Thug Life

Wild Man Chris Paciello Has the Juice at Liquid

Before opening Risk, Ludwigsen worked from 1988 to '93 as assistant manager of a Staten Island nightclub, according to Florida licensing records. After being unemployed during 1993--94, Ludwigsen opened Risk in early 1995 in a South Beach space that had previously been occupied by a club owned by Carlo Vaccarezza, a close pal of John Gotti's and a former chauffeur for the Gambino crime family boss.

Along with Caruso, Ludwigsen hired three other New York expatriates--Robert Gordon, Frank Romano, and Paul Torres--to work at his Miami Beach clubs. All four men had previously worked for Peter Gatien's Manhattan clubs and were cogs in a drug distribution network flourishing in those establishments. After being indicted on federal criminal charges, each member of the quartet agreed to testify against Gatien, who was subsequently acquitted at trial. It was during this testimony that Ludwigsen's former associates, felons all, were questioned about their dealings with Gatien and a host of other nightlife fixtures, including Ludwigsen.

Caruso, his ex-partner, recalled Ludwigsen threatening him with a gun. The pair's relationship was not always so tense, though. Caruso told of once needing "some cash for an Ecstasy deal." Caruso said that Ludwigsen "basically told me, 'I won't have any hands-on involvement or buy drugs or deal drugs, but I'll give you a personal loan.'" Caruso testified that Ludwigsen gave him $10,000 with the understanding that Caruso would pay back $11,500. But, Caruso added, Ludwigsen did not hold him to the usurious terms: "I ended up only paying him back 10,000 and we became friends."

While Ludwigsen does not have Casares's high profile--she is a gossip column staple and has been romantically linked to Madonna, Sandra Bernhard, and other celebrities--he has become a well-known South Beach figure. Following the death of designer Gianni Versace, Ludwigsen, identified as Chris Paciello, appeared on ABC's Prime Time Live to talk about Andrew Cunanan's visits to Liquid in the weeks before he murdered Versace. According to the National Enquirer, Ludwigsen has dated Madonna, while other published reports have linked him to supermodel Niki Taylor. The latter relationship, according to a December 1996 Daily News story, resulted in a ''brutal fistfight'' when Taylor's ex-husband, Matt Martinez, confronted Ludwigsen in a South Beach bar. Ludwigsen dropped Martinez ''with one punch,'' the News reported, and was later seen ''blowing a kiss'' to Taylor's ex. Ludwigsen told the paper that Martinez ''should be happy she has a good male friend in me. There are a lot of s--- guys out there.''

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