Getting the most elite experience in Las Vegas usually takes one simple thing: money. Another option is to know somebody like Joe Vargas, a nightlife and entertainment expert based in the bustling City of Lights who acts primarily as a concierge for the elite in Las Vegas. He’s hosted and partied with celebrities that include Mark Cuban, Mike Tyson, Johnny Depp and Charlie Sheen.
Joe Vargas is the definition of a hustler. Apart from running a nightlife consulting firm, he’s also a certified life coach, a published author and a prolific blogger; his site KingofNightClubs.com has generated millions of views to date.
Joe is basically a man that can get most anything done in Vegas — legally, of course. His business is so lucrative that he once received $45,000 in poker chips for simply hosting a high profile client — he also once held a 3 day $1 million bachelor party for a client. After having American Express as one of his clients, he’s now the go-to guy when carriers of the Coveted Centurion Card aka the Black Card arrive to Vegas looking for a good time.
We were able to catch up with Joe Vargas over email, where we discussed his journey in the nightlife business, how he built a quality network, and how to survive in Las Vegas.
How did you get into the nightlife business?
“I grew up in Las Vegas and was lucky enough to become the training officer for the Naval Reserves while in the United States Navy. I was stationed on Nellis Air Force base here in Las Vegas after serving five years on a ship in San Diego (Vegas was my shore duty). I had a lot of downtime because the reservists would only come in one weekend a month. The rest of the month was personal training, working out and going home early. As weird as it sounds, I had an itch to start an entertainment radio show. I started researching how to have my own show, and before I knew it, I was hosting my own entertainment radio show on AM radio in 2005.
Our guests varied from people in the Las Vegas nightlife industry to the entertainment side. After meeting these various people and catching an interest in their stories and work, I asked around to my industry friends how to go about throwing events at the clubs and tap into that industry. To make a long story short, in early 2005, I threw my first nightclub event at Empire Ballroom, which happened to be a charity event for the Make-A-Wish foundation (raised over $3,000 and sent a kid with cancer to see the Lakers play) on a night they were normally closed, and I packed the place. Empire Ballroom was a pretty large venue at the time with two stories. It was the best independent event people had seen in a while and I was the new guy so the buzz started. From there the madness began.”
Many people try to make it in Vegas as a key player in the nightlife scene. What separates you from everyone else?
“First of all, I never give up fighting the good fight and I’m a native of Las Vegas. I haven’t always succeeded in things I’ve done, and if I did succeed, for personal reasons I would let the project go or sell it, but that’s what business is about. Like they say on ‘Shark Tank,’ ‘Know when to walk away.’ Overall, Vegas is the mecca for fast money and scam artists. People come here with an idea or try to do what’s being done better and dip their honey stick into the pot.
I’m honest (sometimes too honest) with a strong opinion, and people listen to me and value my opinions whether they like it or not. It took many years to build that trust.
The nightlife industry is a melting pot (small pot compared to the rest of the world) of opportunists and people looking to make a quick buck and be ‘cool.’ I was thinking small and at one point thinking the same way, at which point I then found myself in a hamster wheel (going around in circles).
It finally hit me a few years ago that there’s so much more to life than meeting people everyone else meets that serve no value in my life. For that reason, I really do wish I could un-meet a lot of these people I met over the years during my party days that served no purpose in my life besides bringing me negativity and drama. You go through this phase of meeting all the wrong people during your party days. It comes with the territory in the nightlife scene. It’s a world where everyone is trying to discredit, devalue and step on each other. We live, we learn.
In order to take the next step in life, I needed to be someone people looked up to and wanted to be, a good businessman with values and someone that can be trusted. I have accomplished that, which is one of the many reasons why I can sit here today, working for myself, owning a few businesses and still standing strong. I’ve worked very hard and earned it all.”
Being successful in your industry requires really good networking and people skills. What’s your secret?
“Knowing who’s relevant to your life and goals, who to build a relationship with and treating them with respect and building those relationships. Networking is great if you do it with the right people that are relevant to what your goals are. One person that’s important to someone else may not be important or relevant to me because of my goals. Some people mistake the idea that you must meet everyone. One, you can’t meet ‘everyone’ (it’s a big world), and second, you’re going to waste a lot of time and energy thinking this way. I did at one point. There’s a saying out there by someone that says, ‘Network till you no longer have to introduce yourself.’ Networking in general is always great, but let’s just say I don’t have to go out of my way to network or introduce myself anymore. I have become someone that people want to meet.”
From all the successful people you’ve met in the nightlife industry who frequent Vegas, what are the biggest commonalities they have that make them successful?
“From a collection of data over the years, I’d say being thick-skinned, not allowing emotions to get in the way during decision-making time, making the right decisions with a little bit of luck and being persistent. Who you decide to surround yourself with makes a huge impact too. A lot of the successful people I know are all awkward in their own way. They push things to the limit and they are risk-takers, not forgetting to mention they love to party. I can’t go without saying most of them also have that ‘I’m a boss and IDGAF’ attitude. They’re leaders among their peers and the decision-makers in most situations.”
Tell us your craziest Vegas story, either involving you or a client.
“That’s a tough one without getting myself in trouble. One of the craziest would have to be when a celebrity client had a bachelor party and requested a ‘show’ in their hotel room. Doesn’t sound too crazy, does it? I had to make a few phone calls to people with that sort of license that would provide this type of service, and well, let’s just say it involved three ‘little people’ (women): one white, one black and one Asian. And a live octopus. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.”
The nightlife scene is perhaps one of the most superficial industries. Tell us some of the harshest lessons you’ve had to learn as you’ve progressed.
“Everyone is out for themselves and it’s really competitive. You have to be cut-throat and make harsh decisions at times. You’re dealing with a lot of ego amongst your peers. You’re naturally trained to be OK with telling people to go f*ck themselves because that’s what a lot of people in this industry relate to and how they communicate with another. It’s common language in this industry unfortunately. It’s worse than being a sailor. In a sense, people are more aggressive, hardheaded and live with a sense of entitlement for usually no reason at all besides they simply work in the nightlife and wear a suit.
It’s not a mentally and, sometimes, physically healthy industry to be in. You learn to be thick-skinned and numb to a lot of things, which I find sad in a way. Everything is about image, possessions and reputation. One of the hardest things I personally deal with when I’m heavily involved in the nightlife scene is being the more relaxed version of me. It takes a lot of discipline especially when you’re in the spotlight and a public figure such as I. Dealing with all I said above somewhat changes you for a moment until you take a step back and slow down.
The nightlife industry teaches you self control and patience, but being diagnosed with ADD and anxiety makes it quite a challenge at times. Staying grounded and being a good person in a highly populated industry with assholes is a strange balance and game to play. I have two amazing and beautiful children that really help me stay balanced.”
Lastly, tell us some of your biggest “Vegas hacks.”
“My top three would be:
1. Get drunk for cheap: Vegas offers drinks for free. Sit in front of a slot machine, put in $20 and play nickels or a quarter with a friend and chat it up to kill time and play single bets. When the waitress comes around, order a drink and a shot. When she comes back around, you’re still there, up or down a couple bucks, and you get another round of the same thing, repeat.
2. Room upgrades: Slip the hotel receptionist $20 when handing over your credit card and ask if any upgrades are available. They usually are.
3. Save money and time: Contact me, and for a fee, I may be the guy taking care of you on your next trip to Vegas or anywhere in the world for that matter. I have been blessed to have won many awards over the years and American Express Black Card is a client of mine and trusts me to take care of their card members in Vegas and around the world, if that says anything.”
Joe has a number of projects going on right now including @Affection, a novelty Twitter account he runs that also sells apparel, along with his travel company InstaVegas.com and his book “Common Sense Made Common: 21 Common Sense Tips For Relationships“.
He can be reached at [email protected]