Biltmore Vegas

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.



"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.

Anyway, back to Friday night and nasty Natalie next to me, who's now conversatin' with someone on her celly. I'm so close to her, I can't help but overhear it when she asks the other party, "So, does he want outcall or incall?"

Cool, a hot prostitoddy. Perhaps I could avail myself of her services. But before I can tap her shoulder and inquire about rates, the Jettster shows up, stepping between me and pay dirt, or saving me a coupla C-notes, depending on how you look at it.

"Kreme, I just saw Amaré Stoudemire!" cries the J-Unit, grabbing my arm. "He's over at the other end of the bar."

Yup, Big Stat's just down from us, using a crutch for support, with a lackey-bodyguard to either side of him. On his head is what looks like a red knit, Jamaican-style pageboy cap. Generally, he seems a little too dressed down for IO. But such are the prerogatives of stardom, I reckon.

"Didya get his pic?" I ask.

"I tried," sighs the Jettster, "but his bodyguard or whatever wouldn't let me snap a photo. I think they know who we are."

"Can't say I blame him," I shrug, taking a hit off my barrelful of Crown 'n' Coke. "I mean, New Times wrote about Stat's mom's crack-ho past and drunk-driving present not too long ago."

"But his mom really was a crack ho, right?" replies the Jettster.

"Just 'cause it's the truth doesn't mean it don't hurt," I say, wiping a mock tear. "And here it is, close to Mother's Day."

"Hey, isn't that JX3 over there talking to the lady with big hoo-has?" Jett points, like an Irish setter after a game bird. True enough, nearby there's our ol' pal, Power 92.3's JX3, now known as the "President of the Afternoon," since his switch from the evening hours to drive time. As soon as the Prez is available, we buttonhole the affable on-air personality for a brief confabulation.

"The President's in the building, baby!" I say as I greet JX3. "Should've known we might see you here, what with promoting Friday nights, and you being tight with them. How's the time-slot change worked out?"

"It's been a really cool transition, a lot of fun," he tells us. "I started doing afternoons in mid-December. It was something I was trying to get ready to do. So hopefully the Valley is receiving it."

"I like that road rage segment you have," mentions Jett.

"That's the 5:30 Road Rage," he informs us. "Gives you a chance to call in and express your anger, if you got some issues out there during the rush hour. You can call in and get it off your chest instead of putting your hands on somebody."

"That's no joke," I state. "People on the freeway are ready to kill if you cut 'em off."

"Oh, yeah, I've had people call in who've had guns in their hands, ready to shoot up people's cars," he relates. "It's crazy, but makes for good radio."

We kick it for a sec, discussing J's new single, "Let's Get It Poppin," which Power has been playing, and a song called "Tenderoni," which he recently cut with MC Magic. Says he's still working on the full-length CD, but has been sidetracked by all of the other projects he's got goin' on.

Speaking of which, two wanna-be projects of the female persuasion approach J and start chatting him up. So we leave him to his playerism, and scoot over to the dance floor, where we run into these ebony dime-pieces Monique and Lenee, both dressed in white, Lenee with her hair up in an almost punk rock 'do.

"You ladies seein' any cuties here tonight?" wonders the Jettster.

"A few," says Monique, smiling. "But they have to come to us."

"And what would they have to say to earn your attention?" I ask.

"I don't even know," laughs Monique. "They'd have to be very creative, that's for sure."

"Has anything ever worked before?" quizzes P-town's bi-lovin' Michelle Rodriguez.

"No," she admits. "Guess I'm kinda hard to get."

"That's right, make 'em work for it, girl," the Jettster encourages them, rather uncharacteristically, I might add.

Landreville reappears, having quelled whatever was going down up front. We take the opportunity to ask him why the place is named IO.

"She was the love interest of Zeus in Greek mythology," he edumah-cates us. "We liked it because it was short, easy to pronounce and a little mysterious."

"Gee, and I thought it was from the song," states Jett, as we saunter back to the bar for last call.

"Song?" I know I'm gonna regret this.

"Oh, you know," and then she sings, "'Old MacDonald had a farm . . . ee-i, ee-i, oh! And on his farm he had a pig named Kreme . . . ee-I, ee-I, oh!'"


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