Giovanni Luciano got busted using his friend’s credit card at the Manhattan nightclub Bungalow 8 in May 2007. He’d been passing himself off around town as an heir to Dolce & Gabbana. The Post dubbed him “Bungalow Thief.” He got 2 to 4 years for grand larceny.
I wrote to him at the Greene Correctional Facility in Coxsackie, N.Y., two hours north of Manhattan.
He replied, handwritten in all caps: “I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time, to share ‘my side’ of the story … You see Spencer there’s more to my nightlife than you know … I always thought I needed to write a book on how I came and conquered N.Y. Miami, LA … I never spoke about this to anyone because it will exploit me and I would lose my socialite cred.”
Last Saturday afternoon I boarded a jam-packed van that leaves from Yankee Stadium and goes directly to Greene Correctional. It didn’t help that I’d kept them waiting. I think my blue blazer was also working against me.
We arrived at the sprawling concrete structure at 4 p.m. You get frisked, then pass through electronically controlled doors and down a walkway lined with a chain-link fence and snarls of barbed wire, past guards and into a visiting area: A brightly lit white room with numbered tables, plastic chairs and vending machines.
Stock up on microwaveable chicken wings, take your seat and wait. Finally, Giovanni shuffled out. He’s confined to his cell 23 hours a day. He told me his story—one that, like all tales told by men behind bars, was impossible to corroborate but that did, I had to admit, have the ring of truth in more than a few of its particulars. You be the judge.
Though he has assumed many identities, he said his real last name is indeed Luciano. He’s 27. Growing up in Milan, he belonged to a family with money, he said, and he was spoiled. His older brother became a banker; his sister, he said, is a well-known fashion model. His parents, strict Roman Catholics, didn’t approve of Giovanni’s driving ambition “to live the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle”
“I never really want to do anything,” he said. “I just wanted to go to all the best parties, with all the hottest chicks.”
When he was around 19, it seems the police were sniffing around some funny business Giovanni had gotten involved with; he says his arrest was imminent, and so his family arranged for a student visa. Hello, New York. His parents, he claims, own an apartment here on Central Park West. And it was waiting for him when he arrived in the spring of 2000.
His parents hoped he’d enroll in classes; they gave him an ample allowance and credit cards.
“As soon as I got to Manhattan, I began asking people where the hottest nightclubs were. Pangea and Serafina were the hot spots, and later it was Butter,” he said. “I would go every night and watch the same guys go in and come out with the most beautiful girls. They wouldn’t let me come in. Sometimes I would wait till 3 o’clock in the morning. And they wouldn’t let me in because I was nobody.”
On one of these long nights loitering outside the red ropes he befriended two French brothers as they were leaving the club. They shared a cigarette. He made up a story—that he was the nephew of designer Domenico Dolce, and an heir to the Dolce & Gabbana clothing empire.
“Something you have to understand, in order to be accepted by these kinds of people, you have to”—he made quotation marks with his fingers—‘produce.’”
He persuaded the brothers to let him join their entourage to the next club. There, Giovanni began “producing,” buying bottles for the table.
The Frenchmen introduced him to their friends, all of whom could get into the top clubs, and who, Giovanni claims, could be charmed by cocaine.
“If you have a lot of it,” he said, “people will believe anything you say.”
“No one questioned who I was,” he continued. “You know: temptation, temptation, temptation.” Before long, Giovanni says, he was hoovering spoonfuls of the Mighty White Samba at late night parties in Soho lofts.
Sitting up in Greene, it makes him sad that few people from his nightlife days remember him now. He may have done some scams, sure, but he also took care of a lot of bar tabs, paid for a lot of dinners at Cipriani—he loves Cipriani!
“No one has come to visit me,” he said. “I have nobody.”
He tugged at the collar of his green prison-issue jumpsuit. “This is not who I am,” he said. “I’m in here with a bunch of animals. I’m used to nice dinners at Cipriani. Now I sit in my bed and I cry ’cause I miss that. That I can’t go to a nice restaurant, and talk to nice people like you.”