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NYC's 'King Of Clubs' Suing Hollywood Hotel For Stealing The Name Of His Former Hotspot

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A man who once monopolized the nightlife scene of a bygone New York is suing the operators of Hollywood's Dream Hotel for stealing the name of his former über-night club Limelight.

Fueled by small mountains of cocaine in the '80s and vast quantities of ecstasy in the '90s, Limelight was the the place to be once upon a time in New York. Operator Peter Gatien opened the club's Manhattan outpost in November 1983, replacing a drug rehab facility on the site of a deconsecrated Episcopal church. During its heyday, Limelight played host to performers ranging from Prince to Pearl Jam, Andy Warhol-hosted parties, and the rise and fall of countless club kids. The massive hotspot was shut down by the city for drug use in 1996, and Gatien was later deported to his native Canada after being convicted of tax fraud.

The lawsuit, which according to the New York Post was filed in a Los Angeles federal court last Thursday, alleges that the not-yet-opened Dream Hotel is trying to capitalize on Limelight's name and reputation for their own unrelated venture. Gatien charges that Jason Strauss and Noah Tepperberg, partners in the nightclub development company Tao Group, are ripping him off by opening a Limelight club at their new Hollywood hotel.In the suit, Gatien alleges that "Rather than establish a brand and reputation of their own the defendants are attempting to misappropriate the goodwill of the Limelight-recognized brand and compete in a manner calculated to deceive consumers and irreparably harm Mr. Gatien," according to Bloomberg.

The onetime "King of Clubs" and his Limelight brand were certainly legendary, and indelibly linked to a debauched New York. At one point, Gatien was running not just Limelight, but also the Palladium, Club USA and Tunnel. According to a 1996 New York Magazine story, on a typical weekend "more people partied at [Gatien's] establishments than entered Studio 54 at its peak in a month."

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The Post reports that although the nightlife impresario registered "Limelight" with the US Patent and Trademark Office in 1991 and renewed it in 2001, he failed to renew the trademark in 2011, meaning that it was no longer protected as of December 1, 2015.

Gatien's lawyer Bill Carmody told the Post that Gatien had always intended to keep using the name, and that "the source of the right comes from its use," meaning that "it doesn't matter if the mark is (currently) registered."

And the whole saga only gets weirder. Not only does Gatien claim to have known both Tepperberg and Strauss since they were teens, but according to the Post his own daughter went to prom with Strauss many moons ago. Gatien had some things to say about the matter:

"What Jason and Noah are doing is morally reprehensible," Gatien told The Post. "I have had the Limelight name since these men were in diapers. Their attempt to use my club's success and name recognition will never be permitted to stand."

The under-construction 10-story Dream Hotel will have 179 rooms and an 11,000-square-foot rooftop with a pool, according to The Real Deal. Only time will tell if they'll will end up with their own Limelight club, but it's clear no one can recreate the previous locale (we are especially fond of the second photo in this slideshow, which captures dreamboat Rob Lowe in all his 1984 glory):

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"Never in a million years could a scene like Limelight's happen again," Frank Owen, the Village Voice's former nightlife reporter told the Post in a 2012 story. "These days, club owners [say], 'You want to make money in the club business? It's simple: Just throw in a few banquettes, pay a designer, buy a bunch of vodka, and you'll make money hand over fist selling bottles for $400.' Think of the culture that came out of nightclubs in the '80s and '90s: hip-hop, house music, garage music. But nightclubs today are no longer cultural institutions."

"It was probably better that Limelight was shut down by the feds. It's better to go out at the peak of fabulosity than fade away into obscurity—what's more boring than that?" Michael Alig, the former Limelight majordomo and notorious Party Monster told the Post from Southport Correctional Facility, where he was serving a 17-year sentence for the murder of a fellow Limelight regular.

Updated March 26, 2022 at 6:32 AM PDT
A previous version of this story included photos that have been removed for copyright issues.