Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Chemical Cowboys: The Club King Of New York

Trance Music

On any given night, there would be three or four different parties at Limelight specifically tailored to a gay or straight crowd. The house dealers knew that straight ravers liked to buy Ecstasy or ketamine and dance on the main floor, while gay Club Kids took everything from Ecstasy and speed to heroin, crystal meth, and Rohypnol, hanging out mostly in the Shampoo Lounge. A rope at the back of the Shampoo Lounge marked the division between gay and straight parties. There were even separate entrances. The straight crowd entered at the front door on Sixth Avenue and the gay crowd had a 20th Street entrance. The drug dealers worked both sides of the dividing line and didn't care whose money they took.

The drug Rohypnol
The drug Rohypnol
The nightly distribution of drugs was well organized under Robert Gordon's command. Each dealer was given a plastic zip-top bag of party favors with their initials on it. Frankie the Baker was responsible for cooking the ketamine and giving security drugs, just to keep them happy. And everybody had a station. Gordon sold drugs at the foot of Limelight's first-floor staircase on the gay side. On the straight side, Frankie the Baker was by the two phone booths along the south wall of the TV room. Totally Todd was on the main floor. Sir Paul took the chapel. Gene and a guy known only as "Vinnie" were under the staircase on the main floor. Clubgoers just handed over the money and palmed the drugs.

Dealers worked from 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. At the end of the shift, Gordon would cash out the dealers on the gay side and Paulie would cash out the straight side. If a dealer started out with a bag of twenty pills, he was responsible for twenty pills. Cash and remaining pills were collected, minus a cut of the profits. If Caruso or Gordon saw a rogue dealer in the club, they'd send someone over to shake the guy down and make him pay $300 or more just for permission to sell. Then they'd whisper to security to throw the guy out and steal his drugs. Sometimes they'd come out and beat the guy up for sport.

By the summer of 1994, trance music had supplanted techno. Trance was a synthesizer-heavy, melodic electronic sound meant to induce trancelike states during the peak of an Ecstasy high. Techno-centric Caruso had less control over the music and found his role diminishing. His drug dealing had also tapered off, and he decided to leave it behind altogether at the encouragement of his new best friend, Chris Paciello, a doe-eyed twenty-three-year-old who grew up in Staten Island and dated the daughter of Johnny Rizzo, one of mobster John Gotti's top soldiers.


Excerpt from Chemical Cowboys by Lisa Sweetingham