The attack on the World Trade Center still seems fresh to me. So many horrible moments from that day haunt me. Among the horrendous losses was a loss of innocence. We have never felt secure in our homes or maybe even our skins since. It’s been a dozen years, a bunch of wars and even the killing of Osama Bin Laden has not brought closure.
The club world was changed forever as well. The way people went out, how they interacted with each other (and others unlike themselves) changed and can be linked directly to the post 9/11 psyche. I have referred to this as "SIN" (safety in numbers).
Prior to 9/11, I was involved with the programming and operations of nightclubs. A successful club was defined by diverse crowds and progressive music. Post-9/11 club crowds became more specialized, more segregated as white people tended to party with white people, blacks with blacks, rich with rich. Like-minded crowds embraced mixed format music laced heavily with familiar sounds, pop music and radio tracks or electronic dance music (EDM)—an escapist trance-like stream of unconsciousness.
For the most part, clubs got smaller to handle crowds with specialized tastes, a clientele that wanted to hang with familiar faces. Bottle service—which had begun in earnest in the late 1990s—became a way of life as groups of people paid for real estate that was theirs until the credit ran out or the closing bell rang.
The top clubs prior to 9/11 were places where fashion trends broke and new ideas were exchanged. Creative people were VIPs. These types were banished to clubs where they would mostly hang with folks like themselves. Super trendy parties had few yuppie types or straight-laced patrons visiting. These parties filled with only the fabulous lost the revenue streams these voyeurs provided.
The fabulous folks gathered on Sundays or Tuesdays or on other off nights in off clubs. Saturday nights at the important clubs no longer featured drag queens prancing on bars or dance platforms. It wasn’t cool anymore. It was too different…foreign for the new mindset. The bottle service era which dominated New York City nightlife for the decade after the attack became a worldwide phenomenon.
Bottle service isn’t about the high-end vodka or Champagne. You can get the same swill anywhere for a lot cheaper than it costs in hot spots. Bottle service is about a booth which few ever sit in. It’s a territory where the credit card holder is king. It insulates that king and his minions from anything unfamiliar. Now we are in a golden age of clubs. The rise of Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick, ghettos of love and trendiness that took the creative types across the moat of the East River. The forward thinkers are now there.
A time traveler from the 1980s would look at Manhattan nightlife and scowl. Sure there are small pockets of wonderful but there are mostly lines of bridge-and-tunnel types and far less "pick-and-choose" from snooty doorpersons. The Box, with all its faults, stands firm in fabulousness. The Standard rises above the standard.
Susanne Bartsch is still doing it and doing it well across the decades. Tonight, she will celebrate Fashion Week at the forward-thinking McKittrick Hotel. Natalia Kills will perform. Everyone who is amazing will attend, everyone who attends will be amazing. There are no great clubs—at least as I define them-post-9/11. But there are great parties and events every night somewhere nearby.
Tonight, I’m staying home to reflect. For me it’s still too soon.
image: USAF photo by Denise Gould