It’s just after 9 p.m. on Friday and Andy Fiscella, who owns entertainment industry hangouts the Dime and Winston’s, is in a rare state of calm, one of two quiet moments that will come this night. He’s sitting on a stool at his latest venture, the 1940s-style Crown Bar in West Hollywood, and his posture is as casual as his clothes: baggy brown cords, a wrinkled blue nylon jacket and a straw fedora. But then the sugar-free Red Bull he’s drinking from a pint glass kicks in, and suddenly, he’s typing furiously on his BlackBerry, darting his eyes around the room and knocking on wood for good luck.
An hour later, Crown Bar has morphed into a boys’ club thick with producers, agents and screenwriters. They all seem to be vying for Fiscella’s attention, tugging on him to talk scripts or, like ICM literary agent Emile Gladstone, squeezing through to make an introduction with a business card. Fiscella has just told me he plans to start producing “major, major movies,” so I’m eavesdropping on his conversation with “300″ co-screenwriter Michael B. Gordon when, out of nowhere, Fiscella tosses me his jacket, jumps over the bar as if he were hopping into a convertible, and produces a dozen drinks for a crowd of friends.
Fiscella is no stranger to captivating an audience. In the six years since he moved to L.A. from New York, he’s nabbed an Endeavor agent and acted in 13 movies, including “Winged Creatures” with Forest Whitaker and “Final Destination 4.” He’s also becoming a producer with bar partner Chris Huvane, the West Coast editor of GQ. If things go accordingly, they’ll soon have a celebrity-driven reality show with David Katzenberg and a deal to develop Brian Wood’s graphic novel “The Tourist” into a film. That’s not to say that Fiscella has any plans to get out of the bar business. He has a space in Hermosa Beach he’d like to turn into an offshoot of the Dime, and he wants to build a hotel too—something reminiscent of the Chateau Marmont, he says.
Nightlife and Hollywood entertainment go hand in hand, and Fiscella’s neighborhood bars partly double as industry clubhouses. Forget Kevin Bacon: Fiscella’s wide circle of contacts puts him one degree away from celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Kirsten Dunst and Paris Hilton. He’s brought on investors such as producer Brett Ratner and Endeavor partner Chris Donnelly, whose perks include never getting rejected at the door. In turn, Fiscella has found himself at the epicenter of Hollywood’s A-list circle, living the clichéd L.A. dream—he even rides a Ducati and surfs on the weekend. And yet, he won’t let just any boldface name into his bars.
Last October, Fiscella banned Britney Spears from Winston’s after she forced a bartender to trade Halloween costumes with her. “I didn’t want to profit from her being a f-cking train wreck,” he says. There’s also the bottom line to consider: “I want to build my business off the everyday Joe because celebrities come and go.”
I’m living proof that a neighborhood local can get into his bars (so long as I get there before 9 p.m.). But it’s hard not to notice that Fiscella has brought on the Alliance—a team of bullying promoters with a celebrity Rolodex—to host Wednesdays at Crown Bar. If these guys have a specialty, it’s excluding—no, humiliating—the everyday Joe in favor of celebs like Lindsay Lohan (who, speaking of train wrecks, reportedly fled the bar in tears after an alleged fight with DJ Samantha Ronson). Fiscella explains it like this: He’s got investors to pay back and a big room to fill. With the Alliance’s help, the place should attract the types of stars that entertainment publications write about. A mention of Crown Bar in Us Weekly is like sending a press release to the entire country.
Fiscella didn’t always wield such power. Growing up in Maryland, it was a grade-school bully who told him he was adopted; honesty has since become the keystone of Fiscella’s personality. In his 20s, he took a bartending job in New York to pay for classes at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. That led to co-owning Rebar and Suite 16, a hotel-style lounge that catered to the types of clubbers who like to read about their shenanigans in Page Six. It was also in New York where Fiscella befriended movie producer Beau Flynn, who encouraged him to move to L.A. and go into the bar business together.
Fiscella was successful, but he stood on the sidelines rather than bask in the media spotlight. Because he’s adopted, he tells me, he’s always felt like an outsider. It’s an outlook that serves him well. Says Huvane: “[Andy] always finds a way to get along with someone. Being adopted, you want to reach out to people. That helps him in establishing relationships.”
It’s now approaching midnight, and Fiscella has torn himself away from Crown Bar to check in on his other bars nearby. We’re in his black pickup truck headed down Fairfax Avenue, and he’s describing his bars as if they were films: “The Dime is like a very small independent movie. Winston’s is my mid-level movie. Crown Bar is our big studio movie.”
Fiscella quickly makes the rounds at the Dime before slipping into the corner booth. It’s the first time I’ve seen him calm in hours—he’s even put down his BlackBerry. In this new life, Fiscella could get past any velvet rope in town, but it’s suddenly clear he’s built his own playground because there’s nowhere else he’d rather be. He leans back and surveys the room: “I still f-cking love this place.”
Published in Metromix on May 28, 2008. Learn more about my work at Metromix.