Demons got hold of ’Razzle’
HE was, like the fast-paced nightlife scene that came to define him, a man of extremes. Darren “Razzle” Thornburgh was Melbourne’s king of clubs. But friends and associates say Thornburgh, divorced with two daughters, was trying to carve out another life away from the velvet ropes and VIP guest lists, in Barmah, a northern Victoria border town, population 181. Kelly Lewis, a close friend, said: “He used to come up here to get away from the stress of work in Melbourne. “He would come up with his two girls and enjoy some time out on the water. “He always had big plans for the town. He wanted to put Barmah on the map.” Thornburgh owned the Barmah Hotel and a comfortable home in nearby Evans St. Barmah residents said he owned other buildings in the small town, too, but chose not to renew leases. Said one local: “He had a financial interest in the town, not an emotional one.” Of course, Thornburgh’s real ties — good and bad — w were in Melbourne. His Prahran nightclub Boutique was the go-to hotspot for the high-end celebrity set including Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, Michael Schumacher, Russell Crowe, Ashton Kutcher, J Jason Derulo, Tommy Lee, and many, many more. “Razzle gave his club rock star status,” an associate and former co-worker said. “He w was respected in the industry, and he knew what he was doing. He was definitely king of the nightclubs ... until other things took over.”
Friends and acquaintances say Thornburgh’s spiral started with his marriage breakdown to wife Denise in 2008, then escalating drug use.
But before that, Boutique ruled the club scene.
“Boutique could never be replicated again. It was incredible, ” a former worker at the club said. “Razzle created the atmosphere, the clientele, the celebrity appeal of the venue. He was the king of clubs, but the drugs took control of him.”
According to friends, Thornburgh grew up in Dandenong, but was easily lured to the bright lights and thumping beats in the city.
His nickname Razzle came from the diamond he implanted in his front tooth. “Razzle dazzle,” an associate sighed.
He started in nightclubs as a busboy, and quickly moved through the ranks to management roles at the Warehouse club, in South Yarra, and Heat, at Crown Casino.
Thornburgh opened Boutique, in Greville St, in 2001.
“My days of listening to banging music have passed,” he said at the launch.
“Here I want plush surrounds with ambient music and the option of live music.’’
With Thornburgh’s contact book bursting with movie, television and music stars, Boutique soon cemented itself as the place to be.
“Razzle was great with the one percenters,” a former business partner said.
But friends and associates say his broken marriage, money problems and partying changed him dramatically.
In 2011, he was made bankrupt after failing to pay a bill.
Worse, some claim Thornburgh was occasionally threatened or beaten by standover men chasing outstanding debts. One associate claims Thornburgh handed over his Bentley to a pay a debt.
The threats caused him to move into a suite at Crown, where he lived for four years, because it had 24-7 security.
A former Boutique worker said Thornburgh would often micromanage the club via five video screens connected to CCTV back at Greville St.
“He was definitely a character,” an associate said. “A great guy to have on your side, and sometimes he wasn’t.”
Friends say Thornburgh moved out of Crown a year ago and divided his time between a property in South Yarra and Barmah, a three-hour drive from Melbourne.
Business associates say his plan to return to clubland this year was thwarted three weeks ago, when landlords evicted him from Boutique.
“He lost the club,” an associate said, “which means he lost everything.”
The same associate claims Thornburgh checked into Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat’s detox program last month.
Former Heat co-owner Glen Coburn recalled an incident where Thornburgh was so eager to get a picture with actor Kate Fischer, he hastily pushed her date, a bearded man, aside.
“Kate Fischer is the star here. Please stand aside,” Thornburgh told the stranger.
Poor Razzle later learned it was George Harrison.