The Back Side of All-Star Weekend

Not all All-Star weekend parties are created equal.

It was a cold Friday night in deep Queens and what had been billed as the party destination for All-Star weekend was mostly empty. Club goers awaited to pass through security at the entrance to The Amazura Club, which was adorned with a multicolored lion’s head. Through the doors, one could see an empty dance floor, with some human-sized cages in the middle of it. A stage lay beyond that, filled with tables and couches.

The fliers promised that The Amazura would become, for one night only, NYC’s ultimate gentleman’s club. The evening was also billed as Nicki Minaj’s “homecoming” to Jamaica, the residential neighborhood she grew up in. On top of that, it was declared that Kevin Hart would co-host the event along with NBA star LaMarcus Aldridge. At first blush, this all seemed a little far-fetched. But the promoter promised that the stars were actually going to attend, and that it really was going to be the marquee party of All-Star weekend. The idea that these stars would actually travel all the way out to deep Queens on one of the biggest party nights of the year, was hard to believe. From the four-thousand dollar VIP tickets, to the insanely priced bottle service and hookahs, this truly reeked of a scam. At midnight, the venue was still not even close to capacity.

By 12:30, dancers had started populating the cages that had been placed on the dance floor, and various stripper poles were wheeled out. The women began dancing and the crowd began tossing bills their way as the DJ kept desperately repeating “Who’s ready for Kevin Hart and Nicki Minaj!”. The crowd somewhat lackadaisically roared its approval. At a complimentary Inca Kola stand, a middle-aged man handing out the soda loosened his necktie and looked nervous as a stripper climbed on top of a cage and then began to shake her backside in his direction. The floor had begun to crowd a little towards the stage, as the VIP’s began to sit down at their bottle service tables elevated above the general admission audience.

“Kevin Hart is in the house!” The DJ screamed out as the stage became immeasurably more crowded, to the point where the people on the dance floor were just watching another party happen on the stage. Everyone craned their neck to see if Kevin Hart, one of the most bankable actors in Hollywood, had truly arrived in Jamaica, Queens at 1 AM. Unfortunately, Mr. Hart’s stature doesn’t quite lend itself to standing out in a crowd, and the audience had to wait for the crowd to eventually part and reveal the diminutive star, the supposed co-host for the evening. Hart waved, smiled, and then turned towards the back entrance he had come in through. He was not seen again.

The stage was now overloaded with people, which wasn’t helped by a group of huge men who now made their way from where Hart had exited, slowly pushing their way to the front. Hidden by their girth, a small woman in a mink coat strode forward. Nicki Minaj had actually arrived. Everything was true. And not only that, but her new boyfriend, the rapper Meek Mill, was at her side. Nicki walked to the front, waved at the 100 or so people who had whipped out their phones, and began to catwalk on the a small runway, taking selfies with the audience. They were, in a way, actually partying with Nicki. Meek Mill hopped across the stage, all energy, dapping and slapping everyone in the audience – for a few brief moments, this really did seem like the promised party of the night. But after a quarter of an hour, it was time for Minaj to take her leave, as her security detail kept trying to move her out of the crowd and back towards the exit. The stage was now overflowing with partiers and strippers, and Minaj kept making to leave, then going for one last trip through the audience.

Finally, she was ushered away, and the stage descended into chaos. An aggressive partier hounded Mill, who was fresh off a fight earlier in the evening with Rick Ross, until shoving made for punching, and then everyone got maced by an unseen assailant. The lights went on in the venue, revealing a space that never ever got full enough to justify the outrageous sums the celebrities were paid for their momentary appearances.

Bottles of Ciroc and alcohol were abandoned where they sat on the stage, eventually being distributed to the remaining partiers below. They drank, appreciatively, and headed out to the icy Jamaica night.

Photos by Jonah Bliss