Adam Gentile knows better than maybe anyone that it’s not easy to at once frighten and arouse an individual.
So he’s building a haunted house at Palomino Club.
This makes perfect sense, actually.
Gentile is the owner of Las Vegas’ only all-nude dance club in Clark County allowed to operate with a full liquor license. The club, located across from Jerry’s Nugget in North Las Vegas, opened in 1969 and holds a liquor license that was granted when the law allowed for such fully nude-full-liquor clubs. That license is not due to expire until 2019 and was grandfathered in, in other words, and on occasion you do see grandfathers enjoying the spinning entertainment at the Palomino.
How Gentile rose to ownership of the Palomino, enabling him to design a temporary Halloween attraction at the club (which will be in place Tuesday and Wednesday), is one of the more tantalizing stories in the history of Vegas business transactions. His father is Domenick Gentile, who assumed ownership of the five-acre plot on which the club sits in 2007.
One of the city’s more prominent defense attorneys, Gentile received the land as payment from former Palomino owner Luis Hidalgo Jr. in exchange for Gentile’s representation of Hidalgo in the investigation of the May 19, 2005, shooting death of Timothy Hadland. Hidalgo and his son, Luis Hidalgo III, were convicted in 2009 of second-degree murder for conspiring with others to mastermind and carry out the murder of Hadland, whose body was found near Lake Mead.
The victim was a former Palomino doorman who, according to police reports and court testimony, trashed the club to cab drivers and cost the business several thousand dollars in lost customers. The elder Gentile wasn’t exactly performing cartwheels at the idea of taking over a strip club, especially one with such a nefarious history and one that had been fairly run into the ground by the time Hidalgo offered it to Gentile.
But the attorney had an ace to play -- his son, Adam, happens to be an expert in adult-club management, having served as general manager of Club Paradise across from the Hard Rock Hotel on Paradise Road. The 38-year-old Gentile has spruced up the Palomino (it really needed a good scrubbing) and added elements of his own distinctive, often kid-like personality in his marketing of the club.
Three years ago, he was the centerpiece of a Playboy TV reality show about the Palomino, aptly titled “King of Clubs,” and more recently took up mixed martial arts as something of a hobby. He lost his first fight, in June at Eastside Cannery, on a third-round submission, but the upshot was that through training, he dropped from a weight of 307 pounds to 258.
Gentile loves horror films and over the past three Halloweens has put ample energy and resources into an elaborate Halloween attraction on the upstairs level. There, in the dark recesses of the maze-like space, you will find visages of such horror icons as Pinhead from “Hellraiser,” Jason Voorhees from the “Friday the 13th” series and Michael Meyers from the “Halloween” franchise.
Gentile has hired a couple of actors to perform the requisite leap-and-shock routine, and several of the club’s 50 to 60 dancers also are taking part. Some will come at you with machetes; most will just dress in ghoulish garb and enact fright wherever possible.
“We want people to enjoy the fright. We’re not into the shock factor and a lot of gore, which you find at a lot of big haunted houses,” Gentile says. “I look at this as our entire job is to have as much fun as possible and make people scared.”
There is no nudity in the attraction. It will be “business as usual” for customers downstairs. The two themes will not intersect.
“I couldn’t incorporate ‘We’re going to scare you’ with ‘We’re going to turn you on,’ ” Gentile reasons.
Admission to the haunted space is free, but you still must be 21 years old and older to enter the building.
Gentile has been a fan of the horror genre since he visited the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland as a kid. He also remembers being fascinated, and frightened, by the sight of a floating candle at an attraction on San Francisco’s Pier 39.
“You could not get me into the hallway to get near that candle,” he says. “It was a great illusion, and that’s the kind of thing we’re putting on here.”
Gentile says he has unique, yet unspecific, plans to use his 6-foot-7 inch DJ Ben Lake in the haunted space. He laughs at his own affinity for the macabre, as it plays out in an erotic nightclub.
“What can I say?” he says. “I have weird hobbies.”