They met while working a night at Bar-Tini nearly ten years ago, and went on to become one of the city’s most successful party-making pairs. This weekend, their rooftop institution FLY Sundays at the Monarch premieres its fifth season–so now is a good time for Thotyssey to get all retrospective-ish with Shawn Paul Mazur and Matthew Gagnon!
Thotyssey: Hello gentlemen, thanks so much for talking to us today. I know you’re busy planning the return of FLY Sundays at the Monarch. How have you both been otherwise?
Matthew Gagnon: Oh, you know: living the dream! Haha. It’s been a rollercoaster year, to be honest, with opening my restaurant last August up in Westchester–a labor of love to the fullest.
Shawn Paul Mazur: I’ve been keeping busy. Other than Super Size Queen Fridays every week, I also work full-time in an emergency room, saving up as much money as I can before I start Physician Assistant school at Pace in July.
You guys have been in the nightlife business for a minute now. Not many people can make a successful, long-lasting career in that world, let alone as a partnership. What’s your secret to staying together in business, and staying successful as promoters / producers in general?
MG: Well the “partnership” aspect has been fairly easy (I mean, we do bicker from time to time like true sisters), but that’s just it: we’ve been best friends for almost a decade now, so at the end of the day we trust each other’s intentions and always keep it real with one another.
SPM: The keyword you mentioned is “partnership.” Luckily, Matthew and I had a great friendship for years before we embarked on the nightlife business together. We both have an attitude of putting the party and the fun before ourselves. I have no problem bussing glasses during the party, helping delivery bottles and glassware if it makes it a better experience for the people who there to enjoy the night.
MG: Staying ‘relevant’ in this industry, for me, is sticking to what you know and doing it well. You’ve gotta know the product you’re offering, keep it consistent but not be afraid to embark on new ventures. It can be a tightrope walk as there’s SO MUCH to do, especially in NYC. The idea is to hopefully have more hits than misses, and provide a fun atmosphere where people can just forget about life’s BS for a bit.
Where are you two from, and what brought you into the city?
SPM: I’m from the “thriving metropolis” of Erie, PA. Growing up in a small, fairly conservative, rustbelt city, I always knew I was different (gay) and never felt like I could truly be myself there. I knew NYC was a place you could be anyone you wanted to be, and that was what drove me to want to move there. After my tour in Iraq with United States Army, I finished college and moved here directly after.
MG: I’m originally from the woods of New Hampshire. I went to school in Boston, lived in Los Angeles for four years, and then made my trek back east to New York City. I was running an oceanside restaurant in Malibu at 24 years-old and thought, “WTF am I doing!? I need to SING! I miss blunt people! And I miss real WEATHER!” (Yes, I am a weather geek.) So off to NYC I went.
I know you two met while bartending at the late Bar-Tini Ultra Lounge. Did you gel along right away?
MG: I mean, I thought we did, haha! Buuuut it turns out Shawn did NOT have a great impression of me when we first worked together. I think he says to this day, “I thought to myself, ‘WHO is this bitch’…??’” Truth is, I can be a real “dom top” behind the bar, and I had just gotten back from a summer of bartending in The Pines, where back then your bartending skills were judged with a stopwatch! So yeah, all business!
SPM: “Dom top!?” Okay, Rose!
So, I helped set up Bar-Tini and had been working there a couple weeks before Matthew started. We worked together his first night, a Friday night, and he came in directly from a summer on Fire Island–all business and minimal-to-no fun. I was like: “who is this bossy diva?” Over the next few weeks he taught me how to be a much more efficient bartender, minus the stopwatch, and I taught him how to have more fun. After that, the rest is history and we’ve been best of friends ever since.
Do you miss Bar-Tini? It’s maybe scary, the number of venues you must’ve seen come and go during your nightlife tenure.
MG: We talk about that ALL THE TIME! Lol. It feels like just yesterday when Shawn and I were the two sole slingers of drinks at the ‘Tini…long before Hell’s Kitchen had… what is it now? 101 gay bars? It is definitely wild to see the evolution (and sometimes dissolution) of venues around town–but to be honest, the same concept applies to running bars. Keep it consistent, know who you are and what your guests want,and keep evolving into a better You. If you pay too much attention to what everyone else is doing, you’ll stumble off your own path.
Matthew, you recorded music in 2015 under the name Mathieu Blue.
MG: Aw, I sure did! Recording my first original EP was truly a dream come true. I’ve been singing my whole life, but stepping into my artistry is where I felt like it all finally came together. There’s nothing like singing the songs you wrote, delivering YOUR message.
Will there be more music in the future?
MG: I’ve spent the last year and half opening [my restaurant] The Birch Collective. But I’m super excited to announce I have started working on new material, and plan on releasing a sophomore EP this coming winter. Stay tuuuuned.
And Shawn, are you musical as well?
SPM: Besides singing in choir and playing the trumpet in the high school band–that’s the extent of it.
When did you two decide to take it to the next level and produce your own events?
SPM: I bartended in NYC for a few years, and ended up meeting a lot of people that way. I had a 9-5 sales job that I ended up hating, and didn’t want to do anymore. A friend of mine at the time was hosting an underwear party on Fire Island, and asked if I wanted to host with him–because he knew a lot of people, and I knew a lot of people he didn’t, so together we would be a great team. At the end of the summer when Fire Island was over, we had another friend who knew someone that owned a bar in Meatpacking called Griffin. He asked if we wanted to start a Sunday party there, and that was how Griffin Sundays was born.
MG: I used to throw these wild parties with a close friend of mine (and roommate at the time) back in Santa Monica. Police would always shut us down! Don’t get too excited, it was more for noise than anything… maybe a beer funnel in the courtyard. Moral of the story: I’ve always enjoyed hosting and putting on an event.
After beginning my NYC nightlife journey as a bartender back in 2009, championing bars like Bar-Tini and Industry, and even being the general manager of Barracuda for several years, I’ve been able to get a solid handle on how people have fun and what that atmosphere really looks and feels like. There’s a sixth sense that kicks in to, where you can walk into a room / venue and say, “Okay this is good, that’s not so great, this can change, we can add this, let’s omit that.” The devil IS in the details (Shawn and I are both nuts about that fact).
I will say that being able to produce events in one of the greatest cities on Earth and call that “work” is something I haven’t lost any gratitude for. When you do what you love, there’s no such thing as “ugh, time to work.” On the contrary, it’s “Woohoo, time to FLY!”
You both were involved with Vodka Soda / Bottoms Up pretty early in that bar’s existence. What was that experience like?
SPM: I don’t know her.
MG: Shawn and I actually launched the venue for all intents and purposes, including the hiring and training of the staff. Our role at VSBU was pretty blurred, however, as it became clear the owners were looking more for managers rather than event producers. Our hands were continually tied in what we could actually do to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere for our crowd. Once the toxicity from above (one owner in particular) reached a fever pitch, we decided it was time to move on. I realize in situations like this there can be many stories based on revisionist history, but that’s what actually went down.
These days, your weekly Hardware affair “Super Size Queen Fridays” packs the house each week, featuring Mike Borowski DJing and queen Bootsie LeFaris being Bootsie. What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen go down there?
MG: Umm, people going down? Haha, kiddinggg.
SPM: Every week is a different batch of crazy there, which is why I feel it’s so much fun and packed every week. I feel like Bootise’s performance on TOP of the bar each week is always crazy, and a highlight of the night.
MG: Honestly though, SSQ Fridays has really taken on such a life of its own. It reminds me of this really fun pop party I used to go to in my early 20’s in West Hollywood, with people just living their LIVES. Borowski spins ALL the juicy throwbacks, and of course “fills in” the rest with some of today’s stuff. I think I am most proud of how unpretentious the room feels when you walk in. No one gives a DAMN–they’re having too much fun to judge anyone else and it’s contagious.
FLY Sundays, a rooftop day / early evening party at the Monarch Rooftop Lounge, is what you’re both best known for. You put great DJs on rotation–and there’s a fantastic view of the skyline, including the Empire State Building. How did this all fall into place?
MG: I always talk about FLY’s inception as a perfect (sun)storm. Shawn and I both reached a point where we were ready to move on from some old ventures; Shawn was still co-producing Griffin Sundays, and I had previously pulled out of co-producing the Sunday rooftop party, Summer Camp. Since the Bar-Tini days, we had always talked about doing a party together because that’s what had always made the most sense, but of course hindsight can be 20/20.
Shawn and I decided to put our undivided effort into creating a new weekly summer event where we could each bring our previous ‘Sunday Funday’ production experience to the playing field and watch whatever that would be come to life–and boy did she. The first Sunday of FLY was beyond our wild expectations. We just looked at each other with wide eyes, and I am pretty sure we each thought in tandem, “Soooo…what took us so long!?” Lol.
MG: Like any evil little sister, she has tried every chance she’s gotten. That’s why I keep cans of silly string hidden at FLY…trusty repellent!
SPM: Markus has always been nice and civil with me!
MG: Real talk: I am very proud of Markus and her endeavors. She’s one of the smartest and quickest bitches on the beat.
So, FLY Sundays returns for its fifth season to the Monarch on May 20th! Can you believe it’s been five years!?
MG: We CANNOT believe it. Time FLYs. We’re really honored to have a seasonal party hold the gravitas that she has over the years. Truly.
What do you have planned for this season?
MG: As always, we have a few tricks up our shorts that we’ll reveal throughout the season. We’ll feature some new talent on the Rooftop. And of course our FLY fam will return, boasting the infamous FLY Punch Bowl Knockouts, PW’s Cotton Candy, Spike Snow Cones and other goodies. Also, Monarch did a full-on aesthetic revamp, which I know our guests will be really excited about. Season 5 is looking CHIC FLY.
This weekend, the SPRAY party (and major benefit) that hits Fire Island and major benefit in August is first having a “preview event” of sorts at The DL on May 19th! The lineup of performers, DJs and hosts is sickening, and you two are gonna be part of it. How epic shall this be?
SPM: Very much looking forward to this event. Not only is the lineup of performers, DJ’s and host amazing… any time we can party and have fun while giving back to the community and anyone in need, I’m All Aboard!
Matthew Gagnon: It IS quite the lineup, and we’re super excited to be a part it! We’re even more excited that proceeds will go to some really great places, including the Ali Forney Center. And on a ROOFTOP? Duh, we’re THERE.
Will there be more FLOAT boat parties this summer?
MG: FLOAT was a LOT of fun, and honestly one of those memories I’ll think of forever. Who gets to throw parties on a party yacht and sail around Manhattan!? As fun as it was, the effort that went into the actual logistics of the event proved to be super intense. You’d be amazed how hard it is to dock anywhere north of, well, the South Street Seaport! Who knows, never say never about the future.
Anything else you wanna plug?
MG: Markus’ back door?
SPM: Markus’ mouth.
Final question: if Mazur & Gagnon had to form a superhero or supervillain duo, what would the group be called?
MG: The FLYtastic Two!
Shawn Paul Mazur and Matthew Gagnon host FLY Sundays weekly at the Monarch (3-11pm), and Super Size Queen Fridays at Hardware (11pm). Follow them on Facebook and Instagram, and subscribe to FLY’s newsletter.