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.

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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.

Morning Links: Zelda Kaplan Dies at NYFW, Whitney Houston’s Funeral Will Be Streamed Online

● The 95-year-young night life doyenne Zelda Kaplan died yesterday in the front row at Joanna Mastroiann’s New York Fashion Week show. [NYDN]

● The AP plans to host an online stream of Whitney Houston’s funeral for those who feel they need to bid a digital adieu. [AP/Huff Post]

● He said he wouldn’t, but it looks like Seal has gone ahead and taken off his wedding ring. Perhaps so as not to distract from his canary yellow manicure? [TMZ]

● T-Pain has named his next mixtape The Heath Ledger Project because, as he says, "that’s how much I love music." "I want to master my craft like [Ledger] tried to do before he died,” he continued. "I think he went so crazy trying to master his craft that he died for what he loved doing."  [Rap-Up]

● Meryl Streep will play Julia Roberts’s mother in John Wells’s Oscary adaptation of August: Osage County, set to begin production this fall. [THR]

● With a MoMA retrospective on the approaching horizon, Cindy Sherman is using photoshop to try something new. "It’s horrifying how easy it to make changes,” she says. [NYT]

Night Muse: Zelda Kaplan

The world thought Kate Moss was making an original fashion statement when she accessorized her silver lamé outfit at last year’s MET Gala with a turban, but the look definitively belongs to an original New York nightlife icon, Zelda Kaplan, who started donning headgear before heroine chic was even a term. Kaplan, who recently celebrated her 94th birthday, has been an original fashion muse on the scene since reinventing herself as a New York personality in the 1960’s. Since then, she rarely misses a night out on the town, a glass of champagne in hand, everything topped off with her signature turban or over-sized shades—or both. More recently, she became interested in humanitarian efforts in Africa, where she travels frequently to speak on the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation (and where she acquires her authentic tribal garb).

“Remember, sweetie,” she once told us, “don’t call until four or five in the afternoon. Otherwise, I’ll still be in bed.” Once risen, the girl about town makes a small meal then calls up her crew to decide where the party will be. Before Bungalow closed a few years back, she would close down the bar, heading home just before dawn in her bold prints, sheer materials, and of course, her signature turban.

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Her joie de vivre was outlined in a New York Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/19/nyregion/citypeople-the-amazing-zelda.html?pagewanted=2 ”I want to be an example for young people so they aren’t afraid of growing old and a lesson to old people that you can be productive. You don’t have to sit around and wait for death.”

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Zelda turned 94 last week at Orsay’s Entre Nous in a sheer top, dark bra, and high-waisted silk pants, all pulled off with more elan and more style than most of the junior fashionistas present.

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Creatures of the Night: A Gallery of After Darkers

In the booming, bustling world of urban nightlife, things are neither silent nor still, nor necessarily what they seem. Here, when most people have begun cashing in on their eight hours of rest, we hit the streets with our most beloved, insatiable crew of revelers—from deejays and drag queens to one very poised 92-year-old single gal—to experience the debauchery and decadence of the world after dark.

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The Downtown Dynasty: Geordon Nicol, Leigh Lezark and Greg Krelenstein of The MisShapes with Sophia Lamar and Spencer Product, photographed at the Annex, New York City. Never mind the fickle nature of the deejay lifestyle. The enduring hipster phenomenon known as the MisShapes — Geordon Nicol, Greg Krelenstein and Leigh Lezark — continue to garner momentum while other club kids simply spin out of control (Lezark has even managed to leverage her downtown success into international stardom, most recently as one of the celebrity faces in this fall’s GAP campaign). When not living out of suitcases — filled, almost exclusively, with black clothes — they most often frequent the Annex, a casual, beer-soaked club on Orchard Street overrun with irony and seam-defying denim. “I want to feel excited and sometimes nostalgic when I’m out listening to music.” says Krelenstein.

Their close friend Sophia Lamar, a trans-gendered Cuban refugee, style visionary and onetime member of the Michael Alig crew, shares the same passion for the deep, dark bowels of evening revelry. A nightlife fixture for years, she cops to having witnessed some strange sights: “I once saw a performer who was naked on stage eating corn on the cob. She then blew popcorn out of her ass.” Lezark and Nicol chime in with their own memory: “We saw someone in a bear suit catch fire, and his friend pissed on him to extinguish the flames.” In response to a question about rest, Lamar’s longtime friend and party conspirator, deejay Spencer Product, whose mix album …Product was released last month, asks, defiance in his tone, “Sleeping pattern? What sleeping pattern?”

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The All-Nighters: Deborah Harry, musician, actor, and Justin Bond, cabaret performer, photographed at The Diner, New York City. Rock goddess Deborah Harry and international cabaret star Justin Bond (aka Kiki of Kiki & Herb), friends for over 10 years, revel in pleasures of the evening — creative and otherwise: “I look at it like this,” says Harry, casual and still utterly iconic in her white blouse and stripey pants, hair platinum blonde, fresh from Blondie’s Parallel Lines anniversary tour. “My favorite part of the day is from about 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. I love those hours. I think that being in the city, staying out all night and facing the dawn offers an amazing perspective. It’s a very creative time. I either get there from the back side or the front side.”

For Bond, charismatic and festive in eyeliner and quilted jacket, the hours between 10 to 12 offer the first window of nocturnal magic: “Putting on my makeup is like zen meditation, especially if you have girlfriends to get ready with,” he says, seated across from his partner in crime over blue plate specials at a Chelsea diner. “Then, three to five is good, because all the hardcore people are left, the risk-taking people who’ve come out from their buildings to mingle with each other.” Living in one of the world’s 24-hour cities, both agree, is a major perk. Bond’s after-hours itinerary includes catching up with moonlighting deejay John Cameron Mitchell at Mattachine, a Thursday night blowout at Julius in the West Village. Harry, whose favorite clubs over the years have included Jackie 60 and Mother (“high on the list, if not the top”), CBGB, Max’s Kansas City and Studio 54 says: “At least in New York, you can act like an adult. You can be responsible for your own irresponsibility.”

When it comes to their choice libations, Bond, whose boozy chanteuse Kiki has a celebrity-addicted following, says that he likes “a nice slug of Jack and Coke.” Harry, the quintessential diva of the night, whose seductive “Heart of Glass” and “Rapture” are inevitable pleasures in any nightclub (the endurance of the songs “is the best thing that happened to me, but I prefer now to the past. I’m not really a nostalgic person,” she says), gets her thrill from champagne, Cristal to be precise: “It’s the ultimate. You can always rely on it. I never get hangovers.” But if they mix their poisons, or have one too many, what do the dedicated nightbirds turn to for hangover cures? “Advil, or a hamburger,” Bond offers, “and sex. Anything that makes me sweat.” “There you go,” says Harry. “Best cure yet.” — Ray Rogers and James Servin.

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The Late Bloomer: Zelda Kaplan, nightlife legend, photographed at Bungalow 8, New York City. Zelda Kaplan, 92, sits tucked away in a booth at the back of Bungalow 8, one of her favorite New York City haunts, sipping from a champagne flute. Scheduling an appointment with her days earlier came with the following caveat: “Remember, sweetie, don’t call until four or five in the afternoon. Otherwise, I’ll still be in bed.” A trained ballroom dancer, the twice-married humanitarian has traveled throughout Ethiopia to raise awareness about female genital mutilation (“It’s excision, not circumcision,” she says). These days, she saunters about town at all hours of the morning, wearing that cylindrical hat of hers, draped in rich fabrics she discovered while touring Africa. “I like to go out,” she says, her sharp eyes shielded by sunglasses. “I like to be with nice people, although not the types who get sloppy, sloppy drunk.” She remembers, after the loss of her second husband, “going home at night and thinking, My gosh, this is so boring! But how could I possibly go out without an escort? And then one night, I went to Bungalow 8. There were people in line, but I was let right in. I went straight to the bar. To take up a table by oneself is awful, and besides, I wanted to talk to people.” Which is precisely what she did, forming a core group of friends, many of whom could pass as her great-grandchildren. And that’s just fine with Kaplan, who has little patience when her few remaining nonagenarian peers complain about rheumatoid arthritis. “After two or three minutes, I’m like, Whatever,” she say, smiling. The club scene, of course, has changed drastically since Kaplan first hit the dance floor, and she’s the first to notice: “Women today, these girls, present their fannies to men by bending over at the bar. And the men, they come up close behind them, you know, moving. I’ve presented myself to men like that before, but never in public.”

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The Firestarter: Luke Worrall, model, photographed at his “mum’s house” in Croydon, London, U.K. Luke Worrall was only 17 years old when he made his second appearance on the cover of Dazed & Confused magazine, the lascivious proposal “SEX ME UP!” brandished over his body, which was tightly braided in an embrace with two other naked models — one male, one female — colorful phallic blow-ups adorning their heads. A few months later, in January of this year, Worrall cracked the pages of W in little more than an Ann Demeulemeester coq feather vest, actress Hilary Swank on all fours in front of him. Photos like these, along with his closely monitored romance with Kelly Osbourne (about which he’s chosen to remain reticent), have positioned Worrall as quite the party boy. It’s a label he’s quick to discard, and one of the reasons he vows never again to model naked. “I like to go out,” he says. “But I also party at home with my family.” A run-in with a torch might explain his preference for celebrating on his own turf: “I was recently at the Versace party in Milan during Fashion Week. I had just modeled in a show where they had done up my hair in fine cornrows. I walked past a hanging lamp and, the next thing I knew, my hair was on fire.”

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The Stone Thrower: Perez Hilton, celebrity blogger, photographed outside of the El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles, California. At 5:40 a.m., merciless Hollywood blogger Perez Hilton, 30, sits down at his computer to defile a few well-known faces with the hand-drawn semen he’s become famous — and reviled — for. But while most guerilla gossips remain faceless, if not altogether nameless observers, Hilton has built an online empire on the promise of full disclosure and constant exposure — which hasn’t always worked in his favor, especially among certain members of the tight-lipped, West Coast nightlife set. “Getting kicked out of Chateau Marmont was shocking,” he says, “because I didn’t do anything to deserve it. They just knew who I was, what I did for a living, and made it clear that I was not welcome there.”

He has, however, befriended the inspiration for his eponymous website. “Paris Hilton knows how to throw a really good house party,” he says. “At her place, I always see the most random group of people, from A-listers to D-listers.” When asked if he’d rather throw down in New York or Los Angeles, the self-appointed “Queen of all Media” says, “New York is dangerous because the clubs don’t close until 4 a.m. My favorite place in Los Angeles, which I go to pretty much every weekend I’m in town, is Akbar in Silver Lake. There’s no velvet rope. There’s no cover. They have a dance floor, but they also have a jukebox in the other room, if you feel like lounging. In L.A. — even though clubs close at 2 a.m. — you can get in a lot of trouble because you still have to drive home. And we all know how much celebrities love to drink and drive.”

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The Keepers of the Faith: Michael Musto, Andre J., Joey Arias and Amanda Lepore, club kids, photographed in the bathroom at BBar & Grill, New York City. Outside of the tiled bathroom at BBar & Grill on Manhattan’s recently sanitized Bowery strip, hundreds of fragrant men cluster together in shape-defining jeans for Erich Conrad’s notorious Tuesday night happening, Beige. They sidle up to one another, impatient for cocktails. Inside, in front of a wall lined with urinals, French Vogue cover model Andre J., dressed in a hot pink halter with matching booty shorts, bends down to cool his face with the breeze from a nearby hand-dryer. Next to him in a black pinstripe suit, The Village Voice columnist Michael Musto jokes with drag cabaret performer Joey Arias, while Amanda Lepore, photographer David LaChapelle’s muse — and “the world’s most famous transsexual with a fully-functioning vagina,” according to her voicemail greeting — places the scarlet heel of her right Louboutin into the urinal beside her.

But despite being crammed together in that scant, airless room, business proceeds as usual for the club kids who discovered themselves and one another throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The surroundings don’t faze them, especially not Musto, who used to ogle Michael Jackson at Studio 54 and dodge streams of projectile breast milk used to make White Russians at Susanne Bartsch’s infamous bacchanals. Because he doesn’t drink, Musto describes himself as “a eunuch at an orgy,” and says, laughing, “I think heaven will be awfully boring — Mother Teresa and Angelina Jolie tending to the children and Julie Andrews singing ‘Chim chim cher-ee.’ Give me hell anytime!” Of his relationship with the other three assembled here tonight, Musto says, “They are people of the night! My kindred spirits pursue their dreams, living as their most extreme and fabulous versions of themselves. Most people don’t have the balls to do that.”

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Les French Fries: Yelle, singer-songwriter, photographed in Paris, France. French siren Yelle (pronounced “gel,” not “jelly”) first performed the acerbic lyrics to “Je veux to voir” last fall, to a sold-out sea of neon tights and tattered T-shirts at one of France’s trendiest nightclubs, Le Paris Paris. “I wanna see you in a porn flick,” she sang, “Getting busy with your potato or French fry-shaped dick.” The audience went crazy, and one can’t help wonder if that’s why the spud theme has stuck. “I love a good hamburger with French fries,” she says, adding, “But a plate of pasta with butter is also pretty perfect after a long night out.” Since stomping her cyber footprint on MySpace only a few years ago, Yelle, 25, has taken control of French airwaves with tracks from her bold, brash debut album Pop-Up — sex toys, lesbian desire and love are all explored in her songs — for which she is currently touring America alongside her two bandmates. With her electro-sexpot look and wide, bewitching stare, one imagines she attracts plenty of attention when out with friends. “The worst pick-up line I ever heard was, ‘Your father is a thief. He took all the stars from the sky and put them in your eyes,’” she says, rolling them.

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The Playboy: Sébastien Tellier, musician, photographed at Santos Party House, New York City. It’s nearing dusk when French musician and deejay Sébastien Tellier breaks from conversation in search of another drink at the Tribeca Grand Hotel. He returns, his Herculean sunglasses still firmly in place, and says, unprompted, “I drink one glass of white wine before every show to loosen up my throat. And, of course, I smoke a joint.” After a reflective pause, he adds, grinning, “I smoke a lot of joints, actually.” On tour in support of his latest album,Sexuality, a warm, writhing toe-dip into Gainsbourg territory that was given its pre-release exclusively at American Apparel, Tellier explains that his creative focus has shifted from politics to sex. “I used to make music for a room of French intellectuals,” says the self-described “enemy of convention,” who has worked closely with the members of Air and Daft Punk, with whom he also spends most nights out. “And now, I see young women in the crowd who are barely 15 years old. Their spirit and youth are wonderful. I don’t even really want to see people dance to my music, but I do want to see them kiss.” Has Tellier ever played his own love jams to set the mood? “Holy shit, no. I’m not that much of an exhibitionist.”

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The Anarchist Gypsy: Eugene Hütz, singer for Gogol Bordello, actor, photographed at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel, Providence, Rhode Island. In the dank, wood-paneled Bulgarian bar Mehanata on Ludlow Street, Eugene Hütz, the churlish but spirited creator of New York’s gypsy punk rock band Gogol Bordello, spins beat-driven songs for a messy crowd of dripping, drunk Lower East Side dancers. “I’ve never really liked hipsters,” says Hütz, 35, after being called one. “They’re an unfaithful bunch. I’d rather rely on intelligent people who can see past what’s of the moment.” His homespun, bedraggled looks inspired Frida Giannini’s breakthrough Fall-Winter 08/09 collection for Gucci, and his star will certainly rise this month with his top-billing role in Madonna’s feature directorial debut, Filth and Wisdom, but his heart still belongs to the New York night and his riotous weekly parties. “I’ve spoken to a lot of people who were brought up by 1970s New York underground culture, which was disorderly and uncompromising in a lot of ways,” says Hütz, who was born in Ukraine before immigrating stateside. “So, I came to New York with a democratic mentality. Someone would be playing an acoustic guitar in a little after-hours club with people who didn’t give a fuck, and something special happened — talent knew no borders, hierarchy was thrown out of the window. I live for that atmosphere.”

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The Globe-Hopper: Nigo, fashion designer, photographed in Tokyo, Japan. Japanese fashion designer Tomoaki “Nigo” Nagao still calls Tokyo home, but he goes where the energy flows for inspired nights out. These days, that means New York. The nightlife there, he says, maintains a “genuine craziness. I can really feel the excitement.” It’s been 15 years now since the former magazine stylist and hip-hop deejay changed the look of streetwear — and the backstreets of Harajuku — with the creation of his fashion label A Bathing Ape (BAPE). Looking back, Nigo, 37, can’t help but notice a change in tenor throughout the Tokyo nightlife circuit. “Going clubbing in the ’90s, everyone cared about how they looked, and it was creative and progressive in terms of fashion. Today’s scene is much smaller and more disparate.” No matter — Nigo keeps that creative flame alive with his labels, which include BAPE, but also Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream, with friend and co-founder Pharrell Williams. A retrospective of his work comes forth next month in the form of the Rizzoli tome, A Bathing Ape. But he’s got a tall order if he wants to top his most exciting night out to date with Pharrell. “I remember going to Miami for the first time ever, to the video shoot for ‘Frontin” from Pharrell’s first solo record. We went to some big club to celebrate, and almost every song the deejay played had been produced by the Neptunes. Pharrell really doesn’t drink, but we were all going wild.”

Photos: Victoria Will (MisShapes, Sophia Lamar, Spencer Product; Deborah Harry, Justin Bond; Zelda Kaplan; Sébastian Tellier), Atlanta Rasher (Luke Worrall), Brian Lindensmith (Perez Hilton), Lizzy Sullivan (Michael Musto, Andre J., Joey Arias, Amanda Lepore), Yoann Lemoine (Yelle), Isa Wipfli (Eugene Hütz), Maria Amita (Nigo).
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