The dance music icon who put the words superstar and DJ together, Keoki, was arrested in an allegedly drug-filled apartment in New York after authorities were summoned to investigate the suspected overdose death of an NBC television producer there, according to people who know the onetime Los Angeles resident.
Michael Alig, one of the creators of New York's ’90s-era club kid scene who was convicted in a killing immortalized in the movie Party Monster, confirmed via Facebook that Keoki, who was booked under the name George Lopez, was one of the two people police collared after 36-year-old Thomas Felty was found dead in an Upper East Side apartment.
“Thank you to all the friends who contributed to Keoki's bail,” Alig stated. “We hope to have him out by tomorrow.”
Police responded to the apartment at 514 E .83rd St. after a man called cops about 3:30 a.m. on Jan. 4 to report that someone had died, New York Police Department Officer Tiffany Philips said. The deceased had “arranged to meet up at the residence” after becoming acquainted with one of the suspects online, she said: “It seems drugs were involved.”
“The caller stated the deceased went to sleep, then about 3:30 was discovered deceased and unresponsive,” Philips said.
Two men were booked on Jan. 6 after drugs were discovered at the address, she said. Police identified the suspects as 50-year-old George Lopez, arrested on suspicion of holding drugs and possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell it. Lopez also had a warrant, the details of which were not available, Philips said. Patrick Walsh, 33, was the other suspect; he was collared on suspicion of drug possession, police said. She alleged he was in possession of methamphetamine, gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) and drug paraphernalia.
The New York Post, citing cops, reported that nearly $27,000 in cash was found at the apartment, along with 150 ecstasy bills and other drugs.
A well-known club-kid figure, Ernie Glam, said Keoki, who's of Salvadoran heritage, has been known to use the names George Lopez and Keoki Lopez. The full name he appeared to claim the most was Keoki Franconi. That had been the birth name listed on his Wikipedia page, but it was changed to George Lopez on Jan. 18.
The name George Lopez correlates to public records that match Keoki's age as well as to locations where he's lived, including L.A., Santa Monica, New York and Denver. “He moved around a lot,” said Glam, who's now a journalist on the East Coast.
Glam said Keoki lived with a roommate at the apartment where Felty's body was found. He said it had been at least four years since Keoki lived in Los Angeles. Jason Jay, a promoter behind the ’90s Hollywood club night Magic Wednesdays, said Keoki was the resident spinner at an annual L.A. event he organized called Party Monster. It ran from 2003 to 2007.
“I was very shocked that it happened,” said Jay, who produces dance music under the moniker Fear No Art, among others. “It's not a good example for the club kids and the scene. I wish him the very best.”
Jay said he met Keoki in the early 1990s, when he brought his upbeat techno and trance journeys to Magic Wednesdays.
Eric “DJ Flex” Harris, who handles bookings for Keoki, said of the New York arrests, “I'm assuming it's Keoki. He was living in New York.”
Harris said that, after learning of the reports, he tried to reach out to his client to no avail. “I'm just waiting to hear from him,” he said.
Keoki was the sound of the rave- and fashion-influenced club-kid scene in 1990s New York. He was the resident DJ at the scene's seminal night, Disco 2000, at the Limelight. He later moved to Los Angeles and recorded for Beverly Hills–based Moonshine Music, a label that helped popularize commercial DJ mixtapes in the United States.
Alig spent 17 years in prison for manslaughter after killing Angel Melendez, a club kid and drug dealer to whom he reportedly owed money, in 1996. Alig and an accomplice, Robert Riggs, cut up Melendez's body and dumped it in the Hudson River. In the 2015 documentary Glory Daze: The Life and Times of Michael Alig, the club promoter, who was released from prison in 2014, described the entire incident as occurring in a “paranoid,” drug-fueled haze that lasted for days.
In a post-prison account of his story published in 2014, Alig wrote a piece about the inception of the club kids and how it all went sideways for him.
“The idea of the club kids came about after I met James St. James, the flamboyant socialite, and my boyfriend DJ Keoki, who built up a following at Tunnel and later Peter Gatien’s marquee clubs in Manhattan, Limelight and USA,” he wrote.
“Strangely enough, I’d always been anti-drug. I hated it when Keoki took cocaine,” he wrote of his early days in the scene. “Usually, when I found it in his pockets, I’d flush it down the toilet.”