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Phuket’s Michael Venezuela is mad about fame, and bringing it here

Legacy Phuket Gazette



Phuket’s Michael Venezuela is mad about fame, and bringing it here | The Thaiger

PHUKET: He has danced with Jennifer Lopez, toured with Destiny’s Child, rubbed shoulders with OJ Simpson – in a Miami strip club – and talked his way into the Playboy Mansion. But why is Famous Nightclub’s Michael Venezuela so obsessed with fame and bringing celebrities to Patong? And why on earth does he wear that white suit?

The former MTV presenter, break dancer and model rolled up his sleeves and turned off his three phones to duke it out with Phuket Gazette Features Editor Fraser Morton.

Fraser Morton: You’re the Social Media and Special Events Marketing Director at Famous Nightclub in Patong. Why such a long title? I think you should change it to “The Fixer” or “Social Mike”; I think it’s less of a mouthful.

Michael Venezuela: It describes what I do.

FM: So what does it mean?

MV: It means I entertain.

FM: And what does that entail?

MV: My job at Famous requires me to run all the social media – Facebook, Twitter – for the club, book celebrities and DJs to perform, and make these people accessible to our guests at Famous.

FM: You recently hosted three Playboy bunnies at the club for a photo-shoot party. Why do you think people in Phuket think that’s entertainment?

MV: It was entertainment and the guests loved it. It was an experiment and it worked. The girls frolicked around the pool all day, while hundreds of people stood around watching.

FM: Sounds a bit perverse.

MV: We live in perverse times.

FM: And what about you, Mike? You were also a model. So you’re comfortable taking your clothes off for money?

MV: At a younger age, sure. I charge more now though.

FM: How did you get into modeling?

MV: It was 1996. I was 19. I had the chance to take a football (American) scholarship at Florida State University, or take a US$50,000 modeling contract in New York for Bloomingdales. I went with the money.

FM: So it was purely for monetary reasons?

MV: No, I wanted to be on TV and modeling seemed like a good route to go. It was a tough choice.

FM: Why do you care about fame so much?

MV: Always been that way. It’s a lifestyle that appeals to the youth of America.

FM: So I hear you’ve worked with some pretty well-known US celebrities. Care to share?

MV: Sure. I was a backing dancer in the late 90s [98, 99] for Jennifer Lopez. I was in the “If you have my love” and “Waiting for tonight” music videos. After that I went on a three-month tour with Destiny’s Child across the US.

FM: So what’s J-Lo like?

MV: Uh, she’s basically a Puerto Rican (Michael’s nationality) chick with a lot of “ass-itude”.

FM: What does that mean?

MV: “Ass-itude”, it means she has a lot of attitude and carries a big ass to back it up (Laughs) – sorry, Jennifer.

FM: It’s okay, I don’t think she reads the Phuket Gazette. You’ve been a TV entertainment reporter for MTV, E! and more. Who is the most interesting person you’ve interviewed?

MV: OJ Simpson in 2000 is one for sure. The funny thing was, I caught him at a strip club in South Beach, Miami. I was making a documentary about a porn star. I couldn’t believe he was there. We went up to him with the cameras rolling and started asking him questions…. He’s such a nice guy, but man, does he have a big head, literally. Such a big head.

FM: Anyone else?

MV: Michael Jackson in Beverly Hills. I collapsed. I don’t usually get star struck, but he’s always been a hero of mine. This was when I was a DJ for MTV. We were working with Black Eyed Peas and Michael Jackson came into the room when we were doing an interview. I was 21 at the time. When he walked into the room, my knees gave out. I was picked up by the security guards and Michael asked me if I was okay. It’s the biggest interview I never got (laughs).

FM: So you’ve been inside the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills….

MV: (Laughs) – I’ve been there twice. The first time we snuck in. It was a Halloween party. I was 21 years old. I was with one of my friends who looks exactly like Brett Favre (one of the National Football League’s most famous quarterbacks) and two other friends. My friend Todd (the Favre look-alike) dressed up like a straw man, and the rest of us were dressed as Umpa Lumpas (think Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). My buddy said he was Bret Favre, and the security guards let us in. We had the time of our lives.

FM: I don’t believe you. Did this happen?

MV: (Laughs) – It’s true, but I can’t say any more. I have to draw a line in the sand. I don’t want to be that guy that gets blacklisted for talking too much. Let’s just say the Umpa Lumpas had fun that night.

FM: What about your family? Are they concerned with fame?

MV: No, not at all. They’re conservative republicans. Both very organized and business-minded. (Mike’s fiddling with his Blackberry when he answers this question).

FM: Hmmm, I notice you have three phones. Looks like the organizational skills passed over to you. Or is it the opposite? Why three?

MV: I have an iPhone, a Blackberry and a regular standard phone – I take in about 150 calls a day.

FM: Why so many? All work?

MV: Yup, to do with entertainment. Whether it’s to do with Famous (Nightclub) or clubs in Singapore – just constantly networking.

FM: The former Vice President of NBC Network, Peter Andrews, once said you were “one of the future’s leading eyes for nightlife entertainment”. Sounds like you gave up a promising future in the US. So why the move here?

MV: Well, I’ve been in the business for 14 years, and to be honest, Asia seems like the place to be. I was working in Las Vegas last year at Wet Republic (nightclub at the MGM Grand). I’ve managed to gain a large database of contacts in the US entertainment industry and I thought I could use them here.

FM: Since opening in December, Famous Nightclub has hosted DJs Roger Sanchez, Bob Sinclar and more. Is this all your doing?

MV: No, those two were already in motion before I came on board. Nothing gets done without Chris (Cole, Owner) and Tal (Derhy, General Manager at Famous). Chris is not scared to spend the money to get big names to come here. We’re in the entertainment business and Famous’ goal is to provide a level of entertainment service for Phuket that everyone is happy with.

FM: So what’s coming up next at Famous?

MV: There’s plenty to look forward to. Dirty Vegas will be here on April 7. Also, on April 13 we have Seb Fontaine and Phil Drummond playing. On April 23 we have Anthony Nero from the US coming.

FM: I heard you were trying to get singer “Apple” from the Black Eyed Peas to come play a

— Fraser Morton

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Air Asia apologises for its “Get off in Thailand” promotion

The Thaiger



Air Asia apologises for its “Get off in Thailand” promotion | The Thaiger

AirAsia has now apologised following an advertising campaign using the phrase “Get off in Thailand” was posted around the city of Brisbane to promote the airline’s direct route to Bangkok.

Collective Shout, a campaign movement against the objectification of women says the marketing gaff promoted sex tourism in Thailand.

Melinda Liszewski, a campaigner at Collective Shout accused the airline of “promoting sex tourism.”

Air Asia has responded… “AirAsia takes community feedback extremely seriously and the airline sincerely apologises for any inconvenience caused from recent concerns raised.”

“AirAsia can confirm the advertising campaign has ended and we instructed our media partners to have the advertising removed as soon as possible today from all locations.”

Brisbane City councillor Kara Cook branded the campaign an “absolute disgrace” and said “it should never have appeared on our city’s streets.”

The Australian regulator Ad Standards said while it had not received any complaints about the advertising on the bus, it had received one complaint about the same advertisement on a billboard.

The same ad is still on a billboard at Brisbane Airport, however the airport tweeted on Monday afternoon that it was being removed as a priority.

AirAsia began a new direct flight route between Brisbane and Bangkok in February this year.

An AirAsia spokesman said the campaign had since ended and the last advertisements were being removed around the city.

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Thai Life

STUDY: Daily marijuana use increases risk of psychotic disorder

The Thaiger



STUDY: Daily marijuana use increases risk of psychotic disorder | The Thaiger

The legalisation of medical-use marijuana continues to sweep across the globe, recently in Thailand where the roll-out and enactment of practical uses of the new legislation are underway.

But this spread of a new legal credibility of the drug continues whilst possible health risks (or benefits) are not fully understood. Properly medically supervised or scientifically conducted studies continue to come out weekly with varied results about the benefits or dangers of long-term cannabis use.

According to new research published in ‘Lancet Psychiatry‘, a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal, people who use cannabis daily, as well as those who use high-potency weed, may be three times more likely to develop psychotic disorder than never-users.

The new evidence is consistent with previous experiments that suggest heavy use and high THC concentration cannabis – a 10% concentration of THC (the psychoactive substance within cannabis) or higher – can be harmful to mental health.

Dr. Marta Di Forti, lead author and a clinician scientist at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London said the ‘Psychotic disorder’ was precisely what was studied.

“We are talking about people who meet diagnostic criteria and come to the attention of mental health services to receive treatment for psychosis. So they have to have symptoms of psychosis across the spectrum – hallucination, delusions – that have lasted at least for a week.”

Currently, medical cannabis is legal in most European countries, though recreational use is only legal in Netherlands, Czech Republic and Spain (in certain situations). Meanwhile many other countries continue to discuss legalisation.

Di Forti and her co-authors pf the paper looked at data from five countries in Europe… UK, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy and France. Brazil was also included in the sample where cannabis is illegal.

They found 901 patients with a first-time episode of psychosis over a five-year period and compared them to 1,237 matched non-patients.

Daily use of cannabis was more common among patients with psychosis compared to the controls, they found. About 30% of patients reported using cannabis daily compared to just 7% of non-patient controls. And use of high potency cannabis was also more common among patients than controls – 37% compared to 19%.

The study results do not provide enough information for her to say “use only this amount, only this often” to remain safe.

At this stage, the paper estimates one in five new cases of psychosis may be linked to daily cannabis use, and one in 10 cases linked to use of high potency cannabis.

You can read the full report in Lancet Psychiatry.

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Air Pollution

Chiang Mai ‘s tourism holds up despite smoke and smog

The Thaiger



Chiang Mai ‘s tourism holds up despite smoke and smog | The Thaiger

Chiang Mai’s current poor air quality and smoke haze is raising concerns on the potential impact on tourism as Thailand’s Songkran water festival approaches.

Smog has been a yearly occurrence in Northern Thailand, but this year the situation appears to be the worst with Chiang Mai topping the air pollution ranking and the media tracking daily results.

But La-iad Bungsrithong, president of the Thai Hotels Association (Northern Chapter), says there appears to be a short-term decline in the market.

However, she attributes the current performance to March being part of the traditional low season rather than the pollution, adding that there has been no booking cancellation from leisure or MICE guests.

The Songkran festival typically sees leisure demand for Chiang Mai from South-east Asia, Europe, China and Thailand. According to La-iad, room occupancy in April last year was 65 per cent, reaching 85 per cent during the Songkran period (April 12-14).

She expects similar figures for Songkran this year but also greater competition arising from new hotels around Chiang Mai and Airbnb.

Similarly, a spokesperson of Standard tour, Somchai Sandnee, said the company’s business has not been affected by the air pollution. Chinese tourists are less perturbed by smog issues than political turmoil and recent events such as the boat accident in Phuket last year, Somchai pointed out.

Chotechuang Soorangura, associate managing director of NS Travel & Tours, also says he doesn’t see the smog having an impact on sales.

“The smog is considered an annual situation and our company always (issues) an advice to customers. In the case where customers really want to visit Chiang Mai, we will suggest they limit their stays in the city in favour of other provinces instead such as Sukhothai,” Chotechuang explained.


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