Clubland: The Fabulous Rise and Murderous Fall of Club Culture

Clubland: The Fabulous Rise and Murderous Fall of Club Culture

Frank Owen

Language: English

Pages: 320

ISBN: 0312287666

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In 1995, journalist Frank Owen began researching a story on “Special K,” a new designer drug that fueled the after-midnight club scene. He went to buy and sample the drug at the internationally-notorious Limelight, a decrepit church converted into a Manhattan disco, where pulse-pounding music, gender-bending dancers, and uninhibited sideshows attracted long lines of hopeful onlookers. Clubland is the story of Owen’s six year journey behind the velvet ropes, into the cavernous clubs where any transformation was possible, every extreme permissible—even murder.

At first, Owen found an unexpected common ground between very different people: stockbrokers danced with transvestites, pacifier-sucking “club kids” with celebrities, thick-necked jocks with misfits. But as money flowed into the clubs, the music darkened, the drugs intensified, and the carnival spiraled out of control. Four men defined the scene, all of them outsiders, who saw in clubland the chance to escape their pasts and reinvent themselves by making their own rules. Peter Gatien rose from a small Canadian milltown to become the most powerful club operator in America; Michael Alig, a gay misfit from the midwest, escaped to Manhattan where he won a legion of fashion-and-drug enamored followers; Lord Michael Caruso left Staten Island’s bars for the rave parties of England, returning as clubland’s leading drug dealer and techno music pioneer; and Chris Paciello began as a brutal Bensonhurst gang member, then recast himself as the glamorous prince of Miami Beach, partying with Madonna and Jennifer Lopez at the exclusive nightspots he created. Each of them had secrets that led them over the edge, and when when clubland fell, it left behind tragic human consequences: the disillusioned, the strung out, and the dead.

A tour de force of investigative and participatory journalism, Clubland offers a dramatic exposé of a world built on illusion, where morality is ambiguous, identity changeable, and money the root of both ecstasy and evil.












were waiting to see me. They showed me transcripts of conversations with Andrew Dohler, where Paciello was proposing to have me killed. Two more detectives came into the room. They looked familiar, so I asked them, ‘Don’t I know you two guys?’ They said, ‘Don’t you remember us from a few nights ago, when you were standing outside your home, we asked you where Alton Road was. We were just watching you.’ I then asked them why, if Chris had been planning to have me whacked for three months, did they

mild breathing depression, there was also no need for a respirator during medical procedures. Ketamine was used extensively during battlefield surgery in the Vietnam War. But the human application proved to be problematic because of something called the “emergence phenomenon.” Adding to the horror of the battlefield, injured soldiers coming out of operations complained about the hellish visions they’d experienced under the influence of the drug. “The large doses used on humans caused a

responsible for recruiting individuals to attend the nightclubs, distributing invitations and promotional materials for nightclub parties, and ensuring that controlled substances were available for sale at the nightclubs. Among the party promoters at various times were Michael Caruso, Paul Torres, Michael Alig, and Joseph Uzzardi, also known as ‘Baby Joe’. Directors and party promoters employed dealers to distribute controlled substances at the nightclubs. The dealers employed by directors and

Voice. The combination of numerous off-the-record sources and one on-the-record source saying Alig had confessed to the slaying, along with Johnny Melendez’s trail of tears in search of his missing brother, made for a story that implied that Alig and Freeze were the actual killers. The Voice article catapulted Angel’s murder from the realm of rumor into the province of hard news. The story was no longer merely clubland gossip. Numerous media outlets picked up the report. Alig openly joked with

at his new place of employment. I’d heard stories that Caruso was back to his old tricks. After he left Miami, he swore he was going to quit selling drugs and robbing people. He also resolved to be a faithful companion to his longtime girlfriend, Gina, and a good father to their newborn son. But once ensconced at Expo, the old Lord Michael returned: He resumed drugging, cheating on his girlfriend, and ripping off unsuspecting marks. Some opportunities were just too good to pass up. “I saw him

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