As the owner of legendary hotspots like Limelight, Tunnel, Palladium, and Club USA, Peter Gatien was the undisputed king of the 1980s New York City club scene. The eye-patch-sporting Ontario native built and oversaw a Manhattan empire that counted tens of thousands of patrons per night in its peak years, acting as a conduit for a culture that, for many, defined the image of an era in New York. Then years of legal battles and police pressure spearheaded by Mayor Giuliani’s determined crackdown on nightlife in the mid-’90s led to Gatien’s eventual deportation to Canada, and the shuttering of his glitzy kingdom.
Featuring insider interviews with famous players in the club scene as well as key informants in Gatien’s high-profile trial, Billy Corben’s exuberant documentary aims to set the record straight about Gatien’s life as it charts his rise and fall against the transformation of New York, offering a wild ride through a now-closed chapter in the history of the city’s nightlife.
New York Times: “Limelight delivers the messed-up goods”
New York Magazine: “This documentary about the rise and fall of New York club entrepreneur Peter Gatien, from the drug-fueled heyday of the city’s nightlife boom to the hypervigilance of the Giuliani years and beyond, is full of enough double-crosses and shady dealings to fuel several crime epics.”
Film Journal: “A darkly fascinating documentary. It’s a sad, messy, fascinating tale, populated by an unusually motley cast of characters, many of whom could have stepped right out of Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas.”
Screen Comment: “With his MTV-style, neon-light editing tricks, and a spate of long-forgotten news clips and little-seen club footage at his disposal, Corben plunges with electrifying zeal into the depravity, the chaos and, simultaneously, the loving open-mindedness of the Limelight crowd.”
A.V. Club: “As usual, Corben’s style is caffeinated and a little rough around the edges, but he’s a tenacious journalist, and his yen for sensationalism gives Limelight an irresistible tabloid pop. He supports his case well, drawing on interviews with informants and law-and-order types, and he makes a convincing argument for the vitality of a nightclub scene that was scrubbed out of existence. It’s like the end of Casino: Sin City converted into Disney World.”