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The China Club Marks 25 Years of Music Magic

Bowie chinaclub The China Club Marks 25 Years of Music Magic

David Bowie at the China Club; All photos by Dominick Conde/China Club

When former clothing salesman Danny Fried opened the China Club with partner, former-police officer Michael Barrett, Ronald Reagan was president and Adam Ant was a major musical presence.

This year the club is celebrating its 25th anniversary as a veteran of New York’s music scene. The city has seen the exodus of a number of top venues over the past several years, but the China Club is still dedicated to being a hub of entertainment, whether it’s showcasing top artists or hosting a Broadway premier party.

At their original location on the Upper West Side, right next to the Beacon Theatre, everyone major player in the music world, from Walter Yetnikoff to Michael Jackson to David Bowie and Peter Frampton, came, played and partied.

Billy Joel, Rod Stewart, Duran Duran, Elton John, Don Henley, they all came. Monday nights were reserved for the unofficial official jam session, where everyone from Herbie Hancock to Elton to The Eagles would show up and play.

Says Fried: “You never knew who exactly would show, but once they got to the stage, talked and played, it was magical.”

china5 The China Club Marks 25 Years of Music Magic

Bruce Willis, Quentin Tarantino, Pat Riley and Lee Majors

Outside of music the club has hosted exclusive Broadway and movie premier parties, most notably Adam Sandler’s “Waterboy” and Robert Evans’ epic “The Cotton Club.”

The China Club is also the headquarters for WPLJ radio’s “Up Close And Personal Shows.” The station has hosted everyone form Michael Buble to Elton John, Bryan Adams, Hall And Oates and Jewel.

Fried has a book in the works with celebrity-author Mark Bego and he has penned two screenplays. The first of which is being actively shopped around Tinsel Town.

“I’ve always written stories like this. This first one falls into the historical thriller category. The response so far has been great. I’ve very encouraged,” he said.

Whe the club moved to its current 47th street location, it added a spectacular top-floor, open-air roof deck. “In our current location, we really offer something special right in the heart of Times Square.There’s talk of a possible restaurant in the club, too,” added Fried who sat down recently with the TheImproper to talk about his experiences and the club’s future.

china2 The China Club Marks 25 Years of Music Magic

Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker

The Improper: The China Club has left an indelible mark on the live/club scene. We’ve lost so many important clubs like The Bottom Line and The Cutting Room. How has the China Club managed to survive so long, and with you and your partner Michael Barrett still at the helm?

Fried: We survived because we really were never like those clubs. They were both totally live-oriented, whereas the China Club functions as a dance club primarily. The live music scene for us is pretty much the “Up Close And Personal” shows we do with WPLJ. Some of the shows we’ve done with them, John Mayer, Hall and Oates, James Blunt, Bon Jovi, Lenny Kravitz, Jewel, Rob Thomas, and, Meatloaf, stand as some of the best live shows I’ve ever seen in New York City. This year is our 25th anniversary … I think that’s a record for a club here in New York City.

IM: The music business has seemed to be in somewhat of a free fall the last five years but bands are always springing up and there are artists who are selling records. What do you have to say to that end?

Fried: We used to book new talent, but there was never really a way of fully following that up. The China Club has evolved, as I’ve said, as more of a dance club and doing corporate events, such as Broadway openings and movie premieres. We did the Adam Sandler “Waterboy” and “Wedding Singer” events here. We also did Broadway’s “Saturday Night Fever,” “Nine” and “View From The Bridge.”

IM: You’ve always given special attention to local talent. What’s the state of that these days?

Fried:In the early days we did, but it was hard to develop the right market and following for them. One of the things I’m proudest of is that we always had the best house band around; a lot of the session musicians, like Elliott Randall, Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter, Paul Shaffer and Will Lee. For someone to get up and perform, the band has got to be good.

IM: What’s your fondest memory of a night in the China Club?

china3 The China Club Marks 25 Years of Music Magic

Robert De Niro, Julian Lennon and Ed Harris

Fried: My best memory is the night we had, as part of the house band, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Herbie Hancock, Don Henley and Joe Walsh. That was pretty amazing. My fondest memory is when Rod Stewart and I would go into my office and start singing Al Jolson songs. He’s a big Jolson fan, also of the movie, and we’d be doing them. He really loved his music.

IM: What’s the latest on the forthcoming book?

Fried: I wrote it with celebrity-biographer Mark Bego (Elton John; Billy Joel; Michael Jackson; Madonna) and it really tells how this thing called the China Club was born, developed, and the many, many magical moments we’ve had through the process. It recalls the early days, but brings everything up to date as well. In preparing it, I’d gone through all the photos we had, because we always had an in-house photographer and the variety was particularly dramatic. River Phoenix to Don Henley and Stewart, Sting, and, Springsteen. There’re some amazing pictures there … major artists now, but, then, just beginning their ride. It’s a map of popular music. We’re hoping to have it out in the Fall.

IM: You’ve also developed quite another career as a screenwriter. Your PR-man just gave us the title, “Morgan’s Revenge” and said it was an historical action/drama piece. Tell us about it.

Fried: We’ve been describing it as a historical thriller, becuase it doesn’t take place in the current day. We’ve just now started rolling it out and I must say, the reaction has been thus far pretty terrific. I also want to lock in the right agent to make the right deal. When I wrote it, I always saw it as a movie, so there’s that added component to it. So, I want to lock in the right and best people. I actually have another screenplay too!

IM: Local radio station WPLJ has done their “Up Close and Personal” concerts at the China Club for years. How’d you land such a prestigious project?

Fried: It all began when someone introduced me to Tom Cuddy, then running WPLJ. It all came together pretty quickly and has had so much traction it’s continued. The first one was with John Mellencamp, and actually was done early in the morning, very early. It was broadcast live and was just a tremendous success across the board. The artists love it, the station as well loved, just a home run.

IM: The rooftop location, the Jade Terrace, presents such a unique location right here in midtown. Tell us about that. In the summer that must be a prime location.

Fried: The Terrace or Eden as it’s known, as well, just offers a totally unique environment, indoors and outdoors, in the middle of Times Square. We’ve had almost every sort of event there possible. At one point we were the magnet for all the sports team, Yankess, Knicks, and Mets and that location worked the best for us. I think the China Club just works best as mecca for all sorts of people, from the industry or not. There’s a nice vibe there.

IM: In your previous life, you were in the fashion business and reportedly have used a lot of the insight gleaned there in this business. True?

Fried: Selling is selling. I was in the wholesale, manufacturer end, so it was a non-stop process. But, what I’m doing right now is what I was meant to do. No question.




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