Nightlife

"If you base this career around money you will fail. You have to focus on giving respect..."

The business of throwing a great party isn't all fun and games

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Jess Simone, nightclub promoter and general manager at View Lounge,
makes her living in a scene where energy drinks like vodka Red Bulls are the standard fuel for late nights. But when I meet up with her at a coffee shop, she’s looking fresh as a daisy in a long cotton dress and topknot. Excitedly, Simone informs me that she just rescued a baby bird from a parking garage. “People think I’m cool since I can put them on the guest list but really I’m just a dork who loves animals,” she says with a laugh.

Simone, 30, began her career in 2004 at the now-defunct Restaurant Prov. “It started as a bet between friends to see who could bring the most people in on a Monday night,” she says. “I won.” After four years of throwing theme parties at various venues throughout the state, Simone focused her efforts on promoting Friday and Saturday nights at Waterplace, which underwent a major renovation and reopened (a separate nightclub within the restaurant) as View in 2009. It wasn’t long before owner Steve Marra appointed her General Manager. “Steve was amazing,” she says of the late restaurateur. “I miss him.”

Simone’s husband, DJ Naughty, is the resident DJ on Friday and Saturday nights there. “We have a CO2 cooling system with these big cannons that shoot cold blasts of air onto the dance floor,” she says. “When Naughty’s about to hit a beat, our sound and lights guy hits the button at just the right time and you see this big cloud of smoke... Naughty and I actually got engaged at View on New Year’s Eve,” she says. “He stopped the music and proposed in front of everyone! Half the people we work with were in the wedding party. We’re like a little family.”

When you work at a club, you never know what the night may bring. Chris Brown and T-Pain showed up unexpectedly to the club’s two-year anniversary party. “They took off their shirts and danced on the speaker boxes!” Simone recalls. In the past, her parties have featured celebrities like LMFAO, Vanilla Ice and Holly Madison, but not so much these days due to the state’s economic downturn. “You can’t expect people to pay the big covers anymore,” Simone explains.

It’s just one of many roadblocks she’s had to overcome. When the City made VIP bottle service illegal several months back, she had to get creative. “Since the waitresses can’t pour the customers’ drinks anymore, there’s really no incentive to keep them in the VIP area. So, now we try to spruce it up for them. We have balloons, free cake, chocolate-covered strawberries... ”

Parties, celebrities, alcohol, chocolate: all sounds pretty fabulous to me. “Honestly, I love it but every aspect of my job is stressful!” Simone admits. “I’m always scanning the crowd. One person’s actions can jeopardize the whole night and we have zero tolerance for disorderly conduct. The public doesn’t realize how many eyes are on them. The DJs are watching the dance floor; the VIP hostesses are watching their tables. It’s a very controlled environment.”

With all that strain on her shoulders, it seems only fair that Simone would be highly compensated for her trouble. "I'd rather not get into specifics." she says, "but I will say the money is goosd. That's not why I got into the business, though. If you base this career around money you will fail. You have to focus on giving respect and great customer service. If you do that, then the money will come.”