Updated April 27, 2020 - 10:08 am
In the late 1990s, The Beach Nightclub was like a giant jug of lighter fluid. Dennis Rodman was the match.
And we actually have video from one of those nights: June 7, 1997.
“Although cellphones were not even a thought back then, my roommate and I made sure we had a Camcorder with us when we went to work at the Beach,” says Mike Ceragioli, a show (or performing) bartender at The Beach from 1995-99. “He was there with a small entourage. Wasn’t the first time he came in. I saw him up in the balcony above the stage bar watching me give a body shot to a female customer.”
A body shot is booze, often with whipped cream, licked from a bartender’s body.
“I waved him down to come up on the bar,” Ceragioli says. “He was in his element.” Ceragioli’s video, which looks like surveillance footage by today’s standards, was played on “Hard Copy” soon after the visit. It has been posted, largely unnoticed, on The Beach Nightclub Facebook page for about seven years.
Rodman’s shenanigans in Las Vegas are being revisited at 6 p.m. Sunday on ESPN in Episode 3 of “The Last Dance” documentary of Michael Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls in 1997-98. The series recounts Rodman’s 48-hour trip to Las Vegas authorized by head coach Phil Jackson.
The dates are not specified, but the only two-day break in the Bulls’ schedule in the 1997-98 season was Jan. 11-12. They played the Golden State Warriors in Oakland on Jan. 10 and at the Seattle Supersonics on Jan. 13. Rodman was certainly in town for one night in June 1998, too.
As bartenders say, Rodman was in his element, he was often not in a shirt. The power forward was in jeans and a cowboy hat that night at The Beach, strutting across the bar in full flourish. The staff invited him to serve his entourage himself.
“He shouted at me to get him some beer, which led to chaos as he was just giving it all away,” says Ceragioli, who today runs a VIP concierge service and party-bus company. “Well over 20 cases.”
For perspective, The Beach blew up in those days, beyond the shots of Bacardi 151 set aflame by its show bartenders. Standing on the corner of Paradise Road and Convention Center Drive, the club was a great hang for a hot minute after opening in August 1995. It peaked over the next few years before being snuffed out in November 2006.
Rodman dove into the club during in its apex that June evening, a trip famous because it took place on off night during the 1997 NBA Finals between the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz. Rodman spent a night partying in Vegas during those Finals, a trip later confirmed by Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins, who was part of the entourage.
The point is, Rodman trekked to Vegas routinely. Ceragioli says he was at The Beach a few times, known to hit the club on a Vegas tour that included the Hard Rock Hotel, the Drink (and Eat Too!), Club Rio, The Mirage and the Las Vegas Hilton.
Rodman’s Beach experience was a classic case of no harm, no foul.
“We were young and caught up in the moment,” Ceragioli says. “The GM was a bit miffed as he was looking for someone in his entourage to pay the tab. Whoever signed it put a big ‘0’ in the tip box. It was OK, though; we partied hard with him that night.”
Rodman departed soon after his guest bartender stint.
“We saw a lot of celebrities over the years, but this one night was one that I’ll always remember,” Ceragioli says. “It was ‘The Worm,’ right?”
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats! podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.