Blame VH1 and E! if you want. We’re fascinated by people’s humble origins. See that woman running the club in her Jimmy Choos? We want to know where she started. That guy in the power suit? We want a shot of him bussing tables and cleaning up stale lemon slices.
Everyone’s got to start somewhere, and in Vegas the most successful nightlife careers often commence behind the bar, outside the door or with tray in hand and regular dousings of stray vodka.
Actually, Grey Goose baths tend to follow industry folks right up the totem pole.
On Sunday, November 30 The Bank celebrated both modest starts and high achievements with Where They Are Now, a party for nightlife professionals who’ve gone from the bottom rungs of the industry to the top of the ladder created by local nightlife writer and Weekly contributor Jack Colton.
The party profiled 20 local industry players selected for their interesting stories and dramatic ascensions, like Cy Waits, a managing partner of Tryst, Drai’s and soon-to-open XS at Encore, who started out in Vegas at the then tiny House of Blues with less than 100 contacts in his cell phone. Tao’s Mood Director, Jimmy Greenup, spent two years bussing tables at Tabu before moving up in the world. Weekly’s own Xania Woodman made the cut for working at Harrah’s Carnival World Buffet before escaping to Club Rio and eventually landing behind the computer as our Nightlife Editor.
“We do recognition parties often,” said Colton, who has also organized Las Vegas’ Most Beautiful People parties for the last few years. For the first Where They Are Now party, Colton said he “wanted to highlight little snapshots of some of the most interesting stories” in local nightlife and lend inspiration to folks thinking about entering the industry or working their way up.
“I think in any job the hierarchy of management automatically scares people. I think this kind of humanizes it a little.”
Many of the honorees thanked their early jobs for their later success.
“[Tabu] is where I learned most of the basis of Vegas nightlife,” Jimmy Greenup said of his time at the lounge. “That’s where I met everyone that got me to where I was today. My nightlife training ground was there.”
Cy Waits also credited his four years at the House of Blues with giving him a foundation to move on in the nightlife industry.
“The House of Blues was such a mom and pop venue that we had to do everything,” he said. “It was like training camp. It was a good place to start.”
For Waits and Greenup the patience and hard work of their first years in Vegas certainly paid off. And Like Colton, both recognize the importance of working up through the nightlife industry.
“I didn’t come up quick,” Waits said of his career path, pointing to simple hard work and motivation as the keys to his success.
“You can’t just jump into this industry,” Greenup explained. “Like where I am now, you can’t just apply for this job. You need experience.”
Today, Greenup says he’s completely devoted to the industry and his job within it, which is basically to party and keep the energy level at Tao as high as possible.
“I’m the in-house mascot. I’m like the hype man. Instead of being in a suit, I’m in the club doing shots with people, walking girls to the bathroom. Everyone’s like, ‘I want to be as drunk as that guy.’ I create alcohol sales.”
After Sunday’s bash, Greenup, Waits and the other Where They Are Now honorees can add a new achievement to their nightlife resume: a “Masters in Nightlife Entertainment.” The party at The Bank included an award ceremony during which the honorees were given framed diplomas.
While the degrees may not be from an accredited university, anyone who’s made it from the bottom to the top of the Vegas nightlife scene has earned their chops in the only real classroom that exists for nightlife pros – the nightclubs themselves.
“There’s no school for this business,” Waits said. “There’s no school for nightclubs.”
Earning your masters in Vegas’ nightlife world takes more than a decent GPA and one really long essay, but it does come with the mother of all graduation parties and recognition from peers across the industry.
“I’m so good at partying I get awards for it!” Greenup exclaimed. “The number one thing I care about in my life is partying. [Getting the diploma] makes me know that what I’m doing people are recognizing as a positive thing in this industry. It’s a very cool feeling. Something so silly, I take very seriously.”
Read interviews with the 20 Where They Are Now honorees at JackColton.com