A Band of Brothers
"We lived in a tree house," Cy says. Though they were born in Springfield, Missouri, Cy and Jesse Waits lived with their parents in a one-room mango tree house in Molokai, Hawaii, from the time they were 6 months old until their first birthdays. They say they don't remember it but Cy admits to having an unusual love for chilied Hawaiian mango candies.
Moving back and forth from California to Hawaii with their father, a general contractor and biker with iron-clad ethics, a love for harmony, and strong beliefs about his twin sons' upbringing, Cy and Jesse were taught about honor and the value of a dollar. The boys learned at a young age that you should work hard, be humble, and above all, be grateful. The twins, now 30, have been working steadily since the age of 13. Because of their austere upbringing, success in nightclubs and hotels has not always been comfortable with them: "I used to feel guilty," says Jesse, who, like Cy, still saves money religiously. Cy, older than his brother by five minutes, just bought his first new car one year ago, and still seems awed by that milestone.
Jesse left Hawaii, where he had been surfing and studying geology, at the age of 21 and moved to Vegas. Working at first with the Peace Corps and briefly considering going into forestry, he spent the first winter on Mount Charleston as a snowboard instructor. But he had already fallen in love with the action of the big city, so in the spring he moved to town to train staff at Planet Hollywood inside the Forum Shops and then on to the House of Blues at where he quickly moved up from barback to bartender. Hearing of his brother's success, Cy left Frasier Park, California, population 5,000, and the not-so-great crowd he used to run with. At 22, Cy became a House of Blues security guard and he too was quickly promoted to supervisor. His intention had been to spend a year saving money and then leave, but his natural drive was already motivating him to shoot up the corporate ladder. Soon he and Jesse were promoting their own events and working as VIP hosts, one upstairs at the rope, and one downstairs. This often led to amusing scenes when confused guests thought they were seeing double.
At this time, Cy says his ultimate goal was no more than to become general manager, though neither was thinking much about the money or their futures. "One of us becomes a GM somewhere; the other one says I want to be a GM, too!'" Cy laughs. Keeping pace in this way has also allowed them to develop specialties: Cy is the fix-it guy with the incredible eye for detail, while Jesse has emerged as the entrepreneur, one to start new projects from scratch and thrive in the tangled corporate environment. Already an operations manager, Cy was being groomed to become a general manager by HOB, who sent him on a year-and-a-half nationwide tour of their outlets. When he finally returned to Vegas, it was to become a father and open Tabú Ultralounge at the MGM Grand. Two of the hardest jobs in the world, yes, but "we don't know any different," says the proud father of a 3-year old daughter, Shae.
Meanwhile, Jesse opened Godspeed Mondays, the one night the House of Blues' members-only Foundation Room is open to the public, and Light at Bellagio. Jesse caught the eye of Victor Drai, a movie, restaurant and nightclub mogul who was living at the Four Seasons. Drai tapped Jesse to tend bar and run Sunday nights at his eponymous after-hours club and it wasn't long before Jesse was overseeing the whole nightclub. When Drai was poised to open La Bête (now Tryst) at Wynn Las Vegas, he could think of no better pair to run the show. "This isn't for me, this is for you guys," he said to the brothers, bringing them on not only as directors but also as partners and part-owners.
On any given night, you can see Jesse, the director of marketing, "doing damage control," as he says, at Tryst's door, expertly navigating the politics of the velvet rope with well-chosen words. Meanwhile Cy, as director of operations, is downstairs inside the club, keeping the peace and fixing anything that is the slightest bit out of place. "We strive for perfection; if we can fix it, we'll fix it," he says. Despite their choices not to smoke or do drugs, and only indulging in cocktails on rare occasions, Cy and Jesse say they do not have reservations about working in a nightclub environment, "We're creating energy and fun," says Cy, who chooses to lead by example and be respectful to their happy staff. "We don't have the fear factor," Jesse adds.
Looking to the future, Cy envisions the brothers continuing their relationship with Drai and Wynn. "Our passion is here in nightclubs," he states, gesturing to the opulent nightclub around him. Both are determined to become vice presidents, and Jesse adds he would like to see continued success and bigger partnerships. "We're not big talkers; we're big doers." In the meantime, investing and real estate occupies whatever spare time the pair has. entrepreneurial Jesse already has a hand in the Sonnen Spa, an upscale beauty operation he owns, set to open off St. Rose Parkway in the first quarter of 2007, and he and Cy have joined six other investors in purchasing an acre north of the Stratosphere on which they plan to build an eight- to 13-story "short-rise," a luxury walk-up condominium. And who better to partner with than each other? Says Jesse, "There's no one I think we trust more than each other."
Big Brother is Watching
"You can't get more crazy than the clients you're taking care of," says Brian Klimaski, 32, listing one of the many lessons he has tried to pass on to younger brother Steve, 28. Brian, the doting older brother, wants nothing more than to help Steve in any way he can. Steve, on the other hand, would much rather find his own path to success. "It comes from a place of love," Brian explains, insisting you would have to be crazy turning down assistance in a city like Vegas where who you know regularly trumps what you know.
Brian and Steve were born in Montclair, New Jersey, and brought up in Rockaway, New Jersey. Brian came to UNLV on a baseball scholarship in January 1993 and went to school through his junior year before being accepted into a hotel management internship in Guam. He trained there and was even an alternate on the 1996 Olympic team. When he returned to the States, he was signed to the Somerset Patriots minor league team and chose not to return to UNLV for his senior year. He took a job at the Hard Rock Café and moved briskly from busser up to manager, and when the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino opened, bar manager. Next came waiting tables at Rumjungle, where he created his own position of VIP host, convincing his customers to return later that night for booths and bottles when the restaurant converted into a club.
By chance he met the vice president of Royal Caribbean cruise lines, who invited Brian to come aboard and teach Vegas-style bar service. Within six months, Brian was a shipboard bar manager, seeing 42 countries in 14 months. Upon his return to Vegas, he got a job promoting Pure Management Group's Bikinis Nightclub at the Rio, waiting for August 6, 2003, when Ice opened its doors. He turned down an offer to be director of operations, instead taking the lead VIP hosting gig. The director of marketing at the time, Michael Fuller, was impressed with Brian's performance and dedication and asked him to also go over to Godspeed Mondays at the Foundation Room in time for New Year's eve 2005. "Mike Fuller makes these teams and that's what he stays with," says Brian. Back at Ice, Brian is now director of VIP servicesand still plays baseball each Sunday at 9 a.m.
Six years after Brian had moved here and was working at the Hard Rock Hotel, Steve turned 21 and moved out, also, having enjoyed his frequent visits to see his "own personal family VIP host around town." Balancing two jobs, he bussed tables at the Hard Rock Café and ran food at P.F. Chang's.
Steve made the move to fine dining, serving at the West Flamingo Ruth's Chris Steak House, notorious for its late hours and wild celebrity clientele. He resented the 4 a.m. closing times but fondly recalls chatting with Axl Rose and being there when Tom Petty announced his engagement. "Working on tables, I kind of learned the basics of promotions right there," he says. The brushes with fame also sparked his interest in promotions. "I was always talking about nightclubs, I was always going out," he says. "I was a small-town, New Jersey, Catholic school boy ... I came out here and got plugged right into the Hard Rock." When Brian left Bikinis for Ice, Stevenow known to many as "Scuba" Steve, thanks to Adam Sandler's Big Daddytook his place, staying on with PMG to open Tangerine and Pure Nightclub as director of promotions, overseeing all print media. "I just trusted in Stevie's [Davidovici] business savvy and the direction the company was going. And the rest is history."
There's no disputing Brian has earned his time in the spotlightthanks in part to a stint on Spike TV's reality show The Cluband though Steve has similar ambitions, he is determined to achieve success on his own. But Brian can't help trying to give him contacts and advice. Brian admits he's stroking his own ego when he can help Steve, but he also speaks lovingly about his brother. "He's in that next group of up-and-comers," says Brian. "I want to help as much as I can." He sees himself as hitting the high point of his career and Steve still just starting out.
For his part, Steve didn't mind getting a leg up at the Hard Rock or replacing Brian at Bikinis. What matters to him now is his right to choose where he goes from here.
The wrinkle with the pair is their youngest brother, Michael.
Michael, 26, is tentatively scheduled to arrive in a month, making him the third Klimaski child to leave New Jersey and strike it out on his own in Vegas. And that possibility has put Steve into Brian's shoes: wanting to help Michael with advice and contacts while Michael has been insistent he do it himself. Brian is still determined to hook him up first before letting him fly on his own: "He'd be bartending at Ice right now if he had gotten here three months ago." Steve's dilemma is a subject of frequentand sometimes heateddiscussions between himself and Brian. But whether Steve takes Brian's advice or Michael takes Steve's, or even listens to Brian, there's no doubt that the third Klimaski brother is destined to leave his mark in Vegas' nightlife world, as well.
Not Without My Brother You may not guess it by looking at him, but one of Vegas' best known promoters and trend-setters once upon a time worked in the oil fields of Alaska's North Slope. But cleaning warehouses was not alluring enough for a teenage Randy Davila, who boldly traded in America's 49th state for the warmer climate of our 36th. Of course, there was a girl involved. There's always a girl involved. Born and raised in an Army family in Anchorage, Randynow 29came out to Las Vegas before he could even drink legally, following his first love here but clueless as to what he would do when he arrived. He found work first at Applebee's and then as a valet at the Mirage before finally scoring a gig opening V-Bar as a busser best known for dancing on the tables. "everyone went to V-Bar. It was the first real scene. It was cool to be a part of that." His love affair eventually fizzled but two careers were born.
Randy's older brother, Ray, 31, also grew up in Alaska, leaving to attend college on what he laughingly calls the "Van Wilder plan." Four colleges later, he graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in health, leisure and sports studies. Stories of his little brother's life in Las Vegas sounded pretty good to Ray, who arrived in 2001 at the age of 26 planning to get a job in parks and recreation, but instead landing at the desk of enterprise Rent-A-Car. Ray had gotten hooked on house music in college, and when he saw his brother had already made a name for himself on the party circuit, he told his brother that this was something they should capitalize on.
When Randy was approached to throw his first party at the Polo Towers' Hush Nightclub, then owned by Davidovici, he told general manager Ryan Doherty that he would only get involved if he could bring his business-minded brother in on the deal. "We were a package deal. We always came together," Randy says. Together, they produced Taboo Wednesdays for six weeks, followed by The Spot parties at Marrakech restaurant on Tuesdays. But they had to temporarily shelve their love of house to satiate the more mainstream hip-hop loving crowd.
In 2003, Alex Cordova brought Clique entertainment out from New York City and together the three produced parties at Risqué, Sevilla, the Hard Rock pool (pre-Rehab) and Tabú, including the successful and well-known La Dolce Vita Thursdays. They wound up throwing parties hosted by Andy Dick, Ali Landry, DJ AM, Ice-T and Gene Simmons. You could credit them with introducing the celebrity-host format that is now Vegas' party template. A year later, they left Clique and moved to Tabú to create the ultralounge's monthly mash-up party, Rok Box. But old friends Davidovici and Cordova (now with PMG) came calling. Randy signed on with PMG in VIP marketing and promotions for Moonshine Wednesdays at Tangerine. Randy worked hard to convince PMG to take them both but Ray didn't mind. "I was just glad to have a job," he says. When Pure Nightclub was about to open, Ray was offered a position in the MGM Grand's nightlife department as the promotions and nightclub events manager. "And," says Randy solemnly, "the brothers split."
By April 2005, Randy says he was burned out. He woke up one afternoon and realized he had given his all. Whereas he had spent years working toward those moments when all the right people were in the right seats in the right clubs, the moments didn't hold the same magic they once had. His days and nights were spent chained to a BlackBerry and cell phone and dust was collecting on his golf clubs. Then Doherty called, tapping into Randy's skills for his multi-outlet media company WeNDOH, the parent company that owns 944 magazine, Las Vegas Printing Press, and Vegas Passport and Mother VIP hosting services. As business development manager, Randyor as Doherty calls him, "the Swiss Army knife" helped launch 944 and enjoyed his new role, providing fliers, invitations and media exposure to all his old club contacts.
Ray, who always had a deep love of music, found himself fully engaged with the back-end of business at the MGM. "It was such a learning experience for me, having to finally put a suit on and go upstairs and meet with executives. I learned another skill set." But it hurt him to be so far from the action and he soon found himself in the loving arms of a second, more fulfilling job. While still at the MGM, Ray began working part-time at the empire Ballroom for its Late Night empire program, getting back some of the passion he'd lost. It wasn't long before owner Gino LoPinto offered him the general manager position. Ray spent Christmas soul-searching in Costa Rica, and upon his return in 2006, gave the MGM his two weeks' notice.
As brothers who are equally humble, both admit they couldn't have done it without the other. "I looked up to him so much when we were younger. It was a great feeling for my brother to move here. ... It was great for him to come here and all of a sudden he was looking up to me!" jokes Randy. They can laugh about it now. "I was really hard on him," Ray says, about how he used to resent little Randy hanging on his ankle. Today, they often check in with each other, attributing it to coming from a tight-knit Puerto Rican family which includes their 33-year old sister Rosa, who also lives here with her son and their father.
Today, you'll find Randy as a 9-to-5'er, dancing in the clubs at night and pulling all the strings from behind the scenes. "I do miss [working nights] but I do like my regular life now," he says, "I can go golfing again!" And you'll find Ray as a 9-to-5'er, tooexcept that would be more like 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.right up front, booking the DJ lineups of his dreams at empire. Despite Randy first making a career out of being the guy in front while Ray enjoyed being meticulous away from the spotlight, no one was more shocked than them to find that happiness could be found by switching roles.
1930 Pair O' Dice, Vegas' first nightclub, opens. And is immediately shut down by the vice squad.
1931 Gambling legalized. Pair O' Dice gives vice squad the finger.
1946 Flamingo Hotel opens. "Clubbing" has different meaning than today.
1947-1994 The Dark Ages, a time of misery and woe.
1995 Free-standing clubs Drink and eat Too and The Beach open. Locals now have two Strip-adjacent clubs from which to sneer at tourists. Club Rio opens. Tourists sneer back.
1996 Club Utopia opens. Locals now have a place to drop ecstasy and wave glo-sticks.
1997 Drai's, Studio 54 and Ra open. First customer barred from nightclub for wearing shorts and flip-flops.
2000 Danielle Heird ODs on ecstasy at C2K. Nothing funny about that, kids.
2001 Seven, Whiskey, Light, Rain and Ghostbar open. Oh my!
2003 Ice opens where Drink used to stand. What? No implosion? OPM opens with performance by Lou Rawls. Tabú introduces "ultralounge" into Vegas vernacular.
2004 Ed Williams is fired on camera as Ice's manager in TV's The Club and vows to return with Sith apprentice. Body English replaces Baby's; Hard Rock's ink goes from red to black. Krave, the first gay-friendly on-Strip club, opensFrank Marino's happy squeal is heard throughout the city. Pure Management Group opens Tangerine and Pure.
2005 Jet opens. Empire Ballroom opens on Utopia's grave. Tao opens with one question: How'd they get the Buddha in there? La Bête opens at Wynn. La Bête closes at Wynn. Tryst opens at Wynn.
2006 Ra closes. Cherry opens. The beat goes on.
My Brother, My Friend
"Most kids get the conversation at 12 to 14 years old about the birds and bees. I got the conversation of Hey, you wanna be in the restaurant business?'" That's how Corey Nyman, 29, was invited by his father, a hospitality consultant and chef by trade, to pursuer a career in restaurants. After a tour of the "brother ship," the house Corey and his brother Craig, 25, moved into in May, we settle in the gourmet kitchen and Corey breaks out a bottle of Justin Vineyards and three glasses. After briefly explaining the fascinating history of that particular cult wine, he begins to reveal a bit of his own history, as well.
Pursuing two degreesa BS and a BA with a hotel and restaurant management focusat the University of Denver, Corey spent every school break in kitchens cooking. At just 20 he was on the opening team at Spago Beverly Hills, and even had his own special on the menu. Corey's transition from back-of house to front-of-house came at 21 and fulfilled his dream of managing a restaurant floor at the University Park Hotel at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
A mere month after graduation, Corey found himself as restaurant manager opening Valentino at the Venetian in Las Vegas. Then, as the youngest general manager in Hilton Hotel Group history (still undefeated), he spent time in Portland, Oregon, and in Washington, D.C., before coming under the radar of Caesars Palace, which was just about to open Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill. In September 2004, one month after a grueling eight-and-a-half-hour interview, Corey moved back to Vegas for the third time. Meanwhile, in Scottsdale, Craig was attending Arizona State University. "I always looked up to Corey. everything he did, I wanted to do. He was exactly what the older brother should be." Craig followed his instincts and began his studies for a degree in communications with a minor in recreation and tourism management.
After graduating and serving as manager of media relations for the Arizona Sting, a professional indoor lacrosse team, Craig was accepted into UNLV's master of business administration program, but one day before starting grad school, he received an offer from Kirvin Doak Communications, "and I haven't looked back since." Today, Craig's clients include Pure Nightclub, the Pussycat Dolls Lounge, Social House, Tangerine, Coyote Ugly, Venus Pool Lounge, Casa Fuente, Tabú and Studio 54. "I'm very fortunate that I get to work with some of the best venues in the world," says Craig, who still plans to get his MBA some day, as does Corey. Big brother Corey agrees: "My proudest moment is seeing Craig do his job."
Corey left Mesa Grill in November 2005 to open the Light Group's Stack Restaurant at the Mirage as general manager. "And it's been a hell of a ride ever since!" says Corey. A self-described shoe-whore, Corey is also not the least bit shy to show off his extensive in-home wine cellar which, Craig notes, he meticulously catalogues. For Craig, music is the center of the universe, along with an obscenely large collection of baseball caps.
Inside the brother ship, the two split chores and try support each other's events when possible. Corey always looked after his little brother when they were growing up. "It was my job. It's still my job. I'm gonna make sure that he has the tools to live here and to understand how life is here. Having someone who I can rely on who's my best friend, who I can call up when I need anythingthat's not a roommate. A brother is much more."
There is no doubt the Nymans are their parents' children. Mother was an artist and father was an executive with Playboy, so boys had their diapers changed by Bunnies, were sporting suits by age six and mixing cocktails at their parents' parties by 10. "They understood when to tighten the leash and when to just let the rope go," says Corey. "We were taught many lessons. One, never be late, and two, never be underdressed."
They work and play hard, visibly thriving off each other's strengths, and often remind each other how blessed they are to live in a city where passions and careers can be synonymous. "At the end of the day," says Corey, "Craig and I are in Vegas. There's no one else I'd rather hang out with. And plus, to be two bachelors in this city? C'mon! You can't turn that down!"