Miami’s E11even: The Art of PartyInside the wild world of E11even Miami – the nightclub, lounge and cabaret that never sleeps
Ken DeGori walks into his office and wipes the sleep from his eyes. It’s hard to find time to rest when you’re throwing a party that just keeps on going. Since it first opened its doors in February 2014, America’s E11even Miami has never closed.
It’s a 24-hour job, and the frenetic DeGori is the first of five partners to arrive. This week has been especially gruelling. It’s Saturday, and Art Basel – an international gathering of artists, celebrities, art dealers and the absurdly wealthy – is in town. It is one of the biggest weeks in Miami’s calendar year, bringing a sophisticated clientele, special guest DJs, and outrageous performances – all of which must go without a hitch.
“I don’t think there’s ever been anything like E11even Miami,” says DeGori. He should know – DeGori and his partners have more than 100 years of nightlife experience between them. “You’ve got top chef Carla Pellegrino’s restaurant Touché, live bands, cabaret, a production company, Cirque du Soleil-type shows… There’s so much going on, we can satisfy anybody.”
DeGori has the rooftop lounge and restaurant cordoned off for a party in honour of basketball ace Dwyane Wade’s manager, with all the Miami Heat players in attendance. Local hero Trick Daddy and Shake Ya Ass star Mystikal are set to perform their dirty Southern party rap.
Managing partners Gino LoPinto and Daniel Solomon arrive at E11even Miami, having just shown their faces at a number of corporate sponsorship events and Art Basel parties. Schmoozing is par for the course when you run one of the top 10 highest-grossing venues in the US.
In 2015, the club took almost $34 million in sales revenue. Along with fifth partner Derick Henry, Ken DeGori, LoPinto and Solomon have helped flesh out owner Dennis DeGori’s vision of a new breed of venue, a sinful paradise that oozes extravagance but pulls it off with class. “It’s offensive when we hear ‘strip club,’” says LoPinto. “We’ve created a new concept that’s more of a nightclub that uses the topless female body as art. Our business is 50 per cent female.”
Go-go dancers and aerial acrobatic performers gather in the back dressing room. The group don wigs and stretch before heading to E11even Miami’s illuminated main arena. They’re debuting new choreography for Art Basel weekend.
Contortionist Irina Kazakova’s thin, angular body is covered in tight, black latex. An hour from now, she’ll be hanging from the blue ceiling, floating mere feet above customers’ heads. “It’s a pleasure to perform for Art Basel,” she says. “There’s a lot of creative people, and you can feel the energy of the crowd.”
Real-life couple Hampus and Milena twirl and twist in the air, limbs moving sensually, oblivious to the cheers and dropped jaws of the patrons beneath them.
“When a glove comes off, or a stocking, he does it for me,” says Milena. “I’m not stripping. He’s stripping it off me, so it’s interesting, romantic and sexy at the same time.”
Show producer Dan Rowland – a tall, middle-aged man with a youthful face – sweats as he runs the aerial rigs hidden behind the back bar, monitoring all the components of Hampus and Milena’s intricate performance. This is one of a handful of moments in which he and his team really get to steal the spotlight.
Rowland was drafted in at E11even Miami’s inception, hand-picked for his 15 years of experience working on Cirque du Soleil shows Ka and Iris in Las Vegas and Los Angeles respectively. He brought a few of his old Cirque performers with him, Hampus included, to deliver a mind-blowing experience. “I love seeing people enjoying what we’ve put together,” says Rowland. “Seeing people dancing in the bird cage and flying around in the air… it just blows first-timers away.”
As the city’s other clubs and bars shut their doors, the energy at E11even Miami reaches critical mass. Parades of champagne bottles adorned with live sparklers snake through the writhing hordes as banknotes are thrown into the air and rain down all around.
Drake’s Hotline Bling blares from a top-grade Funktion-One Resolution 6 sound system, with visiting DJ Savi at the decks. Girlfriends give their men private dances, inspired by the semi-naked entertainers on podiums.
Gyrating go-go dancers in high socks and mini crop tops flank the DJ booth, while three topless women hang horizontally from a giant pole on a raised platform in the middle of the dancefloor. Revellers sip cocktails and stare from the second-tier balcony, lost in sensory overload.
Ken DeGori circles the club’s perimeter, and although the sun is rising, the queue outside is as long as ever. Except it’s not so much an orderly line as approximately 70 would-be clubbers huddled around the ropes like one amorphous being. Everyone knows there’s a crazy party inside – a magical Neverland where time stays still and dawn is as dark and wild as 1am. DeGori clocks out for the night.
The party rages on, though the crowd finally starts to dwindle. The restaurant upstairs serves breakfast sandwiches and ‘South Of The Border’ egg and chorizo burritos to hungry party zombies in full daylight, their hair messy and eyes wide. For the first time in a week, Miami sees a break in the rain and revellers can enjoy a sun-filled morning.
After 12 hours of shaking hands, LoPinto and Solomon call it a day. In another 12 hours, it will be time to prepare for Art Basel’s closing party, Hard 2 Leave. The send-off has become a Miami tradition, meaning there’s no slacking on this day of rest.
Not that these guys would have it any other way. “I wake up in the morning, pinch myself and just thank God for my life,” says LoPinto. “That’s where it is for me. I’m at the pinnacle of my career, which tells you how I compare this with everything else.”