Friday night the Tribeca Film Festival hosted the World Premier of the documentary Limelight. Directed by Billy Corben (Cocaine Cowboys, 'The U' - ESPN 30 for 30), Limelight tells the story of the rise and fall of the legendary 'King of Clubs', Peter Gatien. Corben was on hand to introduce the film prior to screening, and did a little Q & A session after the film - the guy has a great sense of humor and is as unpretentious as they come in the film industry - he was cool as shit. As someone who went to Limelight and Tunnel in the 90's, I was very interested to see how the era was to be portrayed.
Peter Gatien got his start in his hometown in Ontario, Canada, in the early 1970s, opening a jeans store using a $13,000 settlement payment from a childhood hockey injury that took his eye. He then sold that store and opened a rock club, which showcased a local band that became a legend of their own - Rush. From Canada, he went to Florida and Atlanta, before coming to NYC where he built his empire that would make him the undisputed king of NYC nightlife. His 4 clubs - The Limelight, The Palladium, Tunnel, and Club USA brought in thousands of people per night on weekends from the mid 1980's until the early/mid 1990's. Club USA would have about 3,000 people on a typical Satuday night - that was the smallest of the 4 clubs.
Despite the presence of security in the clubs, it was New York at the height of a rampant drug era. In particular, the Limelight (a former church purchased by Gatien) and Tunnel were basically open air drug markets, but it really was not much different than what was going on in the streets; in the early 90s, there were years where there were in excess of 2,500 homicides in NYC, much of it drug related. Anyhow, when Giuliani got into office with his quality of life platform, Gatien, as the king of the nightime world, basically had a bullseye on his back, and he was going to get got. The documentary goes on to focus on Gatien's court cases and his fight vs charges of promoting drug sales (which he beat) and tax evasion (which beat him).
Many twists and turns keep this a completely riveting film, including his deportation to Canada as a result of the tax evasion conviction, and the portrayal of his 2nd and current wife, Alessandra, who is portrayed as a con artist who basically was in control of every penny of the financial end of the empire during the time where the tax evasion took place. I do not want to spoil anything for those who will be watching this documentary, but if you liked 'The U' and/or 'Cocaine Cowboys', and want to see some wonderful footage of a really unique time and place in NYC, then you will absolutely love this film. It was just picked up by Magnolia Pictures for distribution, and after some re-editing by Corben, should be coming out in August. I'm no Skeeze, and probably didn't do this documentary the justice it deserves.
On a personal note, the group Fun Lovin' Criminals, who formed after meeting each other as employees of Limelight (and who wrote a song for the documentary), were on hand, and after the screening on Friday, we ended up at the same bar as the group. We bullshitted some, had some drinks, and I found out that I had an old friend in common with them, which brought back some great memories. We also shared a few stories of adventures in the Tunnel unisex bathrooms (their stories much better than mine obv).
You did a good job providing some background and selling the documentary. I'll add this to my list. Thanks for taking the time to write about it.
Nice - hadn't heard of this one. Will keep an eye out for a chance to catch a viewing.
And haha at the skeeze comment... It's always awesome to see people post write ups of films, if for nothing more than to let us decide if we would like seeing it. You took the time to provide some good background, etc which is important... my last few have been pretty auto-pilot off the top of my head - I need to find a good one soon to do a more in depth write up.
Please post more from Tribeca if you see any - I've been trying to be in the right place at the right time for a film festival this past year but just haven't been able to make it work.
Thanks Skeeze - I am going again - seeing the documentary of Tribe Called Quest. I'm trying to work out a deal to see the Ozzy Osbourne one as well, but I have about a 50/50 chance of going to that one.
I enjoyed your review of Water for Elephants - I just read the book by Sara Gruen about 2 months ago, and had no idea there was even a film coming out. August was a real prick in the book - curious to see how he is portrayed in the film, and curious to see how they played Jacob's 'roommate' on the train, Kinko (he was a really interesting character in the book). Funny, but I never pictured Marlena as a Reece Witherspoon type - in my mind she was more of a taller, curvy type of blonde bombshell.
Oh yeah Waltz plays August like a genuine prick... he is pretty awesome at it. A few times he gives us slight reason to feel for him, but not enough to forget his true character. I would have liked to have even a little more of him in the film, even though he does play a prominant role.
It's been a while since I watched a movie after reading the book so no idea how this one will play for you... Obviously movies almost never live up to the books.
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