Feature - Back Numbers

Lexington Queen (2005.08.20)

The Lexington Queen holds a special place in the pantheon of world famous nightclubs. In most cases, even a fabulously popular disco is lucky to last five years. Ten years is incredibly rare. And yet the Lexington Queen has been going strong twenty-five years.

For comparison's sake, consider that Studio 54 was open less than four years (1977-1980) in its prime, before the club ran into trouble over taxes and drug use, and then re-opened to limp on from 1981 to 1986. The nearly-as-famous Hacienda in Manchester (subject matter of the film 24 Hour Party People) opened in 1982, peaked in the mid-80s, and closed for the first time in 1991 due to problems with drugs and violence. It managed to re-open and wobbled on until the club was sold and demolished in 2001, although it never re-attained its 80s level popularity.

The Lexington Queen, located in the heart of Tokyo's nightlife/party area of Roppongi, has yet to have its life story made into a movie, but perhaps this is only because its saga is still being written. The club opened in May 1980, in the pre-bubble era, when foreigners in Japan were still relatively rare. The club soon made its mark, often attracting foreign celebrities - in particular music, movie, modeling and sports stars. While never a "gaijin" hangout, there were always enough foreigners or bilingual Japanese there that foreigners felt comfortable visiting.

Word of mouth from visitors made it a popular stop for folks passing through Tokyo, and for parties related to the entertainment business. The club became so popular with rock musicians that fans have come to assume bands will show up at the Lexington Queen after their Tokyo shows. As a result, many Japanese rock fans frequent the club. In the '0s, foreign metal bands visiting Tokyo would pack the Lex with their young female fans.

While the club gathered a reputation as a place for the famous and beautiful, it was never snooty. The clientele includes young gaijin living in Japan, models from around the world (recently there is a high concentration of Russians), traveling business people, and Japanese of every stripe. The club's management deftly maintains a loose, fun atmosphere, yet is quite strict on not tolerating drugs or aggressive behavior, and has a good relationship with the local police department.

Some clubs enjoy raging but brief celebrity by being the centerpoint for a trend or fashion of a given time. The Lexington Queen, on the other hand, Does not try to be cutting edge. Their music selection generally revolves around foreign music radio hits of the day. Not at all edgy, but it satisfies the club's diverse crowd and helps keep things lively.

The club doesn't try to wow with interior design either. The décor is nice, but not plush, and in recent years subject only to minor modifications.

There is a modest sized dance floor, and a VIP section. The club is not especially large - it holds about 300 people - which perhaps is one reason that the club's management is able to usually keep things from not getting too off the rails.

According to the Lex's own statistics, the crowd there is usually 55% foreign 45% Japanese, and 40% male and 60% female. The club works on a system where visitors pay an entrance fee after which it is "all you can drink". With drink flowing, and a standard closing time of 5 AM, the place is sometimes raging until dawn. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays are usually the busiest nights (the club is closed on Sundays). The Lex also often offers ladies nights on week days (usually Monday), and these can help draw a pretty good crowd also. In addition, the Lex is frequently booked for parties.

The size of the crowd can also vary tremendously depending on what celebrities or events are currently taking place in Tokyo. Celebrities are definitely one of the things that help bring people to the Lex. The club's website has a long list of famous people who have visited, but it is miles away from being complete. To drop a few names from the movies, yes Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Ben Affleck, Bruce Willis, Christian Slater, Denzel Washington, Edward Wood, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Leonardo DiCaprio, Liv Tyler, Macauley Culkin, Mel Gibson, Michael J. Fox, Nicolas Cage, Robert DeNiro, Sylvester Stallone and Will Smith have been.

The list of music stars is even longer, but indeed, Britney Spears, the Beastie Boys, Beck, Bon Jovi, Cheap Trick, Celine Dion, Children of Bodom, Christina Aguilera, Marilyn Manson, Duran Duran, Green Day, Guns'n'Roses, Iggy Pop, Kraftwerk, MC Hammer, Madonna, Marilyn Manson, Megadeth, Mick Jagger, Motley Crue, Prince, Quincy Jones, Rod Stewart, Shakira, Slayer, Steven Tyler, Stevie Wonder and U2 have hoisted a glass at the Lex.

The club often gets unsolicited endorsements, Mick Jagger talked about the Lexington Queen while on stage in Tokyo. Paris Hilton has called it her favorite club in the world. Ryuichi Sakamoto wrote a song called "Lexington Queen" on his 1990 album The Arrangement. Just recently, following the 2005 Summer Sonic festival, the club was thick with musicians, including members of Coldplay, Simple Plan, Slipknot and Nine Inch Nails.

One of the reasons the Lexington Queen is able to draw such a vast range of celebrities is the personal charm of the club's longtime PR man Bill Hersey (some people incorrectly think he is the owner - A Project is the actual proprietor). An anthropology major from a small town in Ohio, as a young man Bill worked as a probation officer with delinquent youth in San Diego for three years, and also spent time working in Arizona with various Indian groups, especially the Hopi tribe, who made him an honorary member.

He first came to Japan in 1970 to study the indigenous Ainu people. His private passion is travel, and over the years he has traveled to many, many places all over the world. He says part of the reason he stayed in Japan is because he ran out of money to keep traveling. He started off teaching English, but was soon involved in the fashion business, and journalism, including a stint with the Hollywood Reporter.

Through his work and his travels he became acquainted with a vast array of people, and led by his friendly character, he drifted into public relations work. He is acquainted with many ambassadors and international business people, and is one of those people of whom it can be said "he knows everybody". He is perhaps best known for his long-running column in the weekly English newspaper The Weekender. He has been with Lexington Queen since the very first day, and knows the Roppongi scene inside out.

After having been urged to do so by many people, he has finally started writing a book, and says he hopes to have it out next year. Given that on any given night Bill might be out and about with Liza Minelli, Robert DeNiro, Tommy Lee, Marilyn Manson, Imelda Marcos or Johnny Kitagawa (of the incredibly successful "boy band" production company Johnny's Jimusho, an old friend of Bill's), his story is sure to be a fascinating one.

Visitors to Tokyo looking for a place to party in Roppongi, ought to take a peek at the Lexington Queen. You never know what exotic blend of characters might be carrying on there.


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Originally submitted by: Keith Cahoon | See Edit History | Edit Article