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

Tiana Reeves Makes ‘Money,’ Heads To London, & Talks About Sex

Tiana Reeves a fixture on the NYC scene, an imp, a problem child, has been missing. As it turns out (and we all know she can turn it out), she has been spending her time back and forth between London and Toronto. Our world has been a little darker, a little quieter, a bit boring, and definitely bland since she has been gone. Now she comes at us again with a track, a single, a song… "Money (That’s What I Want)," written by Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford. It was Motown’s first hit, and later was covered by many others including The Beatles and The Flying Lizards.

Tiana’s take on it is available on iTunes and it’s very good. As I listened to it last night, my house of snarky snarks commented that it was good and attributed its wonderfulness to all sorts of fabulous others before I told them it was Tiana. Tiana is, of course, fabulous and unconventional and her track reflects a thorough understanding of the meaning of "Money". I chatted with her last night.

You are spending your time between London and Toronto. Why these places… and why not much here?
Well, I’ve been in NYC for 20 years, and as much as I always will love NYC and all my friends there, I feel like i need to move on to something different. I am not the kind of person that could live in one city for the rest of their lives…..but that’s just me! I know I will go back to NYC to visit, but living in NYC that part of my life is done.

What was it like working with the amazing Amy Sacco?
Amy and I had a great relationship ….we where friends, and even tho our friendship was odd to some people, we always got each other even if people on the outside never really got the whole dynamic of it. We made it work! My time spent at Bungalow was amazing …many memories of celebrities and fun nights were left behind when the doors where closed….

You are a transexual who is found more often in the straight(er) parties and clubs. How did you find acceptance, and how do you deal with the fools who dont get it?
Well, my primary audience in Toronto is definitely gay (I love the gays), but yes, in NYC and London it is definitely more straight, and usually I am very well accepted… but for the few douche bags that don’t get it, I usually tell them to get with the fucking program. It’s 2013. Get with it, honey! for the few fools that don’t get it after that ,well…….let’s just say, they will never forget me.

Is Toronto accepting of you?
Yes, very much so! I feel that Canada is very accepting of transexuals and is very, very gay friendly and sooooo forward in their thinking, with laws toward acceptance in all aspects of gay life! Of course ,you do have this side of Toronto that is a bit backwards and set in their ways, but I always find a way to make them like me 😉

How vibrant is the scene in London?
The scene in London is very vibrant but its unlike any other …but i suppose every city has a different scene ,but London has all these nights and events that are hidden in so many nooks and crannies and also you do have to be part of the IN crowd to really experience the best of London’s night scene!

How do you use your sexuality to earn a living and get what you want? Is it easy to attract the moths to your candle?
Well being a transexual for soooo many years means that sexuality and appeal has always been a very big part of my life.  It’s helped me in getting what I want and, especially now, when getting into the music industry, your appeal is everything. So I guess all prior experiences were a crash course in what was to come!

You covered "Money." Tell me about this musical foray and why you chose that particular song? You aren’t by any means a Fying Lizard.
Well, I always loved that song, so when Ruben, my producer, asked me what I wanted to do as a musical track and genre, I said, "How about doing a remake of this song ?" and he replied with a lot of enthusiasm and was instrumental in pushing me to do this song and be confident about it. 

Also, I think that society is finally ready to see transexuals involved in the music industry. I, for one, am so ready to be part of it and am very happy to see that my single "MONEY (That’s What I Want)" is taking off so fast and has so many positive reviews! Hey, it’s finally available on iTunes and Amazon ….who knew!?

What is wrong with NY? What is right about NY?
For me, I just feel like NYC has lost its edge ….I  remember when I moved to NYC in 1989 and then worked for Peter Gatien; NYC was amazing and so edgy!  But then I saw the city becoming more and more middle America and gentrified.

On the other hand, NYC will aways be a strong, amazing city that is capable of reinventing itself. Even though its edge is no longer in your face, you will always be able to find this "je ne said quoi" about NYC and you will constantly have an influx of new "blood" that is desperate to make its mark as the new club personality or "it" factor and this …..is what makes it fabulous!

What NYC clubs do Londoners ask you about?
Well, when it comes to me, they always ask agout the clubs they know I used to be associated with, but mostly are fascinated with the legendary clubs that are now no longer such as Limelight, Tunnel, Club USA , Palladium… but recently XL has been asked about because it’s pretty much the big game in town 🙂 But now, since they know I live in Toronto part-time, they do ask a lot about the new club scene in Toronto!

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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.

‘Limelight’ Documentary Still Brings Back a Flood of Memories

So, I warned you that I’d be whipping this horse, but as far as I can remember this is the first time I’ve gotten an IMDB listing. Yes, I’m talking about the Limelight documentary again, and since I was one of the players at the now defunct club, I am a player now. That statement has so many layers, so I’m just going to ponder it. Celebrity lawyer Benjamin Brafman attended the premiere and was applauded loudly when his name appeared during the credits. He got Peter Gatien off. Gee—I hope I didn’t spoil the ending.

Shoot, he has gotten more people off than Heidi Fleiss. The last dude was that French guy who tangled with that inconsistent maid. We chatted and chatted and I was in awe of him. When it wasn’t all fun and games and nostalgia and lives were on the line, Ben was an honest broker. Gee, I wish I had one of those. The after party was at Westway, that strip club which has now sunk itself morally to accommodate hipsters.

There I hung out and mugged for camera shots with long time friend Moby. I thought his lines from the movie were spot on. He really dealt with the glory of the joint and not all that trial stuff that dominated the final cut .While the feds came to bury Caesar (Mr. Peter Gatien), this movie came to praise him. I can’t object as he, for the most part, got a raw deal. Peter and I disagreed on many things, including his inability to accept any responsibility for the terrible ending. I agree as captain of the ship that he didn’t actually create the iceberg, but he certainly didn’t steer away from it fast enough, nor did he handle the big gaping hole it caused very well.

As I shook hands with the blasts from the past, it was clear that all this happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. We also knew that any sequels have always and will always turn out badly. Peter seems to be stuck in a rut of his own making, in glorious Canada, not allowed to come here, while I’m stuck here and not allowed to go there. That’s worth pondering too.

The bad guys on screen were proud about their badness. They all told tales to save themselves the jail time and some were more successful at that than others. At this point, a decade and a half later, it’s all good too. I wish them all big mirrors to better look at their despicable selves. Many of them thought that they were indeed victorious in that ancient rat race. The thing about rat races is you’ve got to be a rat to win, or even place, or show.

Michael Alig, of course, was not at the premiere as he is still busy entertaining up at Southport Correctional over that little murder thing he copped to. I hear he was surprised that the film dealt with the trial so much and dwelled little on how fabulous it was when he called the shots. Baby Joe Uzzardi wasn’t there either. He DJs now, here in the Big Apple, under a new name to protect and fool the innocent. Although Frank Owen and I have had some spats—a bit too publicly over the years—I respected his insight and found myself missing my old friend.

Jen Gatien, my long-time friend, was all smiles with her child, this film that she produced that is finally ready to fly (this Friday at Sunshine). I sat next to the Baroness Sherry von Koerber-Bernstein an old-school club fixture who told us she was “90 and a half.” Her now adult niece Carrie, her constant companion when she was 15, is now married with a couple of non-club kids. Much of the crowd was unrecognizable due to age and my addled memory. Some of it has never grown up. I said hello to everyone, with ancient squabbles now forgotten or lost in space and time. The movie opens in the big cities where Limelights were and then the Miamis and such. I’m sure it will get some traction but doubt it will play in Peoria.

I dodged raindrops as I walked to The Box all the way East. It was a glorious night and I couldn’t help but think, having just flashed through the past, how in retrospect I had dodged a lot of bullets both metaphorically and in reality. I arrived at The Box and was greeted by gentleman doorkeeper, Giza, who whisked me inside to join the beautiful people. Giza had texted me to join him for Genc’s birthday. Every time I go to The Box I find it to be wonderful. I know some say its day has passed, but I see it differently. Maybe it has changed, settled into being something different. Maybe it’s a little tamer, though maybe it’s a little less forced. I think it’s sexy and now it feels like home. To me it feels like one of those clubs that people say don’t exist anymore.

The crowd last night is the type that can get in anywhere. Hell the crowd left out in the rain can go to most places. The Box was great. I stayed for a minute glad handed all the players, chatted up a very frisky Erikson Wilcox and headed into the night. The night always seems darker down there. There are no more beach days and the coolness and rain and the noir of it all was my element. The dame on my arm and I didn’t need to chat. An evening like this is made for people like us.

This Sunday, if you want to serve me with papers or whack me I will be dependably at home watching Boardwalk Empire’s season premiere. I love Atlantic City. I’ve been going there for decades. It used to be Limelight-like, dangerously fun. I admit to hanging there in questionable places with questionable people doing debatable things. Somehow I survived, except for maybe a few brain cells. The old A.C. was charming while the new one spearheaded by the delicious Borgata Hotel Casino is more fun than a barrel of club kids. Their Boardwalk Empire promotion sounds like wow! Here’s their pitch:

Tale of a Few Empires

“Nosh Like Nucky at The Metropolitan at Borgata The second season of Boardwalk Empire starts on Sunday and to time with the famed HBO series, The Metropolitan is introducing a 1920’s menu recalling the days when Enoch “Nucky” Johnson ruled the town. Executive Chef Ron Ross created an authentic three-course selection inspired by actual menus from the decade that made Atlantic City legendary. Guests can feast on items like Lamb Chops with Mint Jelly or Scallops Mornay for $29.95 per person every Sunday. An Old Fashioned, Bronx Cocktail or Side Car can be enjoyed.”

I’m heading down next month for Duran Duran. Although the summer is famous for the hordes that come for the beach fun and games, the city is truly beautiful and exiting this time of year. I prefer it a little less crowded and crisp.

My Early Review of the Upcoming Limelight Club Documentary

I’m sure at one point you’ll be sick of all the chatter about the Limelight film opening this week, but I think it’s significant and I’m going to write about it. Maybe there will be a Pacha movie, or a Marquee movie, or a Provocateur movie—but I doubt it. Limelight: The Rise and Fall of New York’s Greatest Nightclub Empire is a documentary that deals with certain happenings at that club and the other three joints Peter Gatien owned and operated back in the day.

In the end, it’s more of a crime saga than a movie about any particular club or person. Limelight, Palladium, USA and Tunnel were awash with drugs, waylaid by gangsters, and pushed over a delicate edge that we now seem to have drifted far away from. We—and that “we” has a lot of names in it—tried to create a place where music, fashion, art, and dynamic people from all fields, walks of life, and arenas would mingle and be alive. We ruled over a creative cauldron that had almost a Camelot-like feeling. Until it crashed.

The public wanted our product; they would do anything to get in. Celebrities, politicians, off-duty law enforcement agents, the successful, as well as the young and the useless clamored to join the party. Like most large clubs, we were pushing an international DJ agenda, as well as the social one. The music of that era had bounced around Chicago and Detroit, was kicked to England and came back here energized by a variety of drugs including ecstasy. “X,” as it was known then and now, was the greatest high since Mount Everest. It took humans to a place of love and awareness and at the end, didn’t even leave them with a hangover. It was cheap compared to the drugs of choice at that time (coke and heroin) and as far as anyone knew, it didn’t kill anyone.

For the club operators there was an added twist—ecstasy wasn’t illegal in NYC. When visited by NYPD, X dealers were not arrested. Few knew that it had been criminalized on the federal level. Did that matter? Not much. Operators don’t favor drug dealers because, first of all they are competition, and second because they often fight each other over territory, possibly bringing weapons. Coke and H dealers are the worst and club security devoted themselves to kicking those types to the curbThe X dealers, often club kids, all dressed up in outfits and sporting makeup were less of a threat. Threat was the concern. If they were caught, they were ejected with extreme prejudice but we weren’t looking for them as they were…not threatening. That changed in time as organized “crimesters” saw the cash potential. It’s a different world now. Club operators worry about stealing, sexual harassment suits, bottle sales, and competition. We had to watch our backs as well. I was constantly threatened, constantly given ultimatums by people and organizations that seem now to have faded into the twilight I won’t make apologies or try to justify my behavior back then. I was not part of any conspiracy to traffic drugs. The film has plenty of those guys in it bragging about their escapades wearing their deeds as badges of honor. None of them went to jail. Talk is not only cheap but it gives you a free pass, a get out of jail free card. And for the record we are talking Monopoly. Although other joints certainly existed and thrived, the Gatien empire was the talk of the town. Now after all of these years Billy Corben has directed and Peter’s daughter Jen Gatien has produced this documentary. The question I’m getting from everyone is—“How authentic is it?”

I haven’t seen the final cut but what I saw at the Tribeca Film Festival was spot on and fair. Albeit it is a look at a room through a peephole, but the feeling of the time is there and the players on film were the players. Many of the bad guys were missing, as well as the stories of the millions of good people who passed through the door. The stories of love found and lost and of young people finding themselves and how the worker bees of our metropolis celebrated their decision to live here partying away cleanly, safely, sanely at these great clubs. The story deals with a minority and paints a picture and although accurate, it dismisses the fact that we sold oceans of liquor and offered countless great bands and fashion shows and fun. One critic said not enough celluloid was spent on the good…the music, the thousand and one nights of glory. That part isn’t the stuff of dreams or movies like this. In the end the legacy of Limelight must be told with blood, drugs, tears and the destruction of people and ideas.

The four Gatien joints were as good as any I’ve ever experienced; Gatien was a solid operator. His talent was accumulating the best people in the business and creating spaces that were ambitious, wondrous, and still very functional. They were money machines and the numbers are mind blowing. In an age without bottle service patrons, paid to get in and dressed and pleaded with door people for that privilege. We serviced thousands every night and turned away as many. Peter’s weakness was his business model. He pitted people against each other and thus created cliques and power bases that in competition did anything to service the bottom line and win his favor. The result was a number of drug-based promotional groups that led to his demise. During the Tribeca cut, Peter’s wife was the subject of much abuse which, I feel, was deserved. I described her as evil and will stick to that story. I heard that all that Alexander stuff was cut from the film but will be in the DVD.

We will see. Tomorrow night when the film premiers I will be there to say it as I saw it to those in attendance. There will be people who love me there and some not so much but even in what may be a sanitized version the story told will be worth watching. For me it defined my life and is a legacy that I will never shed. I went down for the count but here I am doing my thing. In a way my fall from grace led me to a much better place. My work is now different but still satisfies or at least challenges my creative urges. I will be talking to Director Billy Corben today and I’m getting feedback from Michael Alig, who is still paying the price. The club world then was not better than it is now. The big clubs, save for a few dinosaurs, have faded from relevance. The former hot spots that are the subject of this flick are now a mall, a hotel, student housing and a theatre for the absurd. Nightlife today is diverse and spread through a thousand specialized venues.

It’s as fun as ever and gone is the violence, the drug overdoses, and the bad guys. I’m fine with that. That world now preserved in film is better off gone. It was a product of its time and although the products that fueled the fun are still around, they are rarely the driving force behind the action. I hope that up north in his Canadian Elbe Peter Gatien finds some peace in this release. I hope he feels vindicated… although when I watched the film my take was that everyone was to blame. Peter, the evil doers he cultivated, and certainly the unfair folks at the DEA, and other governmental agencies. I’m to blame too. I was in a position of great power and control and didn’t do enough. Clubs were the drug for me and I just couldn’t say no.

Limelight: The Rise and Fall of New York’s Greatest Nightclub Empire opens in theaters this Friday.

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.