By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
It's Halloween night, and the biggest party in metro Phoenix resembles Dirty Dancing as if imagined by the Marquis de Sade.
A couple hundred people fill the dance floor, bathed in bright red lights and psychedelic, paisley blue and yellow projections. The thumping electro-metal of Rob Zombie blasts partygoers in the face as they gather around the stripper platform, where a slender topless dancer shares space with a busty female patron in an elaborate, black Victorian gown.
Apparently, vampires, werewolves, and skeletons kept stepping on her bustle, so she ran for high ground. She keeps pulling her bustier up to contain herself as she bounces to the beat.
Below her, a sea of shiny black vinyl outfits and pasty white makeup writhes en masse. Revelers worm through the sweaty swarm with red plastic cups held high. Body heat turns the room into a thick and heavy rainforest.
A few dozen people are hanging out in the dungeon down the hall. The dungeon includes a giant swing, a playhouse, and several bondage racks, but at the moment, they serve merely as furniture.
In a playroom off to the side of the dungeon, a plump redhead in a black miniskirt is relentlessly being whipped by another girl as a handful of people watch. The rhythmic thwacks of the leather strips on her derriere resonate through the dungeon room, background noise for drunken conversations about the weird bookshelf wallpaper and what that spot is on the carpet.
There's a line at the makeshift bar, where a young brunette is serving a green-faced Grim Reaper who's not happy there's no ice for his absinthe. She explains that somebody went to the store to get some more ice. He consoles himself with the potent brown European beer he brought.
The scene's not that different from any popular club in the Valley on a Saturday night, except that it's now 6 on a Sunday morning — and this is no nightclub.
Basically, it's the biggest house party any of these people have ever seen — held at an opulent estate in the East Valley that began hosting huge bashes in mid-September. You probably haven't heard about it, and, amazingly, neither had the police, 'til Halloween. The property's a private residence on a multi-acre lot, so even when several hundred people are getting soused inside, sound rarely drifts onto the surrounding properties. The place is being rented and run by a group of people who live there and collectively call themselves "The Family."
They call the house Rasputin's Equestrian Manor, and it includes all the trappings of a typical nightclub. But as a private residence, there are other bonuses that can't be enjoyed at the Valley's bars — indoor smoking, liquor service past 2 a.m., B.Y.O.B. privileges, and an invitation to pass out and stay the night.
Parties sometimes don't even start until 3 a.m. and often last past sunrise, like the Halloween fete, which raged until Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies arrived near dawn to find a couple hundred people still shaking their booties to booming music. Deputies politely informed the occupants of the house that they'd received some noise complaints and it was time to wind down the Halloween party. The deputies left without incident, not even a written citation.
The people who live at the Manor refer to it as a speakeasy, even though their alcohol service appears legit. They're going more for the feel of Prohibition-era lounges, the exciting vibes that come from drinking past last call and imagining that any minute, the cops could bust in and confiscate your mint juleps.
Or maybe just politely ask for the music to be turned down.
Pretending to be taboo is trendy these days. Rasputin's is operating at a time when nostalgia for the hidden drinking holes of the 1920s is big all over the U.S., particularly Los Angeles, New York City, and Seattle. All those places have their popular faux speakeasies, where patrons use passwords and sip classic cocktails in retro-looking rooms, but they're still public businesses operating with the proper liquor licenses. If you've got your ID and some money, you can easily find it and get in. It's really just all about the aesthetic.
While there's plenty of naughty behavior at Rasputin's Equestrian Manor, the whole illicit "speakeasy" label — perhaps its biggest selling point — isn't really true.
The term originally referred to any establishment that illegally manufactured or sold alcohol during Prohibition (1920-1933). Since the repeal of Prohibition, true speakeasies became unnecessary.
A speakeasy must serve alcohol illegally to fit the traditional definition of the word, and Rasputin's Equestrian Manor apparently doesn't. Because the property is a private residence rather than a bona fide business, the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control says it doesn't require a liquor license. Spokesmen for local police departments say they don't care how big house parties are as long as no one's breaking the law or disturbing the neighbors.
In the past several years, the term "speakeasy" has grown to include places that even feel remotely exclusive and illegal. Inconspicuous clubs supposedly tailored for high society on the down-low have established a club aesthetic. For patrons, the appeal lies in feeling as if they're doing something dangerous and edgy, and for those who run the sham speakeasies, there's plenty of money to be made.
This group of guys has gone their separate ways over a disagreement regarding how this situation ended. Those that cared about their relationship with their own community and with the owner of the home contacted the owner and began taking measures to help with repairs and mend relationships. The New Times has also written an article about this taking place, If you search for it you should be able to find it.. This reformed group went on to create The Chateau, also covered by the New Times.
Don't rent to these guys! They TRASHED the place. Holes in the walls, garbage everywhere. TRASHED it. Ripped up carpet and vandalized it. Broke every light bulb there and ripped out the thermostats and really they are just losers.
They need to grow up and take responsibility for their actions.
our paths may have crossed due to the fact that i am researching separete article on the owner of the home in question and did, in fact, conduct a previously scheduled personal interview with the owner at a time right after this article appeared.
needless to say the interview was suspended at that time while the owner made several phone calls to engage this situation to which they were previously unaware. of that there can be no doubt. i was there and i saw the initial reactions and also the subsequent actions. all of which were both swift and legal.
just between you and i - as i conducted the interview (2 hours at one point) the dialog between us was smooth with very few anyone saying 'pardon me' as though they didn't hear or paying attention.
the point is that while this smooth dialog was taking place i was actually watching her computer screen as the owner carried on email conversations always no less than 5 at a time and as many as 7 and always the emails were regarding this incident. i'm actually trying to figure out a way i can work this into the piece i'm doing because i'll tell you - this was 'damage control' live and in color. they are in FRONT of this situation instead of going thru some of the petty excuses we hear in our particular field. in this complete case recently filed legal eviction notices have been issued and served. as for the money that the owner alledgedly went nuts over - this was money that was RENT and RENT that in fact should have already been paid but the owner gave these guys a break and said okay i'll come back for the money later. only to be met with problems.
incidently, it's also my understanding that the original owners are, in fact, after putting these guys out, planning another of the parties that this house has actually become "The" place to be. and a look at the parking lot doesn't show any pick up trucks with gun racks in the back - rather they are mercedes, lexus, and you get the picture fast of the clientele before you open the door.
i think if you ever got around to seeing the 'real deal' and stop at one of the places noted on their website - you'd write an article that would have some of the old facts in it - but the entire piece would be "skewed" 180 degrees into the positive direction.
my best to you and your writing. hope you know this wasn't criticism - just noting two ships passing in the wind.
I enjoyed this article. I though that the author repeated herself a few times about the private/public law distinction, and hinted at it prior to actually explaining the issue, but it was still a good article. The references to other similar instances shows a good background knowledge, and helps round out the article: I was afraid it would be about some private party I couldn't get into, not about a whole cultural phenom and legal issue. Good stuff, keep up the interesting writing New Times!
Here is a great place------- Cougarmatching.com ------- It's a premiere cougar dating community for older women seeking younger men and young men seeking cougars. Come in, post a message, a picture of yourself and check out the hot photo galleries. You will find someone you like here...
Nice article but this whole "house party" thing will come crashing down on the heads of these four guys. Some underage girl will get by their crack security with a fake ID and become the victim of a sexual assault or a rape. Her mommy and daddy will sue, of course. Or some thugs from Mesa or Maryvale will decide that the house is an easy score and try to rob it for the ahem "donations" for food and drink. But more likely, and seriously haven't you people learned by now that running an article like this about an establishment like this is like waving a red flag at the proverbial bull? Does this article accomplish much of anything other than to let the Alcoholic Beverage Commission know that a house like this exists and are probably worth a look see? Perhaps even old Sheriff Joe will pry some of his boys off of "immigration enforcement" to have a look at what occurs at these house parties.
Best of luck to you fellas, sounds like it was a good run and maybe you'll learn from your mistakes when this house gets shut down and you have to move elsewhere.