We opened the Velvet in this vacated 6,000-square-foot building downtown. Everybody came: gay, straight, bankers, punks, you name it. This was before event photographers and cellphone cameras. Bono would come in, hang out all night, fall off a barstool, and close the place down—and nobody ever knew about it. Sunday Disco Hell with DJ Romeo Cologne was one of our biggest nights. Jermaine Dupri and Andre Rison would come in, back when Andre was dating Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, and order bottles of Cristal. The dancers from the Cheetah would be there after the strip club closed. On Super Bowl Sunday 1994, the Buffalo Bills called and said they were on the way; the cheerleaders were coming too. At 11 o’clock, with a line down the block, the city permits officials walked in and shut us down because only places that served food could be open on Sundays. So we installed a pizza kitchen and six weeks later reopened with our “To Hell and Back” night, and in walked Dallas Austin with Madonna. She was in shorts, no makeup, and eating raw asparagus with two crazy-tall male dancers. She went upstairs and danced in her own little world. She came back the next week and brought friends. The pizza oven paid for itself in no time.
As told to Richard L. Eldredge
This article originally appeared in our March 2015 issue.