Late Tuesday night at Board Room, in River North. See more photos below.
Last night my glancing interest in all things Paris Hilton (I know, so 2003) landed me at the new River North nightclub Board Room, located in the old RiNo space. Paris was in no way expected, but two costars from her show The World According to Paris on Oxygen—“L.A.’s hottest party girl” Allison Melnick and July 1999 Playmate of the Month Jennifer Rovero—were listed as hosts for the Svedka vodka–sponsored party.
Board Room has been on my list of places to check out, and if there was ever a reason to enter the late-night labyrinth of River North clubdom, I supposed the appearance of two reality “stars” would do. My visiting sister Liv and I were sitting on my couch when I broke the news. “We’re going out at 10 p.m.,” I told her. “To a nightclub.”
“What? Ten? That’s so late,” said the recent college grad, leaning over to peer at the e-mail. She opened her own computer and Googled “Rovero,” then turned the screen so I could see the top results, clicking on image number 4 for a better view. “Well, there’s her ass.”
At the appointed hour we approached Board Room’s velvet rope with two friends in tow. A pretty girl with her hair in a bun and dressed in a tight white button-down, a flouncy skirt, and sky-high heels held court among a cadre of hugely beefy bouncers in—you guessed it—black suits and earpieces. (Later, the meaning of the girl’s outfit finally registered: “Oh. She’s a secretary,” I informed our group.)
No one respects party start times these days, or maybe we’re just the last nerds to be swayed by a hosted cocktail hour. We were the only people who showed up for the complimentary Svedka, save at least six more hulking bouncers. “Are they all ex football players?” asked my pubs-over-clubs sister.
The bartender made us a round of vodka sodas, and we sipped while taking in the space: bar on one side, dance floor in the middle, a row of elevated booths on the other side, some curtains here and there (I later learned they open to reveal dancers in glass boxes).
Several times we asked the bouncers where we could find James Brown, Board Room’s manager, and were told he was either downstairs, outside, or in back. I began to suspect the name “James Brown” might be code for something, but since I was still hoping for a word with the guy, I requested he be directed my way. Meanwhile, Liv disappeared to the ladies’ room. When she came back, she opened her palm to reveal a mini Kit-Kat.
Liv: There’s tons of candy in there—and plenty of condoms. And someone squirted soap in my hand.
The Chaser: You mean the restroom attendant? Did you tip her?
Liv: You’re supposed to? I don’t have my purse. Or any cash.
TC: That’s OK. It’s a common problem.
Liv: Should we eat this?
The World According to Paris’s Allison Melnick
Soon, James Brown himself sauntered over. Seeing as we were in a boardroom, I found it appropriate to whip out my notebook and take minutes:
The Chaser (doubtfully): So, James Brown, is Jennifer Rovero really coming at 11?
James Brown: We’re expecting them to be late. I’m thinking it might be more like 11:30. They had to go to dinner and stuff.
TC: How is this place different from RiNo?
JB: They had a lot of back area, to separate out the VIPs. We wanted all the cool kids to be in the same place.
TC: Makes sense.
JB: I don’t know if you remember the setup at RiNo [I don’t], but they had a lot of loose furniture, like 20 tables with chairs. We put in nine big booths so everyone could have prime real estate. They’re not so much made for lounging—the backs are 90-degree angles; it’s kind of an austere setup—but you can stand on them, climb on them, dance on the backs.
TC: What if someone’s heel pokes a hole?
JB: We’re here to clean up after you. Whether it’s a DJ flown in from L.A. or bouncers stationed at the tables to watch out for you, people are going to feel like they’re getting their money’s worth.
TC: So it’s all about fun?
JB: That’s right. Some people, when their cab drops them off in front of a club, they brace themselves like they’re about to get punched in the gut. But we don’t want your memory of the night to be of some a-hole bouncer.
Liv and I huddled in one of the austere booths—the air conditioning was apparently set to meatlocker in anticipation of super-cardio dancing—and bided our time, keeping an eye on DJ Mr. Best up in his booth. Some go-go dancers carrying duffel bags came in and headed for the back. A few clubbers began to trickle in the door and gather near the bar. The secretary sashayed past, and we flagged her down.
TC: When do you think Allison and Jennifer are coming?
The Secretary [sweetly]: Now we’re thinking maybe 12:30? It’s a 4 a.m. club, so . . .
TC: Will the dancers be starting soon?
TS: They’ll start when it gets a little busier.
TC: When will that be?
TS: That’s a good question. It’s our first Tuesday night, so we’ll see. But I think a lot of people want to go out on Tuesdays; they just never had anyplace to go.
We admitted our lack of staying power and headed for the car, with promises from friends to let us know what happened past midnight. (A text update: “The chicks showed up at about 12:15, and by 1 a.m. the dancers were dancing and the place was full.”)
On the way home, Liv was mostly quiet and yawning but piped up abruptly at a stoplight. “It’s unnecessary to have soap squirted in your hand,” she mused. “And kind of humiliating.” For whom, I wondered? “For me!”
PHOTOGRAPHY: JAMES ATKINS
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