Cover Story

London’s calling

He’s a VIP host who gets the parties started for A-listers looking for a good time in town

By day, London works in the 6one7 office on Huntington Ave. By day, London works in the 6one7 office on Huntington Ave. (Dina Rudick/Globe Staff)
By Rachel Zarrell
Globecorrespondent / September 29, 2011

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It’s pouring, but Jeff London is standing outside Rumor nightclub, waiting. Every few seconds London’s BlackBerry vibrates with a new text message - some from young women asking to be put on the guest list, others from big spenders or major-league athletes in town for a night or two - and he hovers over the phone, responding to each one. By the end of the night, he’ll often have answered 1,000 texts.

It’s mid-summer, the thick of the baseball season, and Orioles’ center fielder Adam Jones has booked two tables through London. But an hour earlier, a scuffle broke out between the Orioles and Red Sox, when David Ortiz stormed the mound. London, who is wearing a pinstriped button-up, his curly hair gelled back and glasses splattered with raindrops, gets a text from Jones around 11 p.m.: “Too tired to come lol.’’

6one7 Productions, an event promotion company started in 2000 by three friends from Northeastern University, employs London to serve at the beck and call of the visiting A-listers descending upon Boston. Almost anything they want, he says, he takes care of it. And often, at least when they call London, what they want is to party.

“You have to set the vibe with them, party with them, make sure they’re happy, bring some girls over to get the party started,’’ he says. “Bring all the fun people over near their table.’’

As a former DJ now in his sixth year with 6one7, London is accustomed to the late-night schedule. But with a past life as an assistant teacher for children with special needs in the Brookline Public Schools, London has also earned a reputation for taking care of people.

Clients of the 32-year-old London run the gamut, including the Bruins after their Stanley Cup win (“They love drinking beers,’’ he says), rappers like Ne-Yo, who requested a bottle of champagne that can cost upward of $1,600, and the actor Chris Evans, whom London says “loves to party.’’

Although a couple of dozen people in the city claim to be VIP hosts, most of them will only work with a celebrity every few months, says 6one7 chief executive Ace Gershfield, whereas London handles A-listers two or three times a week. Michael Winter, a decade-long VIP host and chief executive of East Coast Clubs, says many people are just “fly by night’’ hosting.

“If you’re a true VIP host, you’re not just linked up in Boston,’’ Winter said, “you’re linked up in Vegas, Miami, LA. Your clients are going to call you and you’re going to be able to set them up all over the country.

Ultimately, it’s long-term relationships between London and Boston sports teams that brings in the lion’s share of the business; when visiting teams ask the home teams where to hang out, they often recommend calling London.

“He’s always been a great liaison to help me find something to do on any random night,’’ said Tully Banta-Cain, a former linebacker for the Patriots who met London in 2003. “ I’ve had other players ask me what is there to do in Boston at night, where to go out, and I’ve given them Jeff’s number.’’

Sometimes, the job can be akin to adult babysitting. Clients might ask London to bring them drugs (he won’t) or women (he’ll make introductions).

“They’ll have some [requests], I want that girl, I want this girl,’’ London says. “I’ll bring people over. [I’ll say], ‘Would you like to meet so-and-so, have a drink over there at this table?’ Sometimes they’ll say no. ‘Forget him, he’s old news.’ ’’

IN THE CAB on the way to Rumor in the Theater District, London begins to get nervous. He rattles off a laundry list of things worrying him, like getting a fun crowd, the DJ playing good music, and the rain. With a stocky frame, reddish beard, and long, curly hair, London doesn’t sport the slick look favored by other promoters. And with his occasional flashes of self-consciousness, he doesn’t always sound like them either.

“If I get nervous before every night then I’ll know I still love this,’’ he says in the cab. “It’s like a performer. I’m putting a performance on right now. Putting a show on for everybody.’’

The rain doesn’t let up for hours but more than 500 people still show up at the club. Along with hosting celebrities, London is in charge of front-door operations, so every VIP the promoters get goes on a master list that he puts together. On top of that, he also runs his own side business managing DJs, London Talent.

During the day, after waking up around 2 p.m., London works in the 6one7 office on Huntington Avenue, where attractive, boisterous male promoters come and go, and Gershfield’s two female Weimaraners, Ace and Shorty, meander around the bright room wearing pink and black collars. On the back of the green office door hangs London’s ironed clothes for the night. London is also roommates with Gershfield, whom he describes as a best friend he idolized from when he was still working as a DJ.

“Celebs, they gravitate to Jeff because - not to say unassuming, but he’s not a threat to them in a way,’’ Gershfield says at his desk, a dog leaning toward him. “He’s not looking to take any kind of limelight. . . . He becomes their friend, you know, instantly.’’

London spends the afternoons working on promotions and planning events. Sometimes he leaves the office to run errands or go to the gym, and around 9 p.m. he goes straight to one of the six clubs he promotes. He usually works six nights a week, but while Revolution Rock Bar gets renovated he’s down to five. It could be 10 or 11 p.m. until he knows which VIPs are coming that night.

“I think some people that go to work, it’s repetitious. . . . My night is different every single night, in a good way and bad way,’’ London says. “There’s always something different, something exciting, something new. But I don’t know what to expect. You don’t know who will show up, you don’t know what will happen.’’

GROWING UP in a Jewish family in West Roxbury, London was athletic but developed a fascination with the DJs at a 10th-grade dance. After saving up to buy turntables while attending Wheelock College, he started DJing parties and then clubs on Lansdowne Street, which Gershfield cites as the birthplace for the big players in Boston’s current night life scene.

With more than 3,800 Facebook friends and 1,800 Twitter followers, London says it’s a challenge to make every client feel not only remembered, but special. To maintain the sense of camaraderie, he adds descriptions to everyone’s name in his phone: “Celts Dancer,’’ “Waitress Hottie,’’ or just “Euro 7K Tab.’’ Even his family members get descriptions, like “Jess Sister.’’

And although he loves the unpredictability, London’s nonstop schedule leaves little room for a private social life, and he admits he has a hard time maintaining a romantic relationship. Most of his few real friends, whom he met in college, are married with families.

“In this industry there’s a lot of ‘friends,’ but close ones,’’ he pauses, “it’s a small circle.’’

On Friday, as the club starts filling, London goes into full speed, checking in with promoters, stopping for a shot of something pink mixed with Hennessey Black, and chain smoking under the Rumor sign, often throwing barely smoked cigarettes on the ground when there’s an issue at the door, like an NBA player not meeting dress code.

Early Tuesday evening, 6one7’s promoters meet to discuss the highs and lows of the previous week. The men file in sporting pristine sneakers, their hair perfectly gelled or hidden under baseball caps. London, in shorts, flip-flops, and a T-shirt, leans back in an office chair, his black and gray tattoos peeking out on his left arm.

The party is guest-list only at District Restaurant and Lounge on Lincoln Street on Wednesday night. Former MTV star and comedian Andy Milonakis has flown in from a stint in Paris to host the event.

District is slow to fill up, and London waits outside for a group to arrive helmed by former New England Patriots star Lawyer Milloy. Over a decade ago, Milloy was Gershfield’s first famous client when he was still a host. A “big spender’’ with a bodyguard also arrives, both clad in Hawaiian shirts. A waitress enlisted by London brings a flock of women to his empty table for champagne.

The hours melt away, and at 4:30 a.m., long after the party is over, London is in Milonakis’s room at the Liberty Hotel, as the comedian sings along to a string of rap videos he plays on YouTube. London mixes a few drinks - the last in a night of many - and struggles to leave with Milonakis still trying to keep the party going. It’s easy to see the true role London serves - a surrogate friend for celebrities who find themselves alone in a strange city.

“It’s extremely stressful, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to make these people feel at home,’’ London says.

Although he is quick to say he loves his job, when it comes to his former position teaching special education, London says he misses it “all the time,’’ revealing if it weren’t for his hosting job he would probably still do it. “I can’t do this forever,’’ he admits.

Eventually, London says he hopes to move to the business side of the industry and own a club he can take pride in. But for as long as he can function in the night life world, he plans to be a part of it.

“If it ever gets to that point where I started flipping and missing things, things that are important, I’d reevaluate everything,’’ London says. “But at this point it’s the lifestyle.’’

Rachel Zarrell can be reached at

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