Albane Cleret's club builds VIP following

Jimmy'z, next to Cannes' Palais, is a hot spot for dealmaking

CANNES -- Don't let the champagne or the dance floor fool you. Jimmy'z by Albane is not a nightclub. And the eponymous Albane wants to make sure you know that.

"Jimmy'z isn't a nightclub. It's a networking lounge. It's a rendez-vous point for the Cannes A-list," she said. "People come to Jimmy'z to continue the work they started during the day. It's the last drink for business."

If you need to remember one name at the Festival de Cannes this year, remember this one: Albane Cleret. (Well, perhaps knowing Thierry Fremaux and Gilles Jacob might be helpful, too.) Sure, the Palais turns into a hub of activity that houses hundreds of international film companies, and every hotel is invaded by sales outlets at work, but the real business happens every night between midnight and 4 a.m. next to the Palais.

Albane Cleret Communication was created in 2002 and has been handling movie premieres, boutique inaugurations and high-profile events such as the Cesar Awards afterparty ever since. Nicknamed "Albane, the friend of the stars" by French magazine Madame Figaro, the 36-year-old Cleret has made a name for herself among the film and fashion elite after working in London and New York, before settling in Paris.

Cleret opened Jimmy'z by Albane in Cannes in 2003 and the nightspot next to the Palais has since gathered a cult VIP following. The hardworking Cleret now runs both the Orange Costes beach by day and Jimmy'z by night during the festival. Both places welcome the creme-de-la-creme of French film industry execs and talent for meetings, dealmaking and the occasional glass of champagne.

"Cannes is all about saving time. Why go to six different beaches or 10 different restaurants or nightclubs when you can run into everyone in one place. The entire film industry is concentrated at the Orange Costes beach during the day, and at Jimmys at night, so it's very practical," Cleret said. "Jimmy'z is a place of business at night. It's the same people I see at the Orange beach during the day who come." Cleret often starts her day reserving tables at the Costes beach for guests who told her at 2 a.m. they'd like to hold the next day's lunch meeting there.

Jimmy'z has become the place to be not only for the French film and fashion communities, but also for VIPs from across the globe.

"Harvey Weinstein loves to come to Jimmy'z every year," she said. "Last year, Sean Penn was there every night. Sharon Stone, Diane Kruger and Joshua Jackson, Natalie Portman and Guillaume Canet all stopped in."

Yet with all the enticing soirees taking place in Cannes every night, how does Cleret manage to lure everyone to Jimmy'z? "I don't go out searching for stars," she said. "They call me, I reserve a table, and they come."

While Cleret always seems to have things under control, there have been moments of panic. In 2007, on the opening night of the festival, after months of planning, a Cannes security team stopped in Jimmy'z and told Cleret she couldn't open the club. "I cried," she said. "It was a nightmare." After eight hours of panic and restructuring the interior of the club, the security guard passed by again at 11:30 p.m. and allowed the Jimmy'z to open at 1 a.m. as planned.

Cleret is willing to do almost anything in order to ensure that everything goes smoothly and her guests remain happy, even making runs for late-night snacks. "Matt Dillon asked me for a cheeseburger with fries and a bottle of Bordeaux at 4 a.m. once. I rushed to the Majestic and came back, cheeseburger and wine in hand for him." Not to mention the time she had to clean up after a Rolling Stone. "Mick Jagger once broke a chandelier in the middle of the room," she said. "All of a sudden, it came crashing down."

So when does Cleret find time to sleep amidst such Cannois chaos? "I probably get about 50 hours of sleep in total for all 15 days I'm in Cannes," she said." I welcome 400 people during the day at the Orange Costes beach and 400 at Jimmy'z at night. I need to sleep in order to keep my feet on the ground and a good head on my shoulders. Otherwise, it would be impossible to function."

Cleret has a team of six women working for her during the festival in addition to the staff at the Costes beach restaurant and at Jimmy'z.

"I love people," Cleret said. "I love bringing people together and introducing guests to people they want to meet. I love to watch business being done. I'm a producer. I'm a businesswoman."

The businesswoman has, fortunately, not been hit too hard by the global financial crisis threatening all of Cannes nightlife this year.

"I lost three sponsors, and I replaced two," she said, adding that the third is being funded by her own Albane Cleret Communications. "I think it will be a wonderful festival. I'm optimistic."

During the festival, Cleret wakes up at about 11 a.m., drinks an espresso, hops in the shower and is on the Orange Costes beach by 1 p.m. to run the show. She stays until 3 or 4 in the afternoon to oversee press junkets or business meetings, then books down the Croisette to the Audi terrace at Jimmy'z, which this year will house events and press junkets during the day. Then Cleret heads to the showrooms of the various luxury brands she represents -- Fendi, Guiseppe Zanotti, Louis Vuitton and Carerra vintage, before heading to her room in the Gray d'Albion for a much-needed pause.

Before reps from Franck Provost do her hair and Dior applies her makeup, Cleret watches Canal Plus' nightly show "Le Grand Journal" ("I never miss it. It's a great way to see what's going on at the festival.") then gets dressed and heads to the Costes beach to oversee the dinnertime hours. At about 11:30 p.m., she heads to Jimmy'z where she remains until closing and usually gets to bed around 5 a.m.

Despite her action-packed schedule, Cleret reaps the rewards of her work, namely bringing people together.

For example, "Olivier Dahan called to thank me because he met an actress at Jimmy'z who he ended up hiring to star in one of his movies," she said.

But her job isn't all smiles. "At night, people can get very aggressive," she said. "You wouldn't believe the things I hear.

"It's a real war machine," Cleret says of Jimmy'z.

Of course in this war, the winners drink Moet & Chandon to toast their next film deal and ride home in Audis. Just another day at the office.
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