I Used to Be Steve Lewis

imageThat line is a real little joke offered by me when somebody tries to explain to someone from Peoria who I am. Years ago, I was a driven club mogul trying to create and operate the best nightlife places on earth. The word “driven” is an understatement. I was a monster. To my close friends who took the time to look past my rough exterior, I was the chihuahua-owning gardener and loving husband. To many I was a reason to be uncheerful. That “they” person says you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs, and I guess I made enough omelets to keep Denny’s flourishing for decades. Yet over the years I did make a ton of friends, and for the most part I was respectful to those who gave respect and even to those learning that seminal lesson. Those close to me have stood by me through some real thick and thin times. For last night, I put on my Steve Lewis mask, and I was able to pull in a lot of favors for the good cause (see photos by Kirill). I asked some of the best DJs, doormen, and promoters around to work for free for an event many think created an opportunity for positive synergy with those “they’s” holding power over our club community. The outpouring of love and genuine good time had by all reminded me of an era when the mixing of music and folks from different strata of society was as common as the scowl on my face.

Last night’s event at M2 was for a very good cause. It was one small step for this man and one giant leap for clubkind. I am feeling I still got a couple of moves left in me and that an old-school mixing it up is much needed around here. Nah, I can’t do another club, but this Nightlife Preservation Community thing calls for a few of these shindigs a year. The gathering of hundreds of thousands of email addresses of energetic voting-age clubsters will create a need for the “powers that be” to listen to our sad tales of persecution, corruption, and over-regulation. The politicos were there, as were the press and 3,000-plus revelers. The suits danced with the mohawks, the house heads with the hip hoppers, the hipsters and privileged chatted up the nerds and wannabes. That Martinez Brothers into Q-Tip into Funkmaster Flex into Louie Vega transition kept everyone on the dance floor in heat. And “they” say it can’t be done? House music with hip hop and mash-up all on one floor to the same crowd, and no one went anywhere. For a couple hours, I was Steve Lewis again.

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The biggest question on my friends’ minds and lips was who was my date. Venice Adrien is my best friend. Her story is one of a thousand stories of people coming from somewhere on their way to someplace else, stopping in clubland for a job and maybe some perspective and maybe gaining a few contacts. I met her when I lived in the penthouse of the Chelsea Hotel with my beautiful model wife. That’s when I was Steve Lewis, and a penthouse and model wife and all those trappings made me feel like a man. Venice was underage and living alone in that apartment where Sid did Nancy. The hotel always tried to deny the room even existed. I quickly learned to trust her because she is absolutely trustworthy, and she quickly became my right-hand woman. She watched bars that were manned or womanned by strangers. She learned how “they” steal and what to look for. I taught her to look deep into their eyes and not be distracted by words. I taught her how to talk to police and fireman with respect and then everyone else the same way. She never forgot a lesson, and when I was torn from my world, she womanned the fort until I got back.

Although this beauty was built like Jessica Rabbit, she never fell for any of the players dangling carrots in front of her face; she was obsessed with the work and had little time for distractions. After awhile, managing clubs wasn’t enough and she pursued her passion: the ponies. Winning became a habit, and she dabbled with TV reporting about the races. A trip to the track with her was insane — she was the Steve Lewis of Belmont. Everybody knew her and stopped to say hello. Middle-aged gamblers chomping unlit cigars wearing warm-up suits and smelling like the first floor of Macy’s came and begged advice on some mule in some race. She was a mermaid amongst the fish. Her story interested writers at Paper and Blender and the Observer, this beauty loving the beasts and the thoroughbreds they bet on was a great tale. Now she’s a respected tournament player ranking with the best in the biz. Her stint in nightlife led her to her life. Like so many actors, musicians, students, dancers, artists, writers, mothers, and sons, nightlife provides food and board for those living a creative life or on their way to a faster track. It’s why we had that event last evening. “They” once sang, “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere,” but it would be nearly impossible for those coming here on their way to there if they couldn’t get a job in nightlife. I want to thank all who understood this concept and those who will soon embrace it as the Nightlife Preservation Community moves forward.

Photo: Frederic LaGrange

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