Thursday, February 12, 10:05 p.m.
Club Rio, which opened in 1995 and closed in 2006, has been something of an eyesore the past few years. I can say this because I used to manage that big, round, purple behemoth. Apart from a short stint between October ’06 and March ’07—when the then-closed showroom/club was reopened and renamed 3121 by the man formerly known as [Symbol]—the club formerly known as Club Rio has been summarily benched until tonight’s soft reopening as ND’s Fuego, an upscale Latin nightclub.
At 10 p.m., Gilberto Santa Rosa and Victor Manuelle (El Cantante), Latin music’s crowned king and prince, are sharing a stage for the kickoff of their combined world tour. They occupy the small circular stage that hydraulically rises from the center of the dance floor, their voluminous salsa band populating the main stage. A sea of fans press close to the duo, waving flowers and flags and snapping cell-phone pics.
ND’s Fuego owner Nicole “ND” Durr flits in and out of the room like a bee—a tall, slender, impossibly fashionable bee—her staff members trotting behind, making adjustments to the night’s flight plan (needlessly so, as everything is running smoothly). This is the showroom at its very best, and I’m told high-profile Latin concerts will likely become a once- or twice-a-month ritual. I would not even be surprised if ND brought in to Club Rio her full-scale Cirque du Soleil-style production show, Fuego, to be the main course before the nightclubby dessert.
In the 30 days since the papers were signed and ND’s ultra-high-end video technology installed on the now-laden truss, all of Club Rio’s interior finishes have been redone to ND’s eclectic taste. If you can sit on it, drink from it, wear it or watch it, chances are ND had a hand in designing it; when it opens at Palazzo, ND’s Space will be her crowning jewel. Everything purple is either going or gone. The top level has been given over to low, white leather futon-like couches and cubes and shiny high-boy tables. The middle section introduces silver and red leather swivel chairs. In VIP, the booths are reupholstered in black and red snakeskin-embossed leather, and lavish bottle service once again graces the central Marnell booth—er, ND’s Booth.
At about 11:30 p.m., the original songs give way to Latin standards, which Santa Rosa and Manuelle continue to sing as go-go dancers appear in full Brazilian Carnaval regalia, feathered headdresses and billowing green skirts. Whistles blowing fiercely, guys in lamé jumpsuits spin 12-foot palms like batons. Without a clear moment of “finale,” the concert rolls right into nightclub music. Overhead, ND’s graphics guru, Alex Doss, takes Vegas’ original “video nightclub” and the club’s humble 12 screens to a whole new level, projecting on every surface. More vignettes, including a fully choreographed Flamenco number and the sexy Suntan Girls, come and go without warning throughout the night, blurring the line between performance and nightclub via the 30-person cast of Raw Talent Live, which had a limited run at the Sahara.
“Finally!” ND says, when I get a moment with her. “The first upscale Latin nightclub in Vegas!” I squirm. Club Rio’s Latin Labido was legendary, a decade-long epic force to be reckoned with. And for Fuego, tonight is Night 1—it has yet to be seen whether Vegas can support a Latin club open four nights a week. Smartly, Frankie 808 will also spin Top 40 and other genres.
As much as I think ND’s staff and handlers have drank the proverbial Kool-Aid (they have committed to memory ND’s every buzz word), the bottom line is that for now, it’s working! No one would question or even comment on a male nightclub owner’s omnipotence, so I’m content to say, “You go girl!” and bow with the rest of them to Vegas’ first female nightclub owner—or as I call her, the First Lady.