A Springtime Visit to Michael Alig in Prison Before His (Possible) Release

The four hour trip north to Elmira, New York saw the promise of spring fade into the endless winter. There was snow and ice and roadkill, sometimes disturbed by a torrent of rain and sometimes a tardy sun. There was a constant of apprehension. How would Michael Alig be? After a decade and a half of incarceration and more ups and downs and dips and spins than the Cyclone on a summer day, would he be as sharp as he was during my December visit? Professor Victor P. Corona came along for the ride and for the endless debate on what our pal will do when he hits the streets. When will that happen is the question of the day from those who still care. Those who still care consist partly of a group of old friends and business associates who have forgiven him or feel he has paid the price for his part in the 1996 murder of drug dealer Angel Melendez. Other people concerned with Michael’s fate are his fans. All over the world people who have never met Michael Alig or been to one of his parties read all that they can about him as if he was more than prisoner #97A-6595. He is a cult-like leader of a generation of young ones who have little else to latch onto and don’t really know the man behind the ancient makeup. They seem to worship Michael’s life without much consideration of Angel’s death, or understanding of the consequences of his bad deeds. Part of Michael’s price for return to our world must be an attempt to truly show these vulnerable minds the error of his ways. Steering his disenfranchised flock in a positive direction is called for.

Michael is doing well. He is beefed up from daily workouts with a personal trainer. He is proud of his six-pack and his biceps. He is in a drug program, a step toward returning to the living. He is preparing for the street … for his new life amongst us. When that will be is decision beyond my pay grade, beyond Michael’s. If I were a betting man I’d say before this Christmas. He is a noticeably different man than the one I have visited over the years. Gone is the hunger for the way it was … his life as king of the club kids. Gone is his anger, his self-loathing, his need to spin the story in any direction but the truth. He is deeply remorseful for his disastrous past. He is focused on a future which has been previously very ominous. He is chock full of ideas and art projects and game-changing concepts. He has stopped giving interviews and participating in the TV show du jour. He will wait until they have something new to talk about before he talks again. His mind is clear and sharp. He is the Michael I loved and befriended, not the Party Monster who let a generation down with an inexcusable evil act and subsequent cover-up. Nothing he does will bring Angel back or sway many to accept his release into society. He vows to try to live a life that helps others. I relayed all the "hello’s" and "miss you’s" from mutual acquaintances and headed south to my own world. Amanda told me I missed a beautiful day. Michael has missed 5000 as punishment for the life he took and the hundreds he ruined as his personal spring and summer, his days and nights spent in the light of the notorious Limelight and other joints turned cold and increasingly dark. He has moved on and is hoping the world will see him as he is now, embrace his new outlook , forgive him, and allow him to thrive.

A Tale of 2 Felons—Or is it Three?

A source close to the ground told me, Peter Gatien—the disgraced club mogul of Limelight fame—was in NYC the other day. I asked around looking for confirmation and got a couple "you didn’t hear it from me(s)" and lot of incredulous "no’s," as opposed to it didn’t happen "no"s. But a little luck brought me to Griffin honcho Chris Reda. I called Chris and asked him if he took a meeting with the "Dark Night." He seemed surprised and replied,  "I saw him." I pushed, "In New York, at dinner?" He replied "yes" but had to "call me back."  Then, guys who he called after my conversation called me to make sure I told Chris that I hadn’t heard it from them. I hadn’t, but it did serve as a confirmation. I called the filmmaker daughter of the one-eyed blunder Jennifer Gatien and asked her if she had seen him. She hadn’t heard from him and didn’t expect to. They haven’t talked in a while.

There were rumors a minute ago of Peter plotting a return to NYC to do a joint. There was talk of him lawyering up. I don’t think a billion lawyers could help him grasp back his gory…er glory days.  He tried to do a place Circa in Toronto, but the exile not on main street couldn’t succeed. I never thought he was that good at running clubs anyway. He did put together an empire of sorts that ruled nightlife a long time ago; he hired everyone who could compete with him head-up and bought and re-modelled the best spaces. He lost it all in a sea of finger pointing. He blamed everyone else and the Federal government for the great demise. He was to blame. He created a monster and hired and supported monsters. In the end, it was an evil empire with victims of many kinds strewn in its wake. It was fun, but not viable, and I have never heard him own up to the grief while he took all the credit for the success. I will say that his enemies were as bad—if not worse—than him and the company he chose to keep. 
 
I worked for and with the best in clubland. Peter Gatien never had the people skills the good operators had. He was great at the back of the house stuff and hiring the best of the best, but that was way back when. Now the best of the best have their own places and Peter would attract lots of attention from much stronger community boards and neighborhood organizations. With his felony convictions it would be hard to own a dive bar let lone a real club—but he could try to prop someone in front of him, on all the papers while he pulled the strings from behind the scene…where he is most comfortable anyway. Peter has his fans, people who he paid and shared a good time with a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. I have no ill will towards him, but not all that much respect either. This is all probably just a rumor anyway; Peter Gatien couldn’t possibly believe that he could come here and make a mark. He’s smarter than that. The organizations that rule this town’s nightlife are far more sophisticated and clean than he could ever be. The ghosts of club nights past would surely haunt him. I don’t really care if Peter had dinner with Chris Reda in NYC and except for the back story I’m not sure anyone else would care. There won’t be a front story. That ship sailed and it’s only hot air and ego that floats that balloon.
 
Speaking of the Peter Gatien era and ghosts and such, his right hand man from back then, Michael Alig got a mention in Michael Musto’s column the other day. Michael (Alig) has been in prison for 16 years for numerous crimes against humanity—including drug dealing while working for Peter at the Limelight. Oh, and murder as well. Peter beat those drug charges but got nabbed and deported to his native Canada for Tax inaccuracies. Anyway, Michael Musto reported that Michael Alig might be returning to the living as early as a couple months. Now, Micheal (Musto) listened to someone who spoke too soon and didn’t have it right, but great journalists end up right even when they’re wrong. At the time of the article, Mr. Alig had been denied a hearing before the Time Allowance Commitee—which will set a release date and is now actually going to happen. Congratulations to both Michaels.  
 
Michael Alig never used a cell phone or a computer. I visit him from time to time. He will probably write or continue with his painting, which he picked up behind bars. He has a place to stay and job offers. He won’t return to club life. He realizes he won’t be allowed to do that even if he lawyers up. His victim Angel Melendez of course won’t be getting a second chance at life. Michael Alig is aware of this and vows to do whatever he can to prove worthy to walk among us. He knows sorry isn’t enough. He says it all the time. I have never heard Peter Gatien say that. Peter didn’t kill anyone and has always professed his innocence of everything he has been accused of. I wish Peter and Michael Alig and Musto as well the best of luck in their 21st century lives. I have worked at rebranding myself and putting that past behind me. It’s working for me.

Why It’s Time for a New Breed of ‘Club Kids’

I was in high school when my father showed me a Boston Globe article about the Club Kids in NYC. Michael Alig and the rest of his beautiful outcasts were the central focus–this was a couple years before Alig ended up in jail for murdering Angel Melendez.

Since I was about 15 at the time, I soaked in the article like a sponge that needed validation for my own freak-dom. They were colorful, and they didn’t play by anyone else’s rules. They were, in my mind, spectacular. I ripped out the article and placed it on my wall: this was the world I wanted to know; this was the world in which I wanted to live.

I moved to New York City in 2004, eight years after Melendez’s murder. Michael Alig was in jail and I had seen Party Monster more times than I was willing to admit, despite the fact that Macaulay Culkin was horrible in the role of Alig.

When I moved to New York City, it was no longer the city that embraced the “freaks” that I had loved from afar based on the Boston Globe article I read so many years before. Granted, New York will never be short on freaks, but the Club Kids, the group of individuals whom I learned to love through articles and then documentaries after the murder, the people with whom I thought I could be best friends were long gone. Their time in the sun had fizzled, Peter Gatien’s Limelight was no longer, and although it was turned into the club Avalon for a short time, it is now a fucking market place. If Alig and Gatien were dead, they’d be rolling over in their graves.

Some of the best parts about New York is that it’s forever changing. A restaurant you love is something else a month later, the bookstore you adored eventually becomes a boutique, and Starbucks are subtly putting proper cafes out of business one by one. It’s either gorgeous, or a heartbreaking sort of affairs—depending on what side of change you reside.

But if change is part of NYC, if evolving, embracing the new is how we roll, then isn’t it time for a new breed of Club Kids? Someone has to step up and take their place, and fill the void they left behind. Why? Because being a freak should never go out of style.

Michael Alig, realizing he was an outcast in his Indiana hometown, moved to New York City to find a place in which he could fit in and feel at home. James St. James had a similar story in that he, too, left Michigan behind to pursue a life far more extraordinary than the one he knew. Together they indulged in a life of excess, and were the leaders of a pack of misfits who had come to New York City for the same reason they had: to find others like them. They may not have been a voice of a generation, and no one would probably ever consider them perfect role models, but what they did do, what they did that was more important and for which that era will always be remembered, was that they made freaks the world over feel less alone.

Kids, like me, read about them, watched them on talk shows, and although some would argue that they dressed and acted that way purely for attention, who the fuck cares? They were living the life they wanted; the life they chose.

In a world where mediocrity is practically championed, and the conventional expectations of working nine-to-five, living in a house in the suburbs, and having three kids with names that will be out of style by next year, the Club Kids stood for something else. They stood—and still do, although they’ve all grown up and moved on from that part of their life—for a polar opposite of the mainstream. They were distinct on all levels, and their uniqueness, I imagine (although I was too young to have known it intimately), was contagious.

I’m not sure who we can delegate to start a new wave of Club Kids, but it has to happen. There’s too much emphasis put on people like Kim Kardashian and other two-bit, semi-celebrities who have nothing but the mundane to offer, and a mundane that the masses eat up. The masses are boring and lack originality. Club Kids, on the other hand, are colorfully exempt from such a drab adjective. And if one kid from somewhere in middle Ohio can look at a Club Kid and realize that’s the person they are, too, then it will be worth it.

So do we have any volunteers for someone to take Michael Alig’s spot sans the murder part? It’s not as though he’s getting out of jail anytime soon, and we really need to start working on this revolution now. 

Follow Amanda Chatel on Twitter.

Nightlife Legend Peter Gatien Plans New Club

The new documentary focusing on the rise and fall of Peter Gatien, Limelight, (which features Blackbook’s Steve Lewis) debuted in New York this weekend and it’s clear that the “King of Clubs’ isn’t going to let the newfound attention pass him by. His kingdom toppled by investigations of drug use and deported back to Canada for tax evasion, he’s poised to reclaim his crown with a new TV show and has plans for a new hotspot in the works.

Gatien, who ruled NYC nightlife in the ‘90’s with legendary, candy colored, go-go dancer and glittery hotspots like Tunnel, Palladium, and Club USA, has been struggling with financial problems, the New York Times recently reported. His $3,000 rent is paid for by family and friends, he doesn’t have a car, and he mostly stays home, avoiding dinners or travel or other things that take a chunk out of the wallet.

It’s time to make a comeback.

Gatien’s last involvement in nightlife was with Toronto club Circa, though he left in early 2009 and the spot filed for bankruptcy later in the year. That behind him, it looks like he’s ready to make another go. Page Six reports that Gatien is “developing a TV series about the Limelight and his role as a club impresario.” He is also flying to Russia to scout locations for a new nightlife venture.

Moscow. It’s far, but not that far? Na zdorovia!

An Interview With Limelight Director Billy Corben

Since Limelight opened, I’ve been getting calls. Most think the person who played me was good, although not as handsome as the real me—just kidding. For those not in the know, it’s a documentary and I was me on that screen. I was not the person who used to be Steve Lewis. That person lurks buried inside me as my stint at the University of Pennsylvania, Schuylkill and a whole lot of other learning and calming makes me look back at wonderment that he… was me. I talked to Limelight director, Billy Corben about the movie. I love Billy and think everyone else does too.

I hear that Peter Gatien is not happy about the film, which in its final cut is a bit of a puff piece about his persecution at the hands of various agencies of the U.S. government. I think the film is fair and he could have been portrayed far worse. I miss Peter. I always found him to be a bright guy. We seem to still have beef after all these years. I have offered him a chance to talk here and I was told “No fucking way,” with some giggles added in. That’s okay, as the film will be a pretty good barometer of who cares. In this interview with Billy Corben I say that none of us were innocent, not him, nor me. That doesn’t mean I’m saying that we were guilty of the charges brought against us so long ago. I believe neither of us really were, but I can only be sure of my role. The world was different then and although we threw out the dealers we saw, we probably didn’t do enough until it was already a federal case. The fundamental problem we encountered was the Feds shifting the responsibility to fight drug dealers to the club owners and away from law enforcement. We became the criminals when we didn’t go to war with the criminals on the turf we controlled. We actually did but obviously not enough and we were, of course, infiltrated and exploited by promoters who dealt drugs and then pointed their fingers at us to save their asses. None of those guys went to jail, as speaking to the feds against Gatien gave you an automatic get-out-of-jail-free card.

I did not testify, did not pass go, collect $200, or my get-out-of-jail card. I refused to cooperate and got banged. I not only live with that decision but am proud of it. I never allowed drug dealers to work on my watch and refused to plead guilty to that when told it meant automatic freedom. Peter remains in denial and deep in Canada because of tax indiscretions that resulted in his deportation. Did he get a raw deal? OMG yes! He lived here for decades. He has American born children here and all that. It’s in the movie. The Limelight club was banging for more than a decade, 6 days/nights week. Noise, events, celebrities, great music, acts and everybody came and had a blast. The stomping down of Peter marked the end of a certain type of freedom and creativity that has left a gaping hole in the fabric of this town. The Limelight movie can’t recreate that time or restore Peter to the top of the world or make me Steve Lewis again. It is what it is and will be seen differently by all the eyes that see it.

There doesn’t seem to be any winners, save for maybe celebrity lawyer and all around good guy Benjamin Brafman. The government lost badly with only little ol’ me as their pound of flesh. I didn’t win, having lost my career and any loot that I had—although I’m a much happier camper now than I was then. Peter seems devastated on film and from what I hear, in the reality of his exile decidedly not on Main Street. Alig rests up in jail, ready to hit the ground running and the dealers turned rats are the same as before…empty shells of human beings. Tony Montana wannabes without the cajones they never quite grew. The public lost as well. Only now does nightlife seem to be near that era’s greatness, thriving without the drug epidemic. In a month or two Limelight will shrink back into the damp cobwebbed corners of my mind where it has dwelled for so long. For now, people care about Peter Gatien and some will sympathize with his plight, but if he has delusions of redemption or return I fear he will be disappointed. This movie will not persuade his detractors and not encourage the masses to rebellion to save him from his plight. He is no Napoleon and not a saint either and the story told will merely be nostalgic amusement with popcorn in theaters and then TV. Sure those that witnessed it will debate on blogs and Facebook but the history has been written and our fates decided. I wish Peter only well. My reaction to the film was that I miss the guy. Fate and the laws of two countries say he can’t come here and I can’t go there. Maybe we can meet in that river by those great falls him on his Canadian Niagara tour boat, me on the American one.

I’m sitting with Billy Corben, who’s most famous for Cocaine Cowboys (1 and 2), which did okay in theatres, but banged on TV. Part 1 was the only one that was actually released and did nothing. It was released in about 13 cities and made $17. It actually blew up on DVD back in ’07, and it played on Showtime and was really successful.

You produced Limelight and you’ve become known as a “drug movie” producer, although I’ve said that the movie is not necessarily about a club—it’s about drug culture and crime, it’s a crime documentary. You did a great job covering the personalities involved in this movie. What has driven you to hang out with this element? We did Cocaine Cowboys, which is an ’80s cocaine movie, and now we’ve got Limelight, a ’90s ecstasy movie, so we’ve got drug trends by decade covered. Also, we didn’t choose the story, this story chose us. Jen Gatien came to us, she had seen Cocaine Cowboys and had been looking for some time for some filmmakers to tell her dad’s story. Alfred, my [film partner] had suggested that she direct it. There’s a tradition of the offspring directing documentaries about their famous parents. So there’s nothing really wrong with it because they are the kids, that’s a part of the thing. We had been approached to develop things in house before, this would be the first non-Miami centric, or Florida themed project that seemed to be in our wheelhouse, it being a kind of drug movie and crime story. We talked it over and what we really liked about it, just like Cocaine Cowboys was the “macro” and a “micro.” The “micro” in Cocaine Cowboys were individual cocaine cowboys like the lawyers, the reporters, the hitman, the wholesalers, and the cocaine godmother. The “macro” is that big picture, which is the city of Miami in the ’80s. It was similar because of what people experienced in the Limelight, set against the backdrop of the ’90s in New York City, the Giuliani revolution and how it completely transformed the biggest city in the world. We told Jen we would do it if we could get final cut, because we’re not going to do “Memoirs of a Gatien.” We weren’t going to be the PR arm of the Gatien family.

That’s a brilliant line and it was my concern. I think Peter thought because Jen was producing it, there would be a little more editorial control on the family’s part and there wasn’t. This wasn’t going to be an image rehabilitation project for us. We had no interest in that. We had an interest in the story and the people.

When I was approached about this, my initial reaction was, “no fucking way” will I be in it. But after speaking with you guys, I felt very comfortable that the story was going to be told right. I wanted to make sure the story was going to be told truthfully…to the extent it could. Was I 100% happy? No, of course not, but I think it was an extremely honest piece. It was like looking at a room through in the space of a peep-hole—you can’t actually see the whole room. That would be impossible. In Casino Robert de Niro’s character was based on Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, and Nicholas Pileggi wrote both the book and screenplay for Casinolike he did for Goodfellas. In the book they used all the real names, but in the movie they had to be changed which was bizarre because all the characters are the same in the story. So we were talking to Lefty before he died about doing a documentary about him, and we asked him about the accuracy of Casino. He said that 10% of the story was told, 67% accurate, and that’s become sort of the barometer for now, I’ve borrowed that from Lefty. In these movies, you’re talking about people’s lives over the course of a decade or longer, so all you can really hope to do in two hours is tell a good 10% of the story and hope to get it to 100% of accuracy possible.

Since our movies don’t have narrators, they’re all told by first-hand participants and like you said, everyone’s got a personal agenda and there’s the impact of time and history. I think there was an advantage in that what we said to Jen when she approached us. “My God, you could throw a stone outside a window and hit several filmmakers that are more qualified than we are to tell this story just based upon the fact this was New York based and had been a part of the scene, or had even met Peter,” but I also think that was part of the appeal to her. The idea that we wouldn’t have an agenda, a pre-conceived idea of what had happened. I knew what I thought had happened, but I didn’t have a dog in the fight.

What do you actually think happened, now that you’ve interviewed everybody? Between who or where? One of the things Peter is pissed about is that the documentary doesn’t mention that you testified at theSLA hearing. He thinks you got off too easy, that’s what he thinks.

Oh, yeah? How about if I testified at the trial right now, he’d be in jail right now! He didn’t mention that!

Yeah, he didn’t mention that I saved his life. The SLA hearing, which I did testify at, was innocuous since I testified that I never saw Peter do any drugs and had never seen him drink.

Yeah, and he told he was told it was a foregone conclusion that he was going to be shut down.

Yes and after the fact, I was subpoenaed. I mean, he can be pissed all he wants, it’s cool. I testified under subpoena at a city hearing. Was I supposed to be in contempt for him? What did he do for me? All I had to do at the trial was show up and the outcome might have been very different. The bottom line is that if I had testified against Gatien, maybe told a little lie or a big truth to save myself… I was offered a free pass. No harm done. Come testify and you will never go to jail, I was offered to plead guilty to a misdemeanor a minor charge, speak against him and walk away stock free. And I didn’t testify against him when it really counted. What’s really fucked up about this whole thing is that you asked me what I thought, and there are so many nuances of this to talk about. You could literally talk this all day and not draw any conclusions. One of the most fucked up things about the whole situation is that when you look at the assorted cast of characters involved in this whole story, with the exception of Sean Kirkham, you’re the only one that went to prison. Caruso! Nothing. Rob Gordon? Nothing. Joe Fortuna Uzzardi? Nothing. Michael, obviously he killed somebody for fuck’s sake. I mean, it just boggles the mind that in terms of the core defenses that you were in the Limelight case, you’re the only one–and Kirkham went to prison. Kirkham went to prison for lying. It boggles the mind, it really, really does.

Now everybody says in surprise, “Wow.You really didn’t rat.” I didn’t. But at that time, the thought was that the only people that could be worse than that gang was the DEA because they just weren’t playing straight, I couldn’t trust them. I basically said, “You know what? I can’t trust any of these guys I better take my chances”. That’s one of the most distressing things about this story really. And this is a part of the reason why you’ll notice we cut out 15 minutes off the movie since [the] Tribeca [Film Festival]. We cut one of the two extended sequences about Alessandra, or Susan, whatever the fuck her name is (Gatien’s third wife). They’ll be on the DVD, it’s not like we completely deleted these from existence. They’re still very much a part of the story, they just won’t be in the [official release] of the movie. 1, we cut it for time and 2, we discovered during the Q&A’s at screenings that so many of the questions had to do with this “black widow” character, which was how everybody portrayed her in the story. That was the interesting thing about her.You even had some nice things to say about Peter and he had nice things to say about you, miraculously, but I’ve never experienced a situation in which no one had a nice thing to say about a person—in this case Alessandra. In fact, people had some of the least nice things to say about her that I’ve ever heard anyone say about a person. “I’ve got nothing nice to say about this person and I’m willing to do so on camera.” I’ve never seen a situation in which people unanimously had the most vicious things to say about a human being.

There’s a reason for that… It became such a distraction. The first question wasn’t about the DEA or the Federal Government’s behavior in this case, the first three questions from that Q&A were about Alessandra.

Before she came along, we were doing some wonderful things. It was about the art. Michael Alig, for example, was an artist but when she came in, there was a shift. It was kind of evil and it changed the dynamics of the place. We went from being a creative concept to a competitive concept. You know, I’m the one that moved Alessandra in. I was the one that introduced them to her. It’s all my fault…

I know. It’s all your fucking fault (Laughs).

How did you get these people at risk to speak from the heart, to speak truthfully? What is it about your technique or your personality that disarms people? Well, I don’t know if it’s a technique per se, that makes it sound a bit Machiavellian or something.

It’s not? I always assume that people would say no, “Fuck no!” So being in that half-empty kind of a place puts me in that, “I’ve got nothing to lose” kind of mindset. I feel that this person has to not want to reveal the most personal, intimate, embarrassing aspects and stories of their lives on camera…because I wouldn’t. So when people say “No”, I understand. I get it. But then I’m always pleasantly surprised when people say “Yes”. What that says about my technique is that I expect to be turned down every single time! But I think what it is, is that…Number one: we haven’t fucked anybody. We’ve made a sufficient amount of filmography and nobody has ever come out and said, “They fucked me. They took my shit out of context. It was an unfair telling; it was inaccurate. It was not what Billy or Alfred has promised me”. No one has ever said that. We take it very seriously not only when we approach someone but also when we’re editing. And the truth of the matter is between the people we saw on camera and the people we spoke to off camera, off the record, we spoke to almost every single person involved in the case. One of co-producers spoke with Gagne on the phone, off the record. I met with one of the prosecutors off the record. I spoke with the Federal Prosecutor on the phone. That was two out of the three U.S. attorneys I spoke to off the record. Other than the witnesses in the case against Peter that we spoke to on camera, I met with Joe Uzzardi, I spoke and met with Rob Gordon, we spoke with Jenny, a club kid that Peter had an affair with.

Jennitalia. Ah yes…well my point is that we did our homework so it wasn’t just the people in the movie. And by the way, the off the record conversations that I had with these people also affected the edit of the movie, so they had an opportunity to impact the edit and the perspective of the movie. Had they been on the record, it would’ve been [different], well maybe not for the DEA…

Now Peter Gatien is exiled and he complains about his guilt and his innocence. I say that nobody was innocent. Well, innocent of what?

Well, here’s what I say. I say I’m not guilty because, I’m not guilty of what they charge me with, though I am certainly not innocent. And I wrote that I should’ve yelled, I should’ve said more. I should’ve done more. Yeah, but what does that mean?

I don’t know. But I went to jail… and although I never felt I was doing anything illegal, I went to jail My point is that none of us are innocent people and that doesn’t mean we should go to Federal Prison. And it doesn’t mean we should be banished from a country where we’ve had American citizenship, children, and an American citizen wife. When you look at the criminals we have in this country, somehow Peter Gatien is Public Enemy Number One who people think should be shipped off to one of these horrendous immigration prisons. It’s bizarrely absurd because it just shows how completely out of whack are priorities are.We know that when Peter was free, he was making restitution on the tax case; he was about 50% of the way there. He was making his regular visits to his Parole Officer, and then suddenly one day, it’s in the best interest of the the people of New York to throw Peter into what must have been a multi-million dollar (Federal) immigration case, and prevent him from continuing to pay restitution which he was half way through? If you really waved the pros and cons of what was in the best interest of the tax payers, would it not have been better to keep him here, paying his bill that he owed the people of the city of New York, and the tax case?

I’ve got a big buzz on this film. I’m being stopped on the street. People are recognizing. My dentist stopped while drilling me and said, “Were you in a movie trailer…?” It’s not a wide release. It opened in New York, Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and then there’s going to be a platform release. It’s going wherever there were Limelight clubs first—Atlanta, Chicago, South Florida, because the first one was in Hollywood, Florida. I guess it just depends on the initial reaction to the movie.

So you’ve got a buzz? The media has been extremely generous. Of course the fact that the media is essentially located in New York and a lot of those people were at Limelight, Palladium, Tunnel, and Club USA.

If we’re guilty, then everybody’s guilty! And perhaps they’re repenting my covering this story! People are expecting this nostalgic trip down memory lane and it’s only really like for the first half of the movie, and the second half is a very schizophrenic, bi-polar experience. Someone asked, can you describe the journey of the movie in five words, and I ended up with seven. It was: from rolling on ecstasy, to Kafka-esque k-hole. That was the idea in the beginning. It starts off in the ’80s coke driven, and then it shifts towards Ecstasy and everything gets very cool and nostalgic and lovey-dovey and then it gets really dark and. A lot of people are responding to the fact that they expected it to be a journey back to Limelight and it’s only like that for like the first half and then the second half is a very disturbing, dark story and I don’t think that people are really prepared for that. The whole thing kind of reminds me of Casino. You have this very straight, well-mannered guy upstairs in the main office, trying to maintain sanity down on the floor. And you have all of these conflicting interests there, whether it’s the club kids, the Staten Island ecstasy dealers, or as Frank goes (mimics his high-pitched voice): “The Staten Island scum-bags.” And then you have Giuliani and the SLA, and the DEA, it’s very Casino-esque in that regard.

You’re talking to hit men and to potentially dangerous people. Is there ever a point that you hesitated or worried about who you were talking to? I think it’s a blend of naiveté and distance in that it’s a historical documentary. The material in the story and the crimes are a decade, or more, old. And that’s true in this case, and it’s certainly true in Cocaine Cowboys. I don’t think that people operate now the way that they did. Certainly not the way the Colombians operated in Miami in the ‘80s, or the way New York City operated under Rudy Giuliani.

Jen Gatien’s ‘Limelight’ Documentary Premieres Next Week

I am weak from Fashion Week. I have writer’s block and writer’s cramp. I’m discombobulated, disillusioned, distressed, disabled, dyslectic, disappointed, and disturbed. I don’t know which end is up and I’m feeling low down. So, today this will be short and sweet and not too neat. Tonight I will follow one of my not-too-lost leaders Nur Khan to Hiro for Crystal Castles. He says there might be “more after” and I believe him, as he’s a truthful human being and delivering a good time is his mission.

I saw Crystal Castles at Don Hills when Paul Sevigny, Nur and Don showed us all that things could still be all that they could be. I’m excited about tonight’s show, as unlike every other event this week, I won’t have to think about what to wear. I’m eating at MPD right before catching up with Daniel and Derek Koch. They’ve had a busy summer. I have rsvp’ed to the Manero Party at Skylight West which I have not been to—I don’t think so, at least.

I guess that’s the point…my thinking isn’t where it should be, and next week promises to be a mess as well. Amanda scolded me about the mess on my desk and I pointed to my forehead and replied, “You should see what’s going on in here.” I think Vonnegut said that. My next week will be dominated by the official premiere of the Limelight documentary that Jen Gatien produced and Billy “Cocaine Cowboy” Corbin directed.

Limelight documents the rise and fall of Peter Gatien, Michael Alig, tons of other peeps, and that guy who used to be Steve Lewis as well. I am being stopped on the street by strangers who have seen the trailer. My dentist looked down at my eyes instead of my bleeding mouth and said “Hey, I saw you in that movie preview.” Yes that was me and that is the great scandal, which will always be linked to my bio. I will always proclaim my innocence and those who believe me will and those that won’t, just won’t. It matters not to me. Those that support me and love me and believe in me have always outnumbered my detractors. I definitely was pushing the envelope back then and definitely got knocked on my ass but I believe the measure of a man is how he picks himself up after the big fall. I looked at the abyss and came through.

My current endeavors have redefined my brand and I don’t miss the old Steve Lewis…very often. This flick will bring you there. It will show you the players and the thinking and define the dangerous world of the legendary clubs I was part of. Today’s operators worry about the competition, bottle sales and promotion. We had that and lots of real deal gangsters to deal with. I think the movie is great and I’m anxious to see the final cut. Now I have to put on the cheap suit, the almost real smile and rush off into the fray. Piece out…I like that but it’s kind of corny.

“Limelight” Brings Up Memories From Dark Places

As I walked the red carpet at the Peter Gatien era in NYC ended badly, with the government behaving badly—to say the least. However, to rewrite the history and have no blame fall on the parties involved is a disservice.

When I was being sentenced, I said that, although I was not guilty of the charges, I certainly wasn’t an innocent. I never knowingly allowed drug dealers to work at joints I was involved in, but I also didn’t do all in my power to prevent them from being around. I mistakenly thought that task was the sole responsibility of law enforcement. That mistake cost me a year in jail, a ton of money, and my nightlife career.

Looking back, courtesy of the Limelight film, I think I got lucky. It was a time when people woke up dead. It was time when people lost their way and never found a path back to their lives. The Limelight film did a great job at jogging memories and telling the tale from a different perspective. It is a better vision than the one written by the government and their mouthpieces. Seeing the players, now more than 15 years removed, I remembered the intelligence, creativity, and experience that was, at one time, gathered in four mega-clubs orchestrated by Peter Gatien. So many—too many—memories were jogged up from the deep dark recesses of my inefficient mind. I missed Arthur Weinstein, seen in the background of a few shots. I missed Michael Alig, still incarcerated, now adult and sober. I missed a thousand friends, 10,000 patrons, a million memories. I could hear the music muffled and distant. I missed Peter Gatien.

Peter and I have had our differences, but I can’t deny how brilliant he was. His talent wasn’t ever in creation, but in hiring creative people. His genius lied in helping through providing funding and support staff. His genius was in not allowing creativity to get in the way of making money. I was rarely all that I could be while working for him. That was left to projects that I did prior and after my Gatien experience. With Peter I fell in and out of favor, but was surrounded by so many great co-workers that I rarely complained.

Limelight the movie does little to portray the true depth of creation that existed within Peter’s four-club empire. Limelight, Palladium, Tunnel, and Club USA were all much more than paradise for the club kids and rave set, although they were the sensationalized part. It does mention the Tunnel Sunday Night Hip Hop Party, but excludes all the Junior Vasquez and other house greats that attracted totally different and viable scenes. Also not seen was Neville Wells’s breakthrough Communion Night. This Alternative Rock Tuesday was brilliant, as was the Sunday night staple Rock and Roll Church, where hanging with Axl or Slash or countless stadium acts was the norm. Jellybean and the birth of the model era, which started at 113 Horatio with Brinton Brewster, and found legs at the Palace on Union Square, was also not mentioned. A zillion significant art shows, movie premieres, and social events were not sensational enough to make the movie. Director Billy Corben told me he couldn’t put it all in. How could he? The story told in Limelight is closer to the truth, but it is a flash—a couple of hours of a story that took decades to make.

It’s not necessarily a rewrite, or a “finally got it right” synopsis of the history of that era and the trials and demise. It is merely a look at it from a different perspective. Peter is a brilliant man, and for him to claim that he knew nothing is ludicrous. For him to claim that he was unfairly targeted by people who would stop at nothing to bring him down is obvious. To define his era soley by Michael Alig’s Club Kids or Lord Michael’s ravers is a disservice to the greatness of what Peter orchestrated, with help from myself and others. To leave out the great parties attended by sane people from all over the world is a rewrite of history as well.

In a way, the era parallels the concept of Alig: his rise and fall. It can be said that Michael lived for decades and did this and did that and created so many wonderful things, but then had a couple hundred bad days, and a few particularly awful ones. He did kill his drug dealer and chop him up, but otherwise he was a nice guy. That logic is, of course, disgusting. Limelight, Tunnel, Palladium, and Club USA were spectacular until they lost it all in a sea of greed and drugs and negativity. Peter and all of us involved cannot celebrate the greatness without accepting the responsibility for the horror that occurred on our watch. The jails Peter, Lord Michael, and the other players dwell in now is in our minds, and our inability to do it anymore. We can’t do what we do best: run clubs in the city. Peter couldn’t even enter the country to attend the premiere. We all have paid the price of admission, although so many of us remain in denial and won’t admit to anything.

In the movie I made some remarks regarding Peter’s wife, Alessandra. I said that she was pure evil, and if I could push a button to make her disappear, I would. I understand this caused Peter some grief, and I apologize for that. I meant no disrespect to him. That kind of talk wouldn’t fly where I grew up. In fact, after seeing the film and hearing his voice, and seeing how his mind works, I was struck with a bad case of nostalgia. I forgot how much I respected him most of the time.

During the Q&A portion after the film, the legendary Junior Vasquez stormed out loud and angry. It seemed partly about the omission of his rather large role in the saga, as well as the treatment of Alessandra. Someone else asked director Billy Corben about that. He replied that when he was filming Cocaine Cowboys, which was largely about female drug lord Griselda Blanco, that he found hundreds of people who liked her, even though she was behind the murder of 200 to 300 people. When filming Limelight, he said he found no one who liked Allesandra. Still, she is Peter’s wife and mother of some of his kids, and my remarks were uncalled for.

A long time ago, someone asked me why I ever worked for him. I answered because he was one of ten people in the club world at that time who I could really talk to about nightlife theory. Four of the others who I could relate to about nightlife theory also worked for him. I said I learned something every day. Watching the film, I again learned a lot. I often hate him, often love him, but except for a few moments, I have always respected him. He is, without doubt, the most successful club owner of all time. Steve Rubell and Ian Scrhager never accomplished things on the Gatien scale. Indeed, their success with Studio 54 was limited to a certain crowd. Peter had everyone.

I am told Limelight will be released in August.

Limelight at Tribeca & Other Must-Attend Events

I’ve been busy as a B-list promoter these days. It’s Good Friday and I see no reason not to make it great. Tonight I should be cloned, as two “must attend” events are happening at the exact time. I will attend the Limelight film premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. I was interviewed about a year and change ago for the flick, and I hope I am portrayed correctly. I was assured that I am, but I have been divorced a couple of times, and my reliance on assurances have diminished.

It is absolutely a matter of truth or consequences, but again I am assured, and I’m feeling happy that I got involved in the Limelight story. Fools have been telling the story for far too long, and innuendo and rumor have passed as reality. I hope the record is set straight. I will attend with Amanda by my side to hold my hand through it all. I salute my dear friend Jen Gatien for her dedication to the cause. Peter Gatien, I am told, will not be allowed into the country to attend. He isn’t allowed here, and I’m not allowed in Canada. I win.

What I am missing, but you absolutely should not, is catching Los Vigilantes at the Cake Shop on Ludlow street tonight at 9. I caught them last night at the Bell House in Gowanus. They opened for the Flaming Groovies. The Groovies were cool, old-school rockster-y, and attracted a crowd that I mingled with 20 years ago at CBGB’s. Los Vigilantes are a powerful Puerto Rican punk act. The acts didn’t go well together. It was like having the Ramones open for Fleetwood Mac. The Cake Shop show will be a better fit. The Cake Shop has so few redeeming qualities that it’s almost perfect. The place is dirty, the stage is way too small and too low, and the sound is, at best, mixed—or maybe it wasn’t. The staff is particularly unfriendly and I want to wash off the bottom of my shoes when I get home. It is soooo much fun! I saw another Puerto Rican Punk act, Davila 666, there on Thursday and was blown away. Their en Espanol version of Blondie’s “Hanging On The Telephone” was irreverent and brilliant. It was déjà vu all over again as I felt like I was at a punk club in the East Village in 1981. People were pogo-ing themselves into a frenzy. Davila 666 is playing Knitting Factory out here in Brooklyn, and they are a sure thing. I will déjà vu all over again after I attend, again. Puerto Rican punk is my new favorite thing. The whole gang will be at Bruar Falls this Saturday night for the after party with DJ FFrenchy and DJ Spick Jagger of Davila 666. Yes, it’s like that.

I noticed that the Hubble telescope is turning 2, and therefore is legal to get into bars and clubs in NYC. That is when it’s done fooling around. I also noticed that Captain David Miller, the cop who basically closed down the West Chelsea club scene, is assigned to the Orchard/Ludlow/Rivington street area. I also noticed that every place I go to these days down there is ID’ing my ridiculously tired, obviously over 40/50 year-old ass. I fear the worst. Expect vacancies and loss of business as the city sanitizes nightlife like we’re bedbugs at Bloomberg’s mansion. If I’m right, the city will lose more jobs, and our culture will be less rich. Ironically, the Gallery Bar was closed down because a bouncer allegedly took a bribe to let an underage patron in. I read an article the same day that said cops, as unbelievable as this may sound, fixed parking tickets for VIP’s, including Yankee baseball executives. Shocking! Cops taking bribes? Why isn’t the stadium shuttered? Or the precincts, themselves? This isn’t a double standard: this is persecution.

DJ Uncle Mike’s New York City

Smells like teen spirit! Actually it smelled like a million cigarettes. My travels and travails took me to Circa Tabac, where my pal, DJ Uncle Mike, was offering Smoking Lounge Sundays. Circa Tabac is one of a handful of NYC places where smoking is permitted — and therefore celebrated. Located on Watts Street by that umbilical cord that attaches Manhattan to the hinterlands (otherwise known as the Holland Tunnel), it is the cutest little spot. Sitting there, listening to Mike’s varied tunes, it felt like the old days—before regulations took the edge and threw it over to Brooklyn and other exotic lands.

It was a time when, upon returning home after a night on the town, it was required to have a quick rinse to get the gray residue of a thousand cigarettes out of your hair before passing out.

Many people say that losing the freedom to smoke took the edge out of nightlife. There are, of course, places where determined or irreverent scenesters still light up, but the city did go ape shit over enforcement of this rule. Smoking has basically gone into club extinction, or at least the endangered list, much like the cashier booth or the Drag Queen dancing on the bar. Circa Tabac does have smoke filters and in the warmer months they open big windows, but the place is infused with the familiar smell. The place packs out on most nights, and Mike and others are trying to boost the off nights. It felt good to hear the music, sipping a drink under low lights while whiffs worked their way to the ceiling. Smoking has it’s drawbacks, but it does make a place seem sexier.

Uncle Mike is a familiar figure to Bungalow 8 veterans. He lit up that joint for 4 years, playing everything that ever mattered. Huey Morgan of the Fun Lovin’ Criminals nicknamed the bearded Michael Schnapp, who was at the time working as an A&R guy at EMI records. Mike told me he had a scout who brought him “a ton of shit and nothing worked. Everything sounded the same to me, everything was the same thing. There was a tape left and I asked my scout what was that and he said nothing, just some guys I work with over at Limelight. I said let’s hear it. It was different: strange, good, magical. I liked everything. It was weird hearing something so new that I liked so much. So I took them to meet the boss, and he asks them if they want to make a record. They agree, and he tells me to make sure they don’t starve.” Fun Lovin’ Criminals went on to success, although mostly in England. Huey and Fast (Brian Leiser) were no longer employees at the Limelight, rather celebrities in their own right, but there was never a change in demeanor. They remained true to their school, friends, and the streets they spoke of in their music.

Then Michael—Uncle Mike—became a full time DJ in ’95. “I’m like one of the guys who went the other way. Most DJs leave to become producers, or music company guys. I went from A&R to DJing. He showed me his setup: a laptop with a Serato computer program, his Rane Mixer, and the special case that he carries them in. He smoked while he mixed and told me the people at Circa Tabac are real nice. On Saturdays, he does the early set from 4PM to 9PM over at Brooklyn Bowl. “Anything can happen, from a Pink Floyd cover band to original artists. A couple weeks ago they had this performer, April Smith, doing original rock. Keep your ears open about her. She can really sing.” After the Brooklyn gig he eats and heads to White Noise, where he spins from 11 until close. He tears it up. Next Sunday he’s pushing the First Annual Brooklyn Springtime Guitar Show at Brooklyn Bowl from noon to 6pm. Admission is free. He says it will be “like a combination of 48th street—you know, where Sam Ash and Mannys are located—hipster Williamsburg, and high-end, out of state guitar collectors. There will be rare guitars that go for 10K, plus to everyday beat up rockers stuff. Like a cool guitar strap that Keith Richards would love.” The after party at Circa Tabac will be a smash. A week later he’ll celebrate his birthday at the spot. He is ageless, celebrating a number somewhere between Justin Beiber and me. DjUncleMike.com will tell you more.