For New Yorkers of a certain age, The Limelight epitomized the city's vibrant nightclub scene in the 1980's and 90's. Now a new documentary that had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival tells the story of owner Peter Gatien and his battle with the city. NY1's George Whipple filed the following report.
Limelight owner Peter Gatien was at the top of the nightlife heap, until a crackdown on ecstasy in New York City clubs by Mayor Rudy Giuliani led to the breakup of his empire.
Gatien was deported back to his native Canada in 2003 after pleading guilty to tax evasion, and hasn't been allowed back in the country since. The story is the subject of a documentary called "Limelight" that was produced, but not directed, by Peter Gatien's daughter, Jen Gatien.
"I know my limitations. I'm not a director, and so I think I'm really good at pulling people together and matching people's sensibility," said Gatien. "It's kind of similar I think in many ways to what my father did at his nightclub of just pairing the right people together and pulling it all off."
The film was directed by Billy Corben, who also made the acclaimed documentary "Cocaine Cowboys."
"It wasn't supposed to be a propaganda piece or an image rehabilitation piece, but just go back and objectively look at what happened. What's incredible is, you mention Limelight and Peter Gatien and people go, 'Oh yeah, I remember him. Whatever happened to him?' There's a moment in time where the story seems to just kind of fall off, and so this will fill in the blanks for a lot of people," Corben said.
Steve Lewis, who managed Limelight in its heyday, says this film might help set the record straight.
"The reality is we were really artistic people trying to do great things every day, and we changed the course of the sociology of New York. Yes, it crashed and burned, but if you want to remember the disaster you can remember the disaster. I'll try to remember all the good things we've done," Lewis said.
Jen Gatien also gave us an update on how her father is doing.
"He's well. I just think he's incredibly bummed," said Gatien. "They say time heals all wounds, but there's certainly part of him that just really misses being in the United States and certainly in New York. I do think that in his mind he feels that he was zeroed out or singled out in a way that no one else really has been, and so that's where he is."