"If you are here tonight, it's because you know somebody. You came here with a friend. And don't go put this on Facebook, don't Instagram this. Just put your phone away and have a good time."
A trip to The Stoneleigh Hotel is always a pleasure. The art deco grandeur has been fully restored, thanks to a recent high-dollar renovation. Just a stone's throw from some of Dallas' ritzier luxury hotels, The Stoneleigh retains a more boutique atmosphere, whether you find yourself sipping martinis at the bar or wandering the rooms of its sumptuous penthouse suite. That penthouse suite, by the by, is just where we found ourselves.
Thursdays at the Penthouse, billed as an evening of cocktails and jazz, actually manages to pull off something more unique than the moniker suggests.
Some of you may remember the original Brooklyn Jazz Cafe. Before its expansion at South Side, it was situated in the Bishop Arts District, and was the kind of supper club you think only exists on television. On a weekend night, the small room was nearly always at capacity. Jazz and R&B poured out onto the sidewalk and the only thing people made room for was dancing. You couldn't help but notice the mix of ages, races and demographics in a city where people so often willingly stay in their bubbles.
If I sound nostalgic, it's because I am. It was great news for business that Brooklyn needed to expand, but that small room, forcing us all to bump into one another, was never replaced.
I accept nearly any invitation to visit The Stoneleigh's penthouse. The view is a rarely seen side of the of the Dallas skyline, and its Dorothy Draper-inspired interior is colorful and bold, making it a perfect setting for any party. Add to that my invitation's instruction to don cocktail attire. I was expecting a pleasant evening, sure, but not one that took me back to those nights at Brooklyn.
On my first Thursday visit, I made my way up to the 11th floor, and was pleased to find a room full of smartly dressed strangers bumping into one another and clinking cocktails. Danny Church and his band were throwing down more than jazz: There was a sexy mix of R&B and the occasional hip-hop cover, all mixed in with some traditional fare, which kept the night and crowd moving.
The last hour is when things really get nasty in the Penthouse. You could tell the band was loose and ready to have some fun. As the lead vocalist took on Drake's "Practice," the mood got a little more grown. If you really want to know when I fell in love with Danny Church and his gang, though, I'd say it was when they started vamping the chords to Shaggy's "It Wasn't Me." If you think a grown man in a suit performing the entirety of the spoken word intro from Shaggy's hit sounds ridiculous, you'd be wrong. It was a delight.
And last week only got better. Frank Ocean's "Thinking About You" got a thoughtful cover, with the audience singing along, before the mic was handed over to some guests to freestyle, and even add some of their own words.
"If you're here, it's because a friend invited you," I heard someone say over the microphone as the night was ending. The invitation list is of the six-degrees variety. You get an email, you RSVP, you forward. It makes the evening feel like a dinner party -- we are all connected somehow. For Penthouse Thursdays, your Facebook friends may not get you anywhere. If you want to be whisked up to that beautiful penthouse, you may need to make some real ones.