A few weeks ago, before the release of my novel GUESTLIST, I was having drinks with the lovely and amazing Emily Cavalier of Mouth of the Border and the conversation shifted to the topic of my novel.
Ms. Cavalier asked the question that everyone asks: “How much of it is autobiographical?”
“Twenty percent,” I said.
But you know, even that’s not true. GUESTLIST is most assuredly not autobiographical. The novel is not about me. And, despite what some will inevitably think, I am not any particular character in the story. In fact, the entire storyline is complete fiction.
With one exception.
And that exception, Dear Readers, is what inspired GUESTLIST.
[caption id=”attachment_773” align=”aligncenter” width=”511” caption=”Jay Fingers and Kanye West”][/caption]
For those who do not know, I worked in nightlife for several years. I mostly worked in marketing and operations, and then, as a side hustle, I hosted and promoted events. It was a grind. Sixteen to twenty hour days. No days off. And when I was lucky enough to have a night off, it usually fell in the middle of the week, like Tuesday or Wednesday. The club scene was my life.
Not only did I host events, I often worked as a doorman, mostly during the Saturday night parties at downtown Miami nightclub Nocturnal. Yes, I was the asshole with the clipboard and the comp tickets deciding who was cool enough to get in. I won’t lie, at times I experienced power trips. It was nearly impossible not to. I mean, I was the gatekeeper. I was the decider. I was the main motherfucking man. I had the ability to open the gates of paradise, and I could also deny you the privilege of hanging with the cool kids. That effectively made me the person you did not want to piss off.
Working as a doorman – hell, as a host and promoter, in general – taught me quite a bit about social grace. I learned that people are not nice unless they have to be nice. People are unconcerned with whatever you are going through, unless it affects their plans and wishes. People do not like you – they like what you can do for them.
[caption id=”attachment_774” align=”aligncenter” width=”511” caption=”Jessica Rosenblum and Jay Fingers”][/caption]
I’ll admit I was pretty popular on South Beach. Not because I threw the biggest, most lavish parties or knew all the celebrities that came to town, but because I was simply a nice guy. I’m a Southern boy, it’s in my nature to say “please” and “thank you,” to hold doors open for whomever, to show general concern for people in my surroundings. And I treated everyone the same, whether you were a billionaire playboy living on Star Island or you were a busboy from Lil Havana who spoke little English. We’re all people, we all deserve to be treated kindly.
Everyone did not share my views on respect and basic decency, mostly those who were “successful.” People with money and status had a tendency to treat people like shit, and these people were usually involved in the same industry in which I worked. What was laughable, though, was that some of the worst people, the most attitudinal, were those with no money, no success, no clout of which to speak. Yet they carried themselves haughtily, demanding VIP treatment and looking down on those considered subhuman. It was incredible.
[caption id=”attachment_775” align=”aligncenter” width=”511” caption=”Missy Elliott, Jay Fingers, Trina”][/caption]
Yes, I know, I’ve once again given you a shit-ton of background. But here’s why. There were two incidents from my party promoting days that gave rise to the plot of GUESTLIST.
The first incident took place at Suite Lounge, a now-closed nightclub that was housed in the legendary Club Liquid. One of my colleagues – we’ll call him “Marty” – and his buddies were attending the hip-hop party that Suite was hosting. Suite was my day job; naturally, I had considerable pull at the club. Now, even though this was a hip-hop party, Suite was notorious for being less than kind to people of color. As I was at the door, not only was I more than willing to walk Marty and his crew inside, I was going to hook them up with free bottles.
As they were walking in, one of the young ladies in Marty’s crew was introduced to me. “Jay Fingers?” she snorted. “Well, if that’s what you wanna be called.”
They spent the next ten minutes apologizing and trying to convince me to still let them inside.
The second incident also took place at Suite, and this incident is the exception of which I early wrote. Some young women I knew from the University of Miami were already inside and simply lounging near one of the bars. I pulled some strings, invited them into VIP, and got a few bottles of champagne so that we could all have a good time.
One chick, however, didn’t know I was the reason their whole crew was in VIP. So even though all her friends were dancing and taking photos with me, I guess she thought I was a thirst bucket and decided she didn’t like me. This little girl ran up on me and began screaming, telling me to get away from her and her friends.
I didn’t say a word. After all, when I’m angry, I become silent. Her friends quickly informed her that I was the person who’d gotten them in VIP. You know that little girl didn’t even apologize? She tried to justify her outburst but her behavior and lack of social grace cast a damper on the remainder of the evening.
This idiot broke on of Sun Tzu’s Laws of Power, the 19th one, which explicitly states: “Know who you’re dealing with. Do not offend the wrong person.”
Again, social grace.
[caption id=”attachment_776” align=”aligncenter” width=”511” caption=”Mya and Jay Fingers”][/caption]
So that, in large part, is what I wanted to explore in GUESTLIST. The lack of social graces. The unwarranted sense of entitlement that some people feel when they are in such an environment. The consequences and repercussions of trying to chase and maintain a celebrity lifestyle, whether you’re a celebrity or not.
Based on the few Amazon reviews I’ve so far gotten, I guess it’s safe to say I succeeded in doing what I set out to do. But I don’t know for sure. Why don’t you tell me? Hit me up in the comments and let me know your thoughts on GUESTLIST, social graces, or whatever you want to talk about.