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To hear veteran nightlife and events guru Bryan Rabin explain why the dance floor inside L.A.’s disco haven Giorgio’s is still on fire two years after it first opened, you’d think he was detailing the blueprints to a cultural movement and not a club.
“We set our intentions with what we wanted to create and we stuck to those standards and we haven’t deviated. It was never about money. It’s only been about creativity, and the love of … dancing,” says Rabin. “We’ve been in our flow.”
The “we” is a nod to business partner and friend, Adam Bravin, the man behind the discotastic music at the Standard Hotel-set club, known for it’s exclusivity (a tight capacity of 120 with only five tables, one banquette and one bar); eclectic A-list patrons (everyone from Mick Jagger, Diddy and Prabal Gurung to Daphne Guinness, Leonardo DiCaprio and Mario Testino); and its name (after the iconic Italian music giant Giorgio Moroder).
But to be fair, what the duo has done for L.A. nightlife could be qualified as a movement. They’ve made Saturday nights cool again, created a fashion forward party with a nod to the disco days or yore, and given the stand-and-pose crowd a reason to leave their insecurities at the valet and actually dance. Like, really dance.
And last but certainly not least, Giorgio’s has remained in vogue on L.A.’s notoriously fickle nightclub landscape for two calendar years. They toasted the anniversary on June 27 with a bash that drew Moroder for a special album release party complete with a soaking wet surprise courtesy of Dita Von Teese in a bathtub. We chatted with Rabin and Bravin after they caught up on sleep to discuss their triumph on the dance floor.
How have you managed to keep Giorgio’s so hot two years after opening?
Rabin: It’s always about the music. And what’s so important to the success and heat of that club is what we provide. We don’t allow cell phones as best as we can; no video and you can’t do selfies. That is critical. The age range of our club is 21 to 80 years old and want people to feel safe in that room. That’s why celebs don’t go to nightclubs anymore because they can’t dance and be free without being put on blast. Plus, when you’re taking selfies you’re not participating. (Not allowing phones) keeps everyone present in that room. Also, I treat every night like it’s opening night, every single time. … Between that and the door, we make sure that it feels like the most amazing, fresh dance party for people who want to dance and have fun. It’s a safe, expressive, artistic environment.
Bravin: Even though disco has been around a long time, it’s my job to put it together in a way that doesn’t feel like it’s been done before. A lot of people come just to dance and they trust me as a DJ. Most DJs are forced to play what the people want, and the good thing about our crowd is that they trust me. I spend a lot of hours every week either transferring mixes I have on vinyl to MP3 or searching the Internet for alternative versions of popular songs to give dancers and people in the club a new experience. Also what Bryan does is a very specific and magical skill set. It’s like painting a picture the way he curates that room every week. He puts a lot of thought into it. You don’t want to paint the same picture every week — it’s artistry.
What song really gets the crowd moving?
Bravin: It’s a tough question. There are big artists who will always work; Michael Jackson, Sylvester, Marvin Gaye. There are also songs that are underground disco songs that have become popular in the context of Giorgio’s. Songs like “There But for the Grace of God Go I” by Machine. It was a huge song in the ‘70s and it’s a very meaningful song. It’s not the song you immediately think of when you think of disco, but it’s one of a certain set of songs that I like to play in there.
Rabin: There are Giorgio’s hits. We’ve moved over into the early ‘80s dance music. But a song that I live for is Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up.” Adam plays the disco version of that and it’s insane! All of the Moroder hits and anything Donna Summer — people go ballistic!
Do you have a favorite night over the past two years? Favorite guest?
Rabin: The night that the cast of Empire was there with Lenny Kravitz and Common. The most popular TV show in the world right now, blurring real life with the music industry and seeing them meet George Clinton was insane. And I brought over Jody Watley all to the same table. Another night I call ‘Pistol at the Disco’ — at one table was John Taylor, Billy Idol, Kenny Scharf, [Rick Owens muse] Kembra Pfahler and Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook. Diddy was also there that night, Kate Bosworth, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bradley Cooper, Russell Simmons and Andre Harrell. That’s crazy on one night! Another night, in one booth was Boy George, Debbie Harry, Jody Watley and Thelma Houston and all of them were dancing and gagging that the other was in the club. At the same time, one of the most modern artists, Die Antwoord, was there too. These moments are bigger than Adam and I. But bringing us to the big moment — we named our club after Giorgio Moroder, who was in retirement. To have it work out for us to do his record release and he DJs in the club named after him on our anniversary and Dita Von Teese, who was a surprise for everyone until the last minute, performs. This is the stuff dreams are made of. For us to have the kind of love and support and turnout — I’m so thankful. It’s crazy. But we can’t forget the night that Mick Jagger walked in. I don’t care what decade it is — when Mick Jagger walks into your club, it’s pandemonium.
Tell me what it meant to you to have Giorgio Moroder there on Saturday night?
Bravin: I grew up listening to Giorgio Moroder and I started producing music in mid-to-late 90s and his music has always been a part of my life, whether it was music he created or soundtracks he produced. I’m a huge movie fan in addition to music, and his soundtracks are very influential in my life. Ultimately, he’s influenced everything I’ve ever done musically in one way or another. Never in a million years did I think I’d meet him or become friendly with him. The first time he came in, it was amazing to meet him and let him know. From what his wife told me, he wasn’t going out in the days of disco to see the reactions of his music from people on the dance floor. To watch him sitting back and enjoying the response from everybody on the dance floor to a medley of Giorgio Moroder hits I was playing was really special. Then last Saturday, standing next to him deejaying, I felt like in my own way, not only was I talking to my influence and inspiration, but someone I am slowly becoming friends with. And in that moment, it felt like we were peers. I would never compare myself to Giorgio Moroder, but standing next to him, talking about music and helping each other through the set was an amazing feeling and moment for me. It reminded me that music is a common denominator and it doesn’t matter how big of a star you are, music brings everyone together.
You teased that year three will feature surprise elements and live performances. Any hints as to who’s on your wish list
Rabin: Every week you walk in and see icons of film, art, music and fashion. We’ve created an environment where people can be safe, they don’t have to be camera ready, they can work out new music and new songs and new routines. So you never know. It all goes back the music, which brings all ages, sexual orientations, socio-economic backgrounds in one place to keep it spectacular, unexpected and iconic. It’s about dancing and the magic happens on the dance floor.
Bravin: I’m going to go along with Bryan. It’s safe to say that every week someone walks in who I would add to the wish list. It can be as easy as walking over to them and asking them to do a cover. We’re thinking about pairing the younger generation with the older generation; having new artists cover disco hits.
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