Savion Zabar, who died on Wednesday in what police say was a homicide at his apartment on 81st Street, was an icon of gay New York nightlife. He was born in Israel, but became a U.S. citizen.

“Zabar, 54, managed two Chelsea clubs, the Escuelita and XL,” The Forward reported. Before it was shut down last year, the Escuelita was known for its ‘voguing’ featuring dancers who would perform moves inspired by models and drag queens. Friends called Zabar ‘Big Ben.'”

His Facebook page showcased his love of animals, and celebrities who visited his clubs, including Rihanna. A friend, Antonio Baez, started a GoFundMe page to help him memorialize Zabar.

Police have not arrested anyone or announced suspects in the homicide. A police source said a masseuse had visited Zabar before his death. When others at the apartment checked on Zabar some time after the masseuse left, they found him unconscious. Police believe he was strangled.

Image of Zabar via GoFundMe page.


NEWS | 5 comments | permalink
    1. Mark says:

      Sad story.
      But again with the GoFundMe nonsense.
      What a great way to profit from someone’s tragedy.
      Hey – send me money to “memorialize” him. There will be no accountability for how these funds are used, and I can get free advertising on WestSideRag!!

    2. JJ says:

      That is a cynical remark. I am guessing that anybody who donates trusts Mr. Baez and knows his friendship with the subject of this tragic story.

      • Mark says:

        Sometimes cynicism is appropriate.
        So if someone donates money to that GoFundMe page, the recipient will make “pennants”and stuff.
        How about if you really care for someone you fund a pennant?
        Seriously, if you buy into the GoFundMe BS you should absolutely send a couple hundred dollars.
        You might want to send money to a televangelist too. I hear they do great work…

    3. B.B. says:

      There is a feeling that the “new” Escuelita was harassed and hounded out of existence because their patrons (mostly Latino-Hispanic and African Americans) didn’t “fit* with the new upscale image of the area. The fact many were drag queens or transgender probably didn’t help that place either.

      In any event the SLA pulled Escuelita’s liquor license over two minor (by bar/club standards) infractions. Other places have had worse, much worse and remained open.


      Did not know Savion Zabar, but literally almost ran into the guy week after Thanksgiving. Had just gotten off the M79 at CPW and West 81st when the crowd getting off bus met the one coming up from the subway.

      Didn’t make the connection until putting the “man bun” hairstyle together with the face. How very sad.

    4. B.B. says:

      *GoFundMe Requests*

      Ok, can see and understand something being done to raise money for funeral expenses. In the old days you’d pass a hat around/take up a collection. But this is for a very undefined purpose. Just what sort of “memorial” is the thing supposed to be for, and where is the money going?