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Kings of South Beach: The Rise and Fall of Chris Paciello

“Kings of South Beach” was released March 10, 2007.
April 16, 2008 By Brad A Schenck in  | 7 Comments

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A&E bills this made for TV movie as:

“Part Donnie Brasco and part Scarface, from the writer of Goodfellas and Casino Nick Pileggi”

“Kings of South Beach” covers the epic rise and fall of South Beach’s “It boy” Chris Paciello. Like a classical Greek tail, it is about hubris, sex and greed. This is a true-life story ripped from the headlines. Chris Paciello was once a petty thug wrapped up in the mob scene of New York. “From 1987 to 1993, Paciello robbed pet stores, hardware stores, pharmacies and video shops. He also took part in nearly a dozen club and bar brawls, prosecutors say. He earned the name the Binger, prosecutors said, because of his penchant for bingeing on mayhem.” stated the New York Times. Involved in a robbery gone wrong in New York he found himself needing to flee for a start fresh.

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That was how he found himself on South Beach in the mid 90s. Before SoBe became a party mecca he reinvented himself. His real name was Christian Ludwigsen but he took on his mother’s maiden name Paciello.  With a rough and tumble image, mixed with charm and good looks, Chris was able to lure people to him. Club Risk was his first club on the beach. The club was a chance to make legal gains from his ill-gotten funds. A suspicious fire ended Club Risk and he found himself in a partnership with Ingrid Casares a young well-connected Cuban. From there Liquid the new hottest spot under the sun was born.

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Paciello quickly rose to stardom. With Ingrid Casares connections and Chris’character Liquid was the place to be. Their club became the hottest club in America.  People magazine named Chris Paciello their “It” Boy. With Madonna as a frequenter of the club and Paciello being connected intimately with the likes of Nikki Taylor and Jennifer Lopez, Paciello’s transformation was complete. Casares and Paciello went on to open a restaurant, and were set to open Liquid in West Palm Beach with a chain of clubs to follow.

Unfortunately, Paciello’s mob ties didn’t stay in New York. Those ties followed him and his new found fortune. It didn’t take long for allegations of money laundering, bribery and assaults to chip away at the empire.

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The Cop Who Busted Chris

Andrew Dohler was a cop who began his undercover work with the NYPD. Later, he found himself working for the Miami Beach police department. With this assignment he was undercover trying to work his way into the mob rings to bring them down from the inside. Club Risk was where he worked his way into Paciello’s team as a door man. What was supposed to be a couple of months undercover assignment became a two year journey into the underbelly of Miami Beach. Befriending Paciello, he found himself mingling with A-listers and mobsters at the same time. The king’s house of cards came tumbling down when Dohler and the Miami Beach police finally arrested Paciello.

Paciello faced 30 years to life but like a good rat he rolled, giving the information sought to put away the bigger mob bosses.

As of 2005, Paciello was still serving his 7 year prison sentence. There is a rumor around the internet that he is looking to make his way into Hollywood to use his old contacts and rough image to make a name for himself. Detective Dohler is still fighting crime fittingly in Miami Beach’s Vice unit. The detective also worked as a technical adviser on the film.

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The Movie Review

“Kings of South Beach” is great for a made for TV movie.  It features Donnie Walberg as Andy Burnett (Dohler), Jason Gedrick as Chris Troiano (Paciello) and Nadine Velazquez as Olivia Palacios (Ingrid Casares) One does not find themselves lacking for interesting turns of events. It does however have the look of a made for TV, it is lacking that crispness that big production company dollars can create.

“Kings of South Beach” began by foreshadowing the events before the two men arrive in Miami Beach. The first glimpse of Miami beach is that often shot image of the Miami beach I-95 road sign. Gloria Estafan’s “Turn it Upside Down” plays the interlude as the scene sweeps across the urban end of Miami Beach with shots from a helicopter. Then dropping across the canal as if hovering above the water. Mix in a images of sand, palm trees and bikinis of Lummus park and we’ve got quintessential Miami Beach. Splash in night shots of downtown Miami and all of the typical Miami sky scenes are covered.

From the shots of the city we quickly find ourselves in the club with the music thumping loudly. It epitomizes the typical club scene with bodies grinding together, drinks swirling down and a few illicit drugs being used.

In one scene, Chris questions why he’s on the cover of a People magazine and Olivia sums it like this…

“It’s all about South Beach. The reality of liquid. The building boom, real estate boom, tourism boom. Honey in this town you’re the star, your dangerous and mysterious. People wanna know more about you.”

One scene in the film shows the collision of the two worlds of Miami Beach. Chris and his girlfriend enter his then $1.2 mansion with cascading waterfall pool. And on the other side, Andy, who is Chris’s doorman at the club, living in a run down deco building called Sea View Apts. That has a view of nothing more than its neighboring building.

The movie has several Ocean Drive shots, one looking from the park over to Johnny Rockets. Then Andy awkwardly trying to rollerblade on the board walk. It certainly looks very mid 90s and is full of rollerbladers. Although lacking the never ending display thongs you see in other mid-90s based Miami beach films.

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At one point in the film, the club cracks down on ID’s because of a tip they are going to be raided by the police. Half of the line outside is turned away and the inside of the club is almost empty. Underage women have a look of absolute disgust as if how dare those doormen turn me away. Let’s be honest this is still commonly true that a large number of women under age are inside enjoying drinks from male patrons. When one of these ladies is turned away at the door expect a scene to follow or a comment about the doorman’s male parts or sexual orientation.

Through the gates of what is now Casa Casuarina we saw what was the untimely death of Versace. A moment that ended a fashion era and further set his former home into the position of being a landmark. Now that spot is the queue line for exclusive parties and tourists’ photos.

On a trip to the everglades, Chris pulls down a tropical trail. With a nervous Andy they get out of the car to hear that eerie guttural roar of an alligator. If you’ve never heard that noise get yourself over to a South Florida gator attraction.  “Sometimes you gotta feed the gators Andy or they’ll come out of the swamp and eat you.”

With Miami Beach images used up, oh wait there were a few shots of Ferraris and Porches and more scantly clad women. So that being said the film wrapped with fast paced action sequences befitting a gangster film. To be sure if you are looking for a fun film about the rise and fall of Miami Beach’s “It” Boy and mafia connections. I would certainly recommend this film for its South Beach relevance as both educational and entertaining.

Related Categories: Movie Reviews

See more articles by Brad A Schenck

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7 Comments on

"Kings of South Beach: The Rise and Fall of Chris Paciello"

mj shore says:

Kings of South Beach:  I am very familiar with this story and know many of the real life characters personally.

Posted on 06/17/2008 at 7:50 AM

Gus says:

Hi, mj, thanks for posting.

I heard Chris Paciello just got out of jail.

How are the people you know doing today? Does this story still affect them, or have they moved on with their lives?

Got a juicy story you can share with us?

Posted on 06/17/2008 at 7:57 AM

mj says:

Sure, Gus

Everyone in the film has moved on to bigger and better things.  Chris is living in LA but his really cool brother is living down here and just opened a club called Bella Rose.

If you’d like a movie review, please give me contact info via this site and I will get in touch.

Posted on 06/30/2008 at 11:47 PM

sh says:

so you know chis paciello? does anyone know if he’s planning to hook up with Madonna - she’s going back to the states after splitting with Guy Ritchie

Posted on 10/19/2008 at 12:46 PM

BKNY says:

You know it’s a damn shame that the real reason chris ended up in miami has been so over looked…  anyone who partied at the Sound Factory and Limelight in NYC in 1994 with any real insite knows the real reason… lets just say he tried to push his wieght around at the wrong club and pissed off the wrong army. he had no choice but to leave.

Posted on 09/08/2009 at 11:23 PM

chiki baby says:

this movie is really good and i like it cause is a true story about chris paciello that whats up!!!!

Posted on 09/29/2009 at 1:16 PM

JACK MESE RIP says:

fuck chris he should have rotted in jail instead of half the guys he ratted out he ruined my hood i stood with some of those guys we just had it tough gowin up you never know whats really good

Posted on 10/08/2009 at 5:34 PM

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