Promoting good fun
Marco Traversa and Shawn Maher could talk you into smoking gasoline. They could convince you that you’d catch an STD if you didn’t sleep with them. And that might just be the level of convincing necessary to make people believe they can improve the stagnant nightclub scene in this town. Their company, Lift Entertainment, plans to get things started with its first “super club” event this New Year’s Eve at the Reno Hilton.
Traversa, former vice-president of a music festival production company called Cool World, has 10 years of experience putting on large events, including Cyberfest in San Francisco and the Ultra Festival in Miami. After a post-9/11 hiatus, he moved to Las Vegas and started putting on concerts—Kid Rock, Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg—before moving to Reno with Maher.
“We actually came out here to open up a nightclub,” says Traversa. “We had a business partner, and he did some nefarious things and ran off with a lot of money and people’s trust, including ours. We worked with him for 10 years so it was really a shock to us. The reason we even found out anything was wrong was we ended up with an eviction notice on the house he brought us out here to live at.”
“We picked up the pieces and refocused,” says Maher, whose own event production experience is augmented by a strong security background.
What now? “We’re looking at a super-nightclub,” Maher says. “That’s pretty much what we’re gearing towards, along with fights and marketing and sponsorship deals.”
After hosting a successful ultimate fight at the Reno Hilton, Traversa and Maher proposed a New Year’s Eve event. “We thought ‘Well, it’s a casino. We don’t want anything too racy so let’s call it Masquerade,'” says Traversa. “We brought it to the powers that be here, and they said that it’s not racy enough so we said, ‘Great, how about Erotica Naughty New Year?’ And they said, ‘Cool, we’ll go with that.'”
It’s a testament to the Hilton’s adaptability that the venue is hosting events that bring in a younger crowd. It wasn’t too long ago that some people dismissed the Reno Hilton as a site for an academic conference because it was too boring.
“They are allowing us a lot of free rein,” says Traversa. “[The Hilton’s] theater can do things that nobody has ever seen in a nightclub environment.”
Traversa lists some of Lift Entertainment’s future plans: “We’re looking to do Rock Stars and Porn Stars, which will be something with a Motley Crüe-type band, maybe have Tommy Lee host it.”
The company is also planning four major concerts, distributing a new energy drink called Dickens Cider, scheduling more ultimate fights and planning a reality TV show about the fighters.
But the guys behind Lift Entertainment say they won’t let success turn them into snobs. "A lot of promoters do a few big shows and suddenly they are the guy you can never talk to," says Traversa. "They act like they don’t know you and they won’t shake your hand; they stand behind a rope and all that bullshit. That’s not us. We’re very accessible, from the guy who cleans the floors to the artist. We don’t believe in having a big ego about it. You’re producing an event to make people happy and enjoy it."