LISTEN TO THIS. YOU WON’T believe it. You know Pasha, the swankienda playpen for the too-hip-to-grip? I heard from a bleed ’em and plead ’em lawyer at the Stoneleigh P. the other day, the place is a disaster. Lawsuits: creditors stiffed; one partner with two felony drug convictions, the other with, shall we say, shaky financials. We’re talkin’ rumors of drugs; of whisking liquor out the back door and slipping down the alley with Sally; of after-hours drinking parties. The whole thing might have been planned by a cross-eyed catatonic from Terrell State Hospital.
As you know, Pasha’s down on Lower McKin-ney, the new hottest strip in town. The epochal event was the landing of the Mother Ship last November, the opening of the Hard Rock Cafe. The town hadn’t seen anything like it since the kickoff of the State Fair at Fair Park fifty-one years ago. Lights! Camera! Action! You’ve never seen such pawing and whinnying. As a French reporter said, “Next to thees, all zee uzzers are missing.” So overnight the where-it’s-happening mise en sceéne for the cool crowd switches to the Lower McKinney area and the avenue becomes City Hip in excelsis: the Crescent’s Beau Nash and Crescent Club and Spa, the Club at San Simeon, Hard Rock and its Cheese Club, Pasha, even a young pretender’s incubator called SRO. Mark my word, it’s just beginning. Soon trolleys and probably Alaskan dog sleds will umbilical cord-it with the West End-Starck Club ghetto to shuttle VIPs back and forth.
Figure this, though. Here at the rump end of the Eighties, it seems that as bankruptcies and foreclosures of Park Cities homes skyrocket, so do private club openings: Pasha and the Cheese Club for the fast-lane set; the Crescent and San Simeon for the young fogies, the more socially prominent Mr. Excitements like Rick Strauss, Charlie Blackburn, Frank Crossen, and other company execs. When you think about it, club culture really doesn’t have too much to do with economics. It just seems that way. Probably since Jericho, like-minded people have joined cliques, cells, coteries, clubs, inventing any excuse to gather. Some ideas are more clubbable than others, and probably also since Jericho, the two that have never failed are sex and business.
Back at the legendary Rio Room, these two perennials came together for Pasha pals like wildcatter Bill Brosseau, real estater Paul Pilzer, ex-world champion drag racer Richard Tharp, and Hoffbrau restaurant czar Mike Powers. Thursday nights, corner booth with your work-hard-play-hard pals; six bottles of $125 Cristal from everybody’s favorite waitperson, Chase Bounds, who could ring up $2,000 in two hours and now stars at the Cheese Club. Most important were the babes, especially if beautiful and with breasts the size of babies’ heads. Personally, I couldn’t see it. Always the same faces, whole place only 2.000 square feet, and when jammed to the gunwales, felt barely larger man the space that drove Raskolnikov to murder. Toward the end. even regulars like Brosseau complained. “I can’t believe we’re here again.’1 Bill would sigh.
Lower McKinney killed Rio, which brings us to the saga of the Pasha club in a natural evolutionary development, caterpillar to butterfly. Following Rio, Pasha would have bigger and better offerings: the babes, flash, after-work buffet, car fetchers, Dom for $140, Remy Martin Louis XIII for $50 a shot, VIP room, bigger dance floor for the palsied frog imitators, even out-of-state glamour in the person of the club’s “ambassador of goodwill,” tennis star Vitas Gerulaitis. and his actress-fiancee Janet Jones. They thought they had it when Pasha opened last December 5, but as I say, the place is a basket case and may be closed before you read this.
Something else important is going on. The other McKinney clubs. San Simeon and even the Cheese, are trolling for respectability. Once again the play involves Big Bill Brosseau. You know the guy, one of our movie-star handsome local narcissists, a gadabout-Gatsby but a hard worker. Oilman about the size of a derrick, tops out at 6-foot-7. Works out every day, runs five miles, bench presses 300, belly’s flat as a dime. Bill wears his hair extra-long down to the shoulders. Looks like either the son of God or the king of rock ’n’ roll. Picture Jesus Christ or Ted Nugent playing center for the Celtics, and you’ve got Bill.
Well, it all grew from Bill’s phobia about cooking food in his fancy condo. Won’t allow it, no matter how rich, thin, or gorgeous you are. “The smell destroys me. I can feel it seeping right into my clothes and furniture and I can feel it on me,” Bill says. He even removed the vent hood over the stove because he could smell the trapped grease. No pots, plates, silverware, and especially no food gets past the front door. If he gets hungry in the night, he drinks a glass of water. You imagine? Water instead of Haagen-Dazs? But Bill’s a very disciplined guy. Mr. Control. Hang around Bill a lot and you get the feeling that up inside his head Archie Bell and the Drells are endlessly singing, “C’mon Everybody, Do the Tighten Up.”
Still, a man’s got to eat, right? So Brosseau’s limo driver drops him at San Simeon one night and after dinner Bill wants to see the private club. Get this: Bill Brosseau, the Chuck Yeager of the Fast-Laners, is refused admittance. Whoa! Here’s a guy who’s been around, knows everybody, never been barred from any club, and now it happens on his home turf. The same thing recently happened to Priscilla Davis at San Simeon, and she wasn’t there as a prospective member, but as a guest. Doors are slamming for the Rio Clubbers. Now it’s happening at the Cheese Club with the blessing of the head rock, Isaac Tigrett; far as I know, Priscilla’s Cheese Club membership application is still in the desk drawer.
So perhaps for a lot of people, Pasha is the only game in town. Where else would they go, out on Greenville Avenue to Confetti and mix with the $400-a-week millionaires and the babes barely old enough to cut up their meat? “Shopping at Sears,” Big Bill calls it. Maybe that’s why. despite the raveled mess at Pasha, he had a purchase intent agreement to buy the joint. Let me tell you about it.
THE PASHA PLAY BEGINS WHEN VITAS GERU-laitis comes to town for the Hard Rock Cafe’s groundbreaking in April 1986 and looks up his old pal, Tony Goble. Tony’s usually referred to in the press as a “successful club entrepreneur” and so he was back in the early Seventies. Tony came to town in 1971 to visit a babe, looked around and saw no late-night playpens. For $600 a week, he got the lease of the Golden Bear on Greenville near Lovers-where Sound Warehouse is now-remodeled the Bear, and opened James Comedy. Named it after a Bogart character. Place became a big hit. Tony used to give free passes to the airline stews and bus them over. Got to have the honey to attract the bees.
Then he did the Pawn Shop, the first place in town to feature backgammon. Now it’s Pendle-ton’s, across from Old Town Shopping Center. Oswald Jacoby, the bridge genius, taught Tony backgammon and he became very good. Won the world championship down in Manzanillo in ’76. Tony’s on a roll, so he and his friend Willie Nelson open Whiskey River. Then Tony goes up Greenville to Park and opens Les Jardin and that’s where Vitas wanders in during a WCT tournament. A fateful meeting and friendship, as we shall see.
Soon the good times turn bad for Tony Goble and life becomes as serious as D-flat major on the organ. The cops turn up a tiny bit of cocaine during a search of his ’76 Corvette after Tony runs a red light. Tony’s convicted in August ’77 and placed on probation for three years. Then the case is set aside after he serves two years on probation. He sells the clubs, breaks up with his long-time girlfriend, Suzie Sirmen (who later marries Craig Morton, one of his partners in Les Jardin), and leaves town to work the East Coast-European backgammon circuit.
Next I hear of Goble he pops up in the February 3, ’83, New York Times in a story headlined “Gerulaitis Says He Is Expecting Drug Indictment.” Seems Goble was convicted the previous September of conspiracy to buy and distribute about $20,000 worth of the devil’s dandruff. At his trial, undercover agents played a tape in which Goble said “Vitas has got about $20,000 in cash” to buy pharmaceutical coke for a party. Two federal grand juries look into the role of Gerulaitis but finally vote not to indict him. Tony takes the rap and serves nine months of a one-year sentence at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. Pretty rough for a Club Fed: no special diets; no clay, only asphalt tennis courts; and very low pay, 11 to 38 cents an hour. Tony worked in the Air Force mail room. One good thing for a nightcrawler like Goble: no mandatory lights out at Maxwell.
So last year, after the Hard Rock hoopla. Vitas and Tony find themselves at the Rio Room fifteen minutes before closing and the girl still makes them pay $20 each to get in. They stay about sixty seconds. Tony thinks, what a dump, this is it in my old town? Once again he sees the need for a better playpen. Now it’s payback time.
Next thing you know, there’s a press conference at the Crescent. International tennis star Vitas Gerulaitis and pal Tony Goble announce plans for a swanky private club down on McKinney called Pasha. Means “pampered” in Persian. A few months later Goble’s up in his apartment at the Stoneleigh Terrace Hotel getting ready to go work out at the Premier Club and I ask, “You did the time and resisted the feds’ attempts to nail Vitas. Is this his thank you?”
Goble’s putting on his warm-up jacket, He looks over and says. “Let’s just say Vitas is a generous guy who’ll do just about anything for true friends.”
So how’d they come up with the money for Pasha? Earlier in the summer, Tony Goble runs into a slick dude named Steve Hibler at Randy’s, an aspiring-Hugh Hefner-hangout in Addison. Music’s loud enough to burst Sean Penn’s pimples, but Goble manages to fill Hibler in about Pasha and Hibler offers to raise the cash. Turns out Goble knows Steve Hibler from James Comedy days when Hibler used to book bands through his Studio Talent Agency. Now he’s a vencap. . .what?. . .oh, a venture capitalist, head of J&M Asset Management Corp. Another fateful meeting for Tony Goble. Choosing Steve Hibler to raise money for you is like picking a horse at 20-1 and having it come in at twenty after four.
You want to talk Steve Hibler and business? Talk to Stu Rubin of First National Monetary, where Steve worked for three years until he was fired February 20 a year ago. (For the record. Hibler claims he resigned. Rubin insists he was fired, but admits that the year before Hibler was the firm’s top broker in the state.) And get this: I checked the courthouse and found six civil lawsuits against Mr. Hibler, three resulting from the Pasha Play; two others filed by condo associations to collect $3,091.44; and one suit, filed by poor old Bank of Texas, which has been trying to collect-well, by now it’s $5,989.67-from the guy since 1975. Hibler claims all three suits have been dropped. The attorney for Bank of Texas, Peter Chantilis, maintains that there is still a judgment against Hibler that he has yet to pay.
So now we’ve got the three main players: Vitas as promoter; Goble as general manager for $5,000 a month; and Hibler as money raiser. A Pasha account is opened July 14, 1986. Memberships go on sale ($200 for single babes; $500 for single Hefners and couples; $2,500 for lifetime members), and, to no one’s surprise, ex-county judge Garry Weber buys the first single Hefner. Oilman David Tullos becomes the first lifer. Among his many privileges: having his caricature displayed in the VIP Champagne Room.
Let’s pause here to consider private club economics. The only great private club town in America is New York. To make good money in this game, you have to be in places like the Big Bagel. London, Paris, or the South of France, where a hell of a lot of people don’t have to get up early the next day for work. Clubs like Rio and Pasha have to make their money in three-hour bursts, from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., three days a week, tops. If you think about it, it makes more sense to invest in poison mole pellets or felt ukulele picks. No, the real motivation isn’t so much financial as it is ego, knowing you have the celebs, the “better people,” your pals in the room.
Take the late and great Rio. Initial investment: $141,000 in 1983, eight or nine original investors; gold cards cost $1,000, $500 for a silver card, and unless you’re a radioactive syphilitic leper with mismeshed teeth, you could enter for $20. Monthly rent was $3,200. Probably had 350 members in its heyday when they were grossing $80,000 a month. Break-even was $40,000, but the eatery up front, Nostromo, was losing $10,000, and the other O’s-Mexico, Rocco, Tango. Palermo-were coming and going and gobbling up the rest of the profits. Know how much those folks finally spent on Tango-with-the-frogs-on-top over on Greenville, now Redux? Nine. Hundred. Thousand. Dollars. When the last curtain dropped at Rio, the investors had only broken even.
You say Rio’s a special case? Tell you something, they all are. Seems like it’s hard to find one of these posh playpens not afflicted with crooked management, employees hoovering up $1,000 a week of Colombian Drano with the day’s receipts, or hailstones the size of goiters ruining the roof. Don’t try to make money in private clubs. Harvard will win the Rose Bowl before you see a dime of profit.
ASK ANY PASHA PRINCIPAL ABOUT THEIR budget, and they’ll all pull out different figures. Tony Goble says $650,000; Sieve Hibler says an initial $350,000. which quickly climbed to $500,000; ex-general manager Mike McRae says that the club designer, Charles Daboub, who also did work for the Hard Rock and Mariel Hemingway’s new cafe, Sam’s in the Crescent, told him $850,000, half of that for the construction. By the end, most agree the club cost at least a million dollars. A five-year lease from landlord Chip McCarthy (who chipped in a loan of $176,000 himself for the finish-out) gets them 5,000 square feet at 2811 McKinney.
In October, McRae comes aboard as general manager, an alum of Rio, elan, Nos-tromo, and Studebaker’s. Mike hires all the staff except one. Steve Hibler hires bookkeeper Barbara Wood and locates her and the club books in his J&M Asset Management office on Cedar Springs.
From the first nail pounded, no one’s really in charge. Talk to these people about responsibility and fingers point in all four directions. Bills accumulate, contractors aren’t paid, bids aren’t solicited for minor things like flower maintenance so Pasha pays Flower Cart $300 a month for one live arrangement a month. Atlas Match gets $8,000 to $9,000 for enough phosphorus to last well into the next century.
Meanwhile, Steve Hibler says he put in $75,000 of his own money and then another $75,000, and now says the figure has climbed to around $215,000, and the beat goes on: ninety membership cards are printed up at $8 each, but they’re useless because the partners have no mailing list of prospective Pasha-ites. Pasha’s $14,000 check to Ken Franklin of Pacific Kitchens bounces twice (he’s still waiting); Piano contractor Richard Click contracts to build the club for $317,000 and is still owed $82,886.68. He’s suing for payment. So far, Charles Daboub Designs has only received $15,000 of its $35,000 fee.
So while snaps of Tony and Steve and Steve’s girlfriend, realtor Carolyn Shamis (she of the joyous poitrine and a longtime girlfriend of Big Bill Brosseau), appear in “Fete Set”; and marketing director Debbie Gross plans a benefit party for the Foundation for Craniofacial Deformities, the place is going to pieces like a window shattered by a rock.
With the debts mounting and the club lurching toward a December 5 opening night, Steve Hibler persuades realtor Howard Rosenzweig to invest $100,000 for 15 percent of the action. Hibler says that the money vanished almost overnight to pay the bills. McRae says the club had no sound system six days before opening; finally, Sound Production agreed to install a $20,000 system. Two companies turned the Pasha players down for cash registers. At the last moment they leased them, four days before opening.
Design standards were cut back, with Hibler claiming they weren’t necessary. Others disagreed, saying the place already looked cheap enough. Cut the design brass railings for the standard ball-and-fit railings, cut the brass palm trees, cut the indoor water sculpture, cut the fancy light fixtures and some of the fabrics to appease los cheapos. Chairs even had to be borrowed from the Hard Rock in order to open.
Pasha’s PR trumpets ta-ta and announce that Vanna White, the not-yet-late Andy Warhol, Kathleen Turner. Lloyd Bridges, and John Forsythe, among other “glitterati,” will attend the premiere. Well, Vitas and Janet showed up, so did Playmate Barbara Edwards and something called Night Ranger, and these VIPs sat behind the velvet rope in the Champagne Room around black glossy tables and cheetah fabric wallcovering, segregated from the Very Insignificant People. Warhol never made it.
Big Bill Brosseau was there with the rest of the serious playboys, guys who have the charge accounts at Planned Parenthood; and the models-de rigueur mole at the mouth corner, the persona somewhere between a girl scout and Vampira; a few of the real rich women, the high-price spread. Vague on the inside, vogue on the outside, as Mary Kay says. And the cosmetics! Glosser, blusher, highlighter, eyeshadow, mascara, eyeliner, lipstick red as a London bus. Lee Press-On Nails as long as a Chinese emperor’s, all these faces bought over-the-counter, and, of course, everybody slightly wirebrushed with intoxicants. Such a vision, mon dudes!
Hear about the afterparty at the Crescent? A little problem there; celebrants left a $5,720 bill for the night, still unpaid. Steve Hibler showed me just one item, a $614 bill for a Miss Hamilton (toothbrushes, room service, phone calls, etc.) signed by Tony Goble. Hotel security had to finally shut them down.
From here, a real downhill slide, legally, financially, and personally, among the Pasha family. The taut thread of politeness with which the bosses and workers had previously stitched snapped with a viciousness in December. Air kisses and cheek-pecks became as rare as televangelists who don’t want money. Factions formed: Hibler, assistant manager Jasper Russo, and Debbie Gross against Tony Goble, Mike McRae, and Howard Rosenzweig, all of them muttering like Lady Macbeth with gossip, collectors and retailers of malicious tattle.
Things come to a head in early January. Hibler’s hired bookkeeper quits and McRae finally gets a look at the books. He finds that Steve Hibler had been writing checks to himself and making personal cash withdrawals. McRae copies the evidence and takes the check stubs to Tony Goble, who says to tell Howard Rosenzweig, the 15 percent investor. A week later, Rosenzweig files suit against Hibler, charging that he had illegally taken $48,000 of the club’s money and also had illegally entered into an ownership agreement. McRae showed me a Xeroxed copy of one of the checks and a deposit slip. The check, drawn on Pasha Enterprises Inc., and dated December 31, was made out to Hibler in the amount of $2,500. Hibler’s deposit slip, dated January 5, shows that he socked $2,500 into his account at Grand Bank Woodall Rodgers.
When Hibler finds out what McRae’s done, he plays hardball. He fires McRae and when Mike goes in to get his last paycheck, Hibler refuses to give it to him unless he signs a letter. Suspicious, McRae arrives with a recorder hidden in his pocket. In effect, the letter was an attempt to force McRae to whitewash Hibler and paint Goble as the villain in the Pasha play.
Hibler: We have a letter here asking you to sign. This letter, we tried to draw it up where it doesn’t incriminate you. I want you to read it over; if you feel it does incriminate you, which we don’t want, we’ll change it back and add to where there’s no incrimination.
McRae: Go ahead and read it.
Hibler: On January 6, 1987, I removed parts of the accounts receivable list, several deposit slips, canceled checks, draw lists of Pasha without the consent of the owner, Steven Hibler. Although our bookkeeper told Tony Goble and I not to take the documents from the office, the files and papers have not been returned to the people at Pasha. The purpose of taking the documents was to show attorney Roy True [Rosenzweig’s lawyer] that Steven Hibler was taking money from the club, which would infer to Roy True that Mr. Hibler was doing so illegally. What we did not tell as the truth is that Mr. Hibler had been injecting his own additional money into the club and left that information out of the paperwork. Therefore, Mr. True did not have an accurate picture of the real truth. I presented this picture because Mr. Tony Goble insisted I do so. I also want to report while general manager of Pasha I witnessed Tony Goble in many illegal activities of which I reported to Mr. Hibler so he would know I was against Mr. Goble’s illegal activities. On several occasions Goble had me remove several cases of wine, champagne, and liquor from the back door of Pasha per his instructions for his personal consumption. The liquor was not paid for by me or the club. On several occasions Mr. Goble would throw several illegal after-hours parties at Pasha serving liquor to his friends and to himself. I repeatedly asked him to stop this activity because consumption of alcohol on premises violates Texas state liquor laws, thus endangering our liquor license. I also reported to Mr. Hibler that Goble was not performing his duties as operations manager of Pasha. He failed to spend the barest minimum of hours required by his position. He continually missed appointments with vendors, employees, without explanation. He continually showed up for work in a condition which was not productive to his effective performance of his duties. Most of our female employees complained that not only was Goble interfering with their duties and making sexual overtones, he did not act the part of operations manager. Mr. Hibler told me and my assistant manager Jasper Russo, who also (unclear] that he would give Goble notice of termination and hope that once Goble was removed from the club we could operate more effectively. It is my agreement with Pasha Enterprises Inc. that I will not enter the premises for a 120-day period and have no intention of discrediting or hurting the club’s operations or Steven Hibler. I also agree not to demean, harm, or threaten Debbie Gross or any representative of Pasha Enterprises Inc.
McRae: Well, outside of most of that not being true, you must be dreaming. I’d never sign anything like that.
Hibler: You’re not getting your paycheck.
McRae: That’s okay, I’ve already gone to the labor board today, They’ll call you tomorrow.
Mike McRae never has gotten his last check, which is tough for a guy with two small kids. He had to get a bank loan to get by. The tape reading was on a Monday. The previous week at Pasha, Hibler had charged out like a freshly gelded bull and confronted Goble and McRae with all this; he fired McRae and had the property manager, Mark Reynolds, ask them to leave the premises. You talk to Tony Goble, he says it’s all false, just Steve’s attempt to take over the club. You talk to Steve Hibler, he says it’s all true, that he legally withdrew the money, and he reads you quotes from letters written by Russo, Gross, and the chef backing up what he had written in the Mike McRae letter. Who knows?
The way it stands now, Goble is staying away pending the outcome of court suits. On February 17, Goble sued Hibler for nonpayment of his $5,000-a-month management fee, alleging that Hibler “pilfered cash from the cash register for the purpose of purchasing illegal controlled substances”; for writing checks to himself and paying creditors with worthless checks. The lawsuit says “Pasha is on the verge of financial collapse.”
WALKING INTO BIG BILL BROSSEAU’S OF-fice on the first floor at the Beverly on Turtle Creek, you pass a wall of framed Brosseau-stories-under-glass, a mixture of celeb gush and Horatio Alger heart-tuggers. Or you can read about Bill in a twenty-page Brosseau booklet of media stories assembled by his personal publicist. Gene Wilson. Reading it. you learn that Bill hasn’t spoken to his parents in many years; has a dental degree but never practiced a day; was a stockbroker but hated it; hates marriage and has no kids, thank you; is obsessed with cleanliness and neatness, especially concerning teeth and fingernails; and his favorite color is black, particularly when it comes to subterranean substances and bottom lines.
Big Bill was interested in Pasha for a while. He hired A.W. Zlogar to do a finan-cial analysis of the place; a tough job because Steve Hibler wouldn’t let him see Pasha’s books and Zlogar had to accept unverified figures provided by Hibler’s financial consultant. Jack Stone. Bill got the report on March 2. Hibler-Stone’s figures show that Rasha has an estimated monthly operating expense of $23,000 to $25,000, not including lease payment. Turns out they got six months of free rent when they couldn’t pay in December. I hear the rent is either $11,000 or $13,000 a month. I go see landlord Chip McCarthy, who comes quickly to the point; “None of your business.”
The report continues: 400 paid members. January sales of $97,111.55 and February sales of $70,717.25; a January gross income of $5,111 (pre-tax, pre-administration, pre-Tony Goble costs); and a February loss of $21,283. Zlogar also could not substantiate the bookkeeper’s claim of $118,000 in membership sales.
Brosseau was going to wait until Pasha went into receivership, buy it, and start over, but in late April decided he wanted nothing to do with it.
The mess at Pasha scares even a wildcatter like Brosseau. His business is Argos Properties and “Argos” is on his limo’s license plate. Argos, of course, is Greek for risk. But risk is one thing, madness another. Big Bill doesn’t need to look up the Greek words for “Do you think I’m crazy?”