny jeans; black Gucci loafers with a stacked cha-cha heel; a black t-shirt with the face of Debbie Harry emblazoned upon it, in shiny gold; a couple of gold and diamond rings; and over it all, a black Saudi Arabian abaya, with gold trim), crossed the lobby of the Standard, and made my way to the Pool, where the VIP Reception was well underway. “Of course, Mr. Shulman; come right in!”
I very nearly tripped over Mr. Rabin (who was giving me a cross between Roxy Music and Duran Duran that evening, nattily attired in a head-to-toe ensemble by Paul Smith with his golden locks done by Lorri Goddard), who instructed me to “Stand here. Don’t move.” Followed two quick seconds later with “Francisca and Giorgio Moroder, this is my friend, Michael Shulman.” What the frack??? Start at the top, and never look back, eh? “Oh my God! It’s so lovely to meet you! I’m a huge fan [to him]; and aren’t you just divine [to her]?”
After I’d risen from kissing Francisca’s hand, Giorgio looked at me, looked at my t-shirt, pointed and said “That’s my favorite singer, you know.” (I knew.)
Bryan was already off greeting another guest, (but not before introducing me to Paul Denman from Sade), and after a blinding 40 seconds for the photographers, I bid the couple adieu, and entered the fray of the party. Adam came over, and he too was especially chic, and dressed to the proverbial nines, in a hand-tied bowtie, bowler hat, and a tuxedo with a boutonniere fastened to his lapel.
From here it was a series of Hellohowareyous with friends, both old and new (and the occasional photo with) the likes of PAPER co-Founder, Kim Hastreiter, fashion scribe Merle Ginsberg, RuPaul Charles, Christos Garkinos, Pat Loud with daughter Michele, drag legend Constance Cooper, and artist/actress/model Cuba Scott (who, being only sixteen, would not be in the club, later; although her father, director Jake Scott was). On and on this went, until my eyes finally settled on the sublimely beauteous vision that is my darling Annabel Schofield, wearing a simple jersey dress in ivory, with a matching turban-like head-wrap and looking like something out of a photo by the artistic lovechild of Slim Aarons and Roxann Lowit!
All of a sudden, Rabin descended upon us (well, Annabel, actually — I was just standing there and had the foresight to grab on to her delicate hand) and declare “With me. At the front door. Now!” So we followed, hand-in-hand-in-hand and made our way back across the lobby, to the “door” of Giorgio’s, where we were handed-off to a host, who then led through the kitchen, past the dishwashers, and into Mmhmmm, where Adam was DJing and the lasers were lighting up the air.
Bryan had put us on “the Bench” the only banquette on the dancefloor proper, facing the DJ booth and stage, and adjacent to the Exit door, leading to the smoking patio. In other words, the best seats in the house. Of course, not knowing the nomenclature of the tables, I ended-up in the big booth in back, and walked right into Francisca Moroder, who invited me in that graceful way of hers, to join her and Giorgio. In any other circumstance, I’d have copped a squat before you could say “star-fucker” but I was here to dance, and Adam was wasting no time serving some fabulous disco anthems by Chic and Diana Ross; so I thanked Mrs. M and made my way back to the dance floor, nearly tripping over house photographer, Tyler Curtis (who kindly informed me that “the bench” was right in front of me).
After a few trips to the patio, and answering a few “We’re here. Where are you?” text messages (to which I replied “On the Bench” naturally), it was 11:30pm, time for Giorgio Moroder’s live set, and wouldn’t you know it? As I made my way through the crowd, and up to the stage, there was Francisca Moroder, gesturing for me to join her, against the DJ booth, next to Bryan; where we watched Giorgio and Adam, unobstructed.
And then it happened. Moroder began his set with that song he produced, full of hope and promise and inspiration, “Flashdance… What a Feeling” by Irene Cara. As one would expect, the crowd went nuts, and the energy that coursed through the room was nothing short of electrifying. Moroder then played a trio of songs by Donna Summer, including “Hot Stuff,” “On the Radio,” and “I Feel Love” before taking the mic and charming the pants off of even the most jaded guest with his sheer exuberance and his delight in the recently passed Marriage Equality bill, saying that it would only be a matter of time before his native Italy caught-up to the United States, quipping “We’ve already got the Pope!”
From here, the maestro played Daft Punk’s “Giorgio by Moroder,” followed by Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” and “Bad Girls,” and Blondie’s “Call Me” (and me in my Debbie Harry t-shirt!).
Now, during Moroder’s set, security had been limiting access to and from the patio, but after Debbie implored us to call her, call her, anytime, the club was put into lockdown mode, as the divine Dita von Teese entered the venue for her special surprise performance. And as the slow, throbbing beats and toe-curling moaning of Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby” oozed out of the speakers, Miss Dita began what I think might be the jewel in her crown of burlesque performances. Maybe it was the embargo on cameras and phones. Perhaps it was that, as a Giorgio’s regular, she knew she was among friends (and most likely recognized many of the faces looking back at her). But whatever the reason, she got into it. And how!
Sitting on the edge of the bathtub, wearing bedazzled pasties and silk stockings, beneath a (short-lived) corset and garters, she popped the cork from a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and poured the foamy elixir all over her supple flesh. Then, sliding down, into the bathtub, she removed her stockings, flinging drops of water all over the audience — that by this time was one surging mass of people, surrounding the stage. I was front-and-center, and holding an ice bucket (more on that in a minute). The lights were mostly blue, and Dita looked like her skin was emitting a moon glow.
Then, as Summer moaned, von Teese undulated, removing a rhinestone-encrusted nozzle from its handle, and began “washing” herself. Now, I haven’t prayed in that church since shortly after college, but I’ve gotta say it: I was standing at full-attention, giving Dita my one-gun-salute!
Then, as if it had been a highly eroticized dream, it was over, and the musical stylings of DJ Adam 12 resumed. Now absolutely drenched in sweat, with ice bucket in-hand, I escaped to the patio. There, with Angela Janklow Stein, Jeff Stein, and Kathy Jeung, I walked to the very edge of the patio, bent over, and poured the mostly-melted contents of the ice bucket over my head. After a quick chinwag, and bidding adieus to the Steins, Kathy and I reentered the club, and recommenced with our boogying.
Then, I looked up to see Dita, dressed pretty as a present, standing in the DJ booth, and before I knew it, she was joining Darryl Gibson (L.A. Regional Director of Culture, Standard Hotels) in singing “Happy Birthday” to Bryan and Adam. I made my way to the stage, and staked-out some prime real estate, whirling like a dervish, to Sylvester. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed confetti falling, so I turned around. There was Dita, shoving handfuls of paper into this tube, the end of which was right near my face. And as I turned to inspect this tube, there was a loud “Whoosh!” and before I knew what had happened, I’d been hit in the face by a hundred pieces of confetti! And as if this wasn’t funny enough - because the confetti was made from tissue paper, and I was soaking wet — it stuck to me.
Once I dislodged most of the confetti (while dancing to Shalimar), I made my way to the DJ booth. There Bryan introduced me to Dita and we posed for photos. Over the course of the following few hours (for people were dancing well into the wee-hours of the morning) I would bump into such fellow revelers as Tony Okungbowa (DJ, The Ellen DeGeneres Show), Rose Apodaca (A+R), Eduardo Ponti with his gorgeous wife, Sasha Alexander (Rizzoli & Isles), Rose McGowan, Ace and Matt Sorum (Guns n’ Roses, The Cult), Mathu Anderson (Producer, RuPaul’s Drag Race), and Kama Carnes (President, Kiki de Montparnasse).
Finally, I made my way back to the DJ booth, to thank Adam for being the wonderful discaire that he is. As I observed Crystal Lourd dancing with Alex Pettyfer (aka “The Kid” from Magic Mike), I marveled at the incredible evening that had just elapsed; full of friends and fabulosity; and realized that — long after that decadent music stops playing (God forbid!) and those halved disco-balls no longer spin (heavens, no!) — it is destined to be one of those nights that we’ll be talking about for many, many years to come.
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Michael Shulman is the Founder/Editor of ShulmanSays.com — an online magazine about popular culture and social mores that he’s been publishing since 2009. His essays, both written and/or photographic, have appeared in such publications as PAPER, BlackBook, W, and Ocean Drive. He’s been quoted in The New York Times and Departures; and has appeared on The Travel Channel and VH1. www.ShulmanSays.com #GetIntoIt