400 Dates

Confessions of a club promoter

It wasn't long before Doyle was meeting other, equally ambitious Orange County promoters, including Meddock, Braizele and McMillan, all of whom, like Doyle, have difficulty explaining how they came to be club promoters, admit they never dreamed of being club promoters and speculate there is no single way to enter the business.

They were all working in Orange County nightlife when Doyle decided he no longer wanted to work solo. He invited the others to combine their talents for a weekly party at the Lodge in Costa Mesa. They produced bigger crowds and bigger profits. Soon, paperwork was filed, grunt work was outsourced, and the Social Group was born.

Doyle is quick to explain that the Social Group is not limited to the four men who frequent the office. "There are guys who make percentages and guys who make the guest list and pass out fliers," he says. So while the four men meet with marketing directors and clothing companies, negotiate wristband prices and decide on website designs, a team of part-timers handles the rest.

Two "phone girls" report to work daily to call the several hundred people on the guest list. In addition, a flier team of about two-dozen middle school students passes out fliers for weekly parties throughout the county. Doyle believes this is the most important job: if county clubbers don't know about the parties, they won't go. And then there are the Los Angeles-based promoters who keep the Social Group connected across Hollywood.

Back in the office, the phones are busy, but it doesn't look good. Few girls are answering their phones, and McMillan predicts a low turnout. Regardless, it's nearly 5 p.m., and the Social Group will close the office in less than an hour to allow everyone as much time as possible to dress, eat and, for Doyle, meditate and undergo various cleansing and purifying rituals. They'll meet up again at the Sutra Lounge no later than 8:45.

* * *

At Sutra, every night starts slow. In the early evening hours, small dinner crowds can be seen drinking in the Indian-inspired dining room, bartenders lounge behind a desolate bar, and the management team begins to schmooze VIP guests.

Outside, a few early clubbers arrive in hopes of beating the crowd. Two girls—both scantily clad in pleated miniskirts and tube tops—are let in, while a group of middle-aged men are asked to start a line outside.

Doyle shows up, looking refreshed and trendy in designer jeans and sneakers. He buys himself a drink, visits with the management and begins his hustle, which for now is limited to talking coolly to a nearby reporter ("If you wanta story, I'll giveyou a story . . .") and answering a cell phone that rings incessantly.

He uses this down time to talk about his love for the Sutra Lounge. Beyond the sexy dťcor (you won't find a place in Europe that looks this good, he says), the nightclub's small size apparently serves a more practical purpose.

"You have more control over who comes in," he says. "You're better able to pick them." By them,he means beautiful people. "Don't get me wrong, everyone will get in, but some people might have to wait longer than others."

By 9 p.m., the rest of the Social Group has arrived, looking remarkably the same in versions of the same faded jeans and tight-fitting shirts and near-identical haircuts. Save for Braizele, each has a faux-hawk, a spin-off of the Mohawk that is surprisingly sexy on the right head but somehow loses its seductive quality when worn by men in a group.

They check each other out and compliment each other's shirts and shoes. Meddock reveals he caught McMillan taking a cheese grater to his jeans earlier that evening. He explains that when it comes to throwing parties, it's all about appearance.

"We're always on the scene, so we have to look good," he says. "Nobody wants to go to a dorky person's party."

* * *

The real action starts 45 minutes later. Braizele, the Social Group's DJ, is able to escape the increasing havoc and busy himself with turntables on the blue-lit dance floor. The line outside is growing. Meddock leaves to placate the management over a problem with the clientele's dress code, McMillan just leaves, and Doyle continues to run in and out of the nightclub, looking increasingly distressed. The men constantly signal to each other with hand gestures and facial expressions when to open the line and when to raise the cover price.

It becomes increasingly clear that many, many people want to be added to the guest list. The Social Group's cell phones ring.

"Everybody knows somebody," says Meddock of the clubbers who arrive at the party and expect to jump the line and the cover charge. "There's always somebody in the crowd who thinks they're better than anyone else."

Meddock stands behind the nightclub's decorative palms, looking concerned. His eyes glaze over as he looks past the crowd and lets his mind wander.

"This is my safe spot," he says, pointing to a secreted bench near the club entrance. He waits there, beneath the warm glow of wall sconces, and builds up the strength to join Doyle in monitoring the line. He confesses that the pressure to please partygoers can be overwhelming.

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