He’s been called “the Hugh Hefner of the Hamptons” by the New York Post. His partying escapades with gorgeous women are gossiped about in the tabloids, and he’s released a number of charting dance-pop singles over the years. He’s a cape-wearing advocate for LGBT and PTSD causes through his Peaceman Foundation. And he cheated death after life-threatening surgery complications. Is he an eccentric multimillionaire artist? Pampered playboy? Caped crusader? All of the above, or none? I spent a day with Sir Ivan and peered into life behind the velvet rope.
It’s late afternoon at the end of August, about three hours before Sir Ivan’s Royal Tea Dance Party (which has no tea but plenty of vodka) begins at his rechristened “Castle 54” mansion. The two of us are secluded from the pre-party frenzy in his black, gold and brown-schemed bedroom, which features an ornate four-poster bed, large vanity mirror, fireplace and a suit of armor bearing a “Sir Ivan” shield. The Sherwood Forest-like view through the window, which is even more spectacular on the roof, is shielded by a curtain.
Built 18 years ago, his massive, 20-plus room, medieval-inspired castle mansion in the Hamptons has nine bedrooms and is located on a five-acre estate. It has been featured on Fox News NYC and Grand Castles Of America, and when the party starts it will be lit up in rainbow colors. Ivan is relaxing in shorts and a slightly unbuttoned, dotted dress shirt. Two peace symbol necklaces dangle from his neck.
Sir Ivan says everyone coming tonight has been encouraged to dress like one of the Village People, the famed 1970s disco sextet whose members, “represented a cross-section of humanity – an Indian, a cowboy, a construction worker, a military man, a biker, and a police officer. That gives my guests quite a variety to choose from – male version or female version or anything in between version.”
His annual summer costume parties each celebrate a new single and help raise funds and awareness for his Peaceman Foundation, which he says has given over $200,000 to anti-bullying organizations and those struggling with PTSD.
Sir Ivan’s latest single, “Kiss All The Bullies Goodbye,” is an original song for which he wrote most of the lyrics. It was produced by Paul Oakenfold and features Taylor Dayne on backing vocals. In the video Ivan appears as his superhero alter ego Peaceman and intervenes in bullying incidents against gay, lesbian and transgender individuals by making the bullies see themselves in those they’re harassing.
To put it mildly, Ivan understands bullying and PTSD. His late father Siggi Wilzig, a multi-millionaire American banker and oil tycoon, survived the Holocaust. Siggi was first incarcerated in Auschwitz just before he turned 17. Fifty-nine of the family’s relatives were murdered by the Nazis, including an uncle whom Ivan says was shot 10 days before the Americans liberated Jewish prisoners from Mauthausen, the Austrian concentration camp where Ivan’s father and his uncle were being held at the end of the war. Ivan says that after the war his father worked with American counterintelligence to track down Nazi war criminals and helped to identify and arrest Joseph Goebbels’ brother. Goebbels was Hitler’s Reich Minister of Propaganda.
“In my mind, bullying left unchecked leads to genocide,” Ivan says. “And if you study any genocide in the world, you’ll find out that it started with bullying – one side picking on another side that they hate simply because they’re different.”
While there is a serious message behind Ivan’s charity, his Peaceman persona, which includes wearing peace signs made of Swarovski rhinestones and golden metal studs on colorful capes, is portrayed with levity, and the party tonight will be a joyous, raucous celebration of diversity acceptance.
As promised, the event brings out a scantily clad crowd of all sexual persuasions dressed in Village People attire. Many ladies sport hot pants, thigh-highs and g-strings. A few are body-painted. Revelers explore the Castle grounds, eat, drink vodka and champagne, dance, and look to hook up. Notable guests include Pras from The Fugees, actress Farrah Krenek, Omar Sharif Jr., Calvin Klein model Harmony Boucher and fellow playboy Marc Leder, who, rumor has it, brought his own sexy entourage. I am later told that over 600 people attended. That sounds about right.
I catch up with former Village People member Randy Jones (AKA Cowboy) in the kitchen upstairs.
“I’ve heard that Sir Ivan has the most extravagant, over-the-top, outrageous party in the Hamptons all season,” says Jones. “I have not been disappointed. It’s glorious.” Jones adds, “It’s wonderful to know that a career that started with that band in ‘77 still inspires people enough where they know they can have fun, which was our initial message anyway.”
While no overt sex transpires here, a sex vibe is happening. A few women gyrate together as they dance to original disco tracks mixed by DJ Sin Morera. A leather-clad girl kneels before her boyfriend, tugging eagerly at his belt. They soon vanish. There is flirtatiousness in the air as 28 hired Latin dancers move to a rhythm that everyone is feeling.
In one booze line, a young lady “cop” tells her female friends that if they get bored they can have fun with what’s in her briefcase. A few attendees I chat with exult in the acceptance, openness and free spiritedness of the event. There are definitely more than a few swingers here. You might not hook up here, but you might meet someone to hook up with elsewhere.
Ivan roars in on a motorcycle, because of course he does, and he is seated behind a biker. He then jumps onto the stage and performs “Kiss All The Bullies Goodbye.” It may or may not be lip-synched. (I hear Taylor Dayne, but I don’t see Taylor Dayne). He is full of youthful energy and an enthusiastic crowd cheers with approval.
Later in the night, the cops come twice because of noise complaints (the first time they came, I heard, the policeman was confused for a member of the Village People), and the whole bash eventually shuts down at 1:30. Before then, two hot young women chat with me about the ups and downs of Tinder, and two sexy sisters insist that I dance with them.
Some couples say “nice meeting you” as they leave together, and two brawny bikers walk out holding hands with three hot girls, proudly proclaiming, “We did well tonight.” On a bumpy golf cart ride back through a dark field to the pitch black street where many of us parked, a sexy “security guard” clutches my thigh – while her date’s arms are wrapped around her.
Every Sir Ivan party has a different theme. There was the hippie-inspired Castlestock, the extravagant Medieval Madness, the animal-themed La La Land and 2013’s raunchy Sailors and Sinners.
These aren’t Hamptons soirees full of wine-sipping, polo-wearing bluebloods. Ivan’s clubbing crowd is sexier, louder and more uninhibited. (By the way, his main pad is a high-rise condo in South Beach, and he also owns a self-proclaimed “Austin Powers-like psychedelic love shack” in SoHo.) His Hamptons home, where’s he’s currently sitting in the bedroom texting and making calls, is just a summer getaway.
“Peaceman” is nowhere to be found when he calls an assistant about a neighbor.
“He wants 10 people now instead of whatever he paid for,” barks Ivan. “He’s going to pay for them all, he said, and I trust him. Tell the goddamn, stupid, rich idiots next time to not be so cheap in the beginning, and then they wouldn’t bother me two hours before my party! He’s walking over. Give him the other bracelets and tell him to get the hell out of here and never do that again.”
Ivan admits that someone who only sees him yelling at people might think that he is insensitive, cruel or a bully himself.
“All it is is enthusiasm,” he says. “It’s enthusiasm, it’s excitement, and it’s a modus operandi to get things done.”
He can be intense.
“Intense is okay. Intense is passion. I’m intensely passionate, I’m intensely compassionate, and I’m intensely impatient if I’m dealing with foolish people who aren’t using common sense.”
On the roof he orders an assistant to kick out an unapproved photographer who snuck in with a friend, then cheerily tells Jen Maler, the photographer for this story, “Pose me however you like. I take direction well.”
Ivan worked for 20 years as Senior Vice President of Business Development at the Trust Company of New Jersey alongside his late father Siggi, who passed from cancer in 2003. He says his duties included heading up a sales team at the bank, supervising the sales efforts of 100 branch managers, overseeing all of the bank’s advertising campaigns and being in charge of branch expansion. He coordinated celebrity appearances at branch openings and scored hard-to-get tickets for customers for various rock concerts, ballet and opera performances and sporting events.
“He wanted to see his family around him since he didn’t have that much family left,” Ivan says of his father. “I deferred my own happiness, my own pleasures, my own interests, and my own pursuits to make him happy because he deserved to be happy after all he went through. Now’s my time.”
On top of a strong business ethic, Siggi Wilzig instilled a charitable spirit in his son, hence the Peaceman Foundation.
The newly released DVD documentary I Am Peaceman chronicles Ivan’s pursuit of becoming a successful pop star. Directed by documentarian Jim Brown, who has made films about Pete Seeger and Peter, Paul and Mary, the doc is part Peaceman promo and part family history, which includes interviews with his racing enthusiast brother Alan (whom Ivan says owns nearly 150 vehicles, including 100 motorcycles, four race cars and three display race cars) and his late mother Naomi. His sister, Sherry Wilzig Izak, is chief executive officer of Wilshire Enterprises Inc., running the last vestiges of their father’s empire, and she likes to keep her life private and out of the spotlight.
Ivan tells me about his health scare a few summers back. While “having a little cosmetic work done,” he says he experienced complications and emerged from surgery with multiple embolisms in his lungs, a heart rate of 240 and pneumonia. “Two-thirds of the people in the world that have multiple embolisms in their lungs die,“ he says.
How did he survive?
"Strong or lucky,” he muses. “It took six weeks (to recover). I was in intensive care for two weeks in Beverly Hills, and they wouldn’t let me take a flight back to Miami until they were convinced every blood clot was gone because the air pressure would’ve killed me. I was on (the blood thinner) Warfarin for a year.”
As Sir Ivan, a moniker he cheekily conjured because he needed a stage name, he has had modest success as a musician. He has released ten singles since 2001, including one apiece on Tommy Boy Records, Jellybean Recordings and Artemis Records, and the other seven on his Peaceman Music label, which is run by musician/songwriter/DJ Laura Ford.
“San Francisco” reached No. 7 as a Dance/Maxi single in 2003 and No. 48 on the Hot Singles sales charts in Billboard.
“Hare Krishna” from his 2010 album I Am Peaceman cracked the Top 10 of the Billboard Dance charts in 2011.
“La La Land” (2012) and “Kiss All The Bullies Goodbye” both cracked the Top 30 Dance charts, with “Bullies” peaking at No. 22 earlier this year. Ivan also says that “Live For Today” (2011) and “La La Land” both cracked Top 10 dance charts in the U.K. music industry mag Music Week.
Next year Sir Ivan will release a new album called Peaceman Shines, which will feature a new version of “La La Land” plus ten new remixes of previously released songs by 11 remixers including Ralphi Rosario, Mike Rizzo, DJs From Mars, Papercha$er and others.
For Ivan pop stardom is not the endgame but rather his own reality show where he spreads his anti-bullying message. (He appeared on season 2 of Syfy’s Who Wants To Be A Superhero? as Mr. Mitzvah.) He believes the only reason he does not have his own reality show “is because I want creative control, and these TV producers do everything cookie-cutter. They don’t want to take risks. They only want to go with sales.” Because I am not a reality show producer myself, I am not made privy to the concept because of copycat concerns.
Another project in the works is a biography about his father, for which he commissioned best-selling author Joshua M. Greene. Likely to be entitled Siggi’s War: From Nazi Nightmare to the American Dream, Ivan says, “It touts him as the only Holocaust survivor in history to come to America with nothing, uneducated, to make a fortune in oil and banking, which were two of the most traditionally anti-Semitic businesses in America in the '50s and '60s.”
Ivan’s current life is lived faster and looser than his father’s. He remains a carefree bachelor, and his longtime best friend, Mina Otsuka, is omnipresent in his social life and at his parties. The nude, dragon-winged statue in his pool was sculpted after her likeness. They had an open relationship once, and they remain close. “She helps me by being one of the most beautiful and sexiest girls at the party,” he says.
He clearly does not want to settle down.
“I do not believe in monogamy,” says Ivan. “I think it’s abnormal. I only have relationships that are completely open. No rules, no rules. You can do whatever you want, I can do whatever I want. I love you in spite of that, you love me in spite of that.”
He says he is close with all of his exes.
“When you start a relationship based on honesty and don’t have to cheat and fuck around behind their backs … There’s not a day where dozens of men and/or women are murdered because they found out [gasps loudly] their husband or wife had sex with somebody,” he says. “Who gives a shit? As long as they had an orgasm and had a good time, that’s the only thing that matters. But to get violent? It’s because somebody feels betrayed. But if you’re open from the inception and don’t keep secrets from each other and don’t make unrealistic promises you can’t keep and you’re not insecure – 'Oh my God, she’s slept with a guy with a bigger penis than I have and is going to run away and leave me!’ – then you can have the most open relationship in the world.”
One family member who was a regular presence at his parties was his late mother Naomi. Ivan says that he inspired his mother into collecting erotic art unintentionally 20 years ago.
“She used to collect antiques like a typical Jewish grandmother in suburbia,” he says.
He asked her offhandedly to obtain a piece of erotic art for his first condo while she was at an antiques convention in Manhattan. She had no idea what he was talking about, and he “didn’t think I was going to have to have a discussion with my mother about sex.” Months later she got the knack of collecting erotic art “and then became obsessed with it.” He adds, “I thought I had the coolest mom in the world. It made us best friends, which is terrific.”
Naomi ultimately collected over 4,000 pieces of erotic art from all over the world. She opened the World Erotic Art Museum in Miami a decade ago. In the wake of her passing this past spring at the age of 80, her three children continue to run the museum.
As far as being compared to Hef, Ivan grew up idolizing the Playboy icon and admired his defense of First Amendment Rights, support of women’s rights and his multi-faceted magazine. “I wanted to grow up to live in a mansion with a moat, a nightclub, a theater, and hundreds of naked girls running around morning, noon and night,” says Ivan.
“My annual party isn’t like Hefner’s manor,” he says. “When I have my annual party, I have my security and have press here, so it is my most conservative evening of the year.”
So other parties are wilder?
“Smaller ones, yeah.”
Various party acquaintances have intimated to me over the years that people really get into the swing of things at smaller Castle 54 gatherings. As for his big bash, he’s all for people having fun as long as it’s consensual.
Sir Ivan says his infamous dungeon is off-limits to partygoers and even friends, as he fears a potential lawsuit from an inebriated or opportunistic guest. Ivan says, “I’m Peaceman! What am I going to do? Allow people to be whipped in my house? Are you out of your mind? It’s contradictory! Peaceman is Peaceman all the time. It’s not like I’m Peaceman during the week and Sadist Man on the weekends.”
Ivan dislikes salacious headlines about his parties and shrugs off criticism from people who say he gets to make music simply because of his deep pockets. I ask him what type of headline he would like to see for himself in the future, and he replies, “Sir Ivan leads the entire entertainment world in battling bullying with his heart, soul and checkbook.”
Sir Ivan, the Peaceman with a dungeon, the playboy who helps the disadvantaged with champagne and women, sounds like he means it.
SIR IVAN ON 60 MINUTES