Louie Rosenthal saw Elvis perform live a dozen times. Once he caught the King's silk scarf. "The women ripped my clothes," Louie recalls. "I was beat up." He ended up in the hospital.
That drove home a point that Brooklyn-born Louie already knew: "Being onstage is the biggest high in the world — better than any drug." To give people a taste of that high, he says, "that was my goal."
So the New York talent agent moved to South Beach and, ten years ago, opened Studio, a karaoke club in the basement of the Shelborne Beach Resort on Collins Avenue.
"Louie, you're crazy; you'll never make it," he says his friends told him. "Louie, you won't last seven months."
He proved them wrong.
"Now I'm like an icon here," he says.
On weekend nights, his club is packed, and the VIP room is filled with, well, VIPs. Studio has even been featured on a popular YouTube video by T-Pain, with a cameo by Louie himself. It has drawn more than 350,000 views. (It's been great marketing, and, yeah, Louie was paid to be in it too.) He likes to show off the VIP room where some of the video was shot.
"See those," he says, pointing to a row of red leather couches. "The hotel gave them to me. 'Louie, we want you to stay,' they said. 'You're an icon.'"
People wait hours to feel the high of performing live, and once it's their turn, Louie makes it easy. Singers can choose from 130,000 songs in 20 languages, text-message their request to the DJ, and even accompany themselves onstage.
"You know how to play a tuba, you play a tuba," Louie says, pointing to a wall of instruments behind the stage. "You know how to play a violin, you play a violin. There's nothing like it in the world. This is one-of-a-kind in the world."
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Louie will also beam your performance across the globe and sell you a video to take home. "We're live on the Internet right now," he says, "all over the world."
The back wall of Studio is lined with autographed pictures of Louie and his VIP friends. There are Smoky Robinson, Willie Nelson, Jerry Seinfeld, and Joan Rivers. "There's Harvey Mandel," he says, pointing to a photo of the musician, "with hair."
It seems everybody knows Louie. "They say, 'He's the big guy with the jewelry,'" Louie says. "Everybody comes in and tells me: 'You're a celebrity in South Beach.'"
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