Maurice Brahms started his career in the restaurant business at the young age of 17.
Just a few years later, his uncle suddenly passed away and Maurice had to step in and take over the family owned restaurant Colonel at 101 Park Avenue. It was lots of hard work with many hours a day.
But Maurice's story would take a different turn because of his second cousin John Addison. A guy who had moved to New York from South Africa in the early seventies and was staying with Maurice in Brooklyn. The two cousins were very different; Maurice was a middle height, straight businessman, while John was a tall gay model working for Ford Modeling Agency, but opposites attracts and the two of them came along fine.
John eventually ended up opening an after hours Juice bar called Together, located under the 59th Street bridge. Previously unaware of the market that John had tapped into, Maurice saw the potential. Being that he was charging only 35 cents for a coke and John's customers would pay $5.00 and pay another $5.00 for entrance, Maurice decided to leave the restaurant business and instead devote his efforts towards this more lucrative market.
I, Discoguy, had to ask Mr. Brahms about this; John had started a Juice Bar and could charge his customers more than 10 times than you could for a soda, was that what got you interested in venturing into other areas than restaurants?
"Yes. When John opened his first juice bar and I saw that he made as much in one night that I did in one month, it made me realise that potential."
In 1973 John opened up Le Jardin in the Hotel Diplomat on 43rd Street. It was a stylish club split up on two separate floors, the Penthouse and the Basement. It was also here the coronation of Gloria Gaynor as the Queen of Disco took place in March 3, 1975.
Our entrepreneur, Mr. Brahms, started investigating the current market, visiting various clubs and when stopping by gay clubs like Flamingo he quickly realised that he would focus on a gay crowd, despite being a straight man;
"Once I decided to enter the business I visited a few small clubs and came to realise that the most energy in a room was the result of gay men. I also realised and theorised that they did not have alimony or kids to support and that for the most part their world was based on partying. Further, they were the most creative and had jobs or businesses that allowed them to party late and sleep late. All in all I decided that this was my best market."
He proceeded with the idea of venturing into the nightclub world and found a former envelope factory located at 653 Broadway, between 3rd and Bleecker Street. It was, at the time, a Hare Krishna center, but they only paid some 200 dollars a month and when Maurice offered the landlord 1200 dollars a month, he got a 15 years lease for the place.
Brahms told writer Anthony Haden-Guest more about the creation of the club in the 1997 book 'The Last Party - Studio 54, Disco, and the Culture of the Night' [William Morrow & Co]; "I spent like a hundred and fifty thousand dollars opening that club. That was unheard of, to put that kind of money in. It was painted all black inside, with neon balls. And it had no name outside. I felt the whole mystique of the place was to make a person struggle to find it. There were mirrors on the sides. If you looked in the mirror, the neon balls just went on forever."
This was what gave the club it's name - Infinity and during my interview Maurice said; "Once I came up with the name Infinity I tried to make the place conform as much as possible to the name."
The dance floor was 100 foot [30 meters] long and surrounded by mirrors. There were several large spinning mirror balls running the length of the club, surrounding each were colored neon rings along with 54 spinning laser beams and 70 neon sculptures, and you would see the neon balls forever, creating the Infinity effect. The outside as well as the inside was painted all black.
My friend DJ Dan 'Pooch' Pucciarelli told me; "The neons at the top of each pillar where very cool! If you stood at one end of the club and watched the neons, it looked like an infinite tunnel, thus the name 'Infinity'. It was very cool, the Bass bins lined each side of the dance floor, but virtually the whole club was a dance floor. There were four bins on each side and full range cabinets above and tweeter arrays overhead. There was also an upstairs section that overlooked the entire club, so when up there it looked like you were looking into an 'infinite mirror'."
Then, on November 5, 1975 the club opened up its doors for the first time. To build a hype they had run ads in the gay magazine - Michael's Thing - only announcing 'COMING SOON! COMING SOON!' together with a penis sign, and then ending the campaign with 'IT'S FINALLY COME!'.
A pink six foot neon penis sign was what also met the crowd when entering the club - IF they found it...
You opened Infinity and intentionally you didn't put up any sign outside the place, instead people should struggle to find it - how did you come up with that idea?
"It occurred to me that the more I made it difficult to get in, the more people wanted to come. I then took it a step further and made it difficult to find, thus no sign but only word of mouth."
There were 2 openings of Infinity. The first one at ten o'clock for the invited uptown straight crowd and then the second coming at midnight for the club's target market - the gay crowd. The only problem was that no one wanted to leave, and keeping a couple of thousand people eagerly waiting in the street to get in.
The hot DJ Bobby "DJ" Guttadaro made the clubbers dancing to his pounding beats on the opening night, and many other nights to come.
Bobby "DJ" Guttadaro was the first DJ in the club, how did you find him and how did you get him to come play for Infinity? What did he mean to the success of the club?
"I don't recall who recommended Bobby DJ to me. I also don't know how instrumental he was in the success of Infinity since the DJ's who followed also kept the crowd hopping. I think it was a combination of many things and the right timing that combined in Infinity's success, but the DJ's certainly were a major factor."
Other DJ's who made sure the Infinity dance floor was jam packed, included Jim Burgess and Lary Sanders, among others.
The club also influenced artist D.C. LaRue, because on the back of his Ca-the-drals album we see him outside three different doors and he told me they were shot outside the most important Discos in New York at the time; Flamingo, Infinity and 12 West.
"Beautiful Bend" [LP] Beautiful Bend
"Heaven" Gibson Brothers
"Dancing In My Feet" Laura Taylor
"I Love The Nightlife (Disco Round)" Alicia Bridges
"Instant Replay" Dan Hartman
"In The Bush" / "Keep On Jumpin'" / "Summer Love" Musique
"Let's Start The Dance" Bohannon
"Starcruisin'" / "Fancy Dancer" / "Arista Vista" / "This Side Of Midnight" Gregg Diamond Starcruiser
"Warning-Danger" / "Think It Over" Cissy Houston
"You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" / "Dance (Disco Heat)" Sylvester
At Infinity there were no guest list, Maurice's policy was - 'Everybody pays!'. It didn't matter if you were Calvin Klein, Donna Summer, Franco Rossellini, the Pointer Sisters, Giorgio Sant'Angelo or Givenchy - they all paid admission to get in.
One of the few people Brahms actually never charged was Bunny Mellon, a horticulturalist, gardener, philanthropist, and art collector, who for example designed and planted the White House Rose Garden.
In 1976 you brought in Carmen D'Alessio to promote the club with events etc. How do you consider her contributions to the club?
"Carmen was a customer who came to the club with attractive people. My wife Viviane and Carmen struck up a conversation one night and I decided to give her one night to promote. It was successful and turned into one night a month. She was able to take a very successful club and promote theme parties that brought in additional people that mixed with Infinity's crowd. Frankly, the relationship was far more important to Carmen than it was to Infinity or myself because she was able to capitalize on the already huge success of Infinity to make her name known."
Carmen would later become famous as Party Promotor at Studio 54.
Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager were customers of Infinity and its success inspired them to go into the discotheque business, and they would later open up Studio 54. Maurice also introduced the two guys to John Addison and the four of them talked about doing things together.
You and John were approached by Ian and Steve about working together on two clubs; 15 Lansdowne Street in Boston and Enchanted Garden in Queens.
"John and I had a short falling out as he was also deceived by Rubell's undeniable charm. They proposed doing the Enchanted Garden with him as part of a joint venture in Boston. I wanted no part of it. However, that was never really the Rubell & Schrager plan. All they really wanted were the contacts and know how as to how to build a club. Soon after the Enchanted Garden was finished and they had no further use for John, then they immediately severed the partnership. John then 'came back' to me once he understood what they were about."
In the Anthony Haden-Guest's book Brahms said, "Steve could charm your pants off. You could hate him one day and love him the next day. He just had a charm about him.". He adds when I talked to him; "Ian had a heart, while Steve was a devil."
Carmen later joined your rivals Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager. How did you feel about that?
"Rubell and Schrager befriended me, but in retrospect all they really wanted was to pick my brain. I first found that Carmen was doing parties at The Enchanted Garden in Douglas, Queens for Rubell & Schrager behind my back. I confronted her, and although her parties were not a threat to me I let her go when I saw what she was about. The three of them came from the same mould and I paid a great price for Rubell & Schrager coming into my life."
He continued; "Did you know that Ian Schrager's father was Louis 'Max the Jew' Schrager? He was a gambling boss in Brooklyn linked to legendary Jewish wise guy Meyer Lansky. Lansky was the bookkeeper for the Mob."
On May 18, 1977 Maurice and John opened a new club in the old Toots Shor restaurant on 33 West 52th Street, between 5th & 6th Avenue, the club got the name - New York, New York.
The new club was great-looking with gray flannel walls, Chinese red lacquer surfaces, lots of glass and polished metal. The sound system was superior and was designed by Richard Long and the lightning was designed by Design Circuit Inc. There were many special effects like; laser beam lights, neon bolts, revolving spotlights, fountains of smoke pouring from the ceiling. It was simply a high class Discotheque. Or as Maurice put it in one of his few interviews; "New York, New York is basically a club designed for both the elegant and the outrageous. It's got a certain amount of elegance to it and there's a certain dress-code to it."
In the club the two business partners had all of the hottest DJ's playing; Francois Kevorkian, John Ceglia, Bobby "DJ" Guttadaro, Sharon White and many others.
In 1977 you opened opened up your second club, New York, New York, together with John. How come you created this together and how did the partnership work out?
"Studio 54 opened on April 26, 1977 and New York, New York opened less than a month later. Rubell and Schrager did everything they could to prevent our opening; like phone calls to the SLA to prevent us getting a license and calls to the Fire Department after we opened claiming over crowding.
We did it together because John at that time could not get a liquor license and I could.
Everything was fine until Rubell and Sscrager went to jail [in February 1, 1980] and got Roy Cohn, who was an ex-lover of John, to approach Assistant District Attorney Peter Sudler and his underling Special Agent Mark Britt from the Southern District of NY who swore to perjured statements that resulted in search warrants being issued. ADA Peter Sudler obviously was aware of this since he threatened me with more charges if I challenged the search warrant. These perjured search warrants for myself, John, Fifi and Jay Levey, resulting in all of us pleading guilty and going to jail for tax evasion.
When you get a crooked well-connected lawyer and a prejudiced DA working together, you don't have a chance. Even worse, John introduced Roy Cohn to Steve and Ian.The full details are too complicated to explain but would make an incredible book or movie."
Early in the morning of August 4, 1980 agents from the Criminal Investigation Division of IRS came to the Brahms and Addison homes with search warrants looking for evidence and a "second set of books" for the clubs.
Later Maurice managed to get hold of the documentation leading to the raid of his and Addison's homes and in this document it was clear that Steve and Ian had spoken to the Feds and also had put pressure on one employee of New York, New York to turn her employer's in.
"Out former employee helped Mark Britt and Roy Cohn to get a search warrant. She claimed that we put cash money from the club into a Safe Deposit box, but the bank didn't even have a Safe Deposit. So, how could we have done that? Also, a
search warrant is limited to the specified things specified within the warrant, anything that is not in plain sight is not admissible."
The agents seized a ledger from the closet of Maurice Brahms illegally that showed skimming from Infinity and was the basis of charges brought against Jay and Maurice. Mr Brahms says; "We stupidly did not challenge the search warrant under advice of our attorney James LaRosa but plead instead to 'an information' so DA Sudler could avoid having a Grand Jury hear perjured testimony from his only witness."
In the end both Addison and Brahms was pressured to plead guilty, something Maurice regretted afterwards as he's sure he would have beaten the law suit as there were not enough evidence. He only did it because his lawyer advised him too. John did not cooperate and turn in his money launderer or anyone else, although when he tried to, Sudler told his lawyer that they already had enough information and that he believed we all were going to plead guilty anyway.
John got away with 3 months in jail, while Maurice were sentenced to 3 years on December 12, 1980. This left a bad taste in Maurice's mouth, and his and John's friendship ended, specially as John was the one actually laundering money. After this, Brahms and Addison never spoke again.
On January 5, 1981 Maurice went into the Allenwood Federal Penitentiary and came out two years later as a free man in 1983, after serving 66% of his sentence, as per Federal Law at the time.
in January 1981 you went to jail. How was you time behind bars? How did you spend your days? I mean, from being an entrepreneur with lots of things on the agenda to being locked up - that must be quite a difference.
"It was like staying in a place you can't get out of and having people telling you when to get up and when to go to bed. It was no fun to spend time in jail, but I adjusted to the situation and made it a mission to lose weight by frequenting the gym and run. I lost several pounds during this time."
Despite the surrounding circumstances, New York, New York was a huge success and remained in business until 1981, and the building was torn down in 1982 to make way for the Deutsche Bank building.
In a TV interview from around 1979, the reporter mentioned having been to New York, New York and how surprised he was when the DJ all of a sudden switched genres from Disco and started to play a whole segment of Punk Rock. The reporter stated; "I hate Punk Rock!" But Maurice explained; "Well, it's becoming very popular. It has been for the last, I'd say for the last year and a half to two years in New York, and it seems to be coming on stronger. There's no question that the Discotheque as we know it is evolving into something else." He continued; "I think the Mud Club probably started that in New York, and some other clubs in New York which went strictly as New Wave and Punk rock."
In the same interview Maurice got the question if the Disco scene was evolving or turning into something different; "Yeah, what I think is happening now is it won't become as stylish as it has been, which is probably better for the Disco industry. Because we probably have so many problems and it will evolve back to the people who originally started it, that were originally into it the most, which is basically the Gay community who have always started trends."
Maurice also told me another intriguing story around New York, New York...
When building the new club Maurice and John ran out of money. John had money in Switzerland and he went over there and was bringing the money back with him to the US. The suggestion Addison got from Roy Cohn was to go by plane and fake a heart attack during the flight, as the flight crew would arrange for an ambulance to take him directly to a hospital and bypassing customs and everything. In the end John decided to go via Canada and then take a bus to the US. The Canadian customs saw the money, but not all of it, then John got stopped at the US border and the US customs took all the money. One guy in Roy Cohn's office made the suggestion that John would say that the money actually belonged to a friend in Switzerland. The guy and had a contact in Switzerland, who John never knew or met, but still John raised a claim that the money belonged to his Swiss 'friend' and he got all the money back. John kept 80% and then gave 20% to the guy in Roy Cohn's office.
Suddenly, on Valentines Day, February 14, 1979 something unimaginable happened - Infinity burnt down.
How did you feel about that and is it known what caused the fire? You never rebuilt the club again, how come? You still had a long lease for the place.
"When Infinity burned down it seriously changed my life. A few months before this happened, on Valentine's Day, my landlord approached me about buying the building. I spoke with some very sophisticated real estate friend that owned large NYC buildings and they advised me against it. At the time I had a lease for another 15 or so years at about $1,200 monthly and my real estate friends explained that this was better than owning the building itself.
Shortly thereafter my landlord sold the building to a man I recall as Jack Fein. He the called me about buying out my lease and although I knew this was not practical, I nevertheless agreed to meet him at the club. I greeted him at the door and began to show him around, but when he saw the club filled with people he cut the tour short and left in a huff. About a week later we discovered a fire in the basement that we put out that I attributed to a disgruntled customer. After that, the February 14th fire that burned down most of the building was determined by Fire Department to be arson.
The thing is that there was a tax advantage at the time that allowed huge tax advantages if an older building was renovated but the exterior remained untouched. In less than one hour the new landlord put scaffolding in place to protect the exterior. There was no investigation for arson because Mr. Fein did not make any insurance claim.
As far as me not rebuilding, I would have loved to, but a clause in my lease said that if a fire destroyed more than 25% of the building I did not have the right to rebuild. You can put dots together I'm sure."
But the sad end of the 70's would not stop Maurice's endeavours in the club scene. In 1980 he was back with two new clubs - Bond's and The Underground.
Bond's rose from the former Bond's Men's Clothing Store and was located at Times Square on 1530 Broadway, between 44th & 45th Street. It's sometimes also referred to as Bond's International Casino. This was a huge place and reputed to be the world's largest disco at the time. It had two dance floors, where the main floor could host some 3000 dancers and the smaller was downstairs. Upstairs it was so large that it had several VIP rooms.
In the previously mentioned TV interview Maurice shared his views on the Bond's; "It's a city within a building. It's about 60000 square feet and it got 60 foot round ceilings. Bonds is going to have rollerskating and it will probably be the most luxurious and exciting rollerskating facility, probably in the country.It's going to have the excitement of disco and the facilities for rollerskating combined, which nobody has... We will do live entertainment there also."
In 1980 you opened up the giant club Bonds at Times Square, this one also with John. I know you put in lots of money when creating Bonds.
"John was determined to open Bond's and I was very hesitant. Nevertheless I agreed to do so, but shortly thereafter I made a different deal. The reason I did so was because although John was very creative he also was very indecisive and extravagant when building a club. In this case he finished painting Bonds and then when he spoke with Rubell, who was in jail at the time. Rubell told John that Calvin Klein, who had visited the club during construction, had told Rubell that he did not like the color. John then decided to repaint the entire space. I don't recall the exact size but Bonds was about 60,000 square feet and I told John that I would not agree to spend the money to repaint. When he insisted I re-structured our deal that basically allowed me to recover my investment first in return for a smaller percentage. This way he could spend what he wanted without effecting my interest."
It's said that some 1.5 million dollars was spent on the place. Parts of it was for its great sound system which was designed by Richard Long, who also did the Paradise Garage.
What do you think the design plus light- and sound systems meant for the success of a club and when did it close?
"I believe Bonds closed in 1983. Sound and lights were surely part of its success, but John had great ideas like making musical steps like piano keys, huge blimp like balloons in different shapes that inflated over the dance floor and even rented 'Dancing Waters' from a German firm. John was very creative but lacked business sense in that cost was no object."
The club was quite diverse, music wise, and DJ Kenny Carpenter once specified some of his Bond's classics and you find Italo-Disco/Electro from Kasso, Reggae by Black Uhuru, Disco by Chaka Khan as well as Disco Punk Rock by the Clash (who later completely filled the club several nights in a row in 1981).
Still in 1980, you also opened up The Underground, which later changed its name to Union Square. Any comments on the club?
"I started Underground with great expectations and it was booming when I went to jail in 1981. When I got out in 1983 it was doing poorly but I found a Jamaican promoter named Dahved Levy and it found a new life with the Reggae crowd. It had a long life with different markets which was necessary for a long existence. I later changed the name to Union square [around 1986-87] and even changed the entrance and decor because I wanted to start like a new club and the concepts worked. The new crowd I brought to Union Square were not old enough to drink when I opened Underground and Union square was like a brand new club to them."
The Underground was a huge club located on 860 Broadway at 17th Street. It had 4-5 bars and the design was very masculine with bricks, mirrors, neon, wrought iron and hardwood. To top things there was a great sound system designed by Richard Long, and the light system was mastered by light man - Eric Erickson - who has been mentioned as "one of the most creative and yet under rated artists in New York." DJ John Ceglia once told me; "Eric was the Underground!"
The club was open Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and for Sunday Tea dances. They had all New York's hottest DJ's playing; Jim Burgess, John Ceglia, Robbie Leslie, Roy Thode, Richie Rivera, Michael Fierman, Wayne Scott and many others. The music twas a mix of Disco and New Wave during the earlier years.
For a peek of the interior you can watch the 1982 movie Liquid Sky which features some scenes from the Underground.
"Without Your Love" / "Alive With Love" Cut Glass
"If You Could Read My Mind" Viola Wills
"Hills Of Katmandu" / "Wishbone" Tantra
"Hit'n'Run Lover" Carol Jiani
"Master Blaster" Stevie Wonder
"Inside You" Isley Brothers
"Hot Leather" Passengers
"San Salvador'" / "Any Time And Place" Azoto
"Young Men Drive Fast" Quick
"Living Up To Love" Companion [Boris Midney]
CLICK to hear some classics played in Maurice's clubs...
That's The Meaning / Boogie Motion
Make That Feeling Come Again / Ah-Do It
Dancin' In My Feet
I Love The Nightlife (Disco Round)
In The Bush
Keep On Jumpin'
Let's Start The Dance
Gregg Diamond's Star Cruiser
Gregg Diamond's Star Cruiser
Gregg Diamond's Star Cruiser
This Side Of Midnight
Gregg Diamond's Star Cruiser
Think It Over
You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)
Dance (Disco Heat)
I Know You, I Live You
Without Your Love
Alive With Love
If You Can Read My Mind
Hill Of Katmandu
Hit 'N Run Lover
Master Blaster (Jammin')
Anytime Or Place
Young Men Drive Fast
Living Up To Love
Back out of jail and back in business, Maurice kept on running clubs and as mentioned earlier, he later switched the name of the Underground to Union Square, based on its Union Square location. The club was closed in 1989 and Maurice turned it into Palace de Beaute to capture a more hip and trendy crowd. Jellybean was hired and the transformation was very successful and the club lasted until the lease was lost after 10 years.
Mr. Brahms opened another successful club called Red Zone, which was located on 440 West 54th Street. The Grand Opening was on January 19, 1989 and the club was active into the 1990's. World renowned DJ's like David Morales and Lenny Fontana were residents at the club.
Red Zone would also be the last club Maurice owned.
But people would come to Maurice for help to turn around clubs in trouble, like the Copacobana on E 60th Street and a club called Peace located in legendary Village Gate premises in Bleecker Street. One night Ian Schrager came with 5 people in a big limo and turned up at Peace, he saw Maurice at the door and immediately turned around and got the people back into the limo and left.
Infinity was Maurice's favourite club of all the ones he has been involved in, party because it was his first club but also that everybody paid to get in.
He also told me how they managed to serve after hours drinks in the club. What they did was to use another guy's catering permit license, which can be used to serve liquor in unlicensed places. They used the license owner's liquor and paid him $500 per night and claimed the after hours was a private club. In the end the authorities forbid doing this, but as Maurice promised to get his own license and while waiting for it they were allowed to temporarily keep using the catering license permit.
Ian & Steve tried to do the same at '54', but it was already illegal at that time and they got busted for it.
Was there any club by some of your competitors you specially liked, and why?
"Michael Fesco's Flamingo. Michael was really the originator of the New York Disco scene and I used his club as a raw model when creating Infinity."
How did the club scene change over the years? How did HIV/AIDS impact the nightlife?
"Much have changed. AIDS impacted the gay crowd and changed the gay club life immensely, while there were not as much difference within the straight clubs. But the gay clubs had a very hard time. But over time the entrance fees and the crowd have changed a lot. Earlier you were begged to do business, now as long you have cash you will get in."
As you have been so very successful creating new different clubs, all extremely popular - have you had some 'Magic Recipe' for how to build a successful club?
"Building and running a successful club today is much different than in the seventies. If I were to undertake such a task i would first decide the market I was going for, eg gay, models, Latin, Asian, etc, and then try and find a person who had a following in that market. For example, if I wanted models I would approach the head of a modelling agency and bring him on board.
I would also try and find a new gimmick when designing the club, like a life size hologram that would greet you as you entered, and create a specific environment that befit the name - eg 'The Jungle' and have various stuffed animals and fake foliage throughout and have young well built staff dressed like jungle natives, the female staff specially.
Then I would get as much advance press as i could leading up to my opening but not give the location. Making it mysterious is part of the attraction as well as making the clientele feel they are special in able to be be part of it.
Also, a lot depends on the country and city where it was located."
As you can read above, even though retired - Maurice is still full of ideas and would still be able to create successful club concepts.
With all the clubs you've owned, did you have some favourite DJ of the ones you have had playing in your clubs?
"My favourite DJ was David Morales, he really attracted crowds to Red Zone, who came only to hear him play.
Another DJ that meant a lot to me was Jellybean Benitez. He had been dating Madonna and brought a crowd to Underground that came specifically because of him. He also was not, money hungry and worked at a reasonable rate."
Was there ever any other DJ you wanted to hire for any of your clubs, but never did or could?
"There were two DJ's that I would have liked to hire but could not. One was Frankie Knuckles and the other was Larry Levan from the Paradise Garage. Larry was a part owner of 'the Garage' and had a devoted following."
What about the music, were you interested in the (Disco) music? Did you like Disco music? Any favourite Disco songs in that case?
"To be perfectly honest, I did not have time to enjoy the music. I rarely ventured onto the dance floor and any interest I had in the music was to stay on top of the latest trends and what other DJ's were playing to draw a particular crowd."
As the business man and entrepreneur Mr. Brahms is, he still kept busy after leaving the club scene. After his jail time he couldn't get a new license and he has been exporting Levi's and other brands to the European market. He has also worked in consulting for Health Clubs and Hotels.
What do you do these days? Are you still involved in various projects?
"I'm writing a mystery novel. I got the idea already back in 1983 and now I have been writing it for about 6 months and have about some 2 more months of writing left and there is a publisher who's really interested in it. So, I'm trying to complete it now."
Another story Maurice shared during our call was when he decided to get back on Roy Cohn. Maurice knew that Roy Cohn had a dinner reservation on January 20, 1985 at the second inauguration of President Ronald Regan to which he was a guest, Maurice called up the restaurant pretending to be someone from Mr. Cohn's staff and told them they had to cancel his reservation because he had AIDS [which he actually did, but refused to admit even to his death]. This made Roy Cohn furious, but it was Maurice's little revenge for everything Roy had put him through. Roy never got to know it was Maurice Brahms making the call.
Anything else from you long career in nightlife you would like to share some info about?
"Did you hear of when I got robbed?"
No!? Please tell me.
"At Infinity I had this partner - Jay, who was an insurance broker. I always wanted someone to share the risk, so we signed an agreement. I put in 25% of the money and Jay put in 75% to build the place, while I got 75% of the profit and Jay got 25%. Jay got all his invested money back within just a few months, but Jay wanted a higher cut of the profit, but why should I - a deal was a deal. I spent most of the time in the club, I opened it up and stayed to around 4AM in the morning, while Jay came much later and stayed during the after hours to 8AM.
Jay brought the daily earnings from the club with him back home and should give me my cut on a more or less daily basis, but sometimes he held the money for 2 to 4 weeks. One day Jay called me around 9AM and claimed that he had got robbed for everything - including the money he had held onto that was mine. He had got a gun put in his mouth and the robber threatened to kill him and his wife, so Jay had to give the robber $150000.
After he was robbed, although I acknowledged that the nightly receipts was a shared loss, I felt that I should be reimbursed for the money he was holding for me and delayed in giving on a weekly basis. We agreed that our accountant would make the final decision. The accountant agreed with Jay in saying that I did not insist on timely payment and considering what he went through that he should not have to reimburse me. Obviously I was not happy about his decision but I stood by my word that I would abide by it..
Two months later the head bouncer of the club - Angelo - told me that Jay didn't get robbed for $150K, but more like $35K, because Angelo actually knew the robber. The robber wanted to meet with me and I agreed to meet up in a place in Brooklyn. The robber were angry and wanted to kill Jay as he had taken all the risk and only got like $35K and had heard that Jay kept claiming it was $150K. I managed to calm the guy down and said 'Let's not kill anyone here.' I then confronted Jay and told him that I had met with the robber and told him what the robber looked liked, with the scar and everything. 'That's the guy. We got to turn him in.' Jay said. I talked him out of it and told him about the difference in what the robber said he had got and what Jay told me he got robbed for, and we agreed Jay would take a lie detector test. During the test he kept claiming it was $150000 and he failed the test, but said it was because he was so nervous. I said; 'OK! Let's do a second test.' We agreed Jay would take another one, but then Jay stopped it prior to taking it and confessed he only got robbed for $35K and he had claimed it was $150K as he felt I had cheated him and had refused to make him an equal partner. I got my money back and then paid the robber some additional $5000 from my own pocket to keep him calm."
Oh, what a story!
"Yeah, Jay was a complete lier. He would say he knew and could do most everything. Once he said he could scuba dive and was about to jump right into the water without even opening the airflow to the tube, but he was stopped in the last minute by the instructor or else he would probably have drowned. Another time he said he was this great swimmer but almost drowned and I rescued him and almost drowned myself."
For a man who have been running so many successful Discotheques and Nightclubs since the mid-seventies, Maurice Brahms has really managed to keep himself private. There are almost no photos or interviews available at all, that's really surprising.
You seem to have had a much more low profile than people like Steve & Ian. Specially Steve wanted to be seen. Your name was known, but it seems hard to find any pictures of you from back in the day. How come?
"I had a low profile because I was not interested in being famous with all the problems that came with it. My only interest was in running successful clubs and keeping my family safe. The best way to do that was to keep my name out of the papers. To me the club was the draw and not my name. It also added a bit of mystery with the press anxious to interview the owner and not being able to do so for the most part.
i remember a PR company trying to represent us saying that it was a very unique position in not wanting to generate lots of press."
In February 18, 2020 - Maurice's wife -Viviane Brahms - was visiting a friend in Florida in Fisher Island, right outside Miami. The only transportation to the island is by a short 7 minutes car ferry ride. They had been on the ferry many times, but this day they had an accident and the car with his wife and her friend went into the water and both tragically died.
The assumption is that Viviane's friend didn't realise the engine was still running and somehow managed to press the gas pedal instead of the break.
Maurice and Viviane had been married since 1966. As Maurice describes her; "Viviane was French-Moroccan and incredibly beautiful. Even Ian Schrager used to try to pick her up in Infinity."
Viviane is deeply missed by Maurice, their kids and grandchildren.
Over 800 people from all over the world came to the funeral home for her funeral.
Maurice is now retired from the night world but he still keeps himself busy. Over the time I have been in contact with him, he has moved homes and is close to finish a novel (not Disco related as he added).
Keeping a low profile and staying out of the spotlights have made him unknown to most people, but there's no question that he has been the uncrowned king of the New York City nightlife, running many of the most influential clubs over three decades.
Thank you Maurice for your great influence on Discotheques, Disco and Dance music over all these years. Unintentionally possibly, but without your visions and eye for details and trends, the club world would probably have looked quite different today.
the uncrowned KING of the NYC Club scene!