Atlanta nightlife impresario Alex Gidewon – the man behind club titans Vision and Compound – slaps a sparkling plastic ruby-colored bracelet around my wrist and tells me, "You can go wherever you want." And for a fair-skinned white boy whose idea of a night out is a Diet Coke in a dive bar, I plan to take him up on that.
Pro athletes and music industry players pursue short-skirted beauties dancing by themselves under swirling lights. Mega-producer Jermaine Dupri, co-host of tonight's party, bounces back and forth in the DJ booth, shouting, "I'm from the A! I'm from the A!" Tray after tray of top-shelf shots poured by buxom bartenders are delivered to tables – which start at $1,500 – outfitted with an ice chest and mixers (and a hookah if you'd like). VIPs gaze down at the crowd from windows above the main room. One cool gent in sunglasses dances on a table as a bottle of vodka – replete with a fiery sparkler – arrives.
Were it not for the vacant condos nearby, you'd never know we're at the tail end of a recession.
This isn't a Saturday at the Gold Room, the recently opened Piedmont Road nightclub. It's a Monday night fete, hosted by Dupri and Gidewon. Prior to its opening, the space housed the Gold Club, Atlanta's most notorious strip club that catered to athletes, CEOs and the occasional overconfident college kid. After a sensational trial ended in 2002, when its former Mafia-tied owner was sent to federal prison for charges including credit card fraud. After that, it became – oh, yes – a church. Thankfully, the standalone building's rediscovered its after-hours roots.
By the end of the night, I'd met a New York City émigré who says the Gold Room's the closest she can find to Manhattan nightlife; shook the hand of the man who used to date Janet Jackson; and had my nether regions girl-handled at the bar by two attractive African-American women who said they loved white boys.
It's good to know that Atlanta has the bank account to indulge the Gold Room in this economy. The city needs a joint like this – if only to maintain the illusion of good times.