Victor Perrillo doesn't like talking to the press.
When local papers ushered in Perrillo's Scottsdale club, Cajun House, with a flood of stories early this year, the owner was conspicuous in his absence whenever photos were taken or interviews were granted. Three weeks ago, when I expressed an interest in talking to Perrillo, I was assured he'd call me, but he never did.
But after Soundcheck looked at a variety of complaints made against Cajun House, word filtered back to me that Perrillo wanted to talk. Particularly bothersome to him was a reference to the lawsuit against him by former Cajun House associate Jim Carlin, in which Carlin claims he was promised part ownership of the club, and fired after the groundwork was laid. When I arrived for the interview, Perrillo was characteristically nowhere to be seen, but he'd sent his brother Richard--a Cajun House vice president--to plead the club's case.
From the start, the rap against Cajun House has been two-pronged and paradoxical. To local music scenesters, it's come on as cocky and bullying, L.A. hustlers who cast a contemptuous eye on the local music community. To more distant watchers, it's seemed the epitome of naivete and inexperience, fumbling through noise-ordinance violations and rampant personnel upheaval.
What seems increasingly clear is that Victor Perrillo's admitted lack of experience in the club business caused him to entrust his operations to some dubious individuals. All four of the people he placed in crucial positions have caused him serious headaches.
An October 16 deposition given by Carlin in his suit against Perrillo raises serious questions about why Perrillo ever gave him a prominent position in the business. In the deposition, Carlin admits to having paid no income taxes in this decade, although he worked for years at various bars and earned approximately $46,000 in a single year from Perrillo. He also admits that he falsified aspects of his resume, and exaggerated his business experience when he met Perrillo on a vacation in Mazatlan. Carlin claimed to have "opened" several restaurants, when in fact his testimony reveals that he merely worked as a bartender or bar manager at these establishments. Richard Perrillo says Carlin has "narcissistic delusions of grandeur," a phrase he uses three times for proper emphasis.
Two other key players in the Cajun House saga, co-directors of operations Charles Todd and George Monzures, both resigned under pressure last month, and Richard Perrillo concedes they were both close to being fired. He says his brother began suspecting that Cajun House books were being doctored when money began flowing out of the club in mysterious and implausible ways. Richard Perrillo says he's ordered a complete audit of the club's accounts.
Perrillo bemoans the expenses incurred by his brother because of his choice of associates: a $300,000 fix-up job when neighbors complained about noise leaking out through the club's open roof, and an estimated $100,000 in legal fees to contest Carlin's suit. But if ill will could be calculated, Perrillo's most expensive decision would probably be his hiring of Glen Parrish as entertainment director.
From the club's inception, Parrish double- and triple-booked many shows, then canceled gigs without giving bands any notice. Bill Tarsha of the Rocket 88's said Parrish pulled such a stunt on him three separate times, before the Rocket 88's decided to give up on Cajun House. "He was real arrogant, looking down at the local bands, like they were beneath his dignity. And he blamed all his mistakes on his bosses."
It's a story told by several local bands and booking agents. Rachelle Marmour's Isis Management company represents seven local blues and roots-rock bands, and she says Parrish basically "ran roughshod" over the local scene. Marmour says Parrish repeatedly canceled shows, and lied about the reasons, even telling a band that she was to blame for its cancellation. "In all my years of business, it's probably about the poorest I've been treated," Marmour says.
When Richard Perrillo hears about these booking policies, he seems genuinely surprised and upset. "That stops today," he assures me. For Cajun House, the question is whether fences can ever be mended or whether this touch of Bourbon Street in the desert sinks in a swamp of poisonous vibes.
Night Fever: Trunk Federation's November 28 homecoming show at Nita's Hideaway in Tempe delivered the goods many times over. The Trunksters played a blistering set of mostly new material, so blistering, in fact, that drummer Chris Kennedy demolished three snare drums in slightly more than 40 minutes. The band sent night crawlers home with a rendition of Meredith Brooks' "Bitch," replete with a "teenage wasteland" choral from The Who's "Baba O' Riley."
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Tears flowed like Exxon oil spills during a poignant opening set by Emo Camaro, a spontaneous combustion of a band formed from shards of Les Payne Product and Reuben's Accomplice. The Camaros--dressed in junior-high intramural-wrestling outfits--pierced many a heart with their epic "Teen Mom" and the acoustic (as in practically inaudible) makeout anthem "Diablo Blanco."
Melody Cool: Big Nick and the Gila Monsters celebrate the release of their second CD High, Wide & Handsome at the Melody Lounge in Tempe on Friday, December 12, and Saturday, December 13. The new CD showcases the band's wide range of rootsy fare, from brassy big-band instrumentals to turbocharged rockabilly and moody blues originals.
Another show to look for at the Melody is the latest in the Native American Music Fest series which began last month. The show is scheduled for Sunday, December 14, from 6 p.m. to midnight. Featured artists will be Keith Secola and Wild Band of Indians, Cisco, Tonemah, Tyrone Duwyenie and the Rez Rockets, and Hoodoo Kings.