Armin Amiri was the famous doorman at Bungalow 8 and then the mind behind Socialista. He parlayed his nightlife pursuits into acting, scoring a role in The Wrestler. But now he's back on the club scene with Chinatown's Mister H. Hear Amiri tell his story of club life and the toll it takes on love.d
It's not easy opening a new club in NYC, but, Armin is no novice; with Mister H., he hopes to get back into the game. He's teamed with old Bungalow 8 doorman Disco and the Morgans Hotel Group. We caught him there at the Prabal Gurung after-party on Saturday, where he wore a sleek gray Valentino blazer and black J. Lindeberg pants. d
[Above: Prabal Gurung lets loose to DJ Mia Moretti's music at Mister H.]
GofG: Tell us about the name Mister H. What are you envisioning?
AA: I saw Humphrey Bogart having his nightcap at a bar that is owned by a fictitious guy named Mr. Hung, and Mr. Hung is really about the hospitality when you hear, “We really want to take care of you.” And I wanted to create a place with a room for single people. I feel like the clubs have been hijacked by promoters for the recent years, and I’m a single person, and when I go out, I don’t want to intrude on a table that I don’t know with 20 girls sitting at it. So I really want this place to be that sort of lost in Alice in Wonderland, a place that you walk in and sort of the imagination goes a little wild you know so.
GofG: Tell us about the vibe you're going for here with this red neon light?
AA: I would say , it's like Shanghai or Hong Kong 1930s or '40s, and we’re mixing some of the new stuff like Blade Runner. So not everything is so old, so it sort of is a perfect combo.
We have a lot of cool stuff that’s going to happen. Here are more layering's coming. Things like fortune cookies with messages that say "kiss the person right next to you" or, you know, "make love to that guy" or whatever cute little things like that. But ultimately what I want is a place that when you walk in, you want to dance. You don’t have to be shackled down by the environment of the owner of the place. I don’t want to be that guy that has a table with people. I just want to walk in here and feel the energy.
GofG: It feels like you've been most labeled as a doorman from your Bungalow 8 days. Are you tired of the association?
AA: I haven’t been a doorman in five, six years. I don’t know why people still they think that. It’s very cool as a doorman, but I haven’t been in some time. Socialista I owned; Mister H. is something I came and created.
GofG: What's hardest about being a doorman?
AA: Saying no. Yeah, because being good-natured, you want to find hopefully a better way to say no to someone, because they’re always going to be offended.
GofG: What are some pitfalls to avoid when trying to get past Disco at the door to Mister H.?
AA: I think hopefully the doorman has the right attitude. It could be about personal style and their graciousness and also vice versa. So I think it’s that ,and if you’re an attractive person, it makes a huge difference. Now, you could be attractive and not be a good person and not very pleasant. We don’t really want your energy. You could be very pleasant, but you don’t have a personal style, and we do have events that like this--really about the fashion --so we have to keep it that way. I don’t want anybody to feel alienated I want people to feel comfortable with the company.
GofG: So this, of course, is your great return to nightlife? What have you been up to during your hiatus?
AA: I took off for a couple of years, the whole club thing or nightlife, so my memory sort of got wiped out. These past two years I decided to just take some time off, focus on the acting and also write a book. I decided to come back when they gave me this offer to design this place and get together and get it going, and it was a great opportunity, so I jumped on it. I wasn’t planning to really do anything at night again.
_GofG: So how did the acting life treat you? You didn't get all "Hollywood" on us, did you?
AA: You know what? Funny enough, I went to L.A., you know, to see. I thought, '" I gotta give L.A. a shot; if not I’m missing out on something." But actually I’m not missing out on anything. I’m a New York actor, so as long as I get cool gigs like Factory Girl or The Wrestler--things like that--I’m happy. New York is where I feel the most comfortable so I’ve decided to come back to New York. I'm represented by Don Buckwald, Rachel Sheedy's my agent.
-[Mickey Rourke, Armin Amiri image via]
GofG: We understand you're writing a book. Is this a big tell-all memoir?
AA: It’s about my life. You know, I escaped from Iran when I was 13 years old and I grew up in Vienna in a refugee camp, and I came to America in ‘89. It’s a story about imagination, the power of imagination, how you could sit in a room somewhere in a different part of the world and imagine your life and go after it. So I feel like I’ve been very lucky and blessed. My father is fine. Everything is fine. The book is called called Price of Imagination. I’m still doing a lot of editing touches.
GofG: This is such an intriguing space, Mister H. Tell us what exactly lured you back into the nightlife circuit?
AA: The Morgans Group called me, and they made an offer to me. And I looked at it, and I saw the room and I thought I could create something. It’s my specialty, these kinds of rooms.Small rooms. I liked Bungalow, I liked Socialista. I had an opportunity to design Socialista. I like designing better than acting actually, because you actually can work on it twenty-four/seven. And you’re preoccupied on that project. Acting you only get--what?--45 minutes, and you sit in a trailer for 12 hours? So this is a deeper character work for me, and also you get to be able to be surrounded by really some fabulous people.
GofG: Tell us what's going on in your personal life. Do you expect the return to nightlife to be a drain?
AA: I gotta say one thing. I’ve always been a guy that likes to meet a girl during the day on the street. Just bumping on the street and there’s a moment of connection and you know, “you wanna go have coffee?” O.K.? And next thing you know you spend a whole afternoon with them. And you know I’ve been single for four years, and you know ladies have always been very kind to me and in this environment. I’m sure there would be a lot more, but I try to reserve myself as much as I can, cause it sort of really ruins your energy. If you believe in feng shui and all that stuff. Fate.
GofG: Tell us about your last long-term relationship. How long did it last?
Five years. And I still love her. Working at nights does you in. At the time I was at Bungalow 8, moving to Socalista and I felt like, really she’s a lovely person, so you wanna be able to go to sleep at the same time with your partner. And so I told her this graciously. But I love her still to this day. Australian girl. Claire Fricke. Model. Australian. Gorgeous girl, lovely person. She’s also a writer.
GofG: Are you dreading these late nights?
AA: It was hard today to get up. It was hard it was our first night last night. I woke up at 11:30 and I was just like ugh…We opened for friends and family on Friday, and yeah, I woke up in the morning and I was like, "God am I back to this thing again?" It was a tough month. As long as I could get the auditions in the afternoon, I’m fine.
AA: What’s wrong with any of them? I find it to be is this sort of stupid competition among grown ass people that they still feel like a 12-year-old kid that you have to hate on one another. New York is about different variety. Sushi, Mexican food, you know, French food. Why do you have to go one spot all the time? don’t want to lose the part that sort of bubbles….I think Andre [Balazs] has done a great job. Eric [Goode] and Sean [MacPherson] have done a great job. They've got good taste. Those guys, they are people that I respect them for their taste. They got great taste. I don’t want to hijack any New York nightlife.
[Armin Amiri And Disco Team Up On "Mister H." To Take On Chinatown and Fashion Week] [Daily Style Phile: Armin Amiri, Die-Hard Doorman Reborn in SoHo Bar] [Six Degrees of Mickey Rourke: A Doorman Case Study] [Six Degrees Of Mickey Rourke Continued...]