In From Outta Town
(Or, the Beyoncé Story)
The bar at El Faro, a now-defunct restaurant in Manhattan's West Village, was empty. Even if I wanted another beer, the bartender stepped out to smoke what seemed like ages ago. To add insult to injury, Celine Dion's Spanish-language cover of Eric Carmen's "All By Myself" filled the empty space around me. It was my thirtieth birthday.
As if on cue, I got a text from my buddy Greg letting me know he was in town for work, staying close to where I was, and that he would like to buy me a birthday beer. I finished my drink, straightened myself out, and walked a few blocks north to meet him in the lobby of the Standard Hotel, on West Twelfth Street.
"There's supposed to be this cool bar called the Boom Boom Room on the top floor of this place," he told me upon arrival. I said that sounded great and up we went.
At the entry Greg, a stylish man, went in first and was let through by the bouncer with no problem. I gave my ID to the bouncer and, after getting the up-and-down, he told me he couldn't let me inside based on my attire, which consisted of sneakers, jeans, and a ratty sweater. "Man, it's my thirtieth birthday," I told him. "I'm in from outta town and everyone told me I needed to come here for a drink." The bouncer took another look at my ID and saw that the story checked out. "Alright," he said, handing my ID back to me. "Happy Birthday."
At the bar, I mentioned to Greg that I was holding the key to the city for the night—I still hadn't updated my ID to reflect my New York residency, so for all anyone knew, l was from Massachusetts.
"We should put this to the test," Greg said. We decide to head across the street to the Gansevoort Hotel, which also had a trendy top-floor bar. A line had already formed outside, which we had no intention of standing in. I walked right up to the bouncer and handed him my ID.
"Buddy, the line starts down there," he said.
"Well, I'm in from outta town," I said. "Today is my thirtieth birthday and everyone I know told me I needed to come here for a drink." The bouncer looked at me, looked at Greg, and then looked at my ID. As he handed me back my ID, he unhooked the velvet rope and let us through. "Enjoy," he said. Greg and I shared a sly grin as we walked inside.
We started to game plan at the bar. Where should we go next? How far should we push this? I mentioned that there is a club around the corner, on Fourteenth Street, called Darby that we should try. It was previously called Nell's and was home to Notorious B.I.G.'s "Big Poppa" video, as well as U2's "One." Tommy Hilfiger once punched out Axl Rose in front of the place. It was the perfect next stop.
Outside, we saw that it was teeming with clubgoers looking to get in. "What are the chances we get in tonight?" I asked the bouncer. "Not good," he said, not even looking at me.
"Look man, I'm in from outta town," I said. "It's my thirtieth birthday and everyone said I needed to come here for a drink."
"Is that true?" he asked.
I handed him my ID. He looked it over, handed it back, and quickly gave us a sideways head nod towards the open door. At this point, Greg and I were giddy, bouncing to the beat with each step as we walked inside toward the bar. On the stage, in the back of the room, a Marilyn Monroe impersonator did a breathless rendition of "Happy Birthday." Greg and I raised our glasses to each other. "Happy Birthday, my man!" he said, laughing.
I excused myself and went downstairs to the bathroom. On my way back, I noticed that there was another club in the basement, which looked like a much better time. I ran upstairs to grab Greg to press our luck once more.
At the entrance, the bouncer told us that the room was closed for a private party. I launched into my spiel, which he interrupted halfway through. "This is a private party," he reiterated. "Happy Birthday. But, unless you're on the list, you're not getting in."
Greg and I conceded defeat and made our way up the stairs. Then, it happened.
I looked up to see Beyoncé, eight months pregnant, descending the narrow staircase. It didn't allow for two people to go in different directions without one giving way, which guaranteed our interaction. Of course, I deferred to the Queen. As she thanked me, I couldn't let the opportunity pass.
"You look radiant," I started. "It is my thirtieth birthday, and I just got rejected from the club for not being on the list."
"Happy Birthday!" she said. "Follow me."
And with that, Greg and I fell in line between her entourage as they effortlessly walked into the club. The bouncer gave us a knowing smile as we walked by him, like we were in a bad Mentos commercial.
Beyoncé disappeared into the mess of people to ascend her throne in the back of the room, never to be seen by us again. Inside this wonderland, the drinks were easily accessible—and free. Everyone looked familiar. The music stopped and the DJ announced that there was a special guest tonight celebrating their birthday and that we should all sing along. The crowd launched into a raucous rendition of "Happy Birthday" as Greg and I looked wide-eyed at each other.
Just as that thought crossed our minds, Nicki Minaj bounded up on stage to thank everyone. It was her birthday too, and this was for her. We were at the Z100 Jingle Ball.
There is only so much one can take being crammed next to a speaker while it blasts thumping beats into your ear—especially when you aren't the guest of honor—so we decided to leave. Outside, standing on Fourteenth Street, we were at a crossroads: do we continue to press our luck, or do we call it a night? I noticed that an unmarked brownstone across the street was actually Norwood, a members-only club. Why not?
"Members only," the nice but firm woman at the front desk told us. "I'm in from outta town," I started. You know the rest. She softened a bit, but I could tell it wasn't going to be enough. I wasn't about to go out on a loss, so I tossed out a Hail Mary. "I'm also a friend of Donny Deutsch," I said, blatantly lying (though I once worked for him).
"I wouldn't just toss that out if I wasn't."
"If I called him right now he would know who you are?"
"I would hope so!"
She pondered for a second and then opened the door for us. "Enjoy yourselves," she said. (Sorry, Donny!)
With a drink in hand, we sat down in high-backed, cushy chairs. Beautiful women walked around while men swirled whiskey in their tumblers. It was all very Eyes Wide Shut. After we finished the drinks we didn't need, it was time to call it a night.
On the stoop out front, Greg and I gave each other a hug. "Have a good night?" he asked.
That night had been good to me.