Skip to main content

On the Make

The Hustle of Urban Nightlife

On the Make

The Hustle of Urban Nightlife

David Grazian’s riveting tour of downtown Philadelphia and its newly bustling nightlife scene reveals the city as an urban playground where everyone dabbles in games of chance and perpetrates elaborate cons. Entertainment in the city has evolved into a professional industry replete with set designers, stage directors, and method actors whose dazzling illusions tempt even the shrewdest of customers. As entertaining and illuminating as the confessional stories it recounts, On the Make is a fascinating exposé of the smoke and mirrors employed in the city at night.


“If you want to understand the contemporary city, you have to look beyond the office towers and real estate developments to the city at night. Too long ignored, the city at night is a multi-billion dollar industry, a large-scale mating market, and a way station for our ever-extending adolescence. David Grazian takes us on a backstage tour of the ritualistic games, hustlers and attempted hookups, and enduring stories and myths that define the city at night. This book takes nightlife out of the shadows and shows how it is a core concern for understanding the economy and sociology of the modern city.”

Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class

"Reading On the Make is like going out on the town with a most amiable, clever, fluent companion—who seems to know everyone you run into. Grazian introduces you to the myriad people who run the Philadelphia scene, and to the affluent young nighttime scenesters; he chats them up and then subjects their complex games of class, gender, and sexual performance to his smart, edgy analysis. The result is at once sobering and drunken fun."

Joshua Gamson, author of The Fabulous Sylvester: The Legend, the Music, the Seventies in San Francisco

On the Make is where the action is. The settings are the cool bars and restaurants of the big city where adults pretend they look like kids, kids act out being adults, and masters of entertainment create exclusive scenes available to everyone. Drawing from hundreds of stories and years of fieldwork, David Grazian reveals how scenes are made, how the ‘girl-hunt’ works (not) and why some boys like coconut shampoo. Along the way, Grazian is revealed to be a brilliant ethnographer and an imaginative writer.”

Peter Bearman, author of Doormen

“A dazzling and sometimes disturbing portrait of young adults in the urban glamour zone. No other book reveals as much about sex, drugs and money off campus.”

Eric Klinenberg | Playboy

"Grazian ventures into after-hours Philadelphia for a dishy yet savvy tell-all that brings the city’s network of pubs and hotspots fully to life, complete with a host of partiers eager to share. . . . Taking readers to strip clubs, gay bars, the poshest of the posh and a few dives for good measure, this book is a bit like a month of free nights out: the pleasure of the hustle without any of the hassle."

Publishers Weekly

"[A] creepily fascinating study of the industry and rituals of the Philadelphia club scene. . . . [Grazian] has a keen eye for the deceptive interplay between the real and ideal."

Ryan Bigge | Toronto Star

“Grazian offers an unflinching portrait of urban nightlife as a series of hustles. . . . A smart piece of urban sociology as well as a sobering existential comment on the contemporary commodification of the self.”--Choice


“This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the rhythms and beats of nightlife in the metropolis. It is in the best tradition of modernist ethnography and could be used as an exemplar for courses on qualitative methods, urban sociology, social interaction, and consumerist or class culture. Much like the fine-dining experiences Grazian describes, this book should be savored, devoured, and accompanied with a bottle of wine. . . . It is a scrumptious read."

Patrica A. Adler and Peter Adler | American Journal of Sociology

“The data are rich and compelling. As a tour guide, Grazian’s account of Philadelphia’s nightlife is vivid and well organized. . . . On the Make is mot just readable but riveting. It is an exceptional piece of sociology in the finest traditions of qualitative analysis."

Georgie S. Rigakos | Canadian Journal of Sociology

Table of Contents

1          Friday Night in Philadelphia: The Art of the Hustle
2          Dynamic Imagineering: The Staging of Urban Nightlife
3          Spin Control: Public Relations and Reality Marketing
4          Winning Bar: Nightlife as a Sporting Ritual
5          In the Company of Men: The Girl Hunt and the Myth of the Pickup
6          Hustling the Hustlers: Challenging the Girl Hunt
7          Where the Action Is: Storytelling and the Imagination of Risk
8          Smoke and Mirrors: The Experience of Urban Nightlife

Appendix: Research Methods  

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press