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While I personally believe Peter Gatien was more interested in money, pop, high fashion, and catering to VIPs rather than really interested in the music itself (let alone electronic music) or the common club goer, to go after the owner of venues for illicit activity that usually quietly occurs on the premises and usually doesn't harm anyone, and further has no direct connection to that owner... well, it's immoral of the authorities.
In nearly every concert venue, lounge, and club I've been to, I've either seen drugs being done, asked if I had drugs, or asked if I wanted them. I have never indulged and never assumed the venue owners automatically had any connection to those activities. For what it's worth, I've also been asked or outright accused of being an undercover cop, which I was not, either.
What's oddly not fully explored in this documentary is the connection of certain lounges and club owners to Rudolf Giuliani who conveniently went unnoticed by narcotics investigations and who were never bothered with the enforcement of the historic anti-race-mixing No Dancing cabaret laws. I would have liked to have seen that hypocrisy explored. There was definite cronyism at work. I realize it's slightly apart from the laser-like narcotics enforcement Gatien experienced, but a relevant tangent, in my opinion.
The documentary might be a little slow-moving for some viewers not familiar with the subject matter. It's not the most stylish or extraordinary editing and 'reveals'. Don't expect The Thin Blue Line quality of workmanship. The music is also not particularly inspired in the cues used and there's a bit too much use of 'warehouse' re-recording reverb for my taste. Corben and co still did a respectable job with the rest, though. You are getting a very big picture here, yet with a lot of nuance. And I liked the earth turning into the crystal ball at the end. Classy.
This might seem contradictory, but I tend to think, while what happened was an injustice, it may have possibly done the scene some good, incidentally, to remove someone from the New York scene who had less interest in the music. Let's ignore for a moment the wisdom of associating with drug dealers or masses of hopped-up trannies. This possibly helped pave the way for those who weren't simply following the money as much regardless of the upsurge in muggings. This even more European-style event run by people who intimately care about the art itself (and I'm not talking about their interest in fashion designers or art gallery VIPs), has led to EDM getting back to its roots and then exploding as it has. This doesn't just go for free parties, but for-profit ones, too. This is not to say that money is not a component or there aren't some base profiteers at work, but the vibe has improved.
While Gatien got a bad rap (no pun intended, but probably an appropriate play on words), I think he lacked quite the 'purity' that he and the scene needed to be running raves... let alone raves in a church. The story of the money changers and another one about a rich man come to mind.
One might construe the statement above to indicate I support tax evasion, law-breaking and illegal drug sales. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. But taking away / shutting down nightclubs will not eliminate nor fix the drug problem in America - case in point, watch: Weeds: Season Eight.
While most people have heard of the smashing success of Studio 54 (Studio 54: The Legend), Peter Gatien's empire included not 1, but 4 clubs, including the infamous Limelight, housed in a former church and the club for which the film is titled (and focused). His business model was to offer citizens a place to dance and party and have a good time - much the same way every nightlife institution does - the same reason people go to NYC, Las Vegas, Miami - or any bar/dance club in any town or city in the world.
"Limelight" tells the story of just one outlet for the people shuttered by the unending government assault on a man, and his business. Trust me, if he was Donald Trump, he would have emerged from this with wealth and with his family living in the USA. But, he wasn't. In the past decade, changes in society, law, insurance regulations (just to name a few) have all but eliminated the mega nightclub in America. One by one, these institutions have closed there doors, unable to comply with an ever-changing increase in government, increase in insurance premiums and decrease in legal limits for consumption of alcohol. Again, don't get me wrong, driving while intoxicated is bad. So is driving while texting, but what has the government done to protect you from that injustice? Sure, they have enacted some laws - lame laws that are rarely enforced. I would rather be driving next to a buzzed and aware driver than a driver with 2 hands on a cell phone typing a message any day of the week. But I digress.
When the corrupt federal government investigation failed to shutter Mr. Gatein's businesses, the city and state of NY took care of the rest. Under the new "leadership" of Mayor Giuliani, the city of New York was being purged of any business that was not considered wholesome by an elite few.
The film through a series of interviews and investigative research tells the tragic story and eventual demise of a business at the hands of angry government leaders. The ending throws one more horrific hit when a judge orders Peter Gatein be immediately deported to Canada.
We as a society are at fault (see: Ethos: A Time for Change) when we allow (and often invite) government to step in and control the free enterprise system. Best I can tell, Peter Gatien never killed anyone, nor did he sell drugs, nor cultivate them; he paid taxes, he ran a business that employed nearly 1,000 people. When he erred on his taxes, he admitted the mistake and agreed to pay back the money due. Ask the former Enron employee's how they're doing today. Peter Gatien made one mistake - he wasn't a man of wealth and he wasn't connected with men of wealth. Therefore, when the government wanted him out of business, he never stood a chance. His story is one of many. And sadly I fear, many more to come.
For me, this is a personal story. I worked in the nightlife business in the 90's and 2000's. I was also a customer of many a nightclub - many of which are long gone. And I visited the Limelight in 1991. Never once did I possess, buy or use an illegal drug in any nightclub. Nightclubs are not bad places. Take them away and the people will continue to seek a means to find what they need legally or otherwise. We are oppressing the people and this film tells part of that story.
And lastly, even the late great Mayor Koch warned us...