Whatever Happened To …

Checking in on Las Vegas’ most fascinating nightlife personalities, wherever life has taken them

Nostalgia is not a trait for which the nightlife industry is known. With its constant focus on the latest and greatest—the newest clubs, the biggest names in music and entertainment, the most over-the-top lighting and sound systems—looking back can seem like an unaffordable luxury. But as club life in Las Vegas continues to evolve, it’s important to remember the past. Vegas Seven recently caught up with some of the people responsible for the heydays to find out where they’ve been, what they’ve been up to and, for a moment, remember some of the places and parties that paved the way for today’s industry.


Then

Pearce Cleveland

Then: Nightlife Marketing Director and Resident DJ, Light Group; 2008–2015

Now: Marketing Scientist/Managing Partner at Clique Hospitality in San Diego

Before the DJ’s name on the flyer became the entire party, there was Winter Ball at Studio 54. There was Dorm Daze at Hard Rock Hotel. And at Light Group properties The Bank and Jet, there was Pole-a-Palooza and the Crunk Cup Ball (hosted, naturally, by Lil Jon). “The goofy scene parties we used to throw—that’s what I really miss,” says Pearce Cleveland, who served as everything from a promoter to the nightlife marketing director at Light Group from 2008 until the company’s merge with Hakkasan Group in late 2014. “That’s what we thrived on for a long time. And now, if you don’t have a Top 100 DJ name, you’re buried.”

Now

After leaving Hakkasan Group post-buyout, Cleveland found himself taking some time off in San Diego. It was there that Light Group founder Andy Masi (now head of Clique Hospitality) reached out about a new project: Pendry San Diego, a hotel from the Montage Resorts family with three Clique-run restaurants and bars, opening in early 2017. While Cleveland misses the camaraderie of the Las Vegas scene, the Southern California town has its charms. “When I was 23, 24, 25, it was great to have that saturation of clubs where you bounce around and do that thing,” he says, “and now that I’m here, it’s nice to be able to do the Las Vegas thing, but then go to a jazz night in Balboa Park [a San Diego suburb] the next night. There are a lot more options.”

But the biggest difference? “It’s a beach-city attitude,” he says. “Rush hour’s at 3:30 p.m.”


Then

Jimmy Greenup

Then: Mood Director at Tao; 2005-2009

Now: Mood Director at LIV Miami

Only in the nightlife world is dressing up as a rabbit near Easter a résumé-building move. But such is the life of Jimmy Greenup, the former Mood Director at Tao, who has taken the gig—title and all—to Miami and the world-renowned LIV. “I would hang out with you, I’d get drunk with you, I’d be jumping around on tables, wearing costumes,” he says. “I was kind of the mascot; like, the in-house drunk clown.”

Now

Greenup has added responsibilities to the job title over time; along with getting the party started, he’s taken on more planning duties, selecting everything from the theme to the dancers’ outfits. It’s the type of role that uses a lot of the knowledge that Greenup says he picked up in Las Vegas, during a time he calls “nightlife college.”

“That time period, the people who worked in the nightlife industry—we’re all still very close,” he says. “It’s like family. It’s like we grew up together. We knew that moment in time was very special. That’s when we learned everything about nightlife.”

When that family reunites, they reminisce about both the place and the time.

“There are a bunch of people from Vegas down here [in Miami], and that’s all we talk about: the glory days from 2003 to 2009,” he says. “It was before the social media explosion, before selfies and Snapchat and people on their phones the entire night rather than dancing and having fun.”


Then

Bob Shindelar

Then: Director of VIP Services, Tao Group; 2005-2012 

Now: To be determined …

There are some who can say they’ve seen it all in Las Vegas clubland. But to find someone who has actually seen it all, look for Bob Shindelar, who left the nightlife world to go see the real one. “I went to 51 countries,” he says of a multi-year adventure that began after helping Tao Group launch Marquee Sydney in Australia, “depending on how you count them. I count Antarctica, which is a continent, not a country.”

Now

Shindelar combined a passion for travel with an interest in photography and writing, maintaining his Vagabond Bob blog as he explored all seven continents. That’s a far cry from the intimate world of 2000s Las Vegas nightlife, where camaraderie was forged by a tight-knit circle. “When I was starting out, there was one option on Sunday night,” he says. “You went to House of Blues. You went to RumJungle on Monday. You went to Studio 54 on Tuesday, Ra on Wednesday and Baby’s on Thursday. Now, that community is spread out.”

At present, back and settled in Las Vegas, Shindelar is looking at the next challenge, which may include opening his own bar and restaurant (though not a nightclub). Thousands of miles on the road have provided plenty of inspiration. “I have a whole separate hard drive of photos I’ve taken of different food and beverage ideas that I saw along the way,” he says.


Then

Jessie Goldman

Then: VIP Host at Ice, Bar Manager at Lure and Bottle Server at Tao; 2003-2013 

Now: Agent at Simply Vegas Real Estate

Real estate and nightclub life already share one commonality: Whether it’s a dance floor-adjacent table or a dream home, the key attributes are “location, location, location.” But for the former bottle server and current real estate agent Jessie Goldman, there’s another similarity between both professions: top-level customer service. “I’ve been able to incorporate that quality for my clients,” she says. “Whether they’re looking to buy their first home or their dream home, that level of service goes across the board.”

Now

Goldman got the chance to hone that idea of service at several clubs during the first Las Vegas nightlife boom, starting at the now-shuttered Ice before moving over to Lure and Tryst in Wynn. Her longest gig was as a bottle server at Tao, where she spent three nights a week combining social life with work. “I’m not the type to go to nightclubs,” she says, “so I felt like working in one was like going out.”

The flexibility of the work schedule was a big asset as well. The siren song of the real estate world—one that sang to her when she purchased her first home at the age of 21—eventually led her from delivering bottles to delivering dream homes, working as a real estate agent. “I really wanted to enjoy the three-day schedule at Tao, and travel, and live the life without any responsibilities even though I owned a good amount of properties here at the same time,” she says. “I knew that I would never have that schedule again.”


Then

Joe Barghi

Then: Resident DJ at Ice, co-founder of 3400 Destination: House at Jet and DJ at various clubs; 2001-2010

Now: Founder, 888 Motors and (opening in January) FULL Micropigmentation

Before names like Tiësto and Deadmau5 started showing up on billboards around town, they played 3400 Destination: House at Jet (now 1 OAK) in The Mirage. And before EDM became the predominant sound of the city’s nightlife, there was Faarsheed, one of a handful of DJs and tastemakers then carrying the torch for house music. “It always felt like we were light years behind Europe and other parts of the world,” he says. “I was fortunate enough to be given some amazing opportunities and took great pride in educating people here by the thousands, along with some other key players in the house music scene here at the time.”

Now

Barghi’s passion for house music took him all over the world, headlining clubs and shows. As the more commercial sound of dance music took hold, Barghi had a choice: Go pop or go home. “I realized that the music I truly loved and enjoyed making wasn’t going to further my career, so I decided to retire,” he says. “I’d rather work on the music I love as a hobby and passion, instead of doing it as a career playing music I’m not into.”

Now, he’s following a different passion: cars. In 2010, Barghi opened 888 Motors, a luxury vehicle showroom. He’s also working on the launch of a company that would provide a new option for men and women with thinning hair. But not only does he still look back on his nightlife era fondly, he still parties with at least one cohort from that time: his wife Kate, whom he met at Ice in 2004. “My favorite parties these days are slumber parties, date nights or trips with my wife and daughters,” he says.


Then

Brian Sweet

Then: VIP Host, various clubs; 2009-2015 

Now: Manager at Lush Saigon, Vietnam

Like a boxer who couldn’t stay away, Brian Sweet “retired” from Las Vegas nightlife on several occasions over the past few years, stepping away to travel throughout Asia for months at a time. After leaving Light and Daylight Beach Club in 2015, though, he made the leap across the Pacific Ocean permanently, setting up shop at Lush Saigon. “It’s similar in that there are young people who want to party,” he says of his new home market. “There’s a bigger discrepancy here between the people who have money and who don’t. The middle class is not that big here. But if you don’t have a lot of money, you can still have fun.”

Now

Having worked at Hard Rock Hotel just before the dawn of the EDM craze, before eventually moving to the DJ-centric Daylight Beach Club and Light, Sweet had a front-row seat to the evolution of nightlife over the past decade. “When we opened Light, it was awesome—we had Skrillex, we had Nicky Romero—but to make money, to do that every day, was tough,” he says. “But I’m seeing [the scene] come back down to earth, it seems, which I think is better for the community of clubs.”

Nowadays, Sweet’s still out until all hours of the night, managing Lush (which itself has hosted international headliners such as Skrillex and A-Trak). Still, his ideal night out has evolved over time. “Now, if I’m with my friends, it doesn’t matter what club I’m at,” he says. “As you get older, you realize that’s more important than being in ‘the cool spot’ all the time.”


Then

Gino LoPinto

Then: Owner, 501 Café/Club, Metropolis, Utopia and others; 1991-2013

Now: Partner at E11EVEN, Miami

If it was a nightclub, and it was around before casinos took over the game, Gino LoPinto may have been involved. Starting as part-owner of the 501 Café/Club in 1991, LoPinto established such legendary names as Metropolis and Utopia over a 20-plus-year career in the city’s late-night culture. “Back in the day, at many of the clubs, you couldn’t even see the DJ,” he says. “[The booth] was either on a second level, or behind a wall. It wasn’t even a presence. And there was no bottle service, either.”

In those days, LoPinto recalls a certain amount of goodwill between everyone in the industry, along with a diversity of ideas. A club like The Beach or Ra, one with a strong theme, could be successful without competing directly against the aerialists of RumJungle, for example. “There wasn’t so much going on, so when one club hit, the whole town was there,” he says. “Eventually, there was one club that owned each night. And there was something intimate and warm about that. And it was unique—every club that you went to had a totally different vibe and feel.”

Now

It was that promise of something new, something unique, which drew LoPinto to Miami in 2013, where he is partners with Dennis DeGori at E11EVEN. The club and venue earned Nightclub & Bar magazine’s Best New Concept award in 2015, and is primed for expansion including, according to LoPinto, a possible return to Sin City. “It doesn’t rely on one thing,” he says of the club. “It’s got Cirque-style theatrics, live performances, atmosphere, the bottle crowd. Our slogan is, ‘It’s exactly what you think it is.’”

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