The Dead Model and the Dirty Billionaire
This much we know: Late Sunday evening on Aug. 26, 2012, a party promoter and former male model named Pedro Gaspar left his apartment above the MC2 modeling agency to go out clubbing. It was a fairly typical night for the 29-year-old Brazilian. Along with his model girlfriend, Gaspar started out at hotspot 1Oak and ended up at the Meatpacking District nightclub SL. At every turn, they ran into fellow models and friends. Then something went terribly wrong. Six hours later, after ingesting cocaine and alcohol, Gaspar was in an ambulance heading to a hospital. Later that morning, he died.
His death went unnoticed by the media—just one more overdose in a shadowy world of party promoting and cutthroat modeling. It’s a world that feeds off good-looking kids like Gaspar and the girls he hung out with, some of whom worked for his downstairs neighbor, the modeling agency MC2. A world rife with drug abuse, alcohol addictions, and eating disorders—and, sometimes, sex crimes. Lately, this nightlife has been metastasizing into all models-and-bottles, an engineered free-for-the-filthy-rich domain where fat cats demand that their bubbly be poured from gilded magnums and that their girls be younger and younger.
MC2 has been back in the news lately thanks to court filings against billionaire and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. An alleged victim of Epstein’s has claimed that he pimped out underage girls to wealthy and powerful friends like Prince Andrew. She also claimed that Epstein got many of his girls from MC2 co-founder Jean-Luc Brunel, who “would bring young girls (ranging to ages as young as 12) to the United States for sexual purposes and farm them out to his friends, especially Epstein.” (Brunel has denied these claims. Epstein’s lawyers did not return requests for comment. Prince Andrew has previously denied the underage-sex allegations.)
MC2 was co-founded in 2005 by Brunel, a playboy who tried a run in fashion in the 1970s but found his niche acquiring barely legal girls to join his modeling roster. Brunel claims to have jumpstarted the careers of marquee names like Christy Turlington, Rebecca Romijn, and Jerry Hall.
Two sources familiar with Epstein’s finances tell The Daily Beast they believe Epstein dropped as much as $2 million into MC2 to get it started. (Brunel has denied that Epstein funded the agency.) “Jeff put his money up for this guy to get Jeffrey these young girls. That’s a front for Jeffrey’s securing more and more young girls,” one longtime Epstein confidant said.
According to a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Epstein used the agency to lure underage prey. In those court documents, one alleged victim accused the billionaire of “deliberately engag[ing] in a pattern of racketeering that involved luring minor children through MC2, mostly girls under the age of 17, to engage in sexual play for money.”
Additional court documents filed in Florida by lawyers for some of Epstein’s accusers suggest Brunel procured young models by offering them visas. Once in the country, some of the models were allegedly funneled into Epstein’s various mansions and then victimized.
The offices for MC2 in New York are smack in the middle of prime real estate at the northern edge of Manhattan’s tony Greenwich Village neighborhood. The agency also claims to have international offices in Miami and as far away as Tel Aviv.
For years, Pedro Gaspar also lived at 6 W. 14th St., in apartment 3W, a three-bedroom loft above MC2. Gaspar was more than just the modeling agency’s neighbor. He hung out with a coterie of models from various top-tier agencies, including half a dozen girls from MC2. According to a close friend, he was also something of a benefactor for the models living at 6 West 14th. This friend told The Daily Beast that Gaspar paid $8,000 a month and covered all expenses for his roommates, all young female models.
Multiple close friends of Gaspar’s and sources in the modeling industry spoke to The Daily Beast, on the condition of remaining anonymous, to help piece together exactly how Gaspar died and to give insight into the models-and-bottles scene he inhabited.
“That was a model apartment that Pedro rented out,” a source close to Gaspar said. According to the source, it was Pedro’s job to “corral” the models and organize sanctioned nights out. “He was a great kid, a real sweetheart.”
The three-bedroom was one of two apartments in the building that Gaspar rented, according to a close friend who helped him pay the first deposit: In each one, the model roommates ate, boozed, and lived like princesses. In return, they were required to show up as talent at various Gotham nightclubs.
The model apartments were good business for Gaspar, as was the pay-to-party circuit. “He had guys working under him and they would leave one place and get another place,” said Gaspar’s close friend. “But he was trying to get two more of these apartments because the economics made sense. He was never losing money by having these model apartments.”
Gaspar arrived in New York in 2006; one of his first jobs was hustling as a shirtless model spritzing cologne in front of Abercrombie & Fitch’s flagship Fifth Avenue store. The store served as a de facto modeling bullpen for anybody who needed quick cash and wasn’t booked. Soon, Gaspar was doing exclusive shoots. As he worked on his portfolio, he also started promoting. “He had an advantage because he was a model and knew lots of models, and club promoters loved him because he could walk in with 30 beautiful models,” said a close friend.
A fellow promoter confirmed that Gaspar was at the top of his game right before he died. “Let’s say it like this: He started off slow and then he was taking off, with probably some of the most beautiful models in the industry and grabbing the biggest clients.”
While some sources told The Daily Beast that MC2 models were routinely living or staying at Gaspar’s pad, another friend said that the apartment didn’t necessarily “have anything to do with the agency.”
“In the nightlife business, you get a big apartment and house models from different agencies and they live for free and subsidize the expenses by going to different events.”
Promoters like Gaspar get paid for the quantity of clientele, meaning the models they lure into clubs. But the promoters are also considered leeches by the modeling agencies, who don’t like them fraternizing with their stable of beauties. “Owners of the agencies aren’t friendly with promoters because they’re not making money off the promoter. In fact they think they’re the enemy,” said Gaspar’s close friend, who worked for several years in the nightclub industry. The friend noted that partying doesn’t exactly prepare models to perform well at castings the next day.
“[Pedro] would always be ducking and dodging,” said one friend when asked about Gaspar’s interactions with the downstairs MC2 agency. “Unless he knew them prior, he had to be very cautious not to touch any of the girls there. He would have to walk on eggshells if he even was saying hello with any girls walking out of there… He really needed that place because that’s where Pedro actually lived. ”
Probed about the claim that Gaspar was a sort of entertainment den father to some of the girls, a source who works for the MC2 modeling agency said, “None of our models had anything to do with him and if I’m an agent the last thing I want my model doing is hanging out with party promoters.”
Still, Gaspar and the models apparently did hang out—some of them ran into him on that fateful Sunday night in 2012. According to close friends, after a long evening of partying, Gaspar managed to slip away from his girlfriend to take drugs at one of the club bathrooms. “He snorted a few lines,” one friend said. Afterward, Gaspar “felt queasy.” Close friends of Gaspar told The Daily Beast that he soon began experiencing chest pain. “He kept saying, ‘My heart, my heart,’” said one friend.
Gaspar called it an early night around 2 a.m. and returned home. His girlfriend, a model from South Africa, helped him up the stairs of his loft apartment and put him to bed. She returned hours later, only to find Gaspar “cold to the touch,” one of Gaspar’s close friends who recounted what happened.
At around 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 27, Gaspar’s girlfriend called 911. Medics arrived five minutes later and discovered Gaspar’s vitals were flat. The young man was rushed out of his apartment, to the shock at least one MC2 staffer. “I saw him being pulled down the stairway,” said the employee, who was in the building at the time.
While en route to nearby Bellevue Hospital, medics were able to restore Gaspar’s pulse and “returned spontaneous circulation,” an FDNY spokeswoman said.
But the overdose was too much for his system, and Gaspar passed away a day later. His death was ruled an accident, due to “acute intoxication due to the combined effects of ethanol and cocaine,” according to the medical examiner’s report.
Bellevue Hospital officials refused to confirm whether or not Pedro Gaspar had been admitted at all. The Brazilian embassy did not respond to The Daily Beast inquiries regarding Gaspar’s death.
A former model and close friend of Gaspar’s, who grew up with him in the ritzy Rio neighborhood of Leblon, told The Daily Beast that Gaspar was taking prescription medication. The meds, according close friends, were intended to treat his longstanding battle with schizophrenia and depression. Despite his gorgeous looks, outside of the club, Gaspar “was so insecure that he went out of his way to be friendly,” one friend said, “And if he thought he hurt you, he’d spend a week trying to apologize.”
Tragically, friends say, Gaspar had been trying to kick his addiction to alcohol and substances, even if it meant parting ways with the partying life. “Pedro wanted to get out of this life so bad,” a close friend said, adding that Gaspar had checked himself into rehab multiple times. “His substance issues were part of his feeling pressure to be social with everyone in the night scene. It weighed so heavy on him.”
When asked whether the modeling agency’s co-founders knew about Gaspar’s overdose in the apartment right above them, a source with MC2 said absolutely not. “With all the bullshit I hear about Jean-Luc, this has nothing to f**king do with him whatsoever. The guy just died where our offices are.”
The owner of the building, Anthony Marano, also denied having anything whatsoever to do with Gaspar. In a phone interview Wednesday, Marano told The Daily Beast, “I wasn’t there that day, I don’t know exactly what happened. I heard about it and it was unfortunate, of course. But I really don’t know any of the particulars.” Moreover, Marano said he wasn’t sure which apartment Gaspar rented. “I don’t know if he lived under [MC2] or with them or on top of them.”
Yet close friends of Gaspar’s said that Marano not only knew the Brazilian, but that he routinely hung out at Gaspar’s apartment. As it turns out, the apartment also sits a floor above the offices of Marano’s own firm, Ozymandias Realty. “[Marano] was regularly in the apartment and [he] would hang out and party with Pedro. He was the one that rented the place specifically to him,” said one friend of Gaspar’s.
When a Daily Beast reporter visited Ozymandias Realty, which sits directly across the hall from the scarlet front door of the MC2 modeling agency, Marano happened to be in the office that day. He quickly seemed to forget the phone conversation with The Daily Beast, which had taken place only hours earlier. “What did we talk about,” he asked. “I don’t know who you spoke to. I was in a meeting all day.”
Marano did say he remember that Gaspar’s roommates were up at all hours of the night making a racket. “I didn’t like what they were doing in there. Not Pedro—but these people were having late-night parties and doing some bad things and I didn’t want that and that’s just not what Pedro was doing. Even though Pedro died of the same cause.”
Marano says that after Gaspar’s overdose, he gave the Brazilian’s model roommates “a couple weeks” before asking them to vacate the apartment. “There were people living with Pedro who were living with Pedro and weren’t on the lease. I gave them a couple months in there.”
But a close friend says the girls were forced to move out “just three days after [Gaspar’s] passing.”
Some of the roommates still managed to join Gaspar’s mother for the funeral, helping her spread his ashes over the Hudson River. It was her first and only trip to the United States. Gaspar had reportedly managed to book her a plane ticket to visit New York that Christmas—but he would never make it to the holiday.
The fallout over Gaspar’s death remains crushing to those who loved and cared for him. His Facebook page has become a virtual memorial to an ambitious young man who was beautiful in every way. His friends continue to feel bothered about how Gaspar’s life and death were so suddenly and quietly erased.
“It definitely bothered us that nobody wrote about it,” one friend said. “It was terrible because he was such a well-known figure in the city’s nightlife.”
Today, the same pad where Gaspar lived, and where he exited for the last time on a stretcher, remains a model apartment, according to multiple friends of Gaspar’s. They say it’s just been rebooted with new girls and leased by another model and party promoter, who—like Gaspar before him—works with several of the city’s hottest nightclubs.
“That’s still a model apartment,” one of Gaspar’s friends said. “Nothing’s changed.”