On August 7th there will be a reunion for the World, a club that I have declared one of the 5 best of all time. My part in the history of the World came when I was a thin, unstoppable, whirlwind of substance and fluff with the requisite model wife and an ego that jostled with my reputation and anyone that got in my way. I weighed a buck thirty-five with bugged blue eyes and I was having a meeting with my staff at the Holiday on St. Marks Place. The Holiday was my “office” back in 1986. The owner—Stefan—never minded. I’d sit there for hours sipping Cokes and meeting models and promoters, building my little empire on beer- soaked wood tables and café chairs. The meeting was about some fashion extravaganza we were hosting at Danceteria —or was it at Café American? Or was it Café Americano? Anyway, it’s Nobu now. We were organized. We were doing 100 shows a year. Ivy Bernhard was doing hair and makeup. Cee Cee Borisovitch was putting the right ass in the right dress with the right shoes. We had a PR team landing us in important papers constantly and a promotional team bringing thousands to everything we did. We were bringing events in from London, Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam—and Houston and New Orleans as well.
What I didn’t know was that I was being watched. A man with long gray hair in the corner booth was listening to every word. He had a joint that almost always made it but never really did. In this business almost anyone can make money and almost anyone can do cool, but to do cool and make money requires a certain type of smarts and a certain type of cool and few can do both. A few months later the gray haired man asked me to run The World. His name was Frank Roccio and he’s a man who might still be alive but nobody is looking for him—and that includes people he owes money to, which some say would sell out Yankee Stadium. He doesn’t owe me loot. He tried that once, and I explained how bad an idea that was to him. I was feisty in my youth. The World was a club on East 2nd Street near Avenue B that had an on-again, off-again history with moments of magnificence. It was sometimes opened and almost always closed soon after.
Making money on Avenue B and 2nd in those days came mostly from guns and drugs and a few bodegas. It was a burnt-out block which hosted an open air flea market where anything illegal could be purchased from the fleas. Frank booked a flight to L.A. and me and my lovely, and his daughter checked into the Sunset Marquis to plan a club that would matter and make money. Frank felt going West would give us room to breath and think.
Our plan was to embrace the social scene, the fashion scene, the gay and not-too-straight scene that I was hooked into. Back then I could draw a thousand people to watch me eat lunch. We would couple my following with music being played in underground clubs like Black Market and Choice and the Paradise Garage. We were going to shove this sound up their tight asses. It was like Obi-Wan Kenobi, ”You will like hip hop… you will like house music.” And so they did. Everyone paid to get in back then unless you were in a band, worked at another joint (club courtesy), or told us you couldn’t afford to. If they couldn’t pay, but liked the place enough to keep coming we gave them a job. We always had room for a busboy or coat check or a go-go dancer or a flyer distributor.
We opened in September 1987 with Public Enemy onstage. I paid them $1,100. I followed with Kid and Play and krs1. I was paying bands that would become national acts $300 bucks because it was young and we were hip. We moved Frankie Knuckles in from Chicago and gave David Morales an opportunity to play House instead of the freestyle I was used to hearing from him.
We were, in the words of legendary co-owner Arthur Weinstein, “a hit.” The “Dean Johnson Rock and Roll Fag Bar” was the best Tuesday in town. We added Larry Levan to our Wednesday to keep the juggernaught moving forward. Bowie played the room and Neil Young and Sinead and Bjork and even Pink Floyd. Celebrities slummed with the kids from the projects and the club kids, who were just finding their niche. After the first year we smashed through the walls into the tenement next store rousted the addicts and called it “IT” and it was 3 floors of grand: Caroline Herrara wearing legendary emeralds while hip-hop kids mouthed lyrics that should have made her nervous, is a fond memory. It was Madonna, Brooke Shields, Stephen Sprouse and Prince surrounded by paupers, fashion addicts and drug addicts. It was sometimes dangerous but that was very much a part of its charm. Andy Warhol would pop in and a tuxedoed Steve Rubell. I learned from him to often wear a tux even if you weren’t coming from somewhere. It made them think you were just from some swell uptown affair and that was the conversation for the evening. Assholes lurked in the shadows and games of cops and robbers were always a part of the challenge.
The club died as newer slicker joints embraced the 90’s. I moved on to do Redzone when the money could never be enough to cover the legit expenses and the ever expanding special needs of those involved. The reunion will be one of many slated for the next few months. There’s a Mudd Club shin-dig coming up and a Save the Robots soiree’ too. The Nells crew will get a night at their old space once it’s completely redone for the new decade for the new wonderboys Scott Sartiano and Richie Akiva. It has a name and I’m just dying to tell you but alas that’s another story. Nostalgic revivals of long extinct spots wont bring back those days or make us any younger. It won’t justify our actions or apologize for our misdeeds from years ago or raise the dead or rekindle romances. However, we learned from the Danceteria reunion that it’s nice to catch up with people we crossed paths with a long time ago on our way to today.