Troy E. Wright
What single event do you believe made the venue one of the most iconic venues in the world?
My father was approached by two want-to-be club operators in New York who wanted to do a Studio 54
nightclub concept in one of our Times Square area locations. My father told them he had no interest in turning his theatre into a nightclub. He had very successful businesses in New York, but he had a fabulous art deco theatre space on Washington Avenue in Miami Beach that had been sitting empty for 6 years. He suggested, you may want to fly down and look at the space because I believe it would be perfect for a nightclub. He said, I think you will think the same thing once you visit it.
The New York prospective club operators flew down that weekend, took a huge 1982 video camera, stayed for several hours, flew back to New York and met my father that Monday. In the meeting, they said “The good news is we really love the space and we’d like to do a nightclub, the bad news is we can't give you much of a security deposit because we need to spend the majority of our money to convert it into a nightclub.
They gave us a $10,000 security deposit and the rest is history. My father idea for them to open up a nightclub, which became known as Club Z two years later, became the hottest club in the country. It was the epicenter of all things ‘clubs’ that happened in Florida. Thousands of people invaded every weekend, everyone wanted to be on Washington Avenue Miami Beach.
In 1985, we commenced an eviction proceeding against the tenant due to non payment of rent. As a result, we took over the club and opened it with a 500 person black-tie Miami Vice
kickoff party that September.
The “Vice” people actually brought in 2 school bus loads of low-risk prisoners that were tasked with painting both sides of the street between 12th & 13th pink. It was Don Johnson, Philip Michael Thomas, Edward James Olmos, Saundra Santiago, Joaquim de Almeida, John Diehl, PamGrier, Denise Thompson, it was everyone! So without missing a beat,Washington Avenue once again was on top of the club world.
Three years later in 1988, we turned the club over to Reggie Moreau who operated the restaurant chain, Shooters.
Troy E. Wright
What are some of the most memorable events or people you’ve ever hosted at the theatre?
One of the most incredible events to me was when Tina Turner
began her comeback tour there.
I was there, it was absolutely jammed packed and remarkable how beautiful the night was. I will say, the City officials would not have been happy with how many people were jammed in that night.
Other great performers included, Beyonce
, Kool & the Gang, Chaka Khan, SOS, Level 42, Nikki Minaj, Midnight oil, …… there were a lot of them. My brother who booked the room from 1985-1988 could come up with more names than I, but a lot of great artists and performers have come through that room.
However, the most famous person that leased and operated the club from us was Prince
. He opened it under the name Glam Slam. It is a funny story.It was the 90’s, and at the time, he was attempting to get out of his Warner Brothers contract. At this time, he was known as the “Artist Formerly known as Prince” but during the negotiations, my brother referred to him as Prince which his attorney, L. Londell McMillan did not like. Mr. McMillan said, “if you call my client Prince one more time this call is over.” He is the artist formerly known as Prince, not Prince. McMillan was very strong about that,he didn’t mince words.
The club lasted from 1994-1997. The Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco threatened to not allow a liquor license to be held for five years at our location unless the club were sold or leased to someone else. It was sold to Ark of Miami, Inc. which did business under the name Club Level.
Club Level leased the space for two or three years then sold it to the Opium Group who called it Mansion. The Opium group had turned Amnesia, which was located on first or second and Ocean. They moved to Mansion because Amnesia was an open space, had constant noise complaints, and they wanted a closed facility. The Opium group held onto Mansion from 2003 – 2015.