"This is the first time I've been drunk all summer," a coy female voice murmurs.
"What's wrong with being drunk?" someone retorts glibly.
"Are you Middle Eastern?" she responds.
Deep sigh. "Then you wouldn't understand."
I overhear this exchange at Crave Lounge, during the sixth of seven club-style blowouts dubbed "Crave the Sunset," which are all held both inside and outside (parking lot) at this upscale Dearborn sushi restaurant. Other themes have played off Candy Land, the paparazzi and the circus. Such licentiousness is the brainchild of Sunset Holdings promoters Tom T and Jay Noonschester. Tom T, whom I regard as the mayor of Crave, is heavyset, jovial, and peppered with kisses from amorous bombshells every time I run into him. With T at our side, men start coming out of the woodwork to offer drinks, business cards and passes to their clubs.
"We're basically throwing an industry party without throwing an industry party," T tells us while we tour the place. The only industry here I see are those of Dolce and Gabbana, Gucci and Louie Vuitton.
Outside, the magic carpet that is Crave's parking lot transports clubgoers to a New York City-themed party landscaped with VIP cabanas, real bamboo, lanterns, leather couches and several full bars. Faux signposts suggest we are on Broadway or Park Avenue, and the Statue of Liberty is present her torch exchanged for a bottle of Kettle One. (Freedom and unity? Of course. All knitted together by an appreciation for expensive booze and the plush prettiness of the evening.)
A veil of dance, techno, reggaeton and Top 40 pollutes Michigan Avenue; it's a wonder Dearborn permits these parties on a Sunday. The Yankees played the Tigers at home today, and even the Yanks, who've been coming to Crave since it opened, are expected to show up tonight.
After perusing the parking lot, er, the party, my friend Suz and I settle into a plush white couch inside when a blonde with a shoestring for a miniskirt approaches us. "Is this your first time here?" she chirps.
"Yes." Was it that easy to tell?
"Yeah, well, sorry, but you can't sit on the couches. They're all reserved for VIP."
"I see ... what about those?" We point to another section of seats.
"Uh, no, sorry."
"Is there anywhere you can sit down, um, for free?" we dare ask.
"You have to buy bottle service," she says, still maintaining her saccharine politeness.
As she turns to leave Suz says to me, "I just wanna sit on a fucking couch."
Someone estimates the couches cost a grand or two; I'm told by an employee that for a particular cabana, a measly two bottle minimum is needed. What's a few hundred bucks when you get to sit down?
Crave oozes with the intemperance. It's a pageant of appearances, starring sylphlike damsels with calcium smiles, jutting jawbones and chandeliers for earrings. Their mini dresses evoke gift wrap or tapestry think busy, elaborate patterns superimposed with bows, glitter, belts and fringe. They congregate in knots, sporting heavy makeup and heavier breasts. They make actual sleeves or, gasp, skirts that fall below the knee, look like nuns' garb.
All things that sparkle and dangle are acceptable accessories. "I could do bicep curls with these chicks' diamonds," one man murmurs. "Don't even come here if you don't have money," another confides, implying these girls have "standards."
With the gentle aid of Botox, collagen, silicone and stilettos, even the over-40 crowd is bangin'. There are Jennifer Aniston and Lindsay Lohan look-alikes, although realistically, the former could be the mother of one of these girls.
"This place is full of rich gas station owners," one guy says of the male clientele. They are generally dark, sexy and well-dressed. They like fitted jeans and hair gel, button-downs and sport jackets, as well as superfluous pieces like chains and sunglasses. That many men are foreign jet-fuels the club's sex appeal. As one glum white gent laments, "I knew I should have been born Albanian."
Everyone here seems to know each other. If anyone has come to Crave as a couple, their dates appear fully interchangeable. And forget eye contact. After flamboyant salutations to the evening's photographers and socialites, they resume vapid glances as they nibble on their cocktail straws.
Crave is deliciously overstaffed. There are doormen in full suits whose sole mission is to make sure no one lifts a manicured finger to open a door. Crave tonight is more insider Hollywood than a restaurant on a Dearborn strip across from a gas station. The restaurant-club has successfully transcended its locale. As Suz puts it, to party at Crave means to pay $500 (bottle service) to pretend you're not partying in a parking lot.
Weaving through the sea of satin, we make our way inside. Passing the restrooms, I catch the lingering leash of some guy's gaze, trailing women as they enter the white marble palace of the ladies' room. He blows suggestive kisses each time some fawn stumbles out its frosted glass doors.
Inside the restaurant, sleek couches the color of dark chocolate encircle low tables littered with inestimable bottles of Kettle One. Someone spills one, and I realize I have thirty bucks worth of booze running down my shins. No point in buying bottle service; by midnight, dreamboats with names like Ali and Massimo are doling Kettle One drinks to any accepting girl. Each table seems an unspoken contest; the most bottles, the most beautiful girls, or better yet, the most excessive combination of breasts and bottles.
"What's the name of the guy I came here with?" one obsequious gal inquires to a friend. Moments later, she resumes her previous position sprawled on a couch, producing zero sign of life. I overhear another skirt's more pressing inquiry: "Does this Smart Water have any carbohydrates?" she wonders aloud.
One table throws a wrench in things when they are served a multilayered mecca of chocolate cake, haloed with frosting and berries and served on a silver tray. "None of these people eat cake," Suz snickers, stating a truth that's in our favor. Moments later, we are picking fresh blackberries the size of Ping-Pong balls off some stranger's dessert.
As the evening winds down, some brave soul invites Suz and I to take photos on the roof. The party below is brimming with sophisticated pandemonium, if such a thing exists. From here I catch the glint of a golden cross around some thick neck, the rhinestones on a sandal strap. Men raise their hands for some favored dance hit, while women move together in streams of sequins and silk. On every flat surface there are bottles sweating there are as many bottles as there are bodies.
Behind them, the remainder of the parking lot gleams with expensive foreign cars, the only reminder of the impermanence and transformation of tonight's affair. Spokes of the club's spotlights illuminate the inky sky, slicing across charcoal clouds and a near-full moon.
Oh, and Jason Giambi and Derek Jeter were here partying tonight.Laurie Smolenski’s Night Tripper appears regularly in Metro Times. Send tips, quips, whispers and comments to [email protected]