Miami’s E11even: The Art of PartyInside the wild world of Miami’s E11even, 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 never stops. Since it first opened its doors in February 2014, E11even Miami has never closed.
It’s a 24-hour job, and DeGori, a frenetic personality, is the first of the club’s five managing partners to arrive. This week has been especially grueling: Today is a Saturday in the midst of Art Basel, an international gathering of artists, celebrities, dealers and the absurdly wealthy. It’s one of the biggest weeks in Miami’s calendar year, and it brings in a sophisticated clientele, special guest DJs and outrageous performances—all of which must go off without a hitch.
“I don’t think there’s ever been anything like E11even,” says DeGori, and he should know. He and his partners have more than 100 years of nightlife experience between them. “You’ve got top chef Carla Pellegrino’s restaurant Touché, you’ve got live bands, cabaret, a production company and 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 private event—a party in honor of Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade’s manager —and the entire team has come to celebrate. Local hip-hop legend Trick Daddy and “Shake Ya Ass” MC Mystikal are set to perform their Dirty South party rap.
Managing partners Gino LoPinto and Daniel Solomon check in at E11even after showing face at various corporate-sponsor events and Art Basel parties. That kind of elbow-rubbing is part of the job when you run one of the top 10 highest-grossing venues in the U.S.
In 2015 the club boasted almost $34 million in sales revenue. Along with partner Derick Henry, they’ve all helped flesh out owner Dennis DeGori’s original vision to create 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 percent female.”
Back at the office, go-go dancers and aerial performers gather in a dressing room. They don wigs and stretch before heading to E11even’s illuminated main arena. They’re debuting new choreography for the Basel weekend.
Contortionist Irina Kazakova’s thin, angular body is covered in tight black latex. In an hour 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.”
Dan Rowland, tall and middle aged with a youthful face, sweats as he runs the aerial rigs hidden behind the back bar, monitoring all components of Hampus and Milena’s intricate performance. As the show producer, this is one of a handful of moments in which he and his team steal some shine.
He was drafted at E11even’s inception and handpicked for his 15 years of experience working on the 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,” Rowland says. “Seeing people dancing in the birdcage and flying around up in the air, it just blows first-timers away.”
As the rest of Miami’s clubs and bars shut their doors, the energy in E11even reaches critical mass. Parades of champagne bottles adorned with live sparklers snake through the writhing hoards as fake cash rains down in all directions.
Drake’s “Hotline Bling” blares from top-grade speakers, the work of visiting DJ Savi. Girlfriends give their men private dances, inspired by topless entertainers performing on raised platforms.
Go-go dancers in high socks and mini crop-tops gyrate on either side of the DJ booth, while three topless women hang horizontally from one giant pole on a raised circle in the middle of the dance floor. Revelers sip their cocktails and stare from the second-tier balcony, lost in sensory overload.
Ken DeGori circles the perimeter, and though the sun is rising, the line to get inside is as long as ever. Except it’s not so much a line as about 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 stops and dawn is as dark and loud and wild as 1 a.m. DeGori clocks out for the night.
The party rages on, though the crowd finally starts to dwindle. The restaurant upstairs serves breakfast sandwiches and 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 rain and revelers 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 Basel’s send-off party, Hard 2 Leave.
It’s become a Miami tradition, and it means there’ll be no slacking on this day of rest—not that these guys would have it any other way. “I wake up and I pinch myself. I just thank God for life, and I’m happy about it,” says LoPinto. “That’s where it is for me. I’m at the pinnacle of my career, which tells you how I compare this to everything else.”