The boys have outdoor tea dances in the Pines, but for years, lesbians lacked a regular party to while away a lazy summer afternoon. For the past five years, Maggie Collier, the beauty and brains behind Maggie C Events, has delivered Stiletto—the upscale and stylish seasonal lounge party—to New York’s gay women. As Maggie gears up for her sixth season as Stiletto Sundays’ producer, she reveals that it’s occasionally been a rocky road from new-in-town promoter to one of the city’s top nightlife architects. Luckily, her story has a happy ending.
The idea for Stiletto came about when Maggie moved from Los Angeles to New York a few years ago, and found herself frustrated with “the lack of nightlife and events for women.” As a singer with a large circle of friends in the professional realm, Maggie saw an opportunity to create a networking scene for lesbian, gay and transgender women through a nightlife event. There was just one obstacle: Maggie had no idea how to produce an event, so she pressured her pals into getting something started. Unfortunately, their day jobs took up most of their time, leaving only one person to handle the task: Maggie.
“It was clear I was the absolute worst option in this sense!” Maggie says. “The embarrassment of a potential flop threatened to leave me flat on my face and hiding under a rock. [But] I wanted this for my community and for myself, I wanted for the amazing women around me to have more avenues to network and socialize and feel the power that they all deserved.”
She started small, guerilla marketing-style, creating buzz that soon spread. To her surprise, she discovered a knack for social networking. Using Myspace—no, Facebook didn’t exist quite yet—she made connections with hundreds of potential partygoers. “Online networking was profoundly exciting to me in a way that was quickly opening up my understanding of business that I was so sure I lacked. This motivation just set me off.”
At the same time, Maggie had an ulterior motive—one she didn’t tell anybody. It seems Maggie was looking for a “fairytale love,” the perfect mate. “I thought, if I couldn't find her, I'd have to create ways for her to easily find me! Knowing that nightclubs are the most likely place to meet women, I'd have to somehow turn into a nightlife detective of sorts.”
Fearlessly, she pitched her networking night to club after club until one said yes. The event, which became Eden (and then Crème de la Femme), was a dues-paying experience. Soon she was searching for a new venue. “I gave myself a time limit: Two weeks, or I would throw in the towel. One week and six days later, I signed contracts for my new venue. And three weeks after that, I launched my first event there with more than 500 women in attendance. The success only grew and I launched more weekly events, like Stiletto Sundays.”
Producing Stiletto—the weekly seasonal party as well as Stiletto Pride, the annual women’s Pride event—takes serious planning. “Fine tuning the balance of producing each event while simultaneously playing host has definitely proven to be the biggest challenge for me, mentally and physically. You want to produce the perfect event and create a product that the patrons expect—which requires an intense, fast paced, multi-tasking marathon for me as the producer during the event,” Maggie explains. Stiletto Pride, which last year featured Cyndi Lauper, regularly boasts an attendance of more than 2,000 guests. Months of prep go into Stiletto Pride, as Maggie explains, “I usually begin the planning process for Pride at least five months out, and continue with post-production a solid month or two following the event.”
For Maggie, creating Stiletto was about much more than an opportunity to party. Maggie prides herself on catering to a wonderfully diverse crowd of women from all walks of life. Stiletto is a “melting pot” party, as she likes to describe it. Maggie muses, “It's remarkable, kind of…that the number one thing you can count on is that Stiletto appeals to women of all ages, races, butch, futch, femme, bi, straight, from college students to professors, lawyers, politicians. And what always surprises me is the amazing balance of single women and women in a relationship who attend.”
We all know the old stereotype; once lesbians hook up, they stop going out. Not true at Stiletto. While single guests will indeed find a bevy of lovely ladies to behold, Stiletto has a relaxed community vibe which is appealing to couples. Less “bar scene” than “social scene,” its reasonable hours (it opens at 4pm) and outdoor setting allows its patrons to enjoy time with friends in both the afternoon and evening. “Instead of meeting your future wife at Stiletto, and disappearing from the scene for several years, most couples come back together each week joined by other couples and groups of friends. It's a social club and not a nightclub, after all,” says Maggie.
When asked what sets Stiletto apart from other women’s parties, she says it’s the people who attend: “The women who continue to frequent Stiletto season after season, who look forward to Sundays where they can stretch out on a nautical-inspired, cushioned lounge chair with a group of a dozen or so friends catching up over buckets of beer and pitchers of summer cocktails, discussing everything from politics to mindless lesbian gossip. No one else’s opinion of Stiletto's distinction is more accurate than theirs.” She adds, “I created Stiletto, yes, but it's their party. They set it apart.”
Be sure to check out Stiletto Sundays starting April 28. Like always, Stiletto will have incredible DJs, drink specials, buckets of beer and much more. You can even order food from the all-day menu and outdoor grill. This year, Stiletto will be celebrating its fifth anniversary in mid-June, and it is guaranteed to be a party to remember. Stiletto Pride will be held this year at the same venue as its weekly events, the beautiful Maritime Hotel Cabanas in Chelsea. (Never fear, the traditional dunk tanks will be set up in the North Cabana.) It’s the perfect way to enjoy the warming temps and dip your foot into the approaching summer.
And what about Maggie’s secret quest? “Just ask my soon-to-be wife, [DJ] Brynn [Taylor]. We met at Stiletto over four years ago when I first hired her to DJ,” but, Maggie confesses, she was too busy managing events to realize her true feelings. What began as business collaboration turned into a friendship, and before they knew it, blossomed into love. This June, they will be tying the knot. “Fairytales do indeed come true,” adds Maggie.