The '90s club scene was good to Craig-Brandon Stephenson. The Maryland native graduated from the Baltimore School for the Arts and moved to Charlotte at the approach of the new millennium, working in a variety of creative industries as a wardrobe stylist, fashion editor and, now (thanks in part to wisdom gained during those rambunctious late nights), events promoter at Marigny Dance Club (1440 S. Tryon St., Suite 110.) "I had the opportunity to throw an event at Liquid Lounge in 2001 and it was a huge hit," says Stephenson, "So I just started throwing events where I was able to use my creative talent to handle the decorations, the promotions. That's still what I do at Marigny — maintain creative control over cool events that are unique for Charlotte."
Creative Loafing: How have you adjusted to life below the Mason-Dixon?
Craig-Brandon Stephenson: My family relocated here in 1997, so now we're all adopted Southerners and I love it. I went to high school in Baltimore City and it was fabulous. They call it Charm City; it's got an emphasis on multiculturalism and history, lots of great dining. I was able to be exposed to a really liberal, really artsy scene at a young age. Recently I saw Baltimore placed fifth on a list of the country's most unfriendly cities, so being down here with all this Southern charm is nice.
However, I would say that a big difference is that while everything goes up north and people really try push the envelope, down here I was a little afraid to test the limits.
Now that the club has been open for more than a year, do you feel more confident pushing those limits?
I like to keep things fresh. Marigny has opened the door for nightlife to explore more creative avenues. It's good for the community to open the door to people looking to let their guards down and just have a good time without worrying about how things look. People are loosening up.
The owner had a very specific idea about what he wanted the club to be. Marigny is actually a really artsy neighborhood in New Orleans. Inside the club it's all the colors of Mardi Gras, great bit crystal chandeliers, old French motifs, all the opulence of old-world New Orleans. It's a lot of fun.
We have a lot of regulars, about 70 percent gay and 30 percent straight every week. We're all about diversity, so we welcome everybody with open arms.
Where does a player in the nightlife scene go on his off time?
Well, I'm a player in the game of life — I kind of just roll with the dice. Right now, I live at work. I'm always there. When I'm not, I like to dine out with my friends — I love little hole-in-the-wall spots that have a lot of personality. I hope Charlotte continues to embrace personality, that its future holds growth, uniqueness and individuality.