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The Smirnoff Ten - Cities Shaken, Not Stirred

Author: Patrick Lewis
Thursday, 20 December 2007
They’re called The Smirnoff Ten. Their mission, should they choose to accept, is to traverse the globe, picking the hot spots for partying, and relaying it to us in the name of science (if by science you mean fun). 3D’s Patrick Lewis went gonzo for a few days, joined the posse and remembers nothing. Except this.

Being the pool boy at the Playboy Mansion would have to be up there. So would test driving Ferraris while swapping witty one-liners with Jeremy Clarkson. Also on the list of the absolute best jobs in the world would be travelling to every cool nightclub in every big city on the planet – expenses paid, naturally. While catching planes like the rest of us take the bus and clubbing as much in a year as most of us do in a lifetime is something most ordinary mortals only dream of, it became blissful reality when Smirnoff held a competition to locate the best clubs in the best cities in the world and sent 10 lucky people out to find them.

Take five guys and five girls from the US, England, Canada, Poland, Brazil, Mexico, Japan, Thailand and South Africa and you’ve got the United Nations of clubbers on a mission to find the ultimate party experience. They were selected in London after being given a series of challenges and then sent straight to Moscow. The other requirement from them is that they have to choose a location, find booze and the music and hold a party in every city they visit, then record their exploits and post them online. Tough job, right-

It is late afternoon in a secluded bar in Darlinghurst when I find the group, newly arrived in Sydney. John Watson, a director from Canada, is the first to break the ice, offering his explanation behind the Smirnoff Ten.

“What this is all about, for me, is the thrill of discovering underground parties and information you wouldn’t find in travel guides,” he says.

Stephanie Prentice, an English freelance journalist, interjects. “It’s not all parties,” she says. “Our days are spent planning assignments, editing and making the films we have to post.”

It’s hard to feel any sympathy for them, but I try. So far they’ve been to four continents. I ask them what their favourite club is. Most agree that South Africa has the best nightlife.

“Ignite in Cape Town has the best club,” Louiza, from Brazil, exclaims. “It has a big balcony right in front of the beach. Great music!”

But venues don’t always suit everyone’s tastes.

“It sucks being the only American,” Ben Robertson III, a Philadelphian native and editor, admits. He’s the only hip hop aficionado in the group. “My idea of a club is relaxed, everyone getting into it and something, maybe just something going on in the bathroom.”

Ben’s favourite club so far is the Zula Sound Bar in Cape Town, full of hip hop and live RNB acts. Presumably excellent things are happening onstage as well as in the bathroom.

South American clubs reign supreme for many of the others, however, albeit for different reasons for each member. Kareem Minhas, another Canadian, loved Club Zoff’s wall-mounted graphic equalizers that double as a light show. Canadian John preferred something a bit more understated. He liked The Torres Club, an unpretentious locale in an isolated neighbourhood of Sao Paulo. “There was no dress code,” he says. “It had an arty crowd. The interior looked like a junkyard. I loved it.”

It is only Ania, a Polish photographer, who favours a locale other than South Africa or South America. “For me it was Moscow,” she reveals, “It was my birthday, we went to a party where there were 3000 people. Moscow was actually one of the warmest places we went to – it was freezing when we went to South America.” They’ve yet to pass judgement on the Sydney clubs, though, so their ultimate pick for best nightlife in the world remains to be seen.

The group gels well; the impact of shared experiences, of always being the new kids in town, of constantly being in another time zone, of never being able to get attached to anything or anyone that could be left behind, has drawn them together.

“We have to get along and we have to be tolerant of each other,” Ania says. “MTV in Japan followed us around everywhere and wouldn’t leave us alone,” Stephanie recalls. “It was really full on.”

While everyone’s experience and attitude is very positive, the danger of being complacent in a foreign city in never far away. Wanting something different from Russia, Kareem broke away from the group, but got more than he bargained for.

“I left with the tour guide [in every city the group is given a designated tour guide] to see this amazing underground club in Moscow,” he says. “The street was blocked off by cops and was full of really wealthy, yet dangerous-looking guys in really big cars with tinted windows who all had their own drivers and bodyguards.

“The strange thing was that these people were in control and not the police.

“We got to this club which was just a door in a huge brick wall,” he continues. “A girl came down the stairs and started yelling in Russian at the tour guide then she looked me up and down three times. She disappeared then this massive Russian guy walked down the stairs to check me out. He waves me through and as we go up upstairs I notice he had a gun tucked inside his trousers. That whole place was very scary.”

Ania too had an equally sobering experience.

“Easily the worst part of my trip,” she begins, “was a club in Brazil. Everyone was wasted and on something. There was no self-control, just a load of people completely out of it. Then I noticed I wasn’t seeing things properly…

“I had the most awful experience the next day recovering. I nearly missed the flight out of there.”

While the conversation around me is getting serious, the others are playfully arguing about which country has the best looking guys and girls. The debate rages between Australians and South Americans. Self-confessed lady’s man Kareem seems to be best placed to make this distinction. While Kareem may leave the group from time to time, he is seldom alone…if you catch my drift.

“I think these Sydney girls are really something,” is his considered opinion.

As afternoon turns to evening, I leave the group to debate the topic further before we decide to meet up on the weekend so they can see what our nightlife has to offer.

It’s Saturday night and Kareem, Ania and Brazilian Luiza arrive at Yu in full swing. The rest of the group are elsewhere. Just like any night in any city they go to, some of the group is split up in another part of town doing their own thing. The giant bouncer on the door waves us through the long queue and after a lap of the venue we’re on the dancefloor.

“I’ve heard a lot about this place,” Kareem says as Ania films the DJ and the crowd. “In every place I’ve ever been to every club is different.”

Downstairs the guys are amused at the Barbie and Ken sex positions on the bathroom wallpaper and stop to take photos.

Despite a problem on the guestlist, we get into Favela in one piece. Everyone is taken aback by the 8000 light bulbs flashing and the swirling patterns on the ceiling.

“I haven’t seen anything like it,” Ania says. “Very cool.” The DJ is banging out hard house and Luiza is smiling and moving with the rhythm and sass South Americans are renowned for. We stay long enough to finish another drink, meeting up with Takesh Sugitsuka, also an editor, from Japan, to hit Dragonfly. Living up to his reputation, Kareem’s roving eye is fully engaged: “Aussie women are so hot!”

All are in agreement that this has the best music. Whether it really is the music or something else they decide to make this the final base for the night.

Their next stop after Sydney is Amsterdam, then Ibiza and Paris, where they’ll continue their mission of taste-testing each city’s nightlife. How will Sydney fare- You’ll just have to tune to their YouTube videos and see.

WHO: The Smirnoff Ten
WHAT: Visit Shore Thing in Sydney and Fuzzy Killer in Melbourne / Summadayze
WHEN: Monday 31 December / Tuesday 1 January