Party Czar Carmen D’Alessio, Empress of the Sun and the Queen of the Night

October 08, 2018 10:00 PM

You may not know Carmen D’Alessio by name. But if you’ve ever popped bottles at an upscale Manhattan rooftop bar, danced until sunrise in Ibiza, toasted to the new year in Rio, or sipped on pisco in Lima, then you know Carmen. Her footprint is global. Her reputation as a public relations czar in the nightclub industry knows no borders, and her ability to stack a party with VIPs from fashion and finance, to politicians and performers (then surround them with beautiful people in an outre atmosphere) is unparalleled. As the brains behind the most legendary nightclub in history, Studio 54, Carmen has influenced the way the world parties. And in the 40 years since its opening, she hasn’t stopped dancing yet.

But the last thing Carmen wants to talk about is what she was doing four decades ago. “I’m all about looking forward, not looking back,” says D’Alessio over branzino at Loi Estiatorio,a chic Greek restaurant near her home in Manhattan. Carmen is elegant and effervescent, with red hair and smiling eyes, and it is positively confounding how someone could have been a part of The Studio in its heyday, yet look as spectacular as she does now. But it seems to have something to do with her personal philosophy. “Every day for me is a celebration, “ she says. “I walk in gratitude. In life, there are no problems, just projects. No losses, just lessons. And they’re all designed to help you get stronger and better.” 

Self-made aphorisms roll easily off her tongue, and Carmen takes great joy in sharing what she has learned from her ups and downs in life. Tanned and svelte, she says her energy comes from the sun. “I worship it,” she says with an ebullient smile, stretching her arms up to the heavens. “I absorb the sun’s energy, and then I transmit it back to the people I meet.” She winters with her family in Lima, Peru, where the weather is warm year round, and music and dancing are a vital part of the culture. She spends May through November in New York, holding court at her legendary sunset party on the rooftop of the PhD Downtown, and tending to a very active social calendar. Her Instagram reveals a non-stop parranda of events. One night, she’s taking in the Donna Summer musical on Broadway (which includes the reenactment of a Studio 54 party organized by Carmen and headlined by Donna Summer). On another occasion, Carmen is at Bergdorf’s sipping pisco with Peru’s President Martín Vizcarra, toasting to their homeland’s thriving fashion industry. 

And although The Studio was 40 years ago, scarcely a week goes by in which Carmen doesn’t run into an old friend from the club. In September, there was the release party for “Starmaker”  the magnificent Rizzoli book about Carmen’s dear late friend Richard Bernstein who designed all the early covers for Interview magazine, which featured the likes of Grace Jones, Andy Warhol, Bianca Jagger and Diana Vreeland, all of whom were part of Carmen’s orbit in the 1970s. During Fashion Week, Carmen hosted her annual presentation at PhD Downtown, a blockbuster, standing room only presentation which brought Randy Jones (the original Village People cowboy) and a bevy of Carmen’s young beauties and old school acolytes out of the woodwork and into the sky at one of the most scenic venues in town. 

But Carmen is never one to drop names or sing her own praises. In fact, she finds this aspect of the entertainment business rather undignified and contrary to the good manners she was taught growing up. She was born in Lima, Peru, the oldest of three children in family of significant means garnered from South America’s nascent mining industry. Carmen describes her youth as “sheltered and privileged.” She attended the elite Villa Maria academy, where she was educated in English and French as well as her native Spanish. During a trip to Chile to visit her extended family, she became friends with an artist public relations agent named Guy Burgos, who eventually moved to New York, and was the first person Carmen visited when she came to town.

The second person she visited was Susan Salas, a friend of hers from Lima who was working at the United Nations. Noting her fluency in three languages, Susan suggested that Carmen apply for a job as a UN translator, thus initiating Carmen’s three year stint inside UN Plaza. Carmen loved the bustle and infinite possibilities of life in New York, but she felt that a certain joie de vivre was missing. Sure, there was the socialite scene, and Carmen knew it well. She spent her first weekend in New York at a mansion in Hamptons, and never stopped meeting interesting people among her expanding circle of friends, through her work at the United Nations and in her travels. Carmen always made it a special point to take down her friends’ phone numbers, address and first and last names, spelled correctly, as Andy Warhol famously noted. It was this hallowed contact book of Carmen D’Alessio--which contained everyone from Halston and Calvin Klein to Michael Jackson and Diane Von Furstenberg--that made Studio 54 the legendary nightclub that it was. Carmen always knew that famous people aren’t always rich, and rich people aren’t always beautiful, but when you put the rich, famous and beautiful in a giant room together you get magic because people like to mingle.  

Carmen’s genius is in connecting people. She has the intuitive ability to assess who is going to hit it off with whom, and she puts them together. It was her vision--and her famous address book--that gave Queens nightclub impresarios Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell access to the crème de la crème of Manhattan’s food chain. But sometimes people forget that. In fact, if you happen to have caught the new Studio 54 documentary, a revisionist retelling of the club’s history, there is scarcely a mention of Carmen at all. The film is more focused on Schrager’s greed than Bianca Jagger on a horse and other legendary party moments that comprise the 54 legend. 

And even though the world can’t stop talking about Studio 54, for Carmen it was just one of dozens of clubs that she has built up over the years. It comprised just 33 months of her life, a very full and joyful life which is always in motion. Carmen has a book and a documentary film of her own in the works, and one of her chief concerns right now is the environment. She promotes the work of eco-conscious fashion designers, and wants to do more work to advocate conservation and preservation. Carmen hits the gym five days a week, carefully follows a low-carb diet, and never drinks at home or at lunch, only on nights out. She works hard and plays hard and keeps everything in balance. She is the woman who taught New York how to party, and she is still the living embodiment of the bon bon bon vie. And we can’t think of anything more fabulous than that.

 

 

INTERVIEW BY KAREN FRAGALA-SMITH


PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHIAKI KATO

 

related posts

GatherNYC: Everything We Love About Church With No Weird Stuff

GatherNYC is Everything We Love About Sunday Service With None of the Weird Stuff

 

November 17, 2018 3:00 PM  |  People

NEW TYPE #33: Catherine Casias Inteview

If fashion is an expression of experiences, Catherine Casias has a lot of area to cover. She has excelled as an Olympic volleyball player, a philosophy major, and a fine artist....

October 12, 2018 4:00 PM  |  People

Party Czar Carmen D’Alessio, Empress of the Sun and the Queen of the Night

You may not know Carmen D’Alessio by name.

October 08, 2018 10:00 PM  |  People
Shot by CHAMA

IKEMEN #39: JORDAN HENRIQUEZ

IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang

"REALLY, REALLY, RIDICULOUSLY GOOD LOOKING PEOPLE"

August 28, 2018 5:00 PM  |  People

IKEMEN #38: WARREN KAY

IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang

"REALLY, REALLY, RIDICULOUSLY GOOD LOOKING PEOPLE"

August 07, 2018 5:00 PM  |  People

NEW TYPE #32: ALEXANDER ROYS INTERVIEW

"Introducing an innovative Men’s designer to inspire you with the visions of future and the rise of technology."

June 26, 2018 4:00 PM  |  People
Silvia Mella (right) with Thomas De Bruyne for "House of Molteni"

Branding in the Worlds of Art and Commerce According to Silvia Mella

Branding is everything. For an entrepreneur, it is the difference between viability and bankruptcy. On social media, we are all our own brands.

May 21, 2018 4:00 PM  |  People
Jackie Yang, Creative Director of Chelsea and Walker. Video Still.

Interview: Jackie Yang, Creative Director of Chelsea and Walker

TWELV sat down with Jackie Yang, Creative Director of Chelsea and Walker, in the brand’s New York City...

May 21, 2018 2:00 PM  |  People
Krystal and Marilyn Lavoie

New Type #31: Angela Mitchell – Krystal and Marilyn Lavoie Interview

We are living in the age of fast fashion, and even Europe’s most storied luxury brands have been moving their factories to Asia to reduce costs.

May 17, 2018 3:00 PM  |  People

Ikemen #37: Dominik Halas

IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang

"REALLY, REALLY, RIDICULOUSLY GOOD LOOKING PEOPLE"

May 03, 2018 12:00 PM  |  People
Bianca Allen, Carolina Sarria, and Samantha Deller

New Type #30: Carolina Sarria & Bianca Allen Interview

Both Carolina Sarria and Bianca Allen knew they wanted to become fashion designers from a young age.

April 16, 2018 5:00 PM  |  People

Interview & Backstage: Christian Siriano Celebrates 10 Years in Fashion

After the successful launch of his book Dresses to Dream About, a decade-anniversary celebration on the runway, and a whirlwind of striking celebrity looks on the red carpet of...

March 09, 2018 11:00 AM  |  People
Jackie Astier. Photo: BFA.

New Type #29: Jackie Astier Interview

Astier places its identity within the advanced adaptation skills of the modern New York woman.

February 24, 2018 11:00 AM  |  People

INTERVIEW: Meet Kiko Arai, Miss Japan-turned Face of Balmain and Zara

Kiko Arai hails from Osaka, Japan, and after winning the title of Miss Japan 2012, the now 27-year old is captivating a new audience– the fashion world.

February 06, 2018 12:11 AM  |  People

Interview: Parisian Designer Frédéric Robert's Debut Shoe Collection "ME.LAND"

A vibrant brand of Italian-made shoes for men is emerging this year as one-to-watch.

January 26, 2018 10:00 AM  |  People
Maxime Tiliouine and Quentin Hernandez

New Type #28: the Design Duo Behind Maxime Hernandez Interview

The streetwear phenomenon in the fashion establishment is not slowing down anytime soon.

January 12, 2018 2:00 PM  |  People

MICHEL NAFZIGER INTERVIEW

With a wealth of experience shooting some for some of fashion's most renowned clients (Yves Saint Laurent, Guy Laroche), ...

December 29, 2017 2:00 PM  |  People

IKEMEN #36: Jérôme LaMaar

IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang

"REALLY, REALLY, RIDICULOUSLY GOOD LOOKING PEOPLE"

November 27, 2017 12:00 PM  |  People
Alcone Backstage Set Designed by Roger Padilha. Photo: Santiago Felipe.

Alcone 65th Anniversary @Capitale: Interview with CEO Maria Stewart

No make-up company has a more storied history firmly ensconced in New York showbiz.

November 13, 2017 4:00 PM  |  People

Ikemen #35: Zaher Saleh

IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang

"REALLY, REALLY, RIDICULOUSLY GOOD LOOKING PEOPLE"

October 31, 2017 5:00 PM  |  People
Keith Kattner

Interview: Neurosurgeon-turned-Artist Keith Kattner on the Surgery of Classical Painting

Dr. Keith Kattner does not have the typical background one would expect of a successful neurosurgeon.

October 25, 2017 4:00 PM  |  People

New Type #27: Nika Tang Interview

San Fransisco-based designer Nika Tang has emerged as boldly committed to her ideology as to her pieces. Her namesake brand centers...

October 06, 2017 11:00 AM  |  People

TWELV ARCHIVE JOE McKenna INTERVIEW "Call Me Joe"

CALL ME JOE

October 04, 2017 4:00 PM  |  People

Interview: Becky Donnelly's Fashion Creatures

Quirky girl from Dublin with a penchant for drawing fantasy creatures relocates to London after art school.

October 02, 2017 12:00 PM  |  People

New Type #26: Herman – Raif Adelberg Interview

Authenticity.

September 29, 2017 11:00 AM  |  People
Brooke Candy & Kaimin. Photo: Mark Hunter

Kaimin Interview & S/S18 "Slut from the Future" Presentation @ the Top of the Standard

Pulsing with a heavy beat and hazy with a deep rouge glow, the Top of the Standard is as glamorous a place to be as ever. And tonight it is packed with partygoers.

September 28, 2017 10:00 AM  |  People

Yasmina Alaoui Interview & Opera Gallery Exhibition

Yasmina Alaoui burst onto the international arts scene in 2003 with "Tales of Beauty," a collection of nude...

September 11, 2017 5:00 PM  |  People
Søren Solkær

Søren Solkær Interview

Stepping out of a cab into the urban symphony of Midtown, the entryway to The Quin Hotel was easy to spot— with classic architecture and...

September 11, 2017 10:00 AM  |  People

Kyra Ross of Mona Liza Studios Interview

TWELV sat down with the charismatic Kyra Ross, founder of Mona Liza Studios which falls under his larger moniker "...

August 28, 2017 11:00 AM  |  People
Photo by Giorgio Codazzi for Gioia Magazine

Ira Sumbaeva Interview

TWELV sits down with model Ira Sumbaeva to give a glimpse into the story of the cutest Belarusian...

August 25, 2017 8:00 AM  |  People

Benjamin Shine Interview: Master of Tulle

Benjamin Shine is an award-winning international artist whose work stretches across industries from fashion...

August 16, 2017 4:00 PM  |  People
Sarah LeBlanc

New Type #25: Mémère – Sarah LeBlanc Interview

Upon arriving to the Mémère studio, it felt like stepping from the bustle of New York City...

July 26, 2017 10:00 AM  |  People

NEW TYPE #24: JOHNA STONE INTERVIEW

July 21, 2017 11:00 AM  |  People

IKEMEN #34: GABRIEL LIBERTY

IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang

"REALLY, REALLY, RIDICULOUSLY GOOD LOOKING PEOPLE"

July 03, 2017 3:00 PM  |  People

NEW TYPE #23: ANE AMOUR – IYALA ANNE INTERVIEW

“Introducing a talented designer giving sophisticated femininity an edge”

June 23, 2017 1:00 PM  |  People

NEW TYPE #22: Allina Liu INTERVIEW

Born and raised in New York City– we could also add, "in love with”– Allina Liu is a refreshing womenswear designer, who questions the...

June 14, 2017 2:00 PM  |  People

Pages

SITE BY: monocomplex©Marbles & Marbles International Inc. Drupal Development by: DivDiv, NYC
▲ back to top ▲