LIV - Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland - Dave Barry

Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland - Dave Barry (2016)

LIV

It’s midnight Saturday on Miami Beach, and I’m with my wife, Michelle, in the lobby of the iconic Fontainebleau Hotel, along with several hundred other people who are hoping to get into LIV.

If you have never heard of LIV, you are, no offense, either a loser or an old person, because LIV is the hottest nightclub on the Beach, which makes it one of the hottest nightclubs in the world. If you don’t believe me, ask the Internet, where you’ll find LIV on many hottest-club lists. For example, here’s what DJ Mag (djmag.com) had to say about LIV in its 2015 list of the top 100 clubs:

Walk past the Bugattis parked out front, through the glass sliding doors and veer right across the marble-floored lobby of Miami’s Fontainebleau hotel, and—viola!—you’re there. Welcome to chic, celebrity-infested LIV.

Not to quibble, but: It is, in fact, highly unlikely that you will encounter an actual viola inside LIV. What you will encounter is a huge—eighteen thousand square feet—lavishly decorated space with a big dance floor and flashing laser lights and a nuclear sound system. There are bars selling $20 cocktails, and reserved tables where you can sit if you get “bottle service,” which means you pay several hundred dollars and up—sometimes way up—for a bottle of booze that would cost less than a tenth as much at a liquor store. Also there are private skyboxes, which will cost you even more. People routinely spend thousands—sometimes many thousands—of dollars for an evening at LIV. And usually there’s a crowd of people outside beseeching the doormen to allow them to pay the cover charge—$40 and up, depending on the night—so they, too, can go inside and purchase alcohol at high prices.

Why are people clamoring to get into LIV? There are three main reasons:

1. Other people are clamoring to get into LIV.

2. You might see a celebrity or a pro athlete in there. You probably won’t. But you might.

3. LIV features popular DJs playing recorded music. (As opposed to, God forbid, unpopular DJs playing recorded music.)

If you’re a guy, there’s a fourth reason you’re clamoring to get into LIV: The crowd generally contains a high percentage of attractive ladies. The doormen make sure of this. Women, if the doormen deem them hot, will generally get in quickly. Men, especially if there are no women accompanying them, often have to wait longer, and sometimes don’t get in at all.

This means that the Fontainebleau lobby, on this Saturday midnight, is a festival of insecurity, kind of like the worst part of high school, except that instead of Will I get a date for the prom? the question is Am I going to get picked by the doorman? The crowd is mostly people in their twenties—the men in nice jeans and untucked collared shirts, the women in very high heels and very short dresses. Some of the women are as close to naked as you can get and still be technically wearing a garment. I’m guessing they’re going to get in.

Michelle and I are definitely the oldest people here. I, personally, am older than the Fontainebleau Hotel. We don’t fit in with the LIV crowd at all. If we were to attempt to get into LIV via the standard route—getting in line and trying to make eye contact with the doorman in hopes that he picks us—it would not go well. Years from now, clubgoers would be stepping over our mummified bodies, which would be lying on the marble Fontainebleau lobby floor, our eyeless sockets still aimed hopefully in the direction of the doorman.

So we’re not getting in that way. But we are getting in, because I called my friend and Miami Herald colleague Lesley Abravanel. She covers Miami nightlife for the Herald and is a savvy observer of both the New York and Miami club scenes. I asked her if she could get me into LIV, and she contacted David Grutman, who is the owner of LIV and a Miami nightlife god. He connected me with one of his employees, who goes by the moniker Purple.

Purple sent me a text asking when I planned to get to the Fontainebleau and I answered 11:30. In fact, that is way past my bedtime; I picked a late hour because I wanted to sound like a nightclub sophisticate. Purple responded, quote, “That’s extremely early.” He explained they were just opening the doors at 11:30. I sheepishly texted back asking if midnight was OK, and Purple, probably realizing that he was dealing with a fossil, said yes.

So here we are, at midnight. I text Purple, who sends out a polite and large security guy, who escorts Michelle and me past the ropes, into the club and directly to a bar staffed by attractive women bartenders wearing thongs that say “LIV” on the back. The security guy treats us to two cocktails on the house,36 then leaves. Michelle and I toast each other: Despite being old and unhip and nowhere close to naked, we’re inside LIV.

Hanging over our heads are speakers the size of Porta-Potties. They’re emitting the musical stylings of tonight’s celebrity DJ, who is known as Alesso. I am not going to get into my usual rant about “celebrity DJs,” a concept that utterly baffles me inasmuch as we’re talking about people who are playing recorded music, which does not require any more musical talent than operating a microwave oven, in the sense that you could train a reasonably bright Labrador retriever to perform either task, yet somehow these DJs are international celebrities who jet around the world getting huge sums of money to play recorded music THAT THEY DIDN’T EVEN RECORD AND MEANWHILE REAL MUSICIANS WHO CAN PLAY ACTUAL INSTRUMENTS ARE STARVING.

Sorry! It turns out that I cannot stop myself from going into my usual celebrity-DJ rant. But getting back to Alesso: According to his Wikipedia entry, he “is renowned for his methods of utilizing melodic vibes in his productions.” What does that mean, in terms of his actual music, as experienced by the human ear? It means this:

BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM

… and so on, hour after relentless hour, all night long. It sounds like one long song with no lyrics, mainly consisting of massive bass notes that hit you like invisible punches, causing your sternum to vibrate like a tuning fork and threatening to dislodge your dental fillings.

This genre of music is called Electronic Dance Music, or sometimes Club Music, or sometimes just Loud Unimaginative Absurdly Repetitious Boring Music, because—follow me closely here—it sucks. That is only my opinion, of course; taste in music is subjective. It’s possible that you like Electronic Dance Music, in which case you are wrong, because it sucks. Fifty years after Elvis, people are still listening to rock and roll; I seriously doubt that fifty years from now people will be using Electronic Dance Music for any purpose other than to tenderize meat.

Michelle and I leave the bar area and walk around LIV. It has two levels: the main dance-floor level and a balcony/skybox level overlooking the main floor and the DJ booth. On the walls are huge screens, which at the moment are showing a UFC match featuring two women pounding the crap out of each other. The lighting is dramatic, changing constantly, colored laser beams flashing everywhere.

The place is absolutely packed. The crowd looks to be about equally divided between men and women; some of the women are wearing even less clothing than the women outside trying to get in. It feels exciting in here—all the noise and the lights and attractive young people jammed together. It’s difficult to talk over the BOOMs, so a lot of people are mainly standing around, looking at all the other people standing around. When you get right down to it, there’s a lot of standing around going on. But it feels exciting.

Michelle and I finish our drinks and move out onto the dance floor, which is jammed with people, some standing around watching DJ Alesso play prerecorded music, some dancing in the modern electronic-dance style, which consists of bouncing up and down in place. In an effort to show these whippersnappers how we used to cut the rug back in the day, I perform a series of classic dance moves from my era, including the Twist, the Jerk and the Mashed Potato. Michelle, embarrassed, makes me stop. This is probably a good thing. LIV has a reputation for trendiness to uphold; the bouncers would probably throw you out if they caught you doing the Mashed Potato. Especially to the melodic vibes of DJ Alesso.

While we’re out on the floor, a group of club employees emerge from somewhere and make their way through the crowd onto the dance floor. Over their heads they’re holding various illuminated objects: a LIV sign, some champagne bottles with electric candles stuck in the necks and an American Express sign. The employees parade around the dance floor, rhythmically thrusting these objects into the air. It’s a living commercial! The message is: Let’s party with abandon! We can charge our alcohol purchases on American Express!

Michelle and I make our way off the dance floor to one of the bars, where I purchase a smallish rum and coke in a plastic cup for $20. We then head upstairs to get an overhead view of the crowd in front of the DJ booth. I take a picture, but the quality is poor. It’s hard to take a good picture when the room is dark and your body is being pummeled by violent bass notes.

At the lower right of this picture, manning the turntables, is DJ Alesso. At least I assume that’s who it is. It could also be the lieutenant governor of Montana. There is no way to tell.

After an hour and a half of listening to BOOM BOOM BOOM and watching attractive young people stand around, Michelle and I decide to leave. It’s getting near 2 a.m., but the Fontainebleau lobby still contains quite a few people standing around hoping to get into LIV. I’m tempted to tell them: “Hey, if you get inside, you’ll just be standing around; it’s a lot cheaper to continue standing around out here.” But I have embarrassed Michelle enough already.

We retrieve our car from the Fontainebleau valet ($25) and head home. En route, we stop at an outdoor café in Coconut Grove, where we eat cheeseburgers at 2:30 a.m. This is the wildest night we have had in at least a decade.

Talking over the evening, we decide that, except for the music—which, for the record, sucks—we enjoyed ourselves at LIV. It’s a fascinating scene and I would recommend it as a one-time experience, even for older people. So if you’re ever in the Miami Beach area on a Saturday night, put on your hottest outfit, head over to the Fontainebleau around midnight, get into the line and do your best to impress the doorman. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get lucky!

Take at least a year’s supply of jerky.