A large chapter in South Beach nightlife is coming to an end as Mansion nightclub closes its doors in the coming weeks.
Since 2004, Mansion ushered in an era of nightlife that combined the power of celebrities with power of the press. Photo galleries of celebrities partying were born. And right there from the start was local events photographer Seth Browarnik. For 11 years, he was the exclusive house photographer for the iconic club and shot basically every star who walked through the doors on at 1235 Washington Avenue, from J.Lo to Jay-Z.
“From the days of booking a celebrity and getting exposure, Mansion was the one who started that,” Browarnik said. “South Beach had died in the late ’90s and during the revival this got all the press. Celebs were flown into Miami, put up in hotels and getting [ink] for them and Mansion was the peak of it.
“It was amazing and the connections I got from those years at Mansion. Those are still the contacts and people I have today.”
Of the thousands of parties, what is his most memorable shot during those 11 years?
The picture he took in August 2004 of newlyweds Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony having an intimate conversation. Earlier that day it was rumored that Lopez had suffered a miscarriage and was in the hospital. Paparazzi and press swarmed Miami, waiting outside of the hospital or near their home to catch a shot. Instead, Browarnik found them that night at the club during his regular shift. It turned out to be his highest-grossing photo to date.
“That was the biggest photo I have ever taken when it comes to money and exposure,” Browarnik said. “It was the cover of UsWeekly and it was in magazine spreads all over the world. That picture still gets used. I was in a bidding war between People and Us until 7 p.m. the following day. It was the only time I have ever had a bidding war over one of my photos.”
Since then, images of celebs at nightclubs became the norm on South Beach, especially as new super clubs opened up (see LIV and Story). But as smaller, more intimate spaces become more popular, a shift in nightlife seems to be happening. The celebrity photography world has changed, too, thanks to the Internet — famous people can break news by posting an image on their social media accounts from their cell phones.
So now that Mansion is gone, how will it be remembered?
“That was the place you had to go to for years and years,” Browarnik said. “It set the bar for all these other super clubs to come to South Beach.”
Top 5 Celebrity Moments from Mansion
Miami Herald gossip columnist Lesley Abravanel compiled her favorites from the VIP area.
May 21, 2007: Britney Spears performs at Mansion during her comeback after a shaved head and a stint in rehab. The performance is not very good. The people waiting on lines around the block didn't care. Neither did Britney.
Aug 20, 2013: An underage Justin Bieber (19) posts an image on Instagram of himself with Jay-Z at Mansion. The club cries no comment and the Biebs returns to his regularly scheduled puberty.
Jan. 1, 2008: Before they went viral in Ebola like proportions, The Kardashians - all of them (Kim, Khloe, Kourtney and Rob) - ring in the New Year at Mansion.
June 4, 2013: The Biebs sat at a table facing the stage where he did nothing but text on his phone the entire time. There were about 20 blondes and brunettes in his entourage. None were then girlfriend, model Jordan Ozuna, nor the one he dumped to be with her, Selena Gomez.
July 23, 2007: Romance is in the air as Beyonce and Jay-Z sat close and cuddly all night. Solange Knowles and Robin Thicke are also hanging out. The lines weren't that blurred.