When shadowing Dennis DeGori, owner/operator of E11even Miami, things can get confusing—and that’s just the way he likes it.
Dennis DeGori at E11even Miami, a 24-hour nightclub/cabaret where the show never stops.
Dennis DeGori, owner/operator of E11even Miami, a 24-hour “showclub” that might be a nightclub, or might be a cabaret, depending on what time you’re there, arrives to work at 5 pm and leaves when the sun comes up. His “day” at the office is nothing like yours.
An entertainer getting ready backstage at E11even.
“All clear?” yells DeGori into the dressing room of the female “entertainers,” as he and his staff call them. In another venue, these women might be called “strippers,” but not here, never. DeGori has perfect Goodfellas hair and dons a beautiful Canali suit, the only kind he wears. “All clear,” comes an answer, confirming everyone’s decent. We head in. Girls in sweatpants preen in mirrors, and much to my surprise, a congenial man unpacks hundreds of pairs of fake eyelashes long enough to be spider legs. “It’s gonna be a big night,” he says. “Gotta keep the girls looking good.” DeGori explains that while most clubs have house moms, E11even has Tom Rogers, a house dad. “My main role is to help the girls get ready, look nice, and be timely,” says Rogers. “E11even has a makeup artist and a hairdresser here, too—it’s show business!” DeGori then checks in on the troupe of acrobatic performers who put on Cirque du Soleil-like shows periodically throughout the night. Their stretching routine looks straight out of Swan Lake, except they’re wearing Daisy Dukes.
DeGori’s controller, Frances Martin, a seasoned nightlife office boss, walks in. They run through a pile of checks, and DeGori raves about how much she handles every day: They’ve got 300 employees, hundreds of dancers, there’s legal liaison work, and fighting what she wryly calls “remorseful spending.” “Today I dealt with one guy that had $10,000 worth of charges,” she says. “He was claiming he wasn’t here, blah blah blah. We were fighting it, and the credit card company called back and said, ‘Well, yes, he indeed was there.’ Turns out he used another card he had in his name that same night!’” DeGori shakes his head and laughs. “Without her, I’m out of business.”
DeGori making the rounds, what he calls “working the circle.”
“C’mon, let’s go,” he says. “I’m a walker. I move. I typically do what you call ‘working the circle.’ I’ll hit point to point to point, check in, say hello, shake hands.”
We take a lap. There’s a small crowd of men and women, couples at the bar, a dancer swinging on a pole. At this hour, since it’s still a bit slow, the place feels like a gentlemen’s club. He promises me that will change—instead of building a strip club that had nightclub elements, his philosophy was to build a nightclub that happened to have “entertainers,” too. Tonight, DeGori’s family is upstairs at the rooftop restaurant, Touché, having dinner. He’s got six kids, two of whom are here with their mom, Debra, his wife of 25 years. One of his sons works here as a bartender-in-training. “I worry [about him] a little bit because it’s a nightclub. There could be a fight, or him doing something stupid. I do worry about it.”
A burlesque performance onstage.
Dancers walk the floor, leaving trails of various intense perfumes, businessmen belly up to the stage, and two older couples from Touché take seats as well. “You’re surrounded by topless women at work. Is that strange?” I ask. “I don’t even think about it. There’s a million moving parts in here, that’s just one of them.” He explains that although it was tough at first, E11even now attracts quality dancers because it charges a lower “house fee” than most places (that’s the fee the dancers pay in order to use the venue as their place of business). It’s common in some clubs for bouncers and floor managers to demand additional commissions from the dancers, which apparently doesn’t happen here. Dakota, a nearby entertainer, chimes in. “The dancers are more well-respected in this club than in others,” she says. DeGori’s staff also keeps the ratio of entertainers a bit lower than most clubs, which tilts the energy in more of a nightclub direction.
Entertainers will fly in from Vegas, New York, Ohio, and stay for a week or a month. The club even has a concierge of sorts who alerts them when there’s a big week of business coming up, and helps them find good hotel rates, gyms, and the best local restaurants.
There’s a thick, eager line at the velvet rope. On the main floor, the oh-so-cool employees from Set and LIV dance amid the banquettes. Someone’s making it rain in a corner, but no one cares—the music’s too good. There’s so much going on the entertainers seem almost inconsequential. DeGori, silhouetted against lasers and fog, surveys the scene from his crag on the mezzanine. “This is when the club becomes most what I envisioned it to be,” he says.
The ceiling undulates as if we’re underwater looking up to the surface. Worries of yesterday and tomorrow are annihilated by a show so overwhelming you’re only aware of what’s in front of you, and what’s in front of you is beautiful. Until you open that exit door to the street and cringe under the already vicious sun of Saturday morning. 29 NE 11th St., Miami, 305-829-2911
photography by gesi schilling (backstage, degori); Worldredeye.com (performance)