A Day with Nightlife King Alan Roth
BY BILL KEARNEY
NOON—DAVID’S CAFÉ & MARKET PLACE
You wouldn’t think of Alan Roth, owner of Midtown’s Ricochet Bar & Lounge, partner in TAI Entertainment, and former owner of Rumi on South Beach, as a morning person, but apparently he’s had a workout and a meeting already, and he’s hungry. “I’m in love with the churrasco,” he says as he sits down to lunch with café owner (and Roth’s high school partner in crime) Adrian Gonzalez. He and Gonzalez are brainstorming elements of their South Beach High School 20-year reunion. It seems the nightlife bug had early roots. “Alan was always getting in trouble,” says Gonzalez of their high school days. “He had a knack for convincing girls to throw parties at their houses.” As for Roth’s recent jump from the business of Beach nightlife to the uncharted scene of the mainland, “The truth is, Ricochet is a work in progress,” Roth says. “Even today I’m still figuring it out. We’ve made a few mistakes, but we’ve done some things that have been right, also. It takes a little bit of time to get it.” Back to the high school reunion, Gonzalez suggests the return of “DJ NoName,” Roth’s turntable moniker back in the day. Conversation ambles from the 60 Taiwanese tourists who hit David’s earlier to art. Despite their rakish repartee, Miami has turned both Roth and Gonzalez into budding art collectors. “For me it started with… girls,” Roth laughs. Twelve years ago, there was a cute intern at the Rubell Family Collection. They fell in love. “She quickly schooled me,” he says. The first piece she convinced him to buy was a Mitsy Groenendijk sculpture called Monkey See Monkey Do, in which a monkey in a stark white room has written the word “share” on a wall.
1:30 PM—DRIVE TO THE
“I love how I feel right now,” says Roth as we get in his car, in reference to Gonzalez noting earlier that he’s more focused than he used to be. “A year ago, if I was at the Delano, I would have had six shots of tequila, and that was my routine.” The last year has held a lot of changes for Roth, who recently went through a divorce and has completely stopped drinking. “Adrian’s brother, Alex, my best friend, passed away [four years ago]. It was at that moment that I threw myself into a relationship and into drinking. I was abusing drugs and alcohol. I used to be a guy who could go out and not do something stupid. I’ve always had it together.” He tells me of a particular trip to California in which he found himself reflecting in a coffee shop after a three-night binge. “I was a mess. I did a bunch of stuff that I wouldn’t normally do. I decided right then and there I don’t want to drink anymore. It’s about choosing a different path.” We crest the first Julia Tuttle Causeway bridge; there’s a light chop on Biscayne Bay. The divorce, too, is on his mind. “You look in the mirror and say, ‘How did this happen? Was it me? I don’t know.’” We exit off the Tuttle Causeway and wait at the light on Biscayne Boulevard. “There are things, today, that I’d want to give to a wife. And maybe at that moment I couldn’t give them…. It’s all good. It’s a growing experience.”
Roth sits down with Primary Projects co-owner Chris Oh and director of exhibitions Typoe (who is also an artist represented by the Spinello Projects), to discuss Ricochet as an afterparty space for the gallery’s upcoming Jessy Nite exhibition. They toss around DJ ideas, and how to add a wow factor. Talk turns to Roth’s photo project, in which he snaps pictures of musical artists “at their most vulnerable” right before they go on stage, and at their most euphoric, as they’re stepping off. “It’s about access—who am I to have access to take these shots? Why am I allowed to follow Wyclef?” There’s an arbitrary, absurd nature to the access that intrigues Roth. On the way out of the gallery, his head jerks back as if caught by a fishhook. He gazes at a small sculpture. “Who is this? How much?” he inquires about a gold-plated pipe fashioned from a soda can, by artist George Sanchez-Calderon.
4 PM—EMERSON FORTH’S PIRATE TATTOO
“My tattoos tell a story. They’re really a work in progress,” says Roth as we wait for his tattoo artist and high school friend, Emerson Forth, to show up. He’s got a heart with his parents’ names and marriage date inside; interconnecting rings representing the unity of all things; birds referencing him following his brother and sister; and his late friend Alex Gonzalez’s initials just below his heart, among others. When Forth shows up, he and Roth map out a plan for his next piece, a tree growing up Roth’s left arm. “I want it to be like a tree of life, with little innuendos hidden in it,” says Roth. Forth envisions the roots locking around the elbow, and messages hidden in the bark. “I like that. You don’t see it, but you see it.”
It’s comedy night, and Roth has brought in local comic Forrest Shaw and headliner and longtime friend Tommy Davidson. The house is packed. Shaw tells self-deprecating fat jokes. Davidson riffs on racial complexities and razzes an office group that has come to laugh together. After the show, the music comes up and the group from the office gathers around Davidson for photos. A sober Roth has no problem flirting—he asks a female friend how her internship’s going, knowing full well she has a job. Later, a curvy bartender gives him a playful faux slap on the face. Roth scans the bar, comes over, and shakes my hand. “I gotta get up early tomorrow,” he says, and heads out the door.
photograph by jim arbogast