De­mons got hold of ’Raz­zle’

Herald Sun - - NEWS - NUI TE KOHA AND RYAN TENNISON nui.tekoha@news.com.au

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.

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