OPENING DOORS

These days, everyone’s being nice to everybody else in Manhattan.

There’s very little hollering on the street. Crime’s down.

A true gauge of the new niceness might be the door people at city

nightclubs. Are they being nice? Can they

be nice? After all, if they’re too nice (i.e., they let everyone in), the

nightclub loses its exclusivity and no one wants to come anymore, and that

isn’t nice at all.

“What’s your problem?!”

” Fuck you .”

This was an exchange on Oct. 4 outside Glass, a new lounge on

10th Avenue and 26th Street. A young fellow (average looks, corduroy jacket,

dork) tried to slip past the guy with the list, who happened to be co-owner

Fernando Henao, dressed stylishly in a blue short-sleeve button-down and red

pants.

“They’re rude to me, I’m rude to them,” Mr. Henao said. “It’s

kind of embarrassing, because I like to

be nice to people.”

The guy he’d had words with

was standing on the wrong side of the velvet rope.

“You’re a moron,” the guy

told Mr. Henao.

” Fuck you ,” Mr. Henao

said. An attractive woman brushed past him into the club. ” Hi , how are you?” he said.

Mr. Henao agreed that the city felt nicer these days.

“Even when you’re driving your car, they’re more pleasant,” he

said. “You bump into somebody, they’re nicer.”

He looked directly at me. “Let me buy you a drink.”

“No, no,” I said.

“Yeah, yeah, you can buy us a drink,” said my female friend. “‘ No, no ‘? It’s like, ‘Wrong answer, asshole .'”

A preppy-looking couple walked up to the door, and Mr. Henao told

them, “Sorry, private party .” That’s

the old soft doorman’s rejection.

“He’s a little too casual,” Mr. Henao explained as the rejected

couple walked away. “He looked like an N.Y.U. student. I feel sorry for them;

they’re really nice. Some people, they either beg or they name-drop. There’s

other people who just say ‘How long is it going to be?’, and you tell them 45

minutes to an hour, and they say ‘O.K.,’ and they just sit and don’t ask, they

stay behind there. If I ever go to a door and they don’t let me in, I just

leave. There’s 16,000 other places in New York to go.”

Another couple, this one attractive and well-dressed, confidently

strode toward the door.

“They’re definitely getting in, absolutely, ” Mr. Henao said as they approached. “Our perfect

demographic.” He let another woman in, too. “Beautiful women always get in.”

Around the corner from Glass was Bungalow 8, which has perhaps

the most impenetrable door in the city. A few days earlier, there’d been a

party there for Kevin Spacey, who had hosted a John Lennon tribute that night.

People like Yoko Ono, Alanis Morissette, Gabriel Byrne and James Gandolfini had

no problem getting inside. I had a problem, however.

Doorman Darryl Gibson agreed to talk to me tonight, once I made

it clear that I wasn’t trying to get in again.

Had Mr. Gibson, since Sept. 11, let someone in he wouldn’t have

before, just to be nice?

“No.”

What about firemen, cops, military police, F.B.I. guys working

down at ground zero?

“I’d have to see.”

Over on Eighth Avenue, Nicky Hilton of the Hilton sisters was

having her 18th birthday party at another club, Suite 16. A good 50 people were

waiting to be let inside. One of the five big gatekeepers was Wass Stevens, a

stocky guy with glasses and a stern, stony look about him. He was on the steps

looking down upon the young girls who were tilting their heads and moving their

bare shoulders around to get his attention.

Mr. Stevens said that the week after the terror attacks, the

nightclub had donated proceeds from the door to the American Red Cross.

“It was very, very

difficult to turn people away when I know all the money’s going to charity,” he

said. “But it’s still a business, we still have a job to do … what I’m trying

to do now, because everybody’s demeanor is much more cordial, I’m trying to be

nice while still doing what I have to do.”

“So you can’t just be an outright-“

“An outright prick? I try to be as nice as possible, because you

never know who someone is, who they’re going to become,” he said. “But

ultimately, it’s just a club.”

Had he been nicer since Sept. 11?

“I’ve just been a lot nicer in my method of turning away.

Everybody’s attitude [is that] we’re all very sad because we’ve all lost

friends, so you really don’t want to be a bastard at the door, when people have

lost friends .… There’s no additional bullshit … unless, of course, someone

gets arrogant with me, and then the whole nice thing goes right out the window.

“It happened twice already tonight. O.K., this is the most

ridiculous story: Someone actually came up and said that ‘I just lost my

friends in the catastrophe, how can you say no?’ I was speechless. That was the

most ridiculous thing that you can say; it’s like people who are selling scrap.

I was really-I was very bad with that one. I told them to get the fuck away

from me. I said, ‘How dare you? Because I lost a very, very close friend, so

how dare you use that to try to gain entry to a nightclub? How shallow and

disgusting are you?'”

Mr. Stevens turned to a woman begging to get in. “Can you wait a

second?”

Next stop was Lot 61, where a model party was in progress. Tara

Fougner, a cute 22-year-old with a “T” on her black top and a Great Neck

accent, was running the show outside. “Everything’s been really slow since the

events; everyone’s felt very guilty partying and being out,” she said.

Had she let anyone in she wouldn’t have before Sept. 11?

“No, I’ll be honest,” she said.

What about a fireman, could he get in no matter what?

“Oh, I would give him a big hug and thank him!”

Had she been nicer to people she had to reject?

“I try to be!” she said. “See, I’m not one of the pretentious

door people. Unfortunately, there are a lot.”

A guy was leaving and apologized for giving Ms. Fougner a hard

time.

“Good night, darling,” she said. “He did give me a hard time.”

I was ready to say goodnight and head home.

“Next week is my birthday-call me!” Ms. Fougner said. “It’s been

a pleasure. And you’re more than welcome to come to my birthday party.”

-George Gurley

What’s in a Name?

When it happened, Daniel Geller said, he was in the shower at his

Athens, Ga., home.

“I kept hearing the phone ring,” Mr. Geller said. “I got out, and

it was a bunch of my friends who’d called. Everybody was saying these cryptic

things that didn’t make sense. Stuff like, ‘ I

hope you’re O.K .'”

When Mr. Geller discovered what was happening, he was horrified.

The 28-year-old fronted a band called I Am the World Trade Center.

In fact, I Am the World Trade Center-a pop duo that records on a

laptop computer-was set to drive to New York on Sept. 12 to do shows at

Brownies and Urban Outfitters.

The dates, of course, were canceled.

“We don’t know if we should

even go play in New York ever again,” Mr. Geller said from his home. “The clubs

told us that they would never let us use that name. Ever .”

At the same time, some people advised Mr. Geller that keeping the

name would earn the respect of hard-core rock fans. “Someone told me if we kept

the name, we’d have to get ready for a lot of punks to come to our concerts,”

he said. But, “that’s not what we’re going for.”

So Mr. Geller has tentatively shortened the band’s name to I Am

the …. “The name and symbol will still live with us, and in the future we hope

that we can once again use our entire name,” he noted.

Over the phone, Mr. Geller said that he originally came up with

the World Trade Center idea because “we’re a duo, and there were two towers.

Our songs were about living in New York.” Mr. Geller and his bandmate, Amy

Dykes, lived in the city two years ago. The band’s first and only LP, Out of the Loop -which is distributed by

Kindercore, a label owned by Mr. Geller-is about to go into its third pressing.

“We don’t know what to do. Probably we’re going to put a sticker on the front

that says we did this before the tragedy,” Mr. Geller said.

“It’s really unfortunate now,” he added, “because we love the

name so much. We didn’t want to offend anybody.”

-Ian Blecher

OPENING DOORS