Fyre Festival legend Andy King reveals fears over Billy McFarland’s new party event & says he’s never had an apology
FYRE Festival fan-favorite Andy King has revealed his concerns over Billy McFarland’s latest events venture, fearing history could be about to repeat itself with another epic – and costly – flop.
McFarland, the mastermind behind 2017’s disastrous “Fyre Fest”, hard-launched his comeback bid late last year, unveiling a new venture called PYRT (“pirate”) which involves yet another exclusive island party experience.
Coming fresh off his release from a four-year prison sentence, the 31-year-old fraudster is billing the vague new event as a “virtual immersive decentralized reality” experience – and definitely not a festival.
While the details remain hazy, PYRT will apparently involve a bevvy of influencers and creators gathering together for a party on a remote island that will be broadcast across the world.
Those seemingly deemed less important will be able to pay to attend the event via virtual reality and somehow control what happens on the island in real time from the comfort of their own home.
Promotional videos for PYRT mention worldwide treasure hunts and feature luxe images of the Bahamas – where the much-hyped Fyre Fest famously erupted into flames less than six years ago.
In a TikTok video back in October, McFarland promised the event would be “a little crazier and a whole lot bigger than anything” he’s attempted before.
The pledge has sent alarm bells ringing for a number of McFarland’s former associates and employees, who are claiming deja-vu.
Concerned too is Andy King, a former business associate of McFarland’s, who said he hopes PYRT is anything but “crazier” than its calamatious predecessor.
“My immediate reaction was, ‘it’s too fast, too quick and too soon.’ I just couldn’t believe that so quickly out of prison he’s already promoting something,” King told The U.S. Sun.
“I would have though he’d have taken more time to really plan something out, and to re-establish relationships and heal some of the relationships he hurt through Fyre.
“But instead it looks like he’s just jumped right into something else.
“I’m confused by the concept or how it’s going to work […] and I just can’t believe it.”
WILL HISTORY REPEAT?
King is still rebuilding his own life from the ashes of Fyre Fest.
The event had promised an epic party for the ages in paradise, replete with luxury villas and decadent dishes cooked by the world’s finest chefs, with tickets costing up to $100k.
But instead of luxury villas, attendees were housed in emergency FEMA tents; instead of world-class cuisine, they were served cold cheese sandwiches in foam containers.
King, a veteran events planner, was called in by McFarland to stave off disaster and “save Fyre Fest” six weeks before opening night as preparation for the big day was heading south, and fast.
Despite his best efforts, the event inevitably imploded and King’s reputation as one of Hollywood’s premier event planners went up in flames with it.
My immediate reaction was, ‘it’s too fast, too quick and too soon.’ I just couldn’t believe that so quickly out of prison he’s already promoting something.
King says while he has heard from McFarland since his release from prison, he still has not apologized to him for roping him into the mess and duping him with false promises.
McFarland’s plans for PYRT, King says, also runs contrary to something he said to him and the other organizers of Fyre Fest after the event’s cataclysmic culmination.
“Well, for me, the irony is that at the end of Fyre, on the island, he got up to make a speech which we asked him to do.
“And he basically said to everyone that fire grew much bigger than he ever dreamed of and much bigger than something he could actually handle, that he didn’t have the experience or knowledge to actually do something of that magnitude,” remembered King.
“So I’m very surprised to hear him say […] that he’s going to be back in the Bahamas and PYRT will be bigger and better than Fyre ever was.
“It’s a total contradiction of what he said […] so it looks like he’s just right back into it all again.”
Instead of hastily launching a comeback bid, King said he’s surprised and somewhat disappointed that McFarland hasn’t prioritized rebuilding some of the bridges he burned – or paying back the $26 million he owes to those he defrauded through Fyre Fest.
“Those are the things I’d do first,” added King. “He hasn’t really addressed what happened with me or anyone else who got really hurt very badly by Fyre.
“I really did have a huge negative impact on my career. To be known as the guy who was part of the big scam was so damaging.
“But there was only one of the hundreds of people that were working at Fyre Festival that was performaning any kind of a scam: that was Billy.
“Everybody else was working day and night, as hard as they could, to make the impossible happen.
“Not that Billy wasn’t, but he was also scamming people at the same time.”
At the very least, King said he would’ve expected a text saying simply, “I’m sorry for what took place,” but such a gesture from McFarland has not been forthcoming thus far.
King also lost “a few 100ks” as consequence of the festival’s collapse, and McFarland has never offered or even suggested the idea of one day paying him back to make amends.
PRISON ‘HASN’T CHANGED HIM’
While calling the situation sad, but not all that surprising, King said that he hoped that when McFarland was sentenced to jail time for orchestrating the scam, he hoped he’d emerge from behind bars a reformed person.
When asked if he believes McFarland is a reformed character, King said it seems not.
“I would say that generally spending a few years in prison, to my knowledge, often changes people, right?” he began.
“I think it usually makes you feel and hopefully become a lot more humble, and more grounded and more grateful, and I feel like those traits have come back a little bit.
“But then when you’re hearing him speak, and his deliveries and his presentations and videos and that kind of thing, it doesn’t look like he’s changed as much as I’d hoped.
“He brought a lot of angst, sadness, and turmoil to the Bahamas, and the fact he’s focusing on doing things down there again is odd. To my understanding […] he’s not welcome back.
“What is he creating? Will it be completely aboveboard? Will it be successful? How long will that take? These are all questions that I’m sure everybody who’s watching has.
“But when you speak about Billy to many different people, a lot of the comments that I get are, ‘he’s done’ or that he’s old news – but he’s back in the news now, so let’s see what happens.”
SHADES OF FYRE FEST
King described McFarland’s PYRT venture as a make-or-break moment for the 31-year-old.
Should he fail once more, King says his former protege will be “done forever.”
Though ever-determined, McFarland’s effort to rehabilitate his reputation is already firmly underway.
Earlier this month, three agencies signed on to aid his PYRT project: branding agency Slaps, tech-focused agency Unconfined, and full-service agency NOX.
Under the PYRT umbrella, McFarland is also offering advice to tech entrepreneurs for a handsome $1,800 per-hour.
The con man’s advice, claims a post on the communication platform Calendly, will be geared towards helping tech companies expand their reach on social media platforms.
But where PYRT’s party plans are concerned, McFarland may have already hit a bump in the road.
Within weeks of McFarland first unveiling PYRT in a TikTok back in October, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism came out to describe McFarland as a “fugitive” who isn’t welcome back on the island.
They also pledged to prohibit any McFarland-linked ventures from obtaining permits there.
Despite the pushback, McFarland insisted in an interview with AdWeek that he still has “really close friends and supporters” on the island and is hoping this fanbase will grow if he’s able to pay back Fyre Fest workers.
“The business is about showing people they can do what they didn’t think was possible,” McFarland told the outlet.
“That is my mantra for life, which has led me to all the good and bad that has happened.”
RISING FROM THE ASHES
King, meanwhile, has been slowly rebuilding his professional reputation in Fyre Fest’s wake.
He became a viral sensation following the release of Netflix’s 2019 documentary about the doomed event, Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened.
In the film, the 60-year-old candidly revealed the lengths he was prepared to go to in a bid to save the festival.
Referring to King as their “fearless gay leader”, when a delivery of Evian water got held-up in Bahamian customs, McFarland – unwilling to pay a $175,000 fee to free the cargo – asked him to “take one for the team.”
By “take one for the team”, McFarland was asking King to offer customs officials oral sex in return for the cargo’s release.
Viewing himself as the ultimate team player, rather than being outraged by such a scandalous proposal, King drove home, took a shower, and guzzled some mouthwash.
“I got into my car to drive across the island to take one for the team,” King famously says in the doc.
“And I got to [the head of customs’] office, fully prepared to suck his d**k.”
The moment instantly became a meme and King was lauded as a hero.
In the years since, he has used his new found fame to help raise money for some of the Bahamian vendors and workers who were defrauded by McFarland.
So far, he estimates he’s raised somewhere between $200k-$300k – a feat he’s incredibly proud of.
“It’s been a journey,” King said, reflecting on the last few years.
“I did that documentary for a few specific reasons: one was to create a vehicle to try to pay back everybody in the Bahamas and anybody else to the best of our abilities, and then two was to be able to tell the true story of what happened so that everybody that was involved beside Billy would appear in the public eye in a much more positive way because no one else was scamming anybody except for Billy.
“And so I feel like we accomplished a fair amount of that.
“Fyre Festival really did a number on me […] but I say you take a bushel of rotting lemons and you make the best lemonade ever.
“And I’m now working on some pretty amazing events, and working my way back to where I was.
“The amazing thing is is after a 30-year career as an event planner, planning some pretty amazing events, I’m only known for one now: Fyre Festival.
“Oh, my word. How does that happen?”
King says he wishes nothing but the best for McFarland in his next chapter but urges the con man to keep his ethics in check this go around to prevent any further hardships.
Should a text come in from his old friend in the future, asking him to jump aboard the PYRT ship, King insists he would politely decline to the invitation.
“I probably would say I wish you all the luck in the world but unfortunately I can’t be involved with another project like that,” he said.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think any of my advisers would be happy if I jumped into another project like that.
“If I were him, I’d have started small, gradually building out a team and a concept, and taken a couple of years really trying to pull things together.
“But to make the kind of announcements he’s making, such a short time out of prison, I’m truly surprised.
“Maybe he’s going to pull it off,” added King, “who knows?
“But the world is watching.”
https://www.the-sun.com/news/7272927/fyre-festival-andy-king-billy-mcfarland-pyrt-venture/ Fyre Festival legend Andy King reveals fears over Billy McFarland’s new party event & says he’s never had an apology