By Ray Stern
By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
There's an open bottle of Veuve Clicquot next to us as we sip champs to the tune of the Shakira and Alejandro Sanz duet "La Tortura," deep in the bowels of Phase 54 (www.phase54.com), this dope spot out near I-10 and Elliot Road that's blowin' up like George Clooney's waistline in Syriana. Right now, the Michelle Rodriguez of the PHX and I are gettin' our bubbles on at the bar in the VIP section of da club, a chill space accented with onyx and cherry hardwood, and featuring a granite Jacuzzi that looks like someone swiped it from Hef's mansion in Bel Air. Sadly, there are no fly females in wet tees bouncing around in their bikini underwear, unless you count the ones in Jett's head.
"I'm gonna be climbin' in there with some fine bitches before the night ends, Kreme," the Jettster informs me, her eyes glazed over as some perved-out fantasy unfolds in her cerebellum. "Just you watch."
"As long as I don't have to clean the thing out afterwards," I snark, guzzling a bit more VC. "But hey, maybe the water gets hot enough to kill off the bacteria."
According to Phase 54 owner Jon Harris, the Jacuzzi has been there for a while, part of the many amenities that accompany his Phase Four recording studios, a swank, hidden-away musical laboratory that's played host to clients such as Vince Neil, DMX, Patti LaBelle, LeAnn Rimes, Sheryl Crow, Megadeth, and even the Insane Clown Posse, though I'm doing my Christian best to forgive Harris for the ICP. One thing that makes up for it: the news that Phase Four supposedly helped produce a track off Jamie Foxx's debut album, Unpredictable.
Phase Four's been around for 15 years, a well-kept secret to all but those in the music biz, seeing that Harris' hidden fortress of aural delights has won plaudits from industry rags, and lays claim to being one of the 25 best studios in the world. Harris built the whole thing with the help of business partners and his family, including the impressive Studio A, with its walnut paneling and its massive Solid State Logic console, used for audio mixing.
"Everybody always asks why people want to record here," states the hip, affable Harris, a Cali native who reminds me a little of comic Pauly Shore. "It's like finding that really nice Italian restaurant where the food is incredible, and the atmosphere is unbelievable. But it's family owned and built, and they put a whole lot of love into it. It's not just a product, it's who they are. That's why people come here. We create an environment that creates beautiful music, and people feel it."
Part of creating that environment in Phase Four are elements that make the studio feel like a home, such as a full kitchen, a lounge area, and so on. All of this is downstairs, near the actual studios, not far from the newly designed VIP room. Upstairs is a compact bar, and a wall of framed gold records. And outside is a huge, new deck, with a long bar, heat lamps and a big dance area, all overlooking trees strung with blue lights. These blue lights are the first signs of life when you're driving through a commercial area that's deserted at night. The second is the thump of hip-hop blasting, which Harris can crank louder than most, considering the lack of residential real estate nearby.
Surprisingly, there's nothing forlorn about the joint, which is usually bumpin' from about 11 p.m. on, like some weird reverse Bermuda Triangle where a patch of Scottsdale chic pops up out of nowhere when the time's ripe. Essentially, the outside deck and inside smaller bar serve as Phase 54, the club. Only the chillest of playas and playettes are allowed to descend to Phase Four, the studio, and through a long hallway to the VIP room in which the Jettster and I are currently conversatin' with Harris after he's given us the grand tour.
"So why'd you decide to add on the club to the studio, Big Daddy?" queries the J-unit.
"To be honest, a lot of people wanted to come here and hang out with the recording artists, even before we had a bar," says Harris. "So I figured, 'Hey this seems like a cool fit, why don't I just put this together?' Folks seem to like it. This month is Phase 54's one-year anniversary."
"But do the celebs really want to party with the hoi polloi?" I wonder.
"The recording artists who come through here really will just walk through the club and hang out," claims Harris. "It's a positive vibe. Like when Vince Neil was here recently, he would be down in the lounge area, and then he'd come up with his wife for a little while and talk with people. We've got pics of him up on the Web site."
"Too bad there are no celebs here tonight," sighs the J-girl.
"Whaddayamean?" I spout. "I ain't exactly chopped liver, you know."
"Yeah, Kreme, but most people have already seen the Goodyear blimp," she jibes.
We decide to explore the scene upstairs, so we leave Harris talkin' to two fine squalies and perambulate over to a curved staircase so narrow that this 300-pound Ali G felt like Lil' Kim must feel behind bars -- ready to bust out! Out on the deck, the party's pumpin' with DJ Fresko droppin' everything from D4L's "Laffy Taffy" and Nina Sky's "Move Your Body" to Trina's "Da Baddest Bitch" and Notorious B.I.G.'s "Going Back to Cali." P-town's switch-hittin' Mariah Carey almost immediately spies this boy she'd like to make her toy, a handsome young gent by the name of Clay Slim, banker by day, aspiring comedian and emcee by night.
"Everyone tells me I've got enough charisma to go into acting," confides Clay, who's imbibing a little Courvoisier on the rocks. "But you know what? I'm in Arizona, and I don't think I'll leave. I'll probably die here."
"No ambition to head west to La-La Land?" I ask.
"I don't think so," he replies. "I'm like those people who say they're from New York or Chicago, except I'm from Phoenix."
"So where have you performed around town?" inquires Jett, getting all kittenish on him.
"Spots like Jackson's on 3rd, CBNC, Hollywood Alley," Clay responds. "I've done joints out of town, too. Like over at the Laugh Factory in L.A. I kinda bombed, but hey, it was practice. I'll be performing here, actually, New Year's Eve. And you have got to come," he insists, looking deep into the Jettster's peepers.
"Will you write some rhymes for me?" she asks, batting her eyes.
"Oh, hell yeah," he promises, cozying up next to her.
"I'm way ahead of you, playboy," I tell him. "In fact, I penned this ditty just the other day: 'There once was a ho from Ahwatukee, whose carpet smelled like fresh . . .'"
"Hush up, Kreme!" cries the J-unit before I can get any farther in my poetry. "You better get me another drink right now before I turn Tina on your Ike Turner ass."
I know when I'm not wanted, so I ease over to the bar and order up a Ketel One with Red Bull for me and a Grand Marnier for the Jettster. That's when I bump into this tall, sweet honey Michelle who relates that she's a dancer at the Vegas-style Penthouse Club in Phoenix.
"I love that place," I tell this magnificent belle Michelle. "We did a column on it back in June. Never thought I'd get Jett outta there."
"I remember that article!" asserts the dime-piece dollar-ballerina. "But you came on my night off. I was so bummed that I wasn't working that night. And you spoke to my sweetheart, who goes by Hollywood Babylon. She's so hot."
"So I'm curious, what do you ladies do when it's an unusually slow night?" I inquire.
"We usually give each other lap dances," she says, smiling coyly. "Sometimes it's just for kicks. Other times, you could call it foreplay."
Michelle's in the house tonight with some friends and her fiancé Ricky, a handsome dude in a Hawaiian-style shirt that sports the likeness of Bettie Page. Ol' Ricky is practically the luckiest dude on the planet, and doesn't mind it when his lady gets frisky with other femmes. In fact, prior to the evening's close, Michelle will be nuzzling this other hottie Candie after they both do some Coyote Ugly-style booty-shakin' atop the bar.
I excuse myself so I can transport Jett's drink to the queen herself, who I find is now conversing with this attractive couple Michelle (yes, another one) and Brad. They're explaining how they found romance in the unlikeliest of places, on MySpace.com, to be precise.
"Well, my ex-boyfriend and I were talking about getting back together, but then one day I found this girl in his bed," explains Michelle. "Later I was on MySpace checking out my ex's profile, when I saw that girl's picture. So I was checking out her profile, and then I saw Brad's picture on hers, and we started talking online."
"Basically, my friend slept with her boyfriend," says studly Brad, trying to make the story clearer.
"Does this happen often, chicks e-mailing you on MySpace?" Jett asks Brad.
"Sure, sometimes you get random messages," explains Brad. "I was skeptical of the whole MySpace thing at first, but once you start, you can't stop."
"Hmmm," the light bulb goes on over Jett's noggin. "Kreme, I think we need to get one of those MySpace pages for Inferno, so I can hook up, er, so we -- yeah, we can make contacts."
"Jett, you already make more contacts than a flat-backer at the Moonlight Bunny Ranch," I crack. "If you make any more 'contacts,' I'll have to get you a tee shirt with the golden arches on it."
"Like Mickey D's? Why's that?" she asks.
"You know," I snort. "So beneath 'em, it can read, 'Over one billion served.'"