Total Pageviews

Friday, August 18, 2017

Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor

I don't usually write about books but Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor 1980-1983 has made me want to do so.  Since this was before my time as a club kid in New York it nourished my curiosity for what the scene was like before I got there.

I was going out a bit in high school and then a lot by the time I got to American University in 1982.  So most of my early club years were about the rise of Hi Nrg music and the hot minute of New Wave.  Music styles embraced by The Saint in New York, which had a much whiter sensibility then The Paradise Garage.  In any case, The Saint was a club which I would not get to visit until years later when they were using the original space for Saint at Large parties, until they couldn't anymore.  Then they started having them at Roseland.  Really I didn't have a clue.  The last party party was going on, it was just a few blocks from my apartment on 14th street but all I thought about was that it was too expensive.  I didn't get the magnitude of the night.

Same thing happened the last night of Sound Factory in 1995.  I wasn't feeling it and just stayed home or went home after The Roxy I can't remember.  It ended up being the unannounced last night of the club, before it became Twilo and there were a ton of club politics involved.

But my friend Tommy Richardson got me on the Paul Lekakis guest list one Saturday in 1989 and I got to be amazed by all that The Saint was and what it had been.  Though I remember my friend Harrison calling most of the revellers dinosaurs.  We really felt like we were ringing in a new scene and that The Saint represented the past.

Paradise Garage closed the year before I moved to New York so I never got to see that space.  Anybody who used to go speaks about it as the holy grail of New York clubs.

1983 was when I went abroad to Rome.  My university had a branch there.  So this is when I cultivated my love for Italo Disco.  A genre I didn't really know about before then.  So as much as I hold The Paradise Garage and Larry Levan up on a pedestal, even if only in my mind.  I would not have been ready for that scene yet.  It even took me a while to feel secure at The Sound Factory which was my era's version of The Paradise Garage but certainly more Latino and then later more Chelsea muscle queen then The Garage ever was.  In many ways, I was still a provincial suburban kid from Connecticut in the early 80's.  Sort of torn between my love for new wave and disco.  Since loving disco was basically something you had to be in the closet about where I grew up, or at least at the Catholic schools I went to.  I was sort of confused.  Luckily I was able to leave this all behind in 1982 by both coming out and by experiencing freedom by going to a university far from my home and my sheltered oppressive upbringing.  My parents were immigrants from the South of Italy and they had some very specific ideas for what they expected their only male son to be like, in a family of five children.

So really at the time written about in the book, I was completely oblivious to what was happening at The Mudd Club and The Roxy, Danceteria or The Pyramid.  Though years later on a visit to to the city from D.C. I did go to the New Years eve party of 1984 going into 1985 and it was a night that remains ingrained on my memory banks.  Fabulous beyond anything I had ever been to before.  It even featured a sighting of the incredibly glamorous and iconic Diane Brill the girlfriend of Rudolf Piper who ran the club and other clubs that I later got to promote parties at such at The Tunnel and Mars.  I started to use the moniker Goldy Loxxx, which Michael Alig sanctioned for me and first started using on invites at Larry Tee's Celebrity Club and outlaw parties and other events at The World and Red Zone.

wikipedia Larry Tee

Wikipedia Club Kids

The article that put the concept of "club kids" on the map.  The March 1988 New York Magazine cover with Michael Alig, Magenta and Mykul Tronn in the Tunnel Basement.

How horrible is my hat?

Back row third person in from the left, in a top hat, you can hardly make me out.  But every club kid mover and shaker was there even though we had to show up at the club in the middle of the day.

wikipedia Party Monster

Back in those years would I ever have imagined that Diane Brill would even know my name much less have conversations with me?  The New York clubs were definitely where you could rub elbows with your idols.  In many ways you could even feel on the same level with them.  Especially if you were chatting them up in a V.I.P. room.

wikipedia Mudd Club

From what I gather from the Tim Lawrence book those early 80's years had a huge cross section of artists and actors and creative people who were involved heavily with the clubs.  While managing to create so much out of the clubs too.  Here's a pic. of Jean Michel Basquait at The Mudd Club.  He later would go on to DJ at Area for shits and giggles. Though there were certainly creative types when I was going out 6 nights a week in the late 80's early 90's, it sure didn't seem anything like what I read about in the book.  Seminal spots like Area with their installations and The Saint with the incredible dome and light show were already closed by then.

But for a hot minute us club kids felt like we ruled the roost.  We could get paid by some clubs just for showing up or handing in a guest list.  Which we may or may not have made any phone calls in support of the event.  The whole scene fell apart basically because of Michael Alig's murder of fellow club-kid Angel Melendez the introduction of hard drugs to the scene, and Mayor Giuliani's obsession with destroying the scene.  Yes there had always been drugs in the clubs.  But could you run a successful party and be completely strung out at the same time?  I don't think so.  In any case James St. James immortalized the moment in his book Disco Bloodbath and later in the film Party Monster which gave many young people who hadn't lived it and didn't know anything about our movement, their own source of joy and inspiration.  Susanne Bartsch throws parties even now with a new breed of New York club kid.  While many of us from the original club kid era have moved on to so many other things, such as artists, writers, singers, TV show hosts and even a few like me are teachers.

Not one of my favorite pics. but it is James St. James and I at the first Love Ball May 10, 1989.  A legendary night for the club scene if there ever was one.

wikipedia james st. james

Of course RuPaul and I came up out of the same New York clubby scene.  Difference is she now disassociates herself from Michael Alig and I've pretty much forgiven him for the many times he was shady.  We write each other emails and give each other likes on Instagram.  Next time I'm in New York we plan to have lunch.

More recently the film Glory Daze documented the comings and goings of the club kids in the 90's too.

When I was hosting Shampoo at The Limelight on Saturdays I worked with the drag queen of comedy Lady Bunny.  She used to come over on Saturday evenings to my loft in Tribeca because I had a second phone line.  Together from  opposites sides of the loft we would call people for our guest list.  She was caustic and pejorative and often hung up on the people she was calling to put on the list.  She always had me in stitches and I'll never forget how funny she was.  A true talent.  
It was Michael Alig that would bring me in to promote nights such as Shampoo and at Club U.S.A. so I will give credit where credit is due.  He thought I was fabulous and I agreed with him (lol).  Can you lol when you're not texting?  It's tacky, right?

A pre Supermodel of the world RuPaul.

Wikipedia RuPaul

Here I am with Andy Bell of Erasure at Mars.  I think this was in 1990.  It was in one of the last months of the clubs existence.

On my way to Wigstock.  I thought my look was relatively subdued though the Vivienne Westwood crown was major.  Bill Cunningham took my picture for the New York Times that day so I remember it well.  To a club kid if Bill Cunningham took your picture it meant you had arrived.

Wikipedia Wigstock

Wikipedia Bill Cunningham

Dancing at Love Machine at The Underground.  This Vivienne Westwood armour/vest got me some decent coins years later on eBay.  A teachers income always needs a boost.  Years later did I really still expect it to fit anyway?

 The night I won King of Manhattan 1991 at The Limelight.  Painstakingly made by designer Manolo.  I never felt more regal or grateful that such a talented designer was a dear friend.
 Our idol and icon Leigh Bowery.  No one could compete, but he surely did inspire.

At a party I threw for diva and door-person extraordinaire Kenny Kenny.  Kenny has become an incredible photographer and artist.  Follow him on instagram, Kenny Kenny photos.   I wrote about Leigh just a few blogs back if you're curious.  Leigh Bowery as Minty

In the early 80's Leigh Bowery and Trojan were getting a lot of press and attention with Tabboo in London in that cities own inception of the club kid movement.  Infused with the whole new romantic sensibility of the time.  Course it was later made into a Broadway show starring Boy George as Leigh Bowery.   It was financed by Rosie O'Donnell.

wikipedia Leigh Bowery

So I really must thank Tim Lawrence for writing such an incredible book and documenting so much disco history.  I look forward to the coming books and for an opportunity to be interviewed when he gets up to my period.

Mark Kamins always did the music for Manolo Ready Couture fashion shows.  His mixture of spiritual, sexy and audacious was always fun.

 Mark Kamins at a tree trimming party in my Tribeca Loft.

Mark with his ever present whistle along with Susan Ainsworth at Club Gold, Tokyo.  All three of the above photos I took myself.

From the club kid bible, the magazine Project X

Tim Lawrence mentioned my buddy Mark Kamins often in Life and Death on the Dance Floor.  He was after all the main DJ at Danceteria.  Mark was definitely instrumental in the launching of Goldy Loxxx.  Especially when he took me to Japan to represent New York Club Kids and when he got me the gig to DJ in the side room of the 90's inception of Danceteria.  Mark was a dear friend to me and lived only a couple blocks away in Tribeca at the time too.  So we even got to spend time together outside the clubs.

School Yourself about Danceteria

So I highly suggest you get a copy of the book.  Order Your Copy here

As a reader of my blog I know you care about the music, so here's your chance to get versed on the New York scene from the early 80's too.  You should also check out his other books Love Saves the Day about The Loft and a book about Arthur Russell.

here's an excerpt:

Publishing his thoughts in an eight-page feature title "Behind the Groove" in the September edition of Collusion,  Harvey launched into his argument from the get-go. "The brief 10 years of disco history have provided popular music with one of its most creative periods--one too often passed over by critics," he declared. "Even the faddish embrace of all things danceable has failed to encourage critics to muster the same seriousness for the synth-anthems of Brooklyn duo D Train as they do for Soft Cell or Yazoo."  Few credited disco as being the legitimate heir to the rhythm and blues tradition, while the likes of Grandmaster Flash alleged that disco was responsible for "killing off" funk, "despite its means of production being the same" and "despite its embrace of great black voices like Loleatta Holloway, Aretha Franklin, Bettye Layette, Gwen McCrae and many others." Harvey also argued that DJS rather than musicians or producers were the most influential figures within disco thanks to the way they communicated the music with such "extraordinary power."  Who else could remember the thousands of one off releases, he asked, and who else could claim to be as modernist as the DJS who transformed their found materials into a collage? "Disco has always revolved around the cult of the DJ and the club," he concluded, "and, as such, record spinner have shaped the  music in a way that is unique."
Page 450 Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor

My blog post from 2009 about disco related books

No comments: