Event producer extraordinaire Jake Resnicow is having a very busy June. Not only is he on the way to Vienna for this weekend’s final Life Ball, he’s the man behind some of the most ambitious and exciting World Pride events happening in NY later this month. We sat down with the current King of New York Nightlife to find out how he went from a potential career in politics to planning the party of the decade.
Tell me a little bit about your background.
I grew up right outside of Boston, Massachusetts in Newton. It was a nice quiet neighborhood. My dad was a big part of my life and I ended up going to school in DC at Georgetown thinking I was going to go change the world in government. I worked for Ted Kennedy on the hill. Those were the days of watching The West Wing and being like, oh my god I want to be the Chief of Staff for the President. But the more you learn about politics, the less you want to be involved. I had a bad experience and realized it wasn’t the right job for me. I actually lost my father when I was younger and it made me rethink things.
How did you switch gears?
I was consulting and going to companies and helping people fix issues. One of my clients was Johnson & Johnson in New Jersey. We were trying to figure out how to transform the whole HR department. Boring stuff, but it paid the bills. Entertainment had been in my blood. At 16 I had my own DJ business and was emceeing weddings and bar mitzvahs. My cousins would be the dancers and we would go and do the whole thing. It was a whole shtick.
I took a break from consulting, went to Spain, and experienced the nightlife and the glamour of it all. For me going out in New York at night was a dark room, dark lights, and not theatrical. Going to Spain and seeing all the theatrics was magical. My very first event here was on Governors Island in 2010 with [event producer] Josh Wood. We put 4,000 people on Governors Island with fireworks and it was something special. It was like a Broadway show. We brought on Broadway productions, airlifts, ballerinas. We did the very first concert on Governors Island and ever since then everyone from Avicii to you name it has done shows there. Seeing people like Josh and [promoter] Rob Fernandez being so successful in their field was very appealing to me.
What did you do next?
After that event my whole passion was making everything special and unique. You don’t just show up to a club and turn the lights on. My next event we went to Universal Studios and a did a whole festival there. From there we took over a water park in Vegas. And that transformed into my philanthropic side. How do we do this in a way that’s meaningful? That’s not just a party and not just dancing — how do we give back and do more? That’s how I got looped into Life Ball.
I started to go as a guest and sat next to Rigo Lora on the airplane when Dsquared2 hosted the show. He looked at me and said, “Jake this plane is boring. How do we make this more fun?” He told Amanda Lepore to take her top off and the Dsquared2 models to take their tops off, let’s make this a big party. I was so mesmerized. I remember Kesha was on that plane. It was so wild because you go from a party and celebration to truly connecting with these people. That’s when I started making these connections.
What’s your exact role at Life Ball?
The past three years I produced the main floor Light Ball. So at the ceremony when you go inside the big City Hall, that main floor is my production. I’m bringing in all the talent, entertainment, fashion. This year we are bringing a touch of everything. It’s going to bring a taste of New York City to Vienna and I’m really excited. The ceremony is really touching and then you go into the City Hall and celebrate. Not only are we raising millions of dollars but we are the only event in the world where everyone is doing it for free. You could never pull this off in the U.S. The fact that Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Naomi Campbell, and Bill Clinton are going there [in the past] and none of them are getting paid is incredible.
American performers famously travel to Life Ball together on one plane. What is it like?
There’s something really magical about everyone coming together on the same level. We’re all together on that plane and you all realize that you’re donating your time for free and you’re all putting this on. You connect with people in such a meaningful way. Whether it’s Patti LaBelle coming and singing to the airplane with one of our DJ’s playing live drums, it becomes this community event and you forge relationships unlike any others. I talked to Paula Abdul on one of the planes and we really connected. You get to know them better and they get to know us better.
Tell me about your NYC Pride events this year.
One of our two big events is we’re taking over Pier 17’s brand new rooftop bar on Saturday, June 29. We have a really diverse lineup such as Conchita Wurst, and Ava Max with DJs Dan Slater and Phil Romano. For both the events, 100% of the fees are going to LGBTQ charities. I’m not taking any producer or production fee, I am giving it all to charity. Saturday night we are going all out. We are taking over the Javits Center.
It is truly going to be spectacular. First of all, it will be the largest pride event that we have ever seen in the United States — maybe in the world — at this caliber. I have taken it upon myself. It is a union venue, it is going to be incredibly expensive and very risky. But someone needed to create an event for our community to come together. All of these events are capped out at a certain number of people and everyone is scattered. This is World Pride — the World Cup of Prides. This is the 50th anniversary of Stonewall and four million people are coming to New York. Normally it’s two million. I don’t even know where people are going to stay. We need to do something over-the-top. So I sat down and said how can we bring all elements of pride in New York City together in a way that’s legendary, iconic, historic and raises a ton of money?
What’s the plan?
We are going to do what Life Ball does and go to these artists and say, “Work with me.” How can we not be excited about Cyndi Lauper performing? She is one of the most iconic stars who has supported our community from the very beginning. She’s going to perform some of remixes of her greatest hits and some of her new stuff. It’s going to be an incredible show and she’s so psyched to do it. What’s amazing is she’s going to do a select number of meet and greets, every dollar from those meet and greets is going to go to charity.
We’ll have multiple DJ’s and are also producing an incredible Stonewall tribute video. It’s amazing the celebrities that have signed on to do this. Dolly Parton, Miley Cyrus, Tom Hanks — so many stars all recorded videos that we are going to montage together in such a beautiful way. Everyone wanted to be a part of the event. [Click HERE for details on all the Pride events Resnicow has his hand in this month.]
What project do you want to do next?
There are always more opportunities. Javits just felt like perfect timing with World Pride. I want to travel the world and see where we can do more, add more color into it. I’m open to any and all opportunities — I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love to do it. I want to be able to put the 110% in to make it exciting and interesting. I’d love to be able to do more philanthropic events and get more involved. I love going into a blank canvas and thinking how can we bring this to life.
What’s your philosophy or motto?
Family’s always first. Always, always, always love what you do, be passionate about what you do and do it with candor, dignity and truth. Live your truth and be who you are. I hear stories of people from the Stonewall generation, even people living in the Midwest outside of our New York bubble saying, “I can’t believe I can come to your event and be myself.” We still have a ways to go and that’s what Stonewall is all about. So many people are coming to this event at Javits because they can’t express themselves back home. People from over 100 countries have bought tickets to the event. Some of these Middle Eastern countries where their life could be in jeopardy for being out and then they get to come and celebrate who they are and be themselves. That’s why I love what I do.