Everything Must Be Perfect
Inside the business of Dallas glitz.
It was Saturday night in Dallas, and beneath the towering crystal chandeliers at the W hotel bar in Victory Park, personal concierge Gary Jackson was working three smartphones and two groups of clients on opposite sides of the city. Forty-four-year-old Jackson—known around town simply by his surname—gets you past the velvet rope. Having amassed a large Rolodex of contacts from his work as an interior designer and a corporate concierge at the Barneys New York in Dallas, he recently started a subscription service called Fluent that brokers relationships for its clients, which is a fancy way of saying it buys entrée—to everything from the best restaurants to VIP tables at of-the-moment clubs. Members pay anywhere from $2,500 to $10,000 annually for Jackson’s services. The more exclusive subscription (six have been sold) basically gets you Jackson—on call, all the time.
“Everybody in Dallas wants to be somebody,” the New Jersey native said, not looking up from his BlackBerry. “I make that happen.”
While such services have a history in New York, they’re a new and seemingly well-suited development in Dallas—an instant gratification city if ever there was one. Jackson says his clients appreciate someone else doing all the work.
The work, in this case, includes hiring paparazzi and security details, just for fun, as Jackson did for a socialite in early November. He recently arranged a Rolls-Royce to chauffeur one young couple to dinner at the impossible-to-get-into Lucia and sent another from Fort Worth to Dallas by helicopter.
Across the city, Jackson’s first group of the night, a bachelor party, was currently enjoying an LSU game at the bro-ish Primebar, in Uptown. They would later head to the VIP area of a nearby club called Glass, a thumping rooftop scene with cabanas and shallow pools.
Meanwhile, at the Victory Park W, Jackson was preparing for his second group of the night. One of his subscribers, Danyel Surrency, a Dallas-based medical sales executive with an expense account, wanted to host fourteen of her co-workers visiting from around the country for a conference. Her directions were simple, Jackson said. She wanted to go to a hot new restaurant with a lot of energy that could seat a large party. Jackson had secured the best table at the W’s four-day-old Cook Hall—“You want to be seen, but you have to be able to talk”—and the best-looking waiter. “It matters,” he said with a shrug. “Everything has to be perfect.”
Jackson peered through his handmade Tom Davies frames, counted the fourteen seats, and fussed with a plate-fork-wineglass configuration as the restaurant’s manager, James Cobb, stood beside him. The restaurant was filled with fashion world scenesters, business execs, and high-flying Mavericks fans. Looking at one of his phones, Jackson suddenly stood up straight. “They’re here,” he said.
He power walked to the hotel entrance and stood at rapt attention before the hotel’s fountain, with its chrome W. As the minutes passed, he kept glancing at his phone. “I usually like to arrange my client’s transportation so I can control when they arrive. This job is all about control.”
When the two minivan taxis finally pulled up with Surrency’s guests, Jackson exhaled, smoothed his jacket, and smiled. “My name is Jackson, and I’ll be taking care of you tonight,” he said, helping the women—professionals in their twenties and early thirties wearing short, bright dresses and stilettos—out of the car. When the men exited the second cab, Jackson stuck out his hand and took a half bow.
The group, some of whom were holding plastic cups, looked up at the all-white hotel. Passing through the glass doors, Andre Debose, in town from Washington, D.C., let out a low whistle and grinned. He turned to Tiffany Flugence, a single gal from San Antonio. This was their first time at the W. “This is pretty sweet,” he said.
Debose, Flugence, and the rest of the party followed Jackson toward the restaurant, popping their shoulders to the pulsing lobby music and gazing up at the chandeliers. When they reached the entrance to the restaurant, the manager took a bow and said, “Welcome to Cook Hall,” just as Jackson had requested. Shortly after, the house’s Prohibition-era cocktails—vodka, applejack, and orange bitters—rolled out. “This is perfect,” Flugence said to Surrency as she took a sip. That statement, Surrency responded, made her membership completely worth it. Jackson, however, wasn’t around to hear the praise. By that time, he was across town, lifting the velvet ropes at the group’s next stop.