Trump, Bernie, George Clooney & Charlie Chaplin: A Curious Convergence

“Modern Times © Roy Export SAS”

Charlie Chaplin, without question, was one of the most polarizing figures in American history. Born into a creative but mostly poverty-stricken family in South London in 1889, he parlayed early vaudevillian success into a lucrative contract with the New York Motion Picture Company in 1913. As history has it, he went on to become one of the few most influential performers and filmmakers of the 20th Century. And just as a new museum, Chaplin’s World, opens in Switzerland, his career seems to have some fascinating parallels with the current political situation in America.

He was at the height of his powers as America was plunged into the Great Depression—and his immensely successful 1931 film City Lights, with its unique, poignant mix of comedy and pathos, resonated deeply with a public living through such disconcerting times. By the time the groundbreaking industrial parody Modern Times was released in 1936, he had become a so-called “left-wing” activist…and thusly caught the suspicion of the sinister, crusading FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover as something of an agitator. In other words, Chaplin turned out to be on the wrong side of the socio-political zeitgeist.

Modern_Times_1936 ©Roy Export SAS (2)

“Modern Times © Roy Export SAS”

The_Great_Dictator_1940 w Jack Oakie© Roy Export SAS (15)

“The Great Dictator © Roy Export SAS”

Monsieur_Verdoux_ 1947 © Roy Export SAS (6)

“Monsieur Verdoux © Roy Export SAS”

But perhaps most shockingly, especially with such hindsight as we now have at our disposal, his brilliant, incisive 1940 Nazi satire The Great Dictator actually won him the ire of the American establishment. The US was still considered “at peace” with Germany, and Chaplin’s stingingly sardonic mockery of hard-right fascism was somehow taken as sure evidence of his communist sympathies (treason, as they say, is often just a matter of bad timing). Ironically, the Soviet Union would, of course, ally with America to defeat Hitler—only for the two to become superpower enemies again after the war. As for Charlie, the bad press from a paternity suit with actress Joan Barry, as well as his poorly received capitalist critique Monsieur Verdoux, ultimately made him persona non grata in his adopted home.

And so as he boarded the HMS Queen Elizabeth with his family on September 18, 1952, bound for the London premier of his magnificent, semi-autobiographical film Limelight, his re-entry permit was revoked by US Attorney General James McGranery. Chaplin, wife Oona O’Neill and their children then settled into the small but picturesque Swiss town of Corsier-sur-Vevey, never to return to America.

A museum dedicated to the legendary filmmaker, Chaplin’s World, opened last month at his renovated Swiss estate, Manoir Le Bain. It features fascinating personal effects, film set re-creations, interactive exhibits and enough career-spanning photos to keep fans and admirers riveted for hours.

Chaplin's World™ © Bubbles Incorporated_manoir_233

Chaplin's World™, Corsier-s-Vevey, Switzerland, © 2016 Marc Ducrest for Bubbles Incorporated

Above images courtesy of Chaplin’s World

But the timing of the opening could not have come with greater social and political puissance. We have a Republican presidential frontrunner whose hate-filled rhetoric sounds an awful lot like that of the fascist upstarts of the 1930s that had so alarmed Chaplin (who was said to have kept his Jewish identity a secret for realpolitik reasons); another current presidential hopeful, Bernie Sanders, has been effectively marginalized as a “socialist” merely for shining a light on the terrible inequities wrought by the vagaries of unchecked global capital markets.

Further fueling the tension, Jodie Foster’s much buzzed about, Wall-Street-castigating film Money Monster arrives in theaters this weekend. Its star, George Clooney, has arguably followed a Chaplin-like trajectory, devoting his later career not to syrupy romcoms, but to more weighty films that face down the many and sundry systemic corruptions of our 21st Century reality.

Chaplin, above all, wanted to make people laugh, and to offer them a bit of ephemeral escape. But he also passionately hoped his films would make us think about our shared humanity, and perhaps then just be that much more vigilant as to its vulnerability to the forces of venality and greed.

As a crucial American presidential election unfolds, then, what better time to revisit the unparalleled cinematic legacy of Sir Charles Spencer “Charlie” Chaplin?

City_Lights_1931 ©Roy Export SAS

“City Lights © Roy Export SAS” 

Flxx Performs At XL: “Don’t Be Fooled By The Hair. It’s My Mind That Leads Me”

Flx Chaparro-Pitre, usually known as or referred to as just Flxx, has been a nightclub constant or quite a few years. A benevolent manager at hot spots around town, he is known for his look, which includes a lion-like mane. He is soft spoken but stern, and knows everybody and everybody knows him. In the category of "where is he now?" we report that after two and a half years of self-imposed exile, Flxx is back with an album. On April 6th, he will perform at XL nightclub. His new production, "FLXX’s Journey To You," will include the single and video off his new album Valentine’s Romeo, entitled "You". It will be the world premier at the hot 42nd street club and everyone – the old and new – will attend. FLXX is one of the good guys in the business. Read ahead and see why that definition may not be accurate.

You have an ancestry, a lineage that would lead you to entertain. Tell me about that it.
There has always been song and dance in my family for generations, and it’s an epicenter to my life. Every family gathering would lead to instruments playing, people singing and dancing, and the showstoppers were always my mother and father. I would wake to my mother’s singing voice every day. Growing up in Chelsea, my father would frequently perform in clubs and lounges in NYC and invite my Mother to do so as well.

You were always a look… a big look, a powerful look, a recognizable look.. tell me about how you came to it.
There is a picture of me when from when I was seven years old that I have begun to share when asked this same question so terribly often. It was taken during the wrap party for a production of Swan Lake that I was the lead in, and when I look at it, it is still me. I am just now adult version. In the picture I have long hair, a top hat, and tails and an ascot! Yep. Still me. I am all real. But sweet, awkward, comical men and women have dressed themselves as me. Men and women have followed the charcoal lines around my eyes as me. Sounds like a narcissist’s dream. But I believe it’s disconcerting to be reminded so blatantly of oneself. The fact that people want to impress upon you their perception of you is disturbing to say the least. 

You managed, worked in clubs, clubs, clubs.. tell me about that life.
In late 1998, my opportunity to enter the never-ending part of nightlife arose. It is no secret that at the time, Peter and Alessandra Gatien, who infamously owned Limelight, were going through extreme legal issues. They needed someone with a good, clean record to run their Limelight. I hadn’t even received a parking ticket. I was the perfect candidate. Luckily, Father always taught me "one foot in, the other one out to have proper footing," and mother taught me that "no one is better than I, and I am no better than anyone else." I went there to work, make money, and go home peacefully. 

I became the co-general manager of their jewel in the crown, the most infamous nightclub in the world to date. It was by no means a walk in the park. But that is the business. If you can’t handle it, don’t play in it. 

Eventually, their reign as NYC nightlife royalty came to an end and I left and re-positioned myself elsewhere. I opened Arena @ Palladium, XL-Chelsea, Avalon NYC, Mr. Black, Ultra, to name a few. Oddly enough, right after leaving these aforementioned venues, they were shuttered. Once I leave, it’s done. Look at me all you want, but don’t be fooled by the hair; it’s my mind that leads me.

Were you always looking to get out of the nightclub biz?
I always knew that I was leaving the clubs. It was just a matter of when. I like to move forward. I want every day to be new from yesterday in all. From the very beginning I realized that the "beautiful people" were actually quite ugly and untruthful. But it’s no different in nightlife now, I see it. I can smell it when I walk to the door of any club: the aggrandizing. I can only number on one hand the true friendships that I have kept from my NYC nightlife experience thus far, and those people remain dear because they live in truth. 

Is nightlife the same, has it changed drastically, or has it just matured?
I believe that nightlife is the same. The music is there. The people are there. The venues are there. The laughter is there. It is just redesigned. That’s not a bad thing. People often speak of the "good ol’ days."  What’s wrong with progression, with change, with today’s nightlife? Why must one stay in the memory of something they once had as opposed to living in what they have in front of them. I go out looking forward to what will be as opposed to longing for what was once available. 

You wrote, "I am not man, I am not woman, I am not black, I am not white, I am not gay, I am not straight." Define yourself. 
 I live in as close to my truth and present as possible. I reflect upon yesterday, look forward to tomorrow, but most of all, I live today.

You are performing at XL on April 6th. What can we expect?
It’s my first time conceiving, writing, producing, and directing an entire production within one emotionally-charged theme. It’s entitled, "FLXX’s Journey To YOU," with the worldwide premiere and release of the first single and video off my album, Valentino’s Romeo, entitled “YOU." I have combined the theatrical with the club in me. A DJ will play music during the opening reception, muralists have created live images of me to backdrop the songs, and I will sing, accompanied by musicians, a choir, and my mother. Curtain up!

Tell me about your album Valentino’s Romeo.
It’s a gathering of many different moments in my life within my journey of love. At times I felt great and at times I had a 103-degree fever! I lived every moment of this album in real time. And I live each song as they still affect me both emotionally and physically. At times we are loved, but not enough. Not too good. And sometimes these moments in love happen simultaneously  Serious mind-fuck. A psychiatric rubber room of emotions is this album. 

Tell me a club story nobody knows…
I met the person with whom I have shared a greater part of my life thus far in Limelight. A person that will forever be one of my greatest loves. I am lucky and thankful. I can extricate myself from the clubs at my choosing, but I will never erase the clubs from my heart.

Get the inside-info on XL nightclub here

Why Michael Alig Is Still In Jail

Friday evening was spent going back in time as yet another camera crew sat me comfortably and asked me about the Club Kid era and specifically the murder of Angel Melendez by Michael Alig in 1996. An hour turned into three as the story of that very bad thing that happened back in the good old days continues to be a hot topic. One thing that I tried to get across was that although Michael and his cohorts were indeed a colorful cult that jumped in front of every lens and went out of their way to be seen and heard, there were many other players succeeding in creating wondrous nights at all the Gatien venues outside of Michael’s scope. Disco 2000, the insane Wednesday party that everyone refers to and remembers, was only one night a week at the Limelight.

Michael’s influence on the other nights at Limelight was limited. There were four clubs running simultaneously in that empire: Limelight, Palladium, Tunnel, and USA. And although Michael deserves a great deal of credit for mucking things up at the end, he certainly had a run of brilliance that could have and should have been remembered for creativity and fashion and a good time had by all. His Times Square design executed by Eric Goode at Club USA was iconic. The mixing of his club kids with the ravers, the model crowd, the art crowd, and the hipsters at Tunnel and Palladium looked easy at the time, but is rarely duplicated today.

Michael remains locked up. He continues to fuck up in jail and continues to delay his inevitable return to the street. I think he is afraid to join the living. I haven’t seen him in a while. His constant antics, which have resulted in more and more time behind bars, have pushed me away from his drama. I have decided to visit him soon now that he has been moved closer to home. Friends who have seen him recently say he is in good shape both mentally and physically. He is in solitary again but should be out in December.

Anyway, this afternoon these good folks are looking for club kids, people who were there then to talk on camera. It’s just today so hurry up. Dig out the clown nose and put on the polka-dot makeup. They want to go back… again. Here is their story:

Calling all Club Kids

Date: Monday November 19, 2012
Afternoon: 2:30PM – 4:30PM
Discovery ID is revisiting the Club Kid era that lead up to the Angel Melendez murder of 1996. The show will include an interview with Michael Alig and other fabulous people from the era. Producer Steph Watts is looking for Club Kids to come down to Secret Lounge (525 W. 29th St.) from 2:30pm to 4:30pm on Monday, November 19 to reminisce on the time. Feel free to email Libby Segal for more details and to schedule a time:  libby.segal@liontv.us

To contact Michael Alig:

Elmira Correctional Facility
Michael Alig #97A6595
P.O. Box 500
Elmira, New York 14901-0500

Armen Ra On His Shocking Documentary, Favorite Nightlife Stories, & Theremin

In this holiday-shortened week, with the spring pushing and pushing and pushing its way to free us from this winter of discontent, I am writing about the unusual suspects who toil or play in the clubs as they define their crafts. Yesterday it was FLXX. Today it’s Armen Ra, the master of the theremin. The theremin is a rare, eerie-sounding musical instrument, with its foremost astonishing trait explained by Armen in our interview below. Right now, Aremn is raising loot on Indiegogo for a theremin-infused feature documentary about his life: one of growing up in Iranian aristocracy and, after going on vacation in the United States, being forced to stay there due to the Iranian Revolution. A man from wealth and in exile, his story takes flight when he discovers the magic of the theremin and its effect on people. The fundraiser has six days left, and $4,000 to go to get the feature released.

Armen Ra is a well-known face and figure in the posh NY nightclub scene. His story is of ups and downs and all-arounds. It will shock and awe you. I asked him to tell me all about it
 
It’s been a long road. You are an exile,  being forced to leave Iran and live in a foreign land. Tell me about that transition.
That transition was a complete nightmare. I literally thought it was a nightmare for years. Coming from a sheltered aristocratic background, growing up in the opera, traveling the world yearly, submerged in music and art and literature. Being stuck here was like Gilligan’s Island from Hell. I started making jewelry, doing puppet shows with sets and costumes, learning about the power of beauty. We had been to the US several times already, but I didn’t speak any English. My mother and sister were fluent though, so they helped. I adapted quite fast in every way possible. I had to. It was a sudden survival, and I was unprepared at that age, but you figure things out when you have to.

Drugs, prostitution, alcohol, a zillion demons – not exactly the American dream. How’d you get out of that?
Divine intervention, self discipline, and believing in my own intelligence to eventually conquer the demons that were in reach. The light is always there. We are all light. The substance abuse was knocking holes in my aura, diminishing the light. It was not easy to get a regular job for someone like me at the time, especially when the club scene collapsed. Sometimes I had nowhere to sleep and was living in my friend’s multi-million dollar mansion. I worked at Patricia Field doing make-up, did reception at hair salons, drag shows, and whatever else I had to do to survive. I even worked at Show World in the old Times Square! Until I found a voice through the theremin, I was spiraling downward. I wanted to be great at something, and drag and clubs and doing make-up did not satisfy that urge, that quiet knowing that something else is in store, but what? A gift from the gods…waiting for me to open my eyes, to look up.

Tim Burton, Andy Warhol, Vali Myers, Salvador Dali met you, checked you out… you guys rubbed shoulders.
Being in NYC at that time and living in the East Village, it was inevitable really. I’ve always been lucky in attracting interesting people, and I was just amazed that such incredible people and artists wanted me around. It wasn’t that I had low self-esteem; I was just coming out of years of school and abuse, so it was a fabulous shock. I tell the stories in the film. It really is like mythology, and thankfully its all documented and witnessed. Being 16 and spending hours a day with Vali Myers in her room at Hotel Chelsea with people like Ira Cohen,  Andy Warhol, and Debbie Harry coming and going was insane. Vali would constantly take Polaroids of me and send them to Dali. Befriending Leigh Bowery and Thierry Mugler, dancing with Grace Jones in the Limelight DJ booth,s itting on the floor of Frankie Knuckles’ DJ booth at the World… going to a tranny hooker club with Tim Burton and Francis Ford Copolla. Yes, really. Doing the 1999 MTV VMAs in the Madonna Drag Queens segment; I represented the frozen video, that’s a story! I COULD go on! 

The theremin. You have mastered it, and yet I’ve never heard of it.
The theremin is the first electronic instrument ever. Invented by Russian Physicist Leon Theremin around 1920, it is the only instrument that is played without touching, and one of the most difficult to play. Many people use it as a sound effect. I play it as a classical instrument and a voice. My theremin has an eight-octave range, so she is like the ultimate opera singer. She sounds like Maris Callas from beyond. The theremin was used in many sci-fi and horror movies in the background. I think it fell into obscurity because it was difficult to play properly and was not easily accessible. My intention is to bring this instrument to the foreground where it belongs. It has taken me all over the world and onto some of the greatest stages. The sound affects people, it brings out emotion, and touches the heart like a beautiful voice does.

What is the film about?
The film is channeling sadness and horror into beauty, and music is the alchemy. It’s about being clear enough to receive. We are in THE LAST WEEK of our Indigogo crowd-funding campaign. We’re asking anyone who is interested in seeing this fabulous film made properly to please help support us by making donations and/or especially spreading the word about the film and the campaign. We are working very hard to create a meaningful, beautiful, high-quality work of art. Any and all support is welcomed and much appreciated.

And thank you, Steve. You helped me when I first started working in clubs by believing in me and giving me work of all kinds, and you continue to support what I am doing. I really appreciate it. You’re a real gentleman.

Abbe Diaz’s Greatest Rant

Abbe Diaz is an old friend. If you catch her at the right moment, she’s an angel, but if you say something offensive that could be the most innocuous thing, she’ll rip your throat out. I try to always be pleasant around her. I ran into her on my way to BINGO recently. She was sitting alone at Gemma, and I took her up on her offer to sit and chat. I adore Abbe Diaz. The last time we interviewed her, sparks flew so I figured I’d try it again.

What’s all this movie stuff about?
It’s actually a pilot/web series for more of a TV show than a movie. PX This: The Series is based on my book PX This (Diary of the Maitre d’ to the Stars), so it’s essentially an audio/visual manifestation of the story depicted in it. Some stuff was restructured to make it more adherent to the paradigms of television, but it’s still based on a true story. I mean seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

Aside from that, this show also really reflects the exposition of my book, because it’s such a bootstrap project. I am lucky to have been able to assemble an amazingly talented cast and crew, many of whom have worked in the restaurant industry and whose lives mirror my own to a pretty substantial degree. I am humbled by their passion and dedication, working such long arduous hours, for a sum that doesn’t nearly compensate their tremendous skill and effort.

Of all the messages people have seemingly or professedly derived from PX This, the one about holding tight to your dreams (as clichéd as it is) is the one I cherish the most. So PX This: The Series is turning out to be quite the spiritual manifestation as well. And that is so infinitely satisfying. The teaser-trailer (and more information is available at) at IndieGogo.

You are a relentless proponent for fair play in the restaurant biz, and give the newbies the 25-cent tour. Who are you and how did you become you…and leave mom and dad out of it.
Well, that’s a nice sentiment but I don’t think I’m really all that “relentless.” I published a diary that happens to expose certain unsavory aspects of some renowned and illustrious fine-dining organizations. And since all I was doing was telling the truth, I take a fair amount of umbrage at those who would seek to disparage me for simply recounting these anecdotes in my own comical and satirical way.

All I was doing was minding my own business, literally. I’m one of the most chill people anybody will ever know. The industry has made me misanthropic enough that I’m perfectly happy to keep a good distance from other people and their fatuous escapades. I think I have pretty much one philosophical mandate and one alone, and that’s: DON’T COME FOR ME– which is undoubtedly a fairly easy rule for anyone to follow.

Unfortunately, it seems some people have had to learn the hard way that if you come for me, oh, you are sure to find me alright. Too bad I’m not quite the feeble prey you anticipated. I ran into you a couple Monday nights ago at Gemma and you seemed happy. Many people see you differently…some as a crusader – a c word – and some would use a b word. We always hear about your peeves, but what makes you happy?
Ooh, I’m afraid to say because then I might jinx everything. But yes, you have it right; I am happier now than I have ever been because I have pretty much everything I’ve ever wanted. (And what I don’t have yet, I’m about to get.)

Come to think of it, that last sentence alone is probably enough to make certain people seethe. I must admit; that does make me happy.

We’ve been friends for decades…we both have the scars to show we were there. What is not talked about within all the scandals surrounding Limelight and the characters you used to work with? That’s a leading question because so much written and screened is misleading.
Which is probably why I’m the wrong person to ask. I’m so accustomed to “misleading” representations in the media and whatnot, I have no idea what’s “talked about” anymore, because I’ve long stopped paying attention.

But I can well imagine that what’s not talked about very much is everything that was good; the wonderful people we knew, the fun times we had, the outrageous things we saw, the spectacular things we experienced, the whopping money we made. Despite all the hard work all those years (and the scandals), the only thing I regret about any of it is I never took any photographs.

We were part of a unique era that will never transpire again. Sometimes it feels like certain elements would have us apologize for it. But that very same era fostered a generation of strong and fearless wills – some good and some not so good, but largely the unparalleled combination of both.

What are you going to be when you grow up?
Fierce. Like my mom. (Oh, oops, sorry I didn’t leave Mom out of it. Hey, I didn’t bring up my dad.)

Ok, we need a rant … who makes you mad and why?
Woo child, that’s a whole other book. Literally. Its title is PX Me (How I Became a Published Author, Got Micro-Famous, and Married a Millionaire), as a matter of fact. Coming soon in the autumn of 2012!

But okay, I’ll give you a rant. Right now it’s still some particular facets of journalism and the media that make me really mad. To this day I am dumbfounded by the media’s rampant unscrupulousness and hypocrisy.

And if a piddling little nobody like me can be subject to the media depravity I’ve encountered, imagine the global implications of such a thing. It’s vomitous. It’s enough to make the entire news system suspect and incapacitated, the universal consequences of which we are just beginning to realize.

How’s that for a rant.

Bingo and Avenue A Soundcheck Party Tonight, the Passing of Bruce Patras

Tuesdays are the best night of the week for people with heads that tilt like mine. I’ll tell you all about that tomorrow. As the warm weather progresses, many successful joints will turn to alternative programming early in the week. These off-the-beaten- path parties on the so-called "off nights" will offset their predictable model/bottle weekends and add cool, cool cachet. The competition is fierce, with nightlife enjoying a renaissance, rebirth, or whatever you want to call it. Places are looking for the edge to set them apart from the pack. Throw in Brooklyn nightlife, and what we have here is a golden age. The party is as good as it has ever been, albeit with some sacrifice. I gladly miss the smoke-filled, drug-induced mayhem of previous decades. My friends aren’t waking up dead and my hair doesn’t wash out gray from cigarettes… only old age.

Mondays are heating up with The Double Seven introducing a concept that I like. After Bingo tonight, I’ll coerce my crew to that 63 Ganesvoort hot spot for Nima Yamini’s Avenue A Soundcheck Party. It’s a weekly concert series – this week featuring Interscope Records artist Zander Bleck. Zander is being produced by two- time Grammy Award winner RedOne. He toured with Lady GaGa. CEO daughter Hannah Bronfman is doing a guest DJ spot tonight. Giza Selimi of The Box will be the friendly and handsome face at the door.
 
I spoke to Nima at Bantam (or 17 Stanton, depending on who you talk to) Saturday night at one of their preview nights. I told him to send me info on the night and promised to attend. He sent me this:
"The Mondays are not at all about the models, bottle spenders, etc. (same cookie cutter format everywhere) and are 100% about the musicians. This is a home for live music by a new generation of musicans in 2012 with a passion for rock n roll, alternative and indie music. People who want to come see a kick ass rock show on a Monday night. Jeffrey Jah, David Rabin and Mark Baker have given me 100% support on this project and I am excited to work with them on it."
———————-
 
With great sadness I report the passing of an old friend: Bruce Patras. He passed after a battle with cancer at the young age of 54. He leaves behind a couple of kids and a loving wife. I hadn’t heard from or seen Bruce in 20 years. A Facebook friend tracked me down to let me know he succumbed in December after a courageous fight. He was sometimes called "crazy Bruce" because he often…misbehaved. His incredible smile and deep dark good looks always gained forgiveness. I knew him to be solid, always looking out for the other guy, never backing down to a challenge. We shared a thousand nights and once dated the same girl. We cavorted and laughed and played in the moonlight. We drank from the same cup and then drifted apart. I read his Facebook wall and reconnected with him after the fact. I read his hopes and felt his fear and his bravery. Club life creates bonds that can never be broken. There came a time 20 years ago when life and responsibilities and other
relationships separated us. I never stopped loving him, and his passing leaves me a bit more mortal and understanding of the gifts of life and friendship. Yesterday, another Facebook friend who saw the Limelight movie was saying she felt bad how the government fucked us over a long time ago in a galaxy… far, far away. My reply was the lyrics from a Tuxedo Moon track: "No tears for the creatures of the night." Today, I take that back. Tears for Mr. Bruce Patras: a saint, a sinner, and a real great friend.

Confronting My Past, Present, and the Article in ‘Crain’s’

So a friend (who prefers to remain nameless) and great publicist from R.Couri Hay Creative Public Relations, handles Stash, a club I recently completed, and Elsinor, which I am finishing up. I’ve known her forever and she is the tiger you want in your tank when you need some ink … press (if you need the other ink ,a tattoo, then Three Kings or Graceland serve me… well but I digress) She pitched and placed an article about me which talks about her clients in Crain’s, and that’s a big deal. I had mixed feelings about the piece which, while blowing me up as this design hero, brought up my checkered past, including my conviction for being part of an Ecstasy sales ring while I was director of the Tunnel, Club, USA, Limelight, Palladium. It also mentions my year in prison. Some people thought this was an unfair attack, or old news, or unnecessary for the story. A debate raged on Facebook, on my phone, and in emails and among friends about the value of the article and whether it was actually a positive thing. I called her up and she gave me this spin: "Your past has helped shape who you are today, and it’s a testament to the quality of your work that you’ve remained a player in the design industry for as long as you have. Clearly, there’s no end in sight." I’m buying into that.

The reporter, Ali Elkin, was very upfront about her desire and obligation to tell it like it is. I told her it was quite alright because it is a huge part of what drives me and defines me and I have never hid from that past. She noted in the article my take on things: "Currently living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, he denies any wrongdoing."
 
The responses and Facebook posts ranged from "Shoot the messenger," to "It’s fabulous." I responded that "I yam what I yam," quoting that great poet, Popeye. I would tell you my side of that story in details, but so many have done so already, including Frank Owen in his Clubland book, which tells a story pretty close to the real. There was a little bit in there that I objected to, and my old friend Frank and I almost came to blows, and that spat resulted in a few articles here and there. We’re friends again. There is also the Limelight documentary by Billy Corben and Alfred Spellman which is coming out any day now on DVD; it really does a great job in summarizing that circus. I’m all up in that and advise you to check it out if you want more insight into that era and the circumstances of my conviction. I didn’t participate in any Ecstacy ring. I didn’t need that to fill clubs. I and the people assembled to run those clubs were the best in the business. The creativity and results of our efforts were rewarded with tens of thousands of satisfied customers who enjoyed one of the best nightlife eras.
 
The running of clubs, the wars fought , the million smiles, the million nights, the trial, the prison stint all define me as well as my relations, friends, and my little dog too. My creative abilities, as meager as they often are, come from creative freedoms earned on a hard but rewarding road. When someone hires me to design their joint, I understand the price of succeess and failure. I bring all my experience to the table. I have made a great deal of omelettes and have had to break a great many eggs as well, but it all seems worth it when I walk into The Darby, Stash, Butter, the WeSC store, or Aspen Social Club and see them occupied by people enjoying my work. It’s been almost 10 years since my first design gig. Butter was the first place I designed for people other than myself. For many years I designed the places I was going to operate, but Butter was for others. In prison, having completed Butter, I decided to design and write when I hit the streets.
 
I practiced and studied and used the time I was given to learn how to redefine myself when I got out. Now, after a decade of doing it, I am clearly happy with the Crains article, which celebrates my attempt to get up and stand up. It’s harder than I thought to live with a felony conviction. Many things you take for granted are very difficult for me, but I have no regrets. I may have lost this or that, but I earned a lot and learned a great deal about what it takes to survive. My friends have always been there. The greatest gift has been the clarity I have when I look in the mirror at the beginning or end of every day. Many have said I should have done this or done that or said this about them or that.  A thousand "whatevers, what ifs, and why nots" have been analyzed and debated till my stomach was knotted and then un-knotted with the satisfaction of doing the right thing … I wouldn’t want to change a thing. Nothing in my life, or that wonderful Crain’s article.
 
Oh, if you are going out tonight, visit me at Hotel Chantelle, or head over to Bowery Electric for Frankie Inglese’s Beahver party. This party dominated Thursdays in NYC forever before Frankie moved to LA. I cannot recall a better party. I guess any party better leave me unconscious and without memory.

Frank Owen’s Article on Chris Paciello Reveals All, Q& A With Owen Inside

How does that song go? I can never get it right: "Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind…" Something like that. I can’t seem to get away from old acquaintances and the weird thing is, I can’t remember why I should want to never bring them to mind… but something tells me I should. The Limelight movie now out on DVD has made me a movie star. I am recognized in restaurants and get a few Facebook shout-outs a day because of it. A couple of days ago, old acquaintance Frank Owen alerted me to an article in the Miami New Times he wrote about my old acquaintance Chris Paciello . When Chris got out of prison, he had a good run out in LA, did something or other in Vegas, and is now bringing all the celebs and beach beauties to the bar at the restaurant Bianca at the Delano South Beach. I haven’t talked to him in years, but remember we were on good terms last time we met. I always liked him even though it has been reported we had some beef.

There was a time when he reportedly wanted some guys to beat me up, but even then I understood his side of it. I wanted his partner Ingrid Casares to open up Studio 54 with me and not him, and the compensation I offered him wasn’t sufficient to justify my approaching her. I knew the playground I was playing in and I knew the rules and the resulting confrontation wasn’t a surprise. We talked it out a few months later and that’s that. I read Frank’s story, which is amazingly detailed. It paints a not-too-flattering picture of Chris in straight-up black and white…mostly black. Somewhere near the end, a Delano publicist offers this spin from Chris: “I regret the mistakes I made in the past. I am working hard to make a positive impact and to build a new life for myself in Miami. I am grateful to the many people here who have welcomed me back with open arms, and look forward to a positive future.”
 
I think I said the same thing once or even thrice. Chris and I have learned from our past mistakes; mine was mostly hanging around people like those "co-starring" with me in that Limelight documentary and people like Chris. Hey, I used to be 3-foot-6… but I grew out of it. No one understands the club world of that era except some of the players who created it and wallowed in it. Even then, they only have their own perspective. It was big, there was a lot going on. The Limelight movie can try to summarize 10,000 nights, millions of partying people, and the actions of differently motivated players but it can’t possibly bring you there and into the minds of the players, the whys, and what for’s in a couple of hours.
 
Frank’s article takes it farther than before. It paints a picture of the forces I was dealing with when I was director of some famous clubs back in the day. In a game of musical chairs, I got left without one and did my piece. I stood up mostly because back then, when pressed hard, I chose to stand up rather than sit in a chair I would feel … "uncomfortable" in. Do I have regrets? Yeah, I have a few. If Chris can run joints after murder and other such bad play, I guess I could have done some things I was denied if I had decided to tell a few lies. "You don’t rat against people," I was told growing up and during the ordeal. "When you become a rat, it’s your very soul that you are ratting on"…goes the mantra that I agreed with at that time and now. I didn’t, others did. For now, like Mr. Paciello, "I am grateful to the many people here who have welcomed me back with open arms, and look forward to a positive future.”
 
Frank Owen was running off to give the keynote address at a criminology conference in Missouri in the morning. I asked him what was new in his Killer Comeback story, and this is what he said. I then followed up with a little Q & A.
 
Frank Owen – Here are some of the never-before-revealed highlights:
 
*A 1997 plot involving Paciello and Colombo crime family boss Alphonse Persico to murder a dissident mafioso.
 
*Another murder plot, this one to kill Paciello, which was nixed by Bonanno captain Anthony Graziano.
 
*A 1994 kidnapping of a Staten Island businessman from an auto body repair shop by Paciello and a Bonanno family soldier.
 
*A million dollar robbery of a Westminster Bank in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn that provided the start-up capitol for Paciello’s first Miami Beach nightclub.
 
*The burglary of more than 30 bank night safety boxes in four different states by Paciello in alliance with members of a Bonanno-affiliated gang called the New Springville Boys."
 
 Why do you keep digging into this story?
I didn’t. I haven’t written a major clubland investigative story since I Ieft the Village Voice. Actually, Lera was the one who rekindled my interest in Paciello. She became friendly with a Lord Michael associate and I reunited with Lord Michael after not speaking to him for well over a decade. Plus, there was the Limelight documentary, of course, which brought back a lot of old memories.
 
What has been your personal relationship with Chris? How has he reacted in the past to your articles/book and how do you think he will react, if at all, to these incredible new disclosures?
I don’t have a personal relationship with Chris. I know his brother, Keith, just de-friended me on Facebook because of the story. Keith is a good guy. He’s twice the man his brother is. Over the years, I’ve contacted Chris a number of times but he’s always refused to be interviewed.
 
How does he get away with it after all is said and done? How does he still operate?
I don’t know. In LA, after he was released from prison, he got involved in two major nightclub brawls and was arrested for felony assault and assault with a deadly weapon while he was on parole. For most parolees, that would mean being sent back to prison – not for Chris. A couple of LA defense lawyers I talked to firmly believe that Chris is still working for the FBI.
 
Why is the city of Miami in love with him? What does he represent?
He represents South Beach when it was really happening — the fabulous ’90s, when South Beach became a beacon of international glamor. People down here miss those times. A friend of mine said: "What is wrong with people in South Beach? They think this guy is God." They do. As Paciello’s friend Michael Capponi once told me: "Party people will forgive anything for a good time." Especially in South Beach, the Land of the Lotus-Eaters.

DJs A-Trak, Kool Herc, & More at Scratch DJ Academy 10th-Anniversary Party

Chateau Cherbuliez officially opened in that old church on 6th Ave. known affectionately by all, well many as Limelight. A much better idea than that mall that shares the space and doesn’t seem to have many good ideas, Chateau will class up the building that once was a very classy place. I’m not talking about the Gatien-nightclub incarnation, but more so the time when it was a real church with parishioners that included names like Astor and other NYC-society types. Chateau, with marketing geniuses Derek and Daniel Koch, figures to be a winner. Famous chef Todd English will consult while executive chef Peter Larsen will do the cooking. Managing partner Olivier Bondon of St. Barts lore will preside over a main dining room, a private secret dining room, and when weather permits, a garden. Photos of the Limelight heyday by Patrick McMullan will adorn the walls.

At the official opening Wednesday, that champagne that I proudly affiliate with, Beau Joie, was the official sponsor. It was opened as Daniel and Derek opened Toy just a few weeks ago. The place has operated, and when the time was right and the kinks all un-kinked, they make it official. Good idea. The old building has been a place to gather since the 1840s, and I for one am happy that good people will be returning to have a good time.

Next Tuesday the 30th, Scratch DJ Academy celebrates its 10th year with over 100,000 students from all 50 states and 35 different countries. It’s a major force in developing young talent. Tuesday’s anniversary party honors some not-so-young talent; DJ Kool Herc, DJ QBert, and A-Trak will be the focus of attention while various young studs strut their stuff. It’s an RSVP thing so if you wanna go, do some hustling. I caught up with Rob Principe, CEO and co-founder of Scratch DJ Academy, and he told me all about it.

 In the past 10 years, what have been the major changes in DJ culture? The biggest change has come from technology and the democratization of the art form. Technology has now empowered the broader culture to not only become a DJ, but to do so with a very low barrier to entry in terms of cost and equipment.

What do you predict the next 10 years will be like? Technology will continue to fuel change, and the art form will continue to evolve accordingly. Music will also continue to become more personalized in its delivery and consumption, and the experience will continue to become more social. 

Tell us about the 10-year anniversary event. The ten-year anniversary event will celebrate the Scratch DJ Academy’s amazing milestone, and the legacy of Jam Master Jay and the broader DJ community who have impacted, affected, and shaped the art form over the years. 

What can we expect? What will happen? There will be some great performances, and we’ll also be honoring some awesome DJs like A-Trak, Kool Herc, and QBert. DMC from Run DMC will also be performing along with DJ Dasmatic (Jam Master Jay’s son).

Do you think the public is actually becoming more educated with the art of DJing or are clubs just programming pop? I do believe that the public’s music IQ is definitely increasing. Clubs will always program what they need to drive their revenue, but overall, people are much smarter about music than ever before.