The Doorman Said “No”, So I Said “Hello”!

I love parties.  In high school, I created house parties in the basement of my house (since we were underage, there were only a limited amount of places high school kids can hang out).

The basement of my house with high school friends. 

Then in college, I became a Brother in Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at Indiana University where I learned how to create parties on a much larger scale and even collaborate with other organizations and sorority houses.  Also, since there were hundreds of house parties taking place on campus each week, there was a lot of inspiration to boost our creativity.

Our most creative party was called Arabian Nights (aka “Barbary”), which included a) turning our entire fraternity house into a Middle East palace filled with sand, camels, and running water fountains and b) getting the entire campus excited about the party by delivering exclusive invitations to the party by one of our pledges riding on a camel and wearing a sultan’s robe.

barbary night

Facade of my fraternity house, Phi Kappa Psi at Indiana Universtiy, during the Arabian Nights Dance. 

To me, the best parties consist of celebrating with people you know and welcoming those that are mutually connected.  But when I moved to New York City, I noticed that parties were generally filled with people that did not know each other or were connected in any significant way, and everyone was not always welcome. In high school and in college, I had very little money, but I still knew how to make it a great time. But in New York City, I discovered nightlife is much more than just fun parties with friends, it is about the money.

When I moved to New York City, I had very limited free time to go out, as I was an investment banking analyst at Lehman Brothers and would get out of work around 11pm on average each night. So when it came to having fun after work, the only option open available would be New York City’s nightclubs (even though I still managed to help create secret weekly parties inside of Lehman Brothers).

I went to my first nightclub in the Meatpacking District of New York City with some friends in 2005. It was very overwhelming with hundreds of people outside the door in the line. Even though people were dressed up and had money, the party people seemed sad.

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The Meatpacking District of New York City was a completely different experience than the more innocent parties I was used to. Even though no one was ever dressed up or had any money, the party people were always happy.

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The courtyard of our fraternity house. Even though I loved my fraternity party experience, academics was still #1 to me as I graduated with high honors with a 3.83 GPA from the business honors program and had the highest GPA in my class.

That night, after waiting for half-an-hour in line, we eventually made our way to the door. The doorman asked who was in our group and which list we were on.  We were a group of four guys, and none of us were on any list (we had all recently moved to New York City).  After telling him this, he immediately told us that none of us would be allowed to get inside, and then instructed us to leave. He proceeded to speak with the next group in line, completely dismissing us.

Being positive and optimistic, I thought if we just waited, the doorman would eventually change his mind and let us in. My friends agreed, but after waiting for more than 20 minutes, they became frustrated and left, especially after the doorman told us “no” a few times and was asking what we were all still doing there. But, I still wanted to get in and did not want to leave and be defeated. So, I just stood there, waiting.

As I waited by myself alone, I felt embarrassed. My friends left me. I was waiting alone. People were looking at me, and I started to feel like a loser.

But, as I waited, I noticed the doorman telling many others they cannot get inside as well. It was the same experience that we had, happening to hundreds of other people throughout the night. I also noticed that it did not seem like anything personal to me or my friends, it just seemed to happen to everyone, it was just the standard operating procedure.

I also noticed some people would take it personally and get angry at the doorman. They would even curse at him for not letting them inside. But to me, the doorman was just doing his job at one of the top places in New York City. He was not being rude, just being upfront. There was clearly a lot of demand with limited supply.

Seeing all this play out, I then started to feel empathetic for the doorman (yes the same person who rejected me and my friends). Here he was at his place of employment, doing his job and having to deal with people that were being rude and obnoxious.

Since I was just standing there alone and not getting or going anywhere, I used that as an opportunity to talk to and get to know the doorman. I wanted to show him that unlike everyone else who he rejected, I was not going to leave or be rude and angry, I was going to stay and be nice and say “hello”. I was going to give the negativity some positivity.

So I introduced myself, asked his name and where he is from – small talk. I said to myself that even though I am waiting outside alone without any friends, I might as well use this as an opportunity to create a new one.

When I said “hello”, he ignored me.

He already told me to go away, and on top of that, he was still busy doing his job, as there were many other people trying to get inside. Then at around 2:30am, there was no else around as it was so late in the night (nightclubs in New York City close at 4am).  At that point, it was literally just me and him, and he had no way to ignore me. We ended up eventually talking and getting to know each other. We became friendly, and he respected my attitude and my persistence. At 3am, he decided to finally let me in.

My strategy worked!  But when I got inside, it was not that great of an experience.

It was dark, loud, lots of random people, it felt like entering into a jungle. Further, I was by myself and it was impossible to talk to anyone or make any meaningful connections. It was also so late into the night and went home.

darkjungle

So even though my strategy worked, the night overall turned out to be a bad experience. I realized that the only fun I had the entire evening was getting to know the doorman through the challenge of getting inside.

A great part of my experience at Indiana University was that I learned that strangers in the Midwest part of the U.S. just say hello and small talk to each other, no matter who they are and where they are.  Strangers say hello everywhere – on the bus, walking down the street, standing in the grocery line, where ever. Everyone just small talks to break the ice with each other. It was strange to me when I first experienced it, but quickly learned it was just part of the culture. On top of that, small talk makes everyone feel connected to each other and to the greater community.

In New York City, small talk does not happen. Strangers do not say hello to each other. People will think you are crazy if you just start saying hello to someone randomly and they assume you want to gain something from them. Unfortunately, most people in New York City that will actually try to talk to you are really a) homeless people or drug addicts needing money b) people trying to sell you something off the street or c) tourists needing some direction.  None of these are in the spirit of getting strangers to get to know each other.

But, saying hello is just a way to connect. I’m here, you’re here, the universe just put us both here at this moment in time.

So from this, I learned to us this Midwestern tactic of small talking and saying “hello”, and replicated it everywhere I would go to in New York City (not only just at nightclubs).

It happened over and over again.

My friends and I would all go out together. We would try to get in and would all get rejected by the doorman. At some point, my friends would get frustrated and leave, but I would wait, say “hello” and introduce myself to the doorman, small talk and get to know him, and would eventually get inside.

Then when I got inside, I just started saying “hello” and talking to all the people that worked at these nightclubs, as they were the best people to actually have a conversation with (vs. all the people actually there because most were crammed into private tables and the music was so loud and the club was so dark, it was extremely difficult to talk to anyone else).  I also discovered that many people who work at New York City’s nightclubs are Israeli.  Saying “shalom” was equally as good as saying “hello”.

Over time, this tactic led me to become friends with the doormen, the security and staff, the promoters, and eventually the owners of New York City’s nightclubs. Basically, everyone that worked in the industry.

I would also get dressed up when I went out.

Just like getting dressed nicely to go to the office, I would always look my best when I went out. By doing that, the staff of the venue would respect me as I respected their venue, and many partons of the nightclub actually thought I worked there because I was so dressed up and seemed to be very friendly and know everyone inside.

Further, I also leveraged these relationships to help my friends that could not get in. Yes, the same friends that were rejected and left me alone. Since I had all these new great relationships, I would use these those to help my friends as well.

So yes, making new relationships by being friendly and instead of taking “no”, I would say “hello” is a great moral to this story, but, this is not where my story ends…

At this point, I was living in New York City for a few years and everything was going great in my personal and professional life, but I was still deeply deprived of my passion for organizing big parties like I did in high school and in college.  Even though I was going to parties, I was not really involved in creating them (other than some house parties my roommates and I would organize at our former New York City apartment that eventually burnt down in a fire).

But all that changed when I left the financial world in 2010 and became an entrepreneur. I decided I would dedicate my free time to organizing events. I also said to myself I would use that passion for doing good.

So, I joined the boards of many different non-profit organizations in New York City. A primary goal of serving as a board member is to raise awareness of the activities of the non-profit by organizing events and annual galas. I would create events for organizations that needed help.

I signed up with 7 different non-profit charitable boards at once, and every week I would be attending at least one board meeting after work. With each board, I always helped lead the marketing/event committee, responsible for the marketing calendar, email and social media communications, maintain and build the donor and prospect list, and help to market and promote events.

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Me and the Board Members of the America India Foundation New York Young Professionals during one of our events in 2010.

Then, after launching WindowsWear in 2012, I decided my full time and attention needed to be dedicated to my company. I also said to myself instead of creating parties for other organizations, I would just be involved in creating events for my company and for myself. Not using someone else’s name but my name. Not for anyone else’s reason, but for my reason. At this point in my life, I know exactly what I was doing, and when it came to events I would do it on my own terms and with whom I wanted to work with.  I  leveraged all my amazing relationships with everyone I knew in nightlife to further create and develop parties for WindowsWear and myself.

I always knew that great parties consisted of having a great venue, great people, great beverages, great food, but most importantly, a very personalized approach.

The most important thing about putting people together is to make them feel welcome. This is what my fraternity parties and house parties had, but can be lacking at times in New York City. The same feeling that you have when you enter someone’s home is the same feeling that you have to create for everyone walking into your party. It is this first impression that is crucial, and it sets the tone for everything taking place within the party and everyone who is attending. Therefore I love to greet people and say hello to everyone walking in.

On top of that, you need to work with great people. Since I now know and work with lots of owners, managers, doormen, security, and staff at New York City’s nightclubs, I want to say how fantastic and world class they are to work with. These are amazing human beings and excellent business people. They truly care about making sure their venues are top notch experiences first, and the money comes second.

I very much respect everyone that works in New York City’s nightlife industry. I believe it is one of the single most challenging industries to be in New York City.

What I admire most is the fact that they are achieving two of the most challenging things to achieve: #1) motivating human beings to physically go somewhere and #2) having that human being actually pay for something (just ask any retailer in today’s world about succeeding at #1 & #2).

It is just not because we currently live in a digital world, it has always been the biggest challenge even historically when there was no Internet (i.e. #1: imagine physically going somewhere over 100 years ago when there was no Ubers, no taxis, no cars, no airplanes, etc. and #2: imagine spending money when half of all human beings on our planet make less than $2 per day and human beings in general just love free stuff). In order to exist, New York City’s nightclubs achieve #1) & #2) every day, literally executing the most challenging business model to execute in the world. For me, I only host a handful of events a year, and I cannot imagine how challenging it is for these establishments to do it every day of the week.

On top of that, with social media gaining more and more of our attention, the best venues get people to spend hours with them while giving them an amazing experience, allowing people that much-needed chance to connect with each other offline.

So, why am I so passionate about parties?

If you look at what makes a city great, you see that a great city like New York City is only as great as its connections. Connections allow its people to be connected with each other – including infrastructure, internet, electricity, water, roads, airports, transportation, and more.

The same is true of its people. For instance, New Yorkers are most frustrated with things that take away our ability to be connected, like delays with our subways, and traffic in our streets.

So to combat this, I just want to help people in New York City create more connections with each other through my passion for creating parties. This is a way I can help improve the connections between people in New York City. New York City is already great, and it gets even better when more people are connecting with each other. Especially since they are not doing it naturally like in the Midwest. Parties are my way of bridging that gap.

My last party was my annual summer party which took place on Tuesday, July 3, 2018, and I had over one thousand guests attend at Magic Hour rooftop in New York City. Select photos are below by Paul Prince.

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So, if you like this article and want to register and attend my next personal party, you can be added to my guest list here: http://jonharari.com/rsvp. I just ask two requirements of you when do you come to my next party: #1) say hello to everyone that you meet and #2) come dressed to impress.