Four Years Later: Remembering Michael Jackson Tonight and Forever

Yesterday, the streets were filled with people with pride and I was proud to live in a city that has traveled so far since I was a youth. Sure there’s a long road ahead, but yesterday the past I grew up in seemed as long ago as Howdy Doody. I was happy that W.i.P. got reopened for Susanne Bartsch and Kenny Kenny’s Gay Pride party. It will be interesting to see if W.i.P. stays open. I wish I had made it to the Mermaid and Gay pride parades but, alas, I was torn to many other elsewhere’s and must do’s. I did manage to get to the roof of the Standard with interior design icon Karen Daroff and her son Robert. Although it was dead summer and "the" crowd wasn’t supposed to be around, we found wonder in this wonderful place. I texted the manager Emily Rieman after, thanking her for her and the entire staffs’ brilliant hospitality. I told her Le Bain was an "oasis of classy fun in a world of soccer-hooligan saloons.”

Earlier in the evening we caught Lady Rizo’s act over at The Darby. It was classic songs sung with intelligence and grace over coffee, dessert, and some Beau Joie Champagne. We glad-handed all the unusual suspects before hoofing it west to Andre Balaz’ anything-but-standard oasis, dodging desperate suburban youth being hustled by bottle hosts at the joints along the way.

Tonight, after BINGO at the Bowery Poetry Club and after the Inked Magazine soiree at Lit Lounge, me and mine will head over to The Darby for The Fourth Annual Remember The Time Michael Jackson Tribute.

On the night of the day Michael Jackson died, we all headed to the clubs for some sort of reconciliation and grasp on the situation. Some use the expression "it will all come clear with the light of day" and I guess for many things light works, but for some concepts only the dark will help. Many tried to find answers by looking at the bottom of newly-emptied shot glasses…others in the eyes or chatter of friends or strangers. I got an education from DJ Cassidy at 1OAK. Tonight he’ll do it again, offering a barrage of Michael and I won’t miss it.

The day after Michael Jackson died I wrote a piece. It may be a little short on the facts we later learned, as it was written in the confusion of the tabloid headlines and lingering grief of the next morning, but it describes my mood and the love of precious life I found at 1OAK the night before.

Blackbook Magazine Goodnight Mr Lewis, June 26, 2009:

Michael Jackson: The Best Club Songs Ever

An autopsy may reveal it was pills or something similar that shut Michael Jackson down, but the heart really gave out because it once was loved by the whole world and wasn’t anymore. My emotions roller-coastered through a day of death and rumor. A great sadness consumed me as allegations and innuendo, tributes and music bombarded me through open windows and closed doors. From beat box radios and every TV in the neighborhood, I was told to remember, condemn, forgive, or just listen. The complexity of understanding the meaning of Michael Jackson’s death personally and on that grander scale became harder by the hour. I was enlightened by Jesse Jackson, Quincy Jones, Cher, Paul McCartney, and even Celine Dion. Everybody except Elizabeth Taylor was getting into the act — it is an act we and they will find impossible to follow.

From the point of view that I write about – the never neverland of clubs – Michael Jackson’s passing immortalizes the best songs I’ve ever heard on a dance floor. The music will live on as pure and wondrous and as perfect as the man himself was confusing. I won’t dwell on the bawdy stuff; plenty of others will milk that cow. I’ll just say flat out that "Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough" or maybe "Billie Jean" are the best songs I’ve ever heard a DJ offer. To this day they still blow a dance floor up.  Years ago, there were Michael Jackson club rumors. Some claim that he visited from time to time, unrecognizable in prosthetic makeup or with a face wrapped in scarves. The only place I know he went for sure was Studio 54. I asked Carmen D’Alessio about Michael at Studio 54, and she told me, "I of course remember him coming to Studio, 33 years ago. He was a kid releasing his first album. As the VIP hostess, I met everyone my dear, and I do recall clearly a 17-year-old Michael Jackson. He was nice and friendly, and I remember thinking he was very good looking." A quick Wikipedia read finds Michael listed first in a list of Studio 54 attendees. He led over Nureyev, Mick and Bianca, Elton John, Truman Capote, Mae West, Gloria Swanson, Jackie Onassis, and Elizabeth Taylor. Ironically, fair Farrah Fawcett was also listed.

I went to 1OAK, as a tribute was hastily put together with superstar DJ Cassidy only playing M.J. hits to a packed house of the beautiful. O’Neal McKnight danced and lip-synched to tunes, and Robin Thicke sang "Human Nature" in tribute. Cassidy asked over the mic, "Michael, why did we lose you this night?" When I arrived I was skeptical, thinking the idea of this tribute was almost cheesy — and it might have been if not for the sincere efforts by the 1OAK family. We were swept up in Michael’s massive talent as every single impeccably-produced tune held the packed house and dance floor. What other artist could have a catalog of songs that would hold a floor for hours?

I stood with Scott Sartiano and Ronnie Madra surrounded by a stunning and smart crowd. Sparklers announced bottles, and Cassidy offered, "We are here to celebrate the music and the life of Michael." The crowd roared and the waitrons poured, and I became a corny mush. I thought of the immense sadness that must have been consuming him at his end. I wondered if he indeed had just ended it, if he indeed had stopped cause he had enough. I thought of that traffic song, "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" — the lyrics, "If you just had one minute to breathe and they granted you one final wish, would you ask for something like another chance? Or something similar as this, don’t worry so much it will happen to you as sure as your sorrows or joys."

I wondered what Michael would have done with another chance. What would he have changed? What did he want that he, with all the fame and riches, never got? "We Wanna Be Starting Something" whipped the beautiful crowd into a frenzy, and the scope of our loss drove me to leave and find some summer air. It’s impossible to measure the wattage of the light that went out yesterday.

I remember watching James Brown’s funeral on TV and seeing Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton manipulate a frail Michael to the mic for a speech that was brilliant and eye-opening. He eloquently spoke of the soul icon’s love, contributions, and forgiveness as the Brown estate vultures loomed all around. The world that seemed to be tearing him apart will now fight for his bones, and it won’t be short or pretty. None of them will stop until they get enough, yet Michael Jackson’s life and much-talked about excesses leave us with a great lesson.

Is there ever enough? Can you ever stop? Is it human nature not to be happy with what you have and to keep pushing and fighting till the heart eventually bursts? If there is anything I’ve learned, it’s that all you have can be torn from you in an instant.

Rest in peace, Michael Jackson.

Memorial Tribute to Musician and Graffiti Artist Ana Bender This Weekend

Late-night romps can be cruel after you have done in it for decades. Today’s sunlight is lashing me awake and I haven’t the strength to wash the evening out of my hair. Hotel Chantelle was absolutely off the hook last night, with Sam Valentine, Michael Tee, Miss Guy, and Michael Cavadias and a slew of others whipping the crowd into a frenzy. I think the weather had something to do with it as well. The early spring brings flowers early and confusion into club circles. When it’s nice, the places are packed, but when the weather returns to form and a cold rain requires clothes that have been packed away till next year, the hordes stay home. This Sunday, the two-hour premier of Mad Men will hurt Sunday club ambitions.

After memorial tributes in San Francisco and Seattle for Ana Dyson aka ANA BENDER aka AYBEE, NYC gets its turn. White posters pasted on walls that hipsters pass announced the memorial, which will start at 7pm MARCH 25 at Legion, 790 Metropolitan Avenue. It’s a free show. The posters were produced by Ana’s friend Katsu. This comes from the 12ozProphet website:
4/26/1987 – 2/2/2012
Ana Dyson aka ANA BENDER aka AYBEE
Was an influential musician and graffiti artist from Seattle that lived in NYC and SF.
She was known for her raw and pure punk/folk music style as well as her graffiti tags “AYBEE”.
AYBEE was a close friend of the BTM graffiti crew both on the west and east coasts.
She lived in New York City for a time.
She lived in SF for a time.
A free event is happening this Sunday."
There will be performances by JAPANTHER, Soft Dov, Brohammer, and Dead Reich and DJs Maxwell 57, NineLives, The Cat, Grace of Spades, Ella, and Chloe.
Tonight I will attend a very special affair that is hush hush, super duper, uber secret and I have sworn to only speak of it come Monday. It’s one of these "show up on a corner late-night and you will be led to it’" events.
Twenty years ago I would have thought I was being whacked. I can’t offer you more today; my body is upset at my brain for the insults of last night. My brain needs to turn itself off for a couple of hours. It asks for your forgiveness. I got the usual, "Don’t you ever sleep?" from the waitstaff at Kellogg’s Diner at 6am. They had seen me for breakfast 20 hours earlier. I replied with my usual: "I’ll get all the sleep I need in 20 or 30 years." I realized over my eggs that I started saying that 15 years ago.  

Tribute to the Late 230 Fifth Owner and Nightlife King Steven Greenberg

Man about town Steven Greenberg has passed and I’m going to put my two cents in. I’d put in three but I have a feeling, if he could, he’d scold me for overpaying. Over many years, Steven was a friend, mentor, and a go-to-guy when I needed a big brain and an honest answer. He was always more than pleased to help. A couple of years ago when I was putting together some nightlife community thing, he advised me about the people I was dealing with and why it would fall short of my expectations. He was unrelenting, unforgiving, and spot-on. I was in too deep to go back, but his wisdom had me prepared for the inevitable.

We were meeting in the office at 230 Fifth. Various managers and other thrill-seekers came in to pay homage, get approval, or just bask in his light. He stopped every now and then to answer a phone call on the company line. He told potential patrons about the place, how to get there, how much things cost, what to expect. I can’t think of another owner who would have done that. He loved this world created by him…himself, away from the pack, out of sight and mind of most of the club community. He made more loot than anyone but demanded I wouldn’t tell. It was a Thursday around 11pm and he asked someone to show me what they had grossed so far. The numbers were unreal. We walked around and I saw gigantic bars with yuppies five deep banging down drinks under the light of the Empire State Building. He catered to a crowd that wasn’t chic or fabulous or newsworthy. They dressed from work or similar to it. I imagined they would go home and take off the white shirt and put on the colorful shirt and be ready to go. He fired a DJ while I was taking a tour. The offense? He put on a hip-hop record. He wanted none of that. It was a room with a view, the best view, but only one viewpoint: his.
He had been that rich guy behind the scenes for eons. Secretive and charismatic, sometimes appearing in the tabloids for doing something flamboyant like nixing a Gossip Girl shoot which was to have Chuck Bass and the Empire Hotel claim his 230 view as his own. He fired the Apprentice before they could use his space. He was involved in some SEC scandal. He rode in his very own limo with his very own driver and the it-girl of the day enjoying the night he loved so much. I knew many of these girls, many people do. I more than once hinted at the nature of the relationship and was always told something like, "he never laid a hand on me, it’s not like that." I met him at a sushi bar in Midtown. He was with an educated Asian woman who did something fabulous and he took over my evening. My date became his new friend. He wanted to know all about her. He asked and asked and she told and told. He knew all about her field and told her he knew someone and he could help connect her. He ordered for us and introduced us to the owners and built up our importance as if we were the king and queen of Siam. I never saw a bill. He was going to meet me about something important and I’d see him at some opening tomorrow and he sped into the night. His energy was boundless. His mind curious and insatiable.
Everybody knew him or at least recognized him. At Madison Square Garden, one night I sat in some good seats at a bad Knicks game. He was in his great seats. His white frock made him easy to spot, even in the crowd. He rose and started to walk up the aisle and the Garden camera showed him on the big screen and everyone cheered. He was Ben Franklin to some. The Quaker Oats guy to others. That quirky rich guy to the envious. Someone asked me yesterday, "who’s going to get all his money?’ I replied, "surely not you."
When I ran things, he was behind the scenes only popping up at meetings a couple of times. I once asked my direct bosses at the Palladium, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, who he was and got "he owned the parking lot next door" or once "he was the landlord." Other places like the Roxy or Gramercy Park Hotel or the rooftop of the Ganesvoort had him doing something as well. Owning, leasing, controlling, making money off…sometimes it was more clear than others. It never mattered to me.
He was a friend. When he called me, whatever time it was, no matter what I was doing, I dropped everything. Time with him was precious to me and no, there will be no more. Susan Anton an old club buddy, now a natural healer, alerted me to his passing. Kelly Cole, an old friend on the West Coast, heard it but couldn’t confirm. Anthony Haden-Guest called me for confirmation. I called 230 Fifth and identified myself as an old friend and writer for this magazine. I got a "we can’t speak to that at this time" response. I pressed on as I am, after all, sort of press…I asked the nice lady, "I guess if it weren’t true, you would be saying something like… that’s absurd!" There was silence on the phone and so I continued my full court press. "Is this silence like the silence in All the President’s Men where you are saying "yes" because you aren’t saying anything and not hanging up?" She repeated the party line "there will be no comment at this time." I called Anthony and told him what had happened. We agreed it must be true. I gave him the number and he gave it a try with his impressive name and accent. He told me he must have gotten the same lady as I did and got the same answer except she had added for "legal reasons" to her "no comment" mantra. Anthony wondered about that. I told him that it’s a three-day weekend and maybe they’re worried they don’t have a valid liquor license if he’s officially gone.
The news was confirmed on Facebook with old soldiers Bill Jarema, Robert Roth, and Eytan Sugarman leading the charge. Steven was dead. My great friend Christie, living now in an exotic land, reminded me that Steven had introduced us on the steps of the Palladium’s Michael Todd room back in the day. We are life-long friends and we remembered Steven’s part in that. Others called in short stories that they made long. All agreed he was a character. We are all a great deal poorer for his passing. We have lost a zillion stories which, even if retold, will have little meaning without him. His illness was a secret to many. His death was sudden for us and way too soon. It screams at me about my own mortality. I have lost someone who rarely said no to me and when he did, the advice and lesson learned made that no a yes. His eyes lit up a room. Nightlife was a toy, a board game to him that never bored him and that he almost always won. I apologize for this article being a bit everywhere and maybe a little confusing but maybe that describes Steven Greenberg perfectly.

Don Hill Benefit: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

I was so not going to post this week, but as the great Michael Corleone said in The Godfather: Part III, "Just when I thought I was out … they pull me back in." So here we are, and since we are quoting: The line "No good deed goes unpunished" has been "attributed to several luminaries, including Clare Boothe Luce, Billy Wilder, American financier John P. Grier, banker Andrew W. Mellon, and Oscar Wilde." That’s from Wikipedia, the definitive source for everything in the world, unless you’re looking for a missing sock or stuff like that. I know what you are thinking. I should have taken the week off, but this story is so, so juicy couture that I had to let you in on it. Here is a tale of old-school club folk misbehaving.

We talked here about that Don Hills tribute a couple Thursdays ago with David Johansen, Dick Manitoba, and a long list of rock ‘n’ roll hootchie cooers. It was supposed to be a tribute to that loved-by-all great man and club owner. I was to go, but I had to DJ that night and still posted a couple of stories — you know, doing my part, paying respect. Now comes a burst of e-mails that seem to describe the goings-on in a not-so-wonderful, benevolent, or respectful way.
Trigger, that guy who owns Continental (that five drinks for $10 joint on the Bowery) sent me a long e-mail last night. The letter complains of his clubland naivete. I hope he hasn’t followed this up by sending a writer something he doesn’t want out there. Now that would be naive. The letter lays out a scenario where he personally flew in people and promoted the Squeezebox reunion as a second half of the Don Hills tribute. Trouble is, that second half had already taken place at Lyle Derick’s W.I.P. regular Tuesday night soirèe called Drop Out. The players there even leaked the appearance of Jane County at W.I.P. days before the party, taking the wind out of the sales that Trigger depended on to recoup the money he had laid out and paid for the tickets and many other real expenses. The Drop Out party was a freebie, while the Don Hills thing needed $10. Very few came to the second part of the Don Hills tribute. I tried to get a straight answer from Lyle last night and he replied as follows via text then e-mail.
What’s the beef between you and Trigger?
No beef at all. I respect him all good on my end. I heard tho. I’m sure he has bigger fish to fry
I got a thousand words from him saying basically you and Michael duped him into paying for him and Jane etc to play/do a free party at Drop Out on Tuesday and therefore no one went to Don Hills thing for Squeezebox … they took in 460 bucks … the language was not friendly words to the effect of hustled and ripped off etc. he says he lost like 10 grand. I want a statement going to press in am … like how could you book something so similar 2 days before … right now you and Michael are being painted as hustlers or worse.
What’s your e-mail again?
Lyle Derick then wrote via email:
It is regretful that the "Celebration of Don Hill" was not more successful (financially speaking for Trigger). I have nothing but respect for my elders and peers in nightlife, especially Don who the night was really about and the man that help start Dropout and gave us the chance to do something fun in NY and bring worlds together. Don was a great man, whose presence in nightlife is deeply missed. I wish nothing but success now and in the future for all of my elders and peers in nightlife.
Lyle Derek
Cool and what do u have to say to the accusation that by putting michael and jane at droppout for free on tuesday u defacto sabatoged the thursday event because droppout was free. Did u think the don hills thing was so huge that it didnt matter and it unfortunately didnt turn out that way?
Of course steve, you know me.
This was the type of thing that used to happen in nightclubs before the bean counters took over with lawyers and accountants in tow. Lyle, eager to ensure his Tuesday Night at W.I.P. maintained momentum, seems to have crossed an ethical line that he will cross when it suits him. Yes Lyle, I do know you and do like you, but this was disgraceful. That line about respecting my elders and peers in nightlife used to work back on a day when your boyish good looks and a little smile would get you out of anything. You don’t have too many "elders" left in nightlife, unless I was paying you when you were four. It won’t work here. I threw you a softball at the end and you threw back "you know me." That really isn’t a good enough answer.
Trigger tried to control something a little too big for him to control. Something that he didn’t fully understand. If Michael Schmidt and Jane had only appeared at Irving Plaza I am sure that event would have been better. Nothing can be done now, and Don Hill is still gone. His career was all about his word being good. In this case, trust wasn’t enough. Don represented something that was indeed dishonored by the deed described here. I do know Lyle and Trigger and the players involved, and although Trigger won’t be trading in his trademark "coolie" hat for the hat of a saint anytime soon, and disparaging words about his intentions and his control and a whole mess of other snide, snarky remarks have been laid at my door, in the end he was doing a good deed and he got fucked. Here is his e-mail to me, uncensored:


Having worked in NYC nightlife for my entire life, post college, I thought I’d seen it all. But what recently happened to me is one for the books, as far as i’m concerned anyway.
What Michael Schmidt and Lyle Derek just did to me has me feeling violated. You all know that I booked this event for our Celebration of our dear, deceased, friend Don Hill. When Squeezebox came aboard we were all ecstatic! It was going to be expensive for me because Irving Plaza was adding on 3 grand to the original rent because Michael needed the room from 1-4 am and the original 8 grand rental was only till 1am. Michael also asked me for an additional 3 grand guarantee to pay for Jayne County, Patrick Briggs and himself to be able to fly in and to also pay some performers.
I felt that i’d maybe come close to breaking even with what MIchael was calling the Final Squeezebox. Little did i know that MIchael was hosting a "Pre Party" to my event two days before at DropOut with Miss Guy spinning and Jayne County performing. I wasn’t aware of this till two days before Dropout when Lyle emailed me about it saying "I hope you don’t mind that I’m having Jayne County perform one or two of her non hits and no one’s going to know about it." as if I had a choice. this was two days before his event and 4 days before mine. I brought this up to Michael and he said "That won’t hurt your event at all.We’re all promoting your event Thursday night! I’m even making an appearance at Dropout to promote your event."
I never thought of myself as being naive but I have to admit that they really screwed me on this one and for a moment I believed them that it was just a pre party and their real goal was to promote our Squeezebox for Don at my Irving Plaza show. Calling it a "Pre Party" was just a sham. Dropout was THE PARTY!!! They used my money, my Voice Ad (Lyle had the nerve to ask me to say that we were screening his Squeezebox Film all night at my Irving Show). I stupidly agreed to it cause it was all for the cause in my naive mind.
In reality I spent 3 grand to fly these guys in to do DropOut where there’s no cover charge and it was wall to wall jammed with all of the same people that would have come to our event had there not been, basically the same event two nights earlier, without all of the rock bands taking up 2/3’s of the night and Dropout was FREE!!!
Do the math- i spent 6 grand on Squeezebox to take our event for Don over the top and I took in $460. all because of these selfish, classless pricks.
Irving Plaza asked me if they could close at 2:30 am cause it was a ghost town in there and i said of course they could. who would spend $10 when they could get it for free two nights earlier?
You see originally, Michael was understandably worried about my $25 cover charge so I got Irving Plaza to agree to charging just $10 starting at 12:30 for Squeezebox people.I promised MIchael the room by 1am. he got the room at 1:05.  Little did I know that Michael was HOSTING the Dropout night two nights prior to mine and I had actually foolishly had flown him and others in to do it. Lyle said it was gong to be a surprise and not promoted at all but we all know how the internet works and word got out as they knew it would and their event was jam packed and Squeezebox drew just 46 paid people to my event at Irving Plaza!!!!!!!!!!  Lyle even told me he’d email me an invite but he never did cause had i been there and basically seen my night completely submarined financially, spiritually and emotionally I would have flipped out. He never did email me an invite. Smart man.
I spent 6 Thousand Dollars to make Squeezebox happen and Michael never had the courtesy to inform me of his other, no cover charge event, with basically the same core of stars as my event. he let me do this without ever telling me about it. it was only when Lyle brought it up a couple of days before Dropout that i heard about this. I rented the extra 3 hours for SB for 3 grand and paid Irving for that in advance and paid Michael his 3 grand for the talent and flights at around 10pm the night of my event having no idea what i was in store for. FORTY SIX PEOPLE PAID!!!
These guys sandbagged me and had the nerve to hug me and thank me the night of my event for what I was doing for Don and the Scene while they had already surreptitiously stabbed me in the back.
I will recover from this at some point. I will never regain the 11 thousand dollars i lost on this but I did a beautiful thing for a beautiful man and i will take my losses like a mensch and move forward. While it’s true that i’m doing better just running my place as  a local bar rather than a punk rock club, 11 thousand dollars is an awful lot of money to me as it is to most of us.
but will these two creeps ever recover from the bad Karma they’ve created for themselves here in manipulating me, double dipping and overall, fucking me over??? I doubt it. maybe people like them get away with lying and cheating their way through life on one level but we all know that What Goes Around Comes Around. These are two very slick, charming, charismatic guys. They’ll probably try to talk their way out of this and act innocent but the facts are the facts. It’ll be something like "You know, everyone has problems with Trigger and blah blah blah." but lets look at what’s real here- I did something pure, from my heart and backed it up with my wallet. Even though i knew i was taking a bath i paid everyone what i was supposed to. Even those two losers.
I’m pretty embarrassed by this that i could be taken so easily and be so trusting. it’s not like me. I foolishly thought that we were all on the same page- that this was for our friend Don and there were no hidden agendas. Little did I know.
Still in shock and feeling violated…Trigger
*here’s just a few of of their pre show "non promotions"  my show for Don Hill was Thursday December 15th. I found out about their "Pre Party" December 11th. I’m an idiot for trusting them and even a bigger idiot for paying Schmidt the 3 grand guarantee to fly him and others in, in reality, to do Dropout.. I naively was expecting a packed house. little did I know that the "Packed House" had already taken place.
DropOut Tuesday Dec. 13th with DJ Miss Guy at WORK IN PROGRESS … › … › New York Music Events DropOut Tuesday Dec. 13th with DJ Miss Guy at WORK IN PROGRESS in New York – Special guest MICHAEL SCHMIDT hosts a Pre-Party for the Don Hill’s tribute show …
DropOut Tuesday Dec. 13th with DJ Miss Guy at WORK IN PROGRESS … › … › New York Music Events DropOut Tuesday Dec. 13th with DJ Miss Guy at WORK IN PROGRESS in New York – Special guest MICHAEL SCHMIDT hosts a Pre-Party for the Don Hill’s tribute show …
DropOut Tuesday Dec. 13th – NYC Calendar | Guest of a Guest › Calendar › Dec 2011 Dec 13, 2011 – DROPOUT @ WiP invites you to a very special Tuesday edition with DJ Miss Guy DEC 13TH Special guest MICHAEL SCHMIDT hosts a …
DropOut Tuesday Dec. 13th – NYC Calendar | Guest of a Guest › Calendar › Dec 2011 Dec 13, 2011 – DROPOUT @ WiP invites you to a very special Tuesday edition with DJ Miss Guy DEC 13TH Special guest MICHAEL SCHMIDT hosts a …
TONIGHT!!! Don’t… | Facebook…id…
TONIGHT!!! Don’t miss DropOut Tuesday with DJ Miss Guy, Michael Schmidt, Live Show by Transgendered Jesus and special guest Jayne County. DropOut…
DarianDarling – Twitter
Punk rock icon Jayne County will be making a special appearance w/ Transgendered Jesus TONIGHT at DROPOUT! 34 Vandam 11pm Say my name @ door.
The end, for now …

They Come in Threes: Dennis Gomes’ Passing, Confronting Comment on My Article, White Noise Tonight

After the recent passing of Zelda Kaplan and Steven Greenberg, an experienced club operator asked me last night, "who’s next? …these things always happen in threes." He called me this morning and answered his own query: gaming/casino legend Dennis Gomes has died at 68. He was the co-owner of Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City and was a sort of mythical guru to the industry as a whole. Atlantic City is in shock. I had the opportunity to work with Dennis a few years back. I had developed a fancy dessert restaurant at the Tropicana, which he was operating at the time. He loved it and wanted more from me and my then-partner Chris Sheffield. We hit it off like gangbusters. Thing is, he once was a real-life gangbuster back in Nevada. He was the top dog casino corruption investigator there and his good deeds were brought to the big screen in the Scorsese film Casino.

He was the consummate showman with chickens, naked ladies, and presidential look-a-likes popping out of his extravagant promotional bag of tricks. The projects I was working on with him never materialized, as he suddenly left the Tropicana, and the concepts were too far out there for anyone but him. I won’t tell you about those ideas as I may someday find a place for them. When we met, he was all energy and enthusiasm. He approached everything with a "we can do it" attitude. Once, he asked me if something I proposed "could be done" and I answered " Why not …they put a guy on the moon in 1969." He looked me in the eye and said "I like you" and I was sure he did. We worked fast and furiously. He crunched numbers faster than a speeding bullet train, which he needed so badly to get the New York crowd down to AC. I take the ACES train these days when I go down to visit Atlantic City. I  remember him saying it would someday happen. Before there was gaming in  Atlantic City, I came down to play in the sand. It was even sleazier then than it was 10 years ago, when people really started to flow there and the prostitutes and crime clashed with the new developments and patronage, and were pushed a few blocks away. Back in the Louis Malle’s film Atlantic City era, I wallowed in the muck and grit, enjoyed the beach and the boardwalk by day, and the harsh bars and dirty denizens of the night. Now it’s all slick and clean and purged of most of it’s demons …as long as you don’t stray too far. Families come and top chefs make wonderous meals and international stars perform. Posh hotels with thousands of rooms sell out. It’s a huge success and Dennis Gomes was a huge part of that.

Dennis was a gentleman and an honest broker. I never worried about getting paid, just impressing and working for a man that "got it." Working with him was an honor. Being in the same room – a privilege and an education. I met his family a couple of times and my heart and prayers go out to them.


Once in a while, someone writes a comment to this column. The process of commenting here is too difficult, takes too long, and as a result we don’t get as many as some publications. I have been trying to change this for a couple of years but I am just a lowly writer. My editor asked me if I had seen a comment on my Steven Greenberg tribute. I read the following by "OHNO:"

"I am truly perplexed about this article, I have never in my life felt so torn about writing the following, but it must be said… I feel like everyone has stockholm syndrome after his passing. He was difficult to be around, especially to work for… unless you had a bit of money. There is still that little "class action lawsuit" thing that is ongoing from stealing from his employees. I pray that this "predatory nightlife" era has finally ended. If you truly know him, you know what I mean. I apologize if I hurt anyone by writing this, I mean no ill will, I hope the man is finally at peace. But god damn… someone has to speak up for all of the people he screwed"

OHNO didn’t seem to receive the respect Steven doled out readily to thousands of people. OHNO hints that maybe he didn’t have enough money to get Steven’s attention. He says Steven was difficult to be around and work for. It seems obvious to me that OHNO didn’t get respect because he doesn’t know the meaning of the word. To come in after a man who has passed and can’t defend himself with this sort of disrespectful statement shows the reasons why Steven obviously dissed and discounted OHNO. OHNO is a classless ass and didn’t "truly know him." He alludes to a class action suit and accuses Steven from stealing from his employees in a tip skimming scam.

I don’t know the merits of the case but I truly knew Steven. He didn’t need to steal to make money. He knew how to make money. I have met hundreds of employees of 230 Fifth over the years and all said they made bank working there. When the cold weather came they would look for work elsewhere and those interviewing them for jobs knew that when the warmth returned they would run off to get their 230 job back. Did he run a tight ship? Of course, but he fed hundreds at a time even when jobs were scarce. I and thousands of others found it wonderful to hang and work with Steven. OHNO is getting his 15 seconds of fame hiding behind an alias. If Steven was alive he wouldn’t have hidden and he probably would have explained away this griping as the laments of an employee he shouldn’t have hired. He’d admit to that mistake. He was a warm, loving, charismatic, bon vivant but is very human and therefore imperfect. Rest in Peace, Mr. Steven Greenberg.

I will be out and about tonight, attending the last Sam Valentine Wild Ones party at the soon-to-close White Noise. I designed the joint with a great deal of help from the friends and family that made that place great. White Noise was a project built with a $25,000 budget and a great deal of bells and whistles, smoke and mirrors, and cheap or free labor. I thad a great run and I will miss it…but not before a blast tonight.