Gary Fontenot was the manager of the Starwood during its heyday in the seventies and until the club closed in 1981. Although we heard a bit about Gary from Lee who worked at the Starwood (read those amazing posts here), not much else was really known about him. Gary was from a large family and he grew up in a very small town in southwestern Louisiana. Like so many others, he headed out west to Los Angeles to seek a better life.
Gary passed away in Honduras in March of 1999. From the information available, it is easy to say that Gary Fontenot was a good man. I thank his brother, Patrick, for answering some of my questions and filling in the blanks.
Rest in peace, Gary.
Here is a start John…keeping in mind that I was living in Victorville California…stationed at George AFB. I was in the Air Force and stationed there from 1977 – 1980/81.
Did you ever visit your brother at his house in Studio City during the 70s or 80s? Did you meet any showbiz types?
My family and I visited Gary as often as possible on the weekends. I am not that familiar with Los Angeles and that area…but Gary lived in a rather nice little place that was pretty much walking distance to Sunset Blvd and it did not seem like it was a far drive from the Starwood. I do not remember the street name. He lived there with his friend Michael and Michael I believe was a nurse…doing private work if I recall. They had been friends for some time. I would also take some of my military friends to Gary’s home on Friday nights so they could experience the nightclub life at the Starwood. He would give us the VIP treatment everytime we would visit.
What exactly happened to Gary at the end of his life? Was he really living in central America? Retired?
When things began to go downhill for Gary he decided to move to Honduras. He actually drove there with some kid that I believe was from that area were they settled. Gary opened his own place down there and seemed to be happy…always inviting me to visit. However, by nature of my military job, I had to be very careful. Gary experienced an attempted robbery one evening when closing and was shot in the stomach. I don’t think he ever recovered, although his cause of death was attributed to prostate cancer. My brother Dale, flew down to Honduras several times to visit Gary and the last time he flew down was to ensure Gary received a proper burial.
Did Gary ever discuss Eddie Nash, who was his boss at the Starwood?
Gary did in fact talk a little about Nash. Lot of times it was in anger, however many times I believe the tone was respect. Nash would provide Gary with new cars which Gary loved…he did like showing off a little. I remember the last car given to Gary by Nash was a brand new Cadillac…we would drive to the Starwood in it and employees of the Starwood would jump in the car to park it when they recognized Gary in the car.
What did Gary do for a living right after the Starwood closed?
After the Starwood, Gary was not the same. He moved into an apartment complex and dabbled a little in real estate…but was unemployed a lot of the time;although he would never tell me. When at the Starwood, he was in control and afterward he seemed to lose that feeling. The apartment complex was nothing fancy…about the only thing I remember about it was a visitor that came by one day while I was there. Gary introduced him as an ex-FBI individual. I assumed he was because he was carrying a gun. They did not talk about anything specific and I guessed they had been acquaintances from way back.
Did your brother ever tell you that his house was shot up by a dealer with a machine gun? He was looking for the soundman of the Starwood, who owed him some money? Gary allegedly let the soundman, Dom Fragomeli, stay at his house in Studio City for a few weeks in 1981.
In 1981 I left California for Texas. I don’t think Gary was living in the original home when I first got to California. I am thinking he was still living in the apartment complex…is that what you meant as far as “home”. Gary barely mentioned that happening…we would talk by phone…He did not go into detail. But, knowing Gary, it would not surprise me that he had allowed someone to stay in his home. He was just that type of person. I believe he left California shortly after that incident. Keep in mind, the Nash thing, the Starwood, coupled by him losing a lot of money in the stock market…Gary needed a change. He had a hate/love relationship with California. As a small town boy, Los Angeles and the Hollywood scene took its toll on Gary. He was apparently good at what he did, managing nightclubs, but did rub elbows with some questionable people.
Hope this helps…as you think of questions, let me know and I will answer them the best I can. Will try and dig up some photos of Gary. You would really need to know where and how he grew up to understand the personal conflict he had with the whole Hollywood scene…
Have a great day.