By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Someone cracks open Matthew's door and says it's time to get up; a few guests have arrived. Still groggy from the party the night before, Matthew gets up and flips on the light to reveal distressed, cobalt blue-striped wallpaper and several piles of clothes around the mattress on the floor.
"I know it looks bad. I'm still in the process of moving in here," he says sheepishly. "I've been focusing so much on the club that I haven't had a chance to redo this room yet."
Matthew, dressed in gray pants and a dark brown sweatshirt, greets the guests, who include a wealthy-looking, middle-aged couple wearing business clothes. He offers them a tour and rundown of the impressive, two-acre estate.
There's a large stable house, plus two pastures out back that can hold up to 250 cars. The natural-form pool on the property is designed to be like an oasis in a sandy canyon, with faux rock formations as fountains and a grotto area with a hot tub. There's a fire pit on one side of the pool, and a large patio with a makeshift bar on the other.
Inside the dimly lit house are all the trappings of a lush, exclusive nightclub. The walls are painted gold, with floor-to-ceiling velvet drapes hovering above long, black couches. The dance floor comfortably fits about a hundred people.
There's a DJ booth by the fireplace, consisting of somebody's laptop wired to massive speakers. A touch-screen video game sits atop the kitchen counter, where patrons can also grab some grub from the chef's menu.
Off the main room are several others: a small billiard room, a photography studio, a handful of bedrooms, and, of course, the dungeon. There is wireless Internet access throughout.
Although Matthew refers to himself as "the quiet one" on his MySpace blog, he's actually quite talkative. Tall and lithe with a neatly shaved head and soft, boyish features, Matthew seems perpetually full of energy, constantly flitting from one place to another (almost always barefoot) and talking at length with an auctioneer's speed about a variety of topics. Had he not sworn that he doesn't do drugs, one might think he's on some kind of stimulant.
Tap is laid-back, a self-described ex-jock from Chicago who will still show you his shoulda-been-famous football throwing arm and has a Sean Penn-wise guy look. John, a short, goateed Italian guy, is also from Chicago. Self-styled filmmaker Mez is bald and blue-eyed, a soft-spoken but well-spoken guy who wears glasses, crosses his legs when he sits, and smokes hand-rolled cigarettes.
They met on Phoenix's restaurant and strip club circuit at various points over the past 14 years. John was a bartender and chef at Cozymels in 1995 when he met Tap, then working as a manager. The pair went on to work together at Grayhawk Golf Club, among other places.
Matthew and Tap met at Amazon's strip club on Seventh Street and Indian School Road in early 2003; Tap was a shift manager and Matthew was a DJ. The two became friends and stuck together over the years through gigs at The Jungle, Christie's, Crème (later Vegas Cabaret), and Pinups.
Everywhere they went, they say they tried to realize their dream of a rock 'n' roll strip club with a fetishistic twist. Every time, there was conflict with the general manager or owner of the club.
The group perhaps came closest to creating its dream club in April 2006 with the dingy and now-defunct Vegas Cabaret, at 32nd Street and McDowell Road. Instead of the usual hip-hop, they'd have the DJs play Nine Inch Nails and Metallica. They replaced the dancers with women they'd met in various clubs over the years, almost all of whom resembled Suicide Girls, with tattoos, piercings, and colorful hair. They incorporated things like fire breathing and rope bondage into their routines.
Just before taking over the management of Vegas, Matthew met Mez, who messaged him via MySpace, saying, "I seek succulence, I am Mez, I come in peace, take me to your leader." Matthew helped Mez procure the use of the now-defunct Chandler Cinemas to film scenes for Mez's still-unreleased movie called Crimes Chapel, now an ongoing, four-year project. Then Matthew hired him to bartend at Vegas.
To summarize what amounts to a lot of convoluted drama, Vegas went bankrupt in the spring of 2009 and changed ownership and thus, management. Matthew, Tap, John, and Mez had to find a new home.
The group says it found the extravagant property now known as Rasputin's Equestrian Manor through friends at Alpha Omega Plumbing, which had done some work on the property. They don't want to disclose who owns the house, but they admit they had to slip the landlady two grand when she showed up all pissed off at 3:30 on the morning of the Halloween party. "The more money we give her, the more she calms down," Matthew says.
Reportedly, the property was previously rented by a professional dominatrix, and several B&D/S&M parties are known to have taken place there over the past five years (the dungeon is a carryover from those days). But those parties were never on the scale of what's been happening there since September.
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!
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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.