I thought Swagg Man, the guy with the Louis Vuitton head tattoos, was flamboyant – until I met Sir Ivan. Actually, it was his tye-dye limo I encountered first, parked on the Lower East Side. I mean, have a look at the trunk.
When I googled the name on the vanity plates, I discovered that SIR IVAN was one Ivan L. Wilzig, a 59-year-old banker turned philanthropist and self-styled pop star who dresses up in sparkly capes and calls himself Peaceman. (He’s also been called the “Hugh Hefner of the Hamptons.”) Then and there, I resolved to get invited to Sir Ivan’s Castle, a sprawling estate in Water Mill that, naturally, is known as the “Playboy Mansion of the Hamptons.”
For better or worse, I never got invited to his Village People-themed “Royal Tea Dance” in August, but Wednesday night an opportunity arose: a friend asked if I wanted to accompany her to a party at Sir Ivan’s Soho “Peace Pad.” It turns out Ivan keeps a West Houston Street pied-a-terre that’s decorated wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling with blacklit day-glo paintings. It’s sort of like Kenny Scharf’s Cosmic Cavern – if Kenny’s cavern had a balcony with a hot tub.
Upon arriving at the Peace Pad, I walked down a long, narrow hallway calling for REVOLUTION.
What kind of revolution? Well, in a bedroom off the hallway, all four walls displayed an orgy scene that must’ve been painted by Jackie Treehorn.
Turns out, this sort of thing runs in the family – until her death at age 80 earlier this year, Sir Ivan’s mother, Naomi Wilzig, was the proprietress of the World Erotic Art Museum in South Beach. Her path to becoming “the Queen of Erotic Art” began more than two decades ago, when Ivan asked her to pick up some randy art for his new pad. Though she knew nothing about historic schlongs at the time, the errand sparked her interest and the museum now boasts over 4,000 pieces, including the killer cock from A Clockwork Orange and, um, this little number.
Ivan’s place is definitely a lot tamer than the museum – you won’t find three entire cases of swan-rape figurines here. But good Lord, look at this bathtub.
And here’s what the shower looks like.
In the kitchen, deli sandwiches were piled high, champagne bottles were being popped, and bartenders were pouring copious amounts of vodka into cups with holographic ladybugs on them.
How can Sir Ivan afford such spreads? According to the self-produced documentary Sir Ivan: I Am Peaceman, his dad, Siggi Wilzig, was an Auschwitz survivor who got his start in America working in sweatshops, played the stock market, became an oil company executive, and ended up running a bank that eventually sold for hundreds of millions. After years of continuing his father’s legacy in finance, Ivan decided to trade in his suit for a cape and broke into the music biz with a techno version of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” the first of several songs to hit the Billboard charts.
Without revealing his net worth, Ivan says in the doc that “anything I wanted to do I could afford to do” at the time he left the family business. So, in the mid-’90s, he and his brother, Alan, created a self-styled “medieval fortress” in the Hamptons that soon became (in)famous for its ragers. The mansion has a faux drawbridge, a dungeon, a fully loaded nightclub (knightclub?), and, in the center of the pool, a sculpture modeled after Mina Otsuka, the kinky “soulmate” with whom Sir Ivan, at the time, maintained an open relationship. She’s naked and outfitted with dragon wings.
Here’s a tour of the Castle courtesy of E’s reality show, New Money:
Sir Ivan’s parties have themes like “Sailors and Sinners” and “exotic animals” (a catfight reportedly broke out at the latter when a woman serviced two men in front of her ex). But it’s unclear just how wild they get. Sure, they’re stocked with naughty decorations and scantily clad, exotically costumed women, but accounts from Thrillist and Vice don’t exactly go into Eyes Wide Shut territory.
Still, Page Six says that “orgies are widely rumored” and Ivan’s brother, in the doc, describes seeing “10 naked people in a swimming pool, paired off and going at it” practically every weekend of the summer for 10 years straight. (Alan was eventually asked to leave the Castle lest his newborn child put a damper on the vibe. He moved upstate, where he rankled neighbors by building a $7.5 million grand-prix style racetrack for his collection of 100+ motorcycles and race cars.)
Wednesday’s affair definitely didn’t get that wild during the short time I was there, though I did spot Sonja Morgan of The Real Housewives of New York City and Ariana Grande’s brother Frankie Grande of Big Brother. Ivan, who has made several reality show appearances himself, floated around in Elvis-like attire: leather pants, boots, and a white cape with a sequined peace symbol.
That pseudo-hippie aesthetic runs throughout the apartment, from the flowers, mushrooms and butterflies painted on the walls, to a peace-symbol installation fashioned out of dozens of CDs with Ivan’s face on them.
In the documentary, Ivan explains that the Peaceman thing came to him while he was waving glowsticks around at bottle-service boites like Nikki Beach: “the club scene and the rave scene was the equivalent of today’s hippies,” he realized. When he abandoned finance to become an Auto-Tune act, he asked Mina to design a logo for him and she came up with the caped peacenik crusader. Ivan liked the imagery so much that he started dressing the part.
With his weakness for frosted tips and his penchant for saying things like, “Tonight has never been attempted before in party history – I’m blacklighting a 16,000-square-foot castle,” it’s tempting to see Sir Ivan as a Jersey Shore cast member run amok. But the guy has heart – and not just the ones painted all over his bachelor pad’s ceiling. His foundation raises money for organizations that fight hate crime and PTSD, and at Wednesday’s party he cut a check for $10,000 to the Trevor Project, a non-profit combatting transgender suicide. Sure, the video for his latest, “Kiss All the Bullies Goodbye,” is somewhat Tim & Eric — not to mention his kooky Hare Krishna-themed and tribal African vids. But his message of universal love is pretty groovy.
Then again, maybe I’m just angling for an invite to his next Castle party.