When the proverbial chit hits the fan, who ya gonna call? The Ghostbusters are busy trying to get Bill Murray to do another one, and meanwhile you need a lawyer. In clubland there are many lawyers handling licensing and such, but in criminal cases — which unfortunately sometimes arise (tell me about it) — Sal E. Strazzullo stands ready. I’ve known Sal for a long time; we worked together in days of yore. While others saw nightlife as a career, Sal put himself through law school. He was often telling promoters and others to think of their futures and use the money they were making to prepare for a different life, as he was. Some listened … others didn’t. Sal had an exit strategy and stuck to it. Now he handles high-profile cases, and I see him saying ”no comments” and lawyer things to reporters on the six o’clock news. His experience with nightlife gives him an insider’s perspective, which can be invaluable in court. Sal’s journey using nightlife to pay for his tuition and books should underline the importance of nightlife work. The people making a living in clubs are often people going someplace else, building a future. They become actors, artist, photographers, mothers, writers, doctors — even lawyers.
What does the E. stand for? Emilio — my dad’s name.
I’ve known you for a long time. Since 1992.
You were born in New York City. I was born in New York. Then my parents wanted to move back to Italy. So I was raised in Naples ‘til about the age of 9, 10 years old. And then my mom wanted to be close to her dad, in New York. So we moved back to New York.
You’ve been in the papers lately. I saw you on TV the other day because you handled Avenue doorman Was Stevens’ case, and the Foxy Brown case. Also the lawsuit with Google, with the privacy rights and protecting your privacy, when you’re on the internet if you decide to blog anonymously or post a comment anonymously — how much protection should the web servers give to an individual.
I saw you at Butter the other night, Fashion Week, Monday, with your wife. And you were on your way to Avenue. You still go out a bit. Yes, yes.
You were hobnobbing with club aristocracy. At one point, you worked in the clubs. You were trying to make some money, putting yourself through law school. Yes, of course.
You once told me that if you had been a little bit more successful in the clubs, you would’ve gone the Jason Strauss or Noah Tepperberg route, and maybe tried to own a club. And thank God you weren’t more successful at it because now you are a successful lawyer. I think both careers would’ve been something to be respected. Like what certain individuals have done with the club business — taking it to the next level, and really investing a great deal of time and money in something like that. But because of law school and college taking up my time, you have to have a decent GPA to get into law school. So I was just like, “Alright, let me make my $1,000 a week, $750 a week, $1,500 a week” … if I was lucky, a couple a grand a week … and let me put myself through law school.
Now you’re out. You had an exit strategy. You stuck to your guns, and you went to law school and didn’t yield to temptation and stay in the club biz. I always had one objective, and that was to become an attorney and just stick with it. I think the club business is a reputable profession, even though some people don’t think so.
We can’t talk about any specific cases, because you’re an attorney and there’s a client-attorney privilege. Yet, you did handle the Wass Stevens case, which was the assault or the alleged assault, outside of Avenue. Yes, I am currently representing him on that.
And you did handle or you were one of the attorneys involved with Foxy Brown situation, which was a high-profile case. What can you say about that? Just that I feel that if it was any other person, other than someone like a star, the person would never have received what she received. I think she was made an example of, in that situation.
Well, that’s what a federal case is. Federal cases are made to make examples, so that everybody sees if you do this, you get that. That’s the idea of the high-profile case. Right, right, exactly … I think that’s true in every type of business, not only criminal or civil law. You know, if you sue someone, you want to sue the big guy on top. You don’t care about the little guy at the bottom. You have to go for the jugular.
Do you miss clubland? You know, it’s almost like a right of passage. And I’m kinda glad it’s past. Once every couple of months, my wife and I go out, maybe to 1Oak or Avenue or Butter or a really nice restaurant. We usually frequent restaurants much more often than the clubs. We have dinner at Nobu tonight … we’re going to be going out with some friends. They’re doing an event at the Standard for Time Warner. So it’s nice to go out.
We can’t get into specifics about Wass, but he is a doorman at some of the most prestigious clubs in New York — Avenue and Marquee. Yes.
He’s also an actor who’s been in all these movies. Getting bigger and better roles each time. He turned to you as a lawyer because you’ve known him for a long time, and you understand the situations and how things happen in a nightclub. Right. There’s a lot of pressure that a doorman — that somebody in the club business — encounters, and it’s a good understanding of just everyday life that makes a good attorney. Because you have to say to yourself, “What if I was in that position? What would I want from my attorney?” And every time I represent someone, I always say, “That could be my kid brother. That could be me. That could be my dad. That could be my best friend.” And it’s important to be an ethical lawyer, and not only an ethical lawyer, but a lawyer that goes the full gamut. I go the full gamut and more, within the law, of course.
I want to read a line here from papers that your publicist — who’s one of my favorite people, Sydney Masters — provided me. She said, “Outside of court, Salvatore Strazzullo defended the authenticity of the risqué photos that show Oscar De La Hoya dressed in fishnet stockings, panties, and sporting a wig.” You represented his alleged ex-mistress, Milana Dravnel. It was a $100 million law suit, and without getting into specifics, you settled this out of court? No comment.
Is the case still pending? No comment.
Is the “no comment” on the record? Yes, you gotta put “no comment” on the record.
Being an attorney really isn’t easy. No, it’s really not. I have to do the right thing for my client. I always tell that to the opposing attorney. I always tell that to opposing prosecutors. I’m just trying to do the right thing for my client. Give me a break here. You know, if they come at me fiercely, I just say to them, “Listen, it’s my ethical duty to do what I need to do for my client.” If it’s representing an New York police officer …
You got these police officers off, when it was a very tough case, these two guys … A thirty-three-count felony indictment. Very serious allegations were made by a young man in Staten Island. They said that my client kidnapped him.
It’s one client? Yes another attorney defended the other officer. Thirty-three-count indictment? They were facing 20 years.
Congratulations. You told me your favorite quote that you use in court … “We still live in America.”
Isn’t that amazing. And people don’t grasp that, when I tell them that. You know, I tend to have some views that I think people are entitled to privacy; people are entitled to anonymity; people are entitled to do what they want to do, as long as it is within their bedroom, and as long as it’s legal. I think my best advice to my clients is “Keep your guard up at all times.” You know when a boxer walks into the ring, keep your hands up at all times, protect yourself at all times. And that’s what I say that to everybody.
In other news, tomorrow night Click and Drag will take over Santos’ Party House. It’s a can’t-miss event for me. The dress code says it all: “a strict cyber/fetish/tribal dress code will be completely enforced: wear goddess or trans-goddess, glamour martyr, sphinx-wear, rubber nun, priestess, sequined saint, crown of thorns, pagan chic, shiva realness or cyber, fetish, tribal, gender-hacking, faerie, gothic or brilliant black. Absolutely no street clothes or mundanes — no exceptions.”