Hanging Tough: A Family Calamity Hits Puerto Rican Nightlife Impresario By Brian Niemietz

Life’s a party for John Gungie” Rivera. Or so it might seem. A fixture on the New York City club and music scene for more than a quarter century, Gungie – a nickname his dad gave him based on the first word the boy spoke – has been there, done that, then gone back and done it all again.

Nine months ago, however, the fast-moving party promoter was stopped dead in his tracks when his younger son, Cristian, 4, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. “At that time,” Gungie says, “doctors at Sloan-Kettering gave him 6-18 months to live.”

“In the beginning we did the traditional chemotherapy and radiation. Then they ruled out the chemotherapy. It had no good effects on this type of tumor,” Gungie recalls. “I looked to alternative drugs. I had him on Rhudisix Z and calcium phosphate. A doctor in India recommended it to me.”

When he personally isn’t looking for cures, Gungie says he constantly has someone on staff or at home exploring medical options. “They don’t really have any cases where anyone’s survived,” he soberly admits.

But he remains resilient. “There’s always alternative cures to everything out there – maybe in China, Poland, who knows? I’m hoping to keep him alive long enough to find the miracle treatment or miracle drug that will cure him.”

As a 15-year-old DJ playing at Sweet 16s and private parties during the Boogie Down Bronx era, Gungie was in the right place at the right time as hip-hop grew from a local trend to a certified international phenomenon. By 17, he was spinning at massive outdoor concerts for radio station Hot 97, where he formed working relationships with super-DJs-turned-producers Little Louie Vega and David Morales. Nowadays, Gungie finds himself hanging out at high-traffic nightspots like Guest House and Duvet five nights a week, where he promotes weekly bashes. Gungie has also promoted events for Marc Anthony, Run-D.M.C., Fat Joe and Tito Puente. Just a few weeks ago, his company Victory2 Multimedia hyped a Daddy Yankee show that packed Madison Square Garden to the rafters.

While Gungie’s made a career out of being the life of the party, showing people a good time is literally a life-and-death situation now. “It definitely prohibits me from being happy,” he concedes. How can I be at an event having a good time with that on my mind? We’re all human. We get caught up in the moment and forget this is reality.Then we catch ourselves again. I never give up hope.”

Well-wishers and party people wanting to help a good cause (and have some fun at the same time) can visit Gungie-promoted nights this fall at Chelsea clubs including Sol, Myst, Guest House, Duvet, and Spy Nightclub.

There’s no promise this story will have a happy ending, but if it doesn’t, it won’t be from a lack of trying. One thing’s for sure – when Cristian celebrates his next birthday, and hopefully many after that, the parties will be second to none.


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