Peter Gatien, who gave Atlanta the boogie fever in the early '80s with his white-hot Limelight, was ordered to return to his native Canada by an immigration judge in New York last week. Apparently, his 1999 tax fraud conviction, a decade of scandal and millions in debt made him an undesirable immigrant.
It's bad timing, since the 50-year-old former nightclub impresario was enjoying a resurgence in his notoriety, courtesy of new book and film accounts of his rise and fall as the king of New York's club scene. The book, Clubland, by journalist Frank Owen, is a sometimes fond look back at Gatien's nightclub empire -- including NYC's Limelight, Tunnel and Palladium -- in the years before it came crashing down in a cataclysm of drug busts, tax evasion, bankruptcy and murder.
An upcoming movie, Party Monster, stars Macaulay Culkin as Gatien's club-kid protege who helps make his string of nightclubs the see-and-be-seen nexus for young hipsters -- as well as ground-zero for ecstasy use in the late '90s -- but ends up killing a club regular with a hammer over a drug debt.
Gatien's story also is bound for the big screen in Pursuit of Pleasure, a film about his life that has yet to be cast.
Born in Cornwall, a small mill town near Montreal, Gatien took the insurance money he received for a hockey accident that cost him an eye and started a local nightclub before moving to Florida in the mid-'70s. After a stint in the Miami club scene, he opened the Limelight on Piedmont Road in Buckhead in 1980. The club attracted such celebrities as Rod Stewart, Andy Warhol, Tina Turner and Isaac Hayes, and catapulted the reclusive, eyepatch-wearing club owner to fame. When Gatien moved to New York in 1983, the Atlanta club withered without his attention and closed in 1985; for the next decade, the site was occupied by Rupert's. He opened the spectacular Petrus in Midtown in 1989, but that club lasted only a couple of years before Gatien's financial troubles forced its closure as well; the space is now occupied by Eleven50.
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