The unbridled nightlife of the great American cities does not seem to offer the opportunity to stop and think about anything. Exclusive company, booze, dance, drugs, speed, sex… everything seems to be part of a complete method to avoid thinking, and seen from the outside, it also seems to be a place only suitable for those who are willing to risk everything without measuring consequences.
However, I had the opportunity to interview Hans Kennedy at a coffee shop on W 178th St. in the Washington Heights neighborhood, where he grew up. It was a talk of barely 80 minutes, but from which I came out with a very different perspective on what it takes to enter the upper echelons of nightlife (and staying alive there).
“I take nightlife very seriously because I was always an introvert growing up” was the first thing he said to me, and it made me feel immediately identified. Was it on purpose? Surely. Kennedy is not only a socialite, but he is also a strategist and marketing genius. He doesn’t seem to be someone who leaves things to chance.
“I wanted to prove to myself that I can hang with the most extrovert of people and belong there. Nightlife was a means of networking and putting people together. I happen to know a lot of people in fashion, and having them network with one another was something that brought joy to my life. I enjoyed being useful to them and connecting them with one another”.
Hans dresses well. He knows how to look sure of himself, without being arrogant. His movements are unconstrained, and his expressions lighthearted. He admits to being someone with very high self-esteem, but that doesn’t make him difficult to deal with; on the contrary, it inspires confidence, and makes you want to continue listening to him.
“I would do anything to connect you to with the right person, and you are to bring people that could uplift our network bit by bit, where more people want to join; but would have to be of value. We all look out for one another, and help each other connect to a better sphere”.
“For people who are different from myself, I just bring the best looking group in the venue, and watch the different mindsets come on over simply because even if they are different, we all have that need to want to belong with the beautiful and cool crowd. The ones that say they don’t want to are simply lying to themselves”.
He is not someone who lies to himself. He is honest, and he is not afraid to reveal how things really work. However, you know that he is not being cynical: he is simply pointing out how things are, and for people like me, who is usually standing on the other side of the road, I find it distant and fascinating at the same time.
Hans just ordered an espresso “I’m not the celebrity guy; it’s not something I look for. I just kind of do my job, and go home. I don’t do afters; I stay away from all the craziness: no drugs, nothing; just good vibes with the people I care for, and I like having fashionable people around”.
“I guess that not everything is fun and appearances. There must be difficult or tense moments” I asked him. He tasted his coffee (apparently it was still too hot), and without taking his eyes off it, he replied: “I handle stressful situations with the simplest approaches. Taking a step back and reminding myself that this is all in the name of fun. Even a fun night out has its stresses. I enjoy the stress and love taking it from others hands which is why people who want to do their outings prefer to have me handle it all for them “.
“My goal is to be useful and to be a concierge to those around me, so they feel like they can come to me with every need possible, and I can be the one to connect them. I like to bridge the gaps for people and give them what they are looking for. Currently I want to find them a place in the world to belong to with going into real estate, but I want to give them the full service of whatever they are looking for. I either have it or know someone who does.”
He paid the bill for both of us, and before leaving he told me a little about how he lived his childhood around the neighborhood. It is not surprising that someone who has lived two different sides of life knows how to get to and from both of them without problem.
We said goodbye, and I thanked him deeply for the interview. He smiled (maybe patronizingly), and his last words were “Do not take life too seriously, because at the end we are all mere mortals who have an end to it. Life is a party, and you choose to either be invited or to sit it out”.
New York is a wild city and it absorbs us. I will probably never see Hans Kennedy again, not only because of the vast concrete that surrounds us, but because we both live different lives; perhaps diametrically opposed lives. But it comforts me to feel both of us human.