With or without an official nightclub, the experience that these hotels offer is essentially about human contact. “It’s the single thing that can’t be duplicated on the Internet,” says MacPherson. “Social networking tries to, but it’s not the same thing. You can get your music, all your entertainment on the Net, but you cannot get lucky except in the flesh.”
Ian Schrager is sitting at a huge wooden conference table in his office in the West Village, surrounded by piles of tear sheets from magazines: bits of design inspiration. It has been 25 years since he kicked off the whole hip-boutique-nightlife-hotel phenomenon. “When I go to a hotel and I want to go to the best restaurant in town,” he says, “doesn’t it make sense to say, ‘Well, it’s right downstairs in the lobby’? And when I want to go to the coolest bar in town, I don’t want to go to where the people from Wisconsin go; I want to go where the people who live in that city go. When you are visiting one of these hotels, you are visiting the city that is manifested in the hotel, that’s encapsulated in the hotel, and that’s the whole point of it. That is what hotels were intended to be until they got grabbed up by these major corporations and they started rolling out cookie-cutter rooms.”
All of the other hoteliers tip their hats to Schrager for pulling hotels out of those beige, boxy doldrums. “I like Ian,” says Goode. “He’s like the guy in Spinal Tap. It goes to eleven. He’s talking about the fact that the thing he opens is going to be a seven-star hotel. There are no seven stars.” He laughs. “Ian is the father of this style.” (And then, with a little bit of an edge to his voice, he adds, “Not André.”)
But Schrager is now rejecting the very aesthetic he created. “The risk is that these unique hotels that we did become the rule rather than the exception,” he says. “You can’t have design on steroids anymore because everybody’s doing it. You’ve got to come from a different place.”
To that end, Schrager has gone into partnership with J. W. Marriott Jr. to create a chain of 100 super-luxury hotels—a “private label” of sorts—that will no doubt go to eleven. He wouldn’t reveal much about the specifics of his plans other than to say that the hotels will be designed by prestigious architects, be modest in size (150 to 200 rooms), and “manifest the social fabric of the cities” they are in. “I’m doing things in a more easy, casual, but incredibly stylish way that really doesn’t have anything to do with design but has a completely classic vocabulary.” He sighs. “There has to be a shakeout.” Yes, but old nightlife habits die hard. Don’t be surprised if some of these super-luxury hotels manifest an unhinged party scene by the pool.