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Splash/ Sunkissed meltdown

Vegas, not big enough for two gay pool parties? Vegas?!

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Who wouldn’t want to check out Sunkissed Sundays if attendees look this good?

For a business partnership to flourish, one party has to be creative and enterprising, and the other has to mind the store. Anything otherwise and—in Vegas party terms—you will wind up with either a bare, Spartan venue with no party, or a kick-ass, ruinous, red-ink affair.

A great partnership provides a quality event and people to attend it while still ensuring that all permits and insurances are in place—the unglamorous business of dotting Is and crossing Ts, making the columns match.

Ideally, the two work together like two halves of one brain, with one being ever so slightly dominant so as not to cause catastrophe: a power struggle.

To know what such a struggle looks like in the flesh is to be a witness, as I have been, to the heartbreaking situation surrounding Vegas’ two—check that, now one—LGBT pool parties.

The Weekly’s announcement two weeks ago that the Splash LGBT pool party would be kicking off at Mandalay Bay’s South Lagoon on August 23 had Industry PM promoter Mervat Berry pretty steamed.

The facts: Since May 24, Berry has operated Sunkissed LGBT pool party at the Luxor’s South Pool on Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. She employed promoter Eduardo Cordova of Localites as an independent contractor. Following Cordova’s June 14 resignation, he created, booked and began promoting Splash LGBT pool party next door at Mandalay Bay Beach, on Sundays, noon to 6 p.m.

Since then it looks as though the whole Vegas gay community has been put on notice that, as in a bad divorce, they would have to choose.

Berry sent Cordova a strong cease-and-desist letter on August 17, followed by an ex parte motion for preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order on August 21. Through her attorney, Berry alleges that Cordova signed a contract on May 21 that, among other things, would bind him in a non-compete until June 14, 2010, and would cancel Splash.

So is Vegas not big enough to support two LGBT pool parties?!

“I’m very well aware that next summer there will probably be several hotels trying to do this,” Berry says. “We opened a lot of minds to the possibility.” Her goal is an LGBT pool party the size and quality of Rehab. It isn’t competition she fears, it’s annihilation.

Berry alleges that Cordova positioned his pool party on the same day and time as hers to create hostile competition. Cordova says he did want to cause competition, but not hostile. “I wanted people to choose,” says Cordova, “and have a fair option of where they want to go.” Cordova argues that he never saw, nor did he sign, a contract and says he plans to counter-sue for defamation of character and damages lost from the weeks of parties he will be unable to run.

“With Splash, my intention was to come back to show my friends and followers and guests the event that I was promising them all summer.” Unhappy with what he saw as lackluster cabanas and furnishings at the Luxor, Cordova relocated to what he felt was a more high-end pool.

Neither Berry nor Cordova is a newcomer to the LGBT nightlife scene. Last summer Industry PM ran a gay pool party at the clothing-optional all-male Blue Moon Hotel. Berry was eventually unable to attend her own party after some of the male guests complained. This summer, she and her partner, Chad Edler, took up with the Luxor instead and invited women to join the party. Now, Berry (eight months pregnant) says she is fighting for her business.

Cordova has been promoting Closet Sundays at CatHouse in the Luxor for months now; it moves to Revolution on September 13. He owns and operates Localites, Localites Man and Localites.tv and also promotes for gay party king Jeffrey Sanker when his annual Labor Day White Party comes to town.

“I’m a business person,” says Berry. “I don’t look at this as friendships.” Her straightforward business acumen and command of the law—she wrote most of the legal documents herself!—might just be the thing that determines which way the law will decide at the September 4 hearing.

In the meantime, Berry says she is already looking for new opportunities and venues for next summer. This Labor Day weekend, Sanker’s White Party will visit Sunkissed on Sunday, September 6; Cordova says he will not attend.

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