Biltmore Vegas

The Kelis of the PHX and her 300-pound Nas the Nasty hit the swank, new club IO

It's near midnight on a Friday, and IO club owner David Landreville and I are chatting up this lil' pecan-skinned spitfire we'll call "Natalie" 'cause she didn't want me to use her real handle, for reasons that will soon be clear. We're parked at IO's backlit martini bar, and Natalie's all over the tall, easygoing Landreville like Tom Cruise on a bloody placenta.

"You're cute," she says, batting big brown eyes at him between martini sips. "Would you like to dance?"

"I don't give dances, I get 'em," joshes Landreville, shining her on, with a wink in my direction.

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"Wanna see a trick?" she asks, picking a cherry out of the bar caddie at her elbow.

"Sure," we both reply eagerly.

Natalie engulfs the cherry with a set of full lips and starts working her mouth from side to side with a look of concentration on her winsome mug. After a minute or so, she sticks out her flat, pinkish tongue: The stem of the cherry is now tied in a knot. Too bad the Jettster's missing this. At the moment, she's out on IO's dance floor, bumping her hump to some 50 Cent track.

Apropos of nothing, Naughty Natalie then shows us her legs, and points out what looks like a cigarette burn.

"The cops gave me this in Denver, when I wouldn't take my clothes off after being arrested," she explains with slurred verbiage. "It's from a Taser."

"So, uh, why were you in the poky?" I wonder aloud.

"Some traffic thing," she says, tossing her head. "I had money for bail, but they wouldn't let me pay."

Landreville and I look at each other and shrug. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but then it's that part of the evening where the Ketel One is kicking in and everyone's getting buzzed and incoherent.

L-dawg has to check the front door of this Vegasy, two-story, 11,000-square-foot club, which sits at the northeast end of the Biltmore Fashion Park, on the second level, right beside Christopher's. The environs are posh, and a dress code is enforced with no athletic wear allowed. I'm guessing Landreville is having to deal with yet another high-end customer who's not as well-heeled as he should be. Once he amscrays, Natalie loses all interest in me, so I take in the eye candy, of which there's enough to outclass your average Snottsdale hang.

I'm feelin' a lot of things about this six-months-new venue, not just all the fine squalies in attendance. First off, it's swank, but not so much in the saditty (read: "uppity") Scottsdale way, and secondly, it's one of the few clubs in this burg where the races freely commingle. On both Fridays and Saturdays, browns, whites, blacks and assorted other skin tones get down with the get down, and that's rather rare in P-town. Too rare, if you ask this E-40-size scribe. There are other spots where it happens, like Next on Tuesday nights for the upscale tip, and, say, Hidden House on Saturdays, when it comes to a grittier vibe. But we could always use another.

Landreville and partner Thomas Pomeroy have renovated the space to the tune of $2 mil, and it looks like they got their money's worth. The place glistens, with a chic little dance floor, three bars, and a full kitchen. Upstairs, there's a tony mezzanine populated by plush couches and chairs, a place where you can gaze down at the dancers below, and a "Celebrity Room" painted money green, with a private bathroom that features a shower, in case you're freaky like that.

The walls of every room in IO are hung with photorealistic portraits done by Pomeroy of diverse personalities, everyone from Brad Pitt and Deborah Harry to Aria Giovanni and Gwen Stefani. In fact, the first room you walk into from the outside, referred to as the main bar or restaurant, features an entire wall hung with what seem to be framed black-and-white photos of celebs and notables such as Che Guevera, JFK, LBJ, Sid Caesar, the Three Stooges, Groucho Marx, and on and on. You literally have to get eyeball-close to them before you realize they're paintings.

"This is probably one-twelfth of my total output over 38 years," explains Pomeroy when Jett and I return for a follow-up visit on Saturday night. "I've painted Gerald Ford, and George Herbert Walker Bush. I also did a painting for Nancy Reagan of President Reagan on his horse; this was about seven years ago.

"Nancy Reagan sent me back a three-page letter," continues the pinstriped, P-town P. Diddy, puffin' on a cee-gar the whole time. "She said she hung it in their den. Said he hadn't spoken a word in three months. [Reagan suffered from Alzheimer's before he croaked.] He stood in front of the painting for a half-hour and said 'Alamein.' That was his horse's name."

Pomeroy's a big Republican, and makes most of his scrilla by doing insurance for whole police departments, towns, stuff like that. Starving artist, he ain't. But judging by what's on IO's walls, he's prolly more prolific, and more talented, than many of the cats in the downtown art scene.

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