“My hangover from the dot.com party of the 90s had made me crave something real, something I could touch and feel, unlike the digital world with its seductive illusions,” Michael Dorf discloses in his new book, 'Indulge Your Senses: Scaling Intimacy in a Digital World'.

Like most entrepreneurs, Michael Dorf’s trajectory began with a dream, but at its inception, some considered it more of a long shot. The Wisconsin-born executive describes in great detail the challenges he faced as the founder of New York’s Knitting Factory, where the likes of Lou Reed held court, and ultimately as CEO of the City Winery, “a national network of clubs,” each featuring trademark wines, a diverse menu and live performances.

Dorf’s approach as an author seems multi-fold. He not only takes the reader into the inner circle of the hospitality industry as well as into the perceived mindset of the live performer, but he also reflects back on the beginning stages of the digital world and how its glitzy accessibility caused him to temporarily compromise his core values.

What makes this quick read distinctive is Dorf’s willingness to evaluate his setbacks and failings, his resolve to move forward despite seemingly impossible odds and his performer-friendly attitude. As for the latter point, his anecdotes about famous musician friends are relayed with good taste and affection.

To keep his head above water, Dorf’s ambitious business plans have theoretically required constant fiscal scrutiny, extensive team-building and a leap of faith, but nevertheless in practice these very factors often spin out of one’s control. That said, Dorf spells out situations that sadly went south: local, construction crews miss deadlines which affect the scheduling of acts; trusted partnerships splinter and power deceptively shifts.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Dorf’s career, however, has to do with his decision to learn the art of wine-making and how that sharp turn influenced his client-base and the rhythm of his family life.

James Taylor, Norah Jones, Allen Touissant, Shawn Colvin… this is just the short list of entertainers who have called Dorf’s City Winery home. The big takeaway of this memoir is, at the end of the day, relationships matter much more than proceeds.

Photograph by Philamonjaro

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