New York City is one of the biggest fashion destinations of the world. You can find a fashion show taking place somewhere almost everyday. It takes a lot of preparation to put a show together: The models, the venue, the makeup, the music, security, food and drink and a million other things. At any given moment, anything and everything can go wrong. A reasonable person would ask: “Why on earth would someone want to do this once, let alone on a regular basis?”
I asked that same question to Herbert, and he responded; “I love doing this, it helps keep me young.”
Herbert Fox has been producing shows for over twenty years. I asked him; “How did you start out?” It started by accident. I went to a party in Long Island in 1974. After a while, I got bored so I went to Manhattan. I went to a nightclub that was private, but underground. I walked in. At the time I think it was an event for John Lennon and Gloria Gaynor was performing. This was September of 1974. Club Le Jardin on 43rd Street between 6th Avenue and Broadway. I took one look at the crowd. All of the beautiful people and how well they dressed. I just fell in love with the atmosphere. That’s when I started going to these clubs. I dropped all of my friends and I started going there every week.”
I started hanging out in a club called “Infinity” from 1975 to 1978. Studio 54 opened up in April of 1977. The Underground opened in 1979. All of these clubs had models, actors and society people. This was the right mixture. I used to go to all of the hot spots in the city at the time; Tatou, Zenan’s and Au’Bar.
NYSG: How did you start promoting at these venues?
HERBERT: I helped some promoters by passing the word out for their parties in 1981. I did a little promoting in 1983 and 84. I promoted for Xenon, the direct competitor of Studio 54.
HERBERT: In 1984 I was celebrating my birthday at the Red Parrot in Manhattan. Patti LaBelle came in to celebrate her birthday. Patti LaBelle came in to celebrate her birthday. I ending up celebrating my birthday with Patti LaBelle. In 1992 Phyllis Hyman was there with her friend; “Jackie”, the actress, and they invited me to Tatou Nightclub for my birthday. They gave me a bottle of champagne. The doorman said to me; “You’re from Studio 54. You know all of the Studio people. (Even though Studio 54 closed a while ago) Why don’t you have your birthday party here.” “I told him that my birthday is today.” He said; “Have your party here in two weeks and no one would know the difference.”
HERBERT: I went to my phone book and called everyone that I knew. Their friends told their friends and everyone came out. This was June of 1992. The event was great and we had about 300 people. The promoters asked; “Who is this guy?” About 15 to 20 people asked me; “When is your next event?” Two months later I had my next event there. I was now having an event there every week for the next two and a half years at Club Tatou and I haven’t stopped since.
HERBERT: Now 23 years later I am still going strong and planning events. I had an event in August for Wonderly White, the great granddaughter of Stanford White, the famous architect. She joined Ford models. I did the party because she was accepted by Ford models. The party was written up in the Daily News.
HERBERT: The promoter at the time saw how many people I brought in and wanted to know if I could do this on a regular basis. “You did have a “day job” at the time correct?” I asked. “Yes, I was a school teacher for the Board of Education for the City of New York (As it was referred to back then. It is now the Department of Education)
HERBERT: Not only did I work for the school system in New York, I also worked for the school system in New Jersey. I taught Social Studies.” “That’s some leap” I said. “Yes it was” he responded. I taught during the day and had to stay up all night at the clubs. I was leading a double life. I invited some of my colleagues to hang out with me but they all had trouble going into work the next day. I ended up organizing everything myself. After a while it just became normal.
HERBERT: In the fall of 1992 through the fall of 1995, I threw a party for Tony Curtis for his autobiography. He flew in from California to attend the event. I did the wrap party for the closing of the Broadway musical; “Jelly’s Last Jam.” with Ben Vereen. I did Kool and the Gang’s album release party in June of 1993 for their album “Unite”. On December 15th, 1993, I did Kool and the Gang’s 20th Anniversary party. Notables such as Grace Jones, Nile Rogers, Mercedes Ellington (Related to the great Duke Ellington were at that event.) In 1995 I did a party for Jennifer Holiday and the cast of Grease. I’ve had Carol Douglas (Midnight Love Affair) perform at my events. I also did an album release party for Wynston Marsallis and John Hendricks in 1995 for “Bopping at the Blue Note.” It was the New York album release party because they also had an album release party in Paris.
HERBERT: I have also done a lot of movie events including the SOHO Film Festival, The New York Comedy Film Festival, The Florence Film Festival official party and The HBO Last Dragon Anniversary party. I have done many New York fashion shows including the New York Bridal Show. From 1993 to 2014 I did the Thompson Modeling Agency parties. I have been doing promoting for shows for over 30 years, but consistently for over 22 years. I used to be friends with Phyllis Hyman, Ron Schneider of the Rolling Stones, Ron Jeremy, Rick James, and Luther Vandross. I even hosted the celebrity look-a-like parties at Tatou Nightclub and O’Bar. Once Tupac and Elvis showed up, it gave it away.
HERBERT: I am one of the original members of Studio 54 when they first opened up. I am also an extra in the movie “Studio 54.” I am in look-a-like videos playing a doorman. I did a scene in Sex and the City. I have a lot of memorabilia for the events that I have done over the last 30 years. I have done several hundred events over the last 30 years.
NYSG: What type of work is involved in putting a fashion show together?
HERBERT: Assessing how many people attend, what the best venue to use is that will make the event a success. The lighting is also important. I have to make sure that the people coming to the event are not going to cause problems at the event. I do whatever it takes to make the event work.
NYSG: What do you tell someone who is looking to start a promoting business?
HERBERT: They need to be a good assistant to someone who knows what they are doing and “observe” them.
NYSG: So they need a mentor?
HERBERT: Yes. Today all you have is twenty-something year old promoters and all they do is go out and attend parties. They have guest lists at the door. They bring about 15 to 30 people. That’s not promoting. You can stay home and use the phone to get 15 to 30 people to attend an event. You have to know what it takes to make a good event. The trick is making sure that the crowd and the event are never the same. You have to be in a position where you are not the only person bringing in the people. You bring some people and the person hosting the event has to bring in the rest of the people. They need to learn the “art” of doing it because if everyone was doing it, you wouldn’t need a promoter or event planners.
HERBERT: Someone told me that from 2012 to 2014, 10 promoters brought in 300 people to the Empire Rooftop Hotel for shows. My average was about 150 people by myself per show for that same period. That speaks for itself. When I plan events, unless it’s my birthday party, the event is about the people who are attending the event. I have to make sure that everything is in working order, and everyone is having a good time. People say that I am one of the few people who says that the event is about the people, not about me. Today’s promoters walk around like they are the stars. For me, the stars are in the sky. You don’t need to show off by producing an attitude.
NYSG: How well you produce, not your attitude.
HERBERT: Correct, attitudes are free and have no value! How many people you bring and the quality of your event speaks for itself.
Flyers from past events that Herbert has hosted:
Herbert with Lynn Thomas (Former Playboy Playmate of 1997), Supermodel Cindy Crawford, Soccer great Pele and Robert Bell from Kool and the Gang