Unedited: Celebrating Arthur Weinstein Four Years Later

Four years ago today, nightlife lost a legend, a family lost a father, husband, son…friends lost a dear friend. The loss seemed immeasurable at the time, and four years hasn’t eased the pain. Arthur Weinstein had more faults than most, but he also had more heart and soul and more of an ability to see what’s hidden behind the green curtain than anyone I have met. Toward the end of his life he found work doing lighting for those who saw him as a light. This morning, Greg Brier called me to remind me.

Many refer to my era of nightlife as "the good ol’ days," but compared to the generation before me, it was… amateurish, mundane. Clubs like Save The Robots, Paradise Garage, Area, The Continental, The Mudd Club, Nells, Berlin, Studio 54, Nickel Bag, Stickball, The Nursery, Danceteria and such preceded my reign of terror. I became relevant when I operated The World for Arthur, Peter Frank, and some other guys. Arthur was a mad genius who understood that it was heart that pumped up the volume and love that ran through the veins and cool that ran the thought process. Nowadays, for better or worse, most joints run with little heart, cash for blood, and with lots of educated but not-so-creative brains running the action. Self-interest has replaced the art of it. Arthur would be in Brooklyn now looking for, latching onto, and educating the next big thing.

Below is a lost article I wrote just after his death. It can’t be found online anymore but I found the unedited copy I sent in for edit the day after I heard the sad news.

"Art passed yesterday after a courageous fight with cancer. Known to everyone with clout in the nightclub industry Art was a familiar face for a few decades. He owned and operated some of the best clubs in history. The World, Hurrah, The Continental, The Jefferson provided thousands of extraordinary nights for thousands of hipsters long before the word was unfortunately coined. Everybody loved and respected him, even those who were over him.  Even years after he had operated anything he could still get Calvin or Ian or Grace on the phone. Grace Jones paid a visit to him recently as he lay dying in his Chelsea hotel apartment. He told me of hanging with Ian Schrager and David Bowie who he called the "White Knight" and he never ceased to amaze me with stories of life in the fastest lane. It wasn’t the drugs or the booze that killed the beast it was, as Carl Denham once said, it was beauty that killed him. He was trapped by the drug called clubs, its kaleidoscope like enchantment, its vision and pitfalls and by his camera and his art, the pitfalls were ignored as Arthur only saw the possibilities.

Arthur’s world was light and magic and imparting wisdom on those of us who had less than he, and that just about covers everyone, Arthurs eyes saw through the hype and saw the souls of those around him, once when at the door of one of his clubs I was hustling the celebrity du jour inside when Arthur chided me, “why do you give a fuck about him? get these kids in!” and it was a posse of skaters and then he went inside to share some Stoli with them. Art never gave a damn about the hype. You were either cool or you weren’t and no amount of tabloid success made you cool but a hat tilted at the right angle made you a pal. He loved the Yankees and he would call me and take me to a game and we would roll up and I’d ask where we were sitting and he’d say “shud up!,don’t worry about it” and we’d walk right in with a wave and no tickets and we’d sit downstairs in the good seats and move around a lot because he could not sit still. He could never sit still. He didn’t have a lot of patience, especially for assholes. Often I’d like someone and Art would say “that asshole” and my head would tilt , I’d look a little closer and I’d get over the dudes rap or rep and find no reason anymore to hang with him. Art was right , he was always right about assholes. But then he’d latch on to some loser and find the glory in him and reveal to us why this underestimated denizen of the deep was worthy of our precious time. Again I was wrong, confused, snobby or just dumb, the fool was me and not the denizen.

I don’t know how to continue without Art. He was my biggest critic yet my biggest supporter. Sometimes the press the public and everyone around me would be all up my ass congratulating me on some job well done and Art would point out my flaws and show me a better way. Sometimes I’d be down on myself, designer blocked and he’d tell me “I was on to something. It was really good “and I’d pull it off." He was the wisest of the wise guys and those who met him always knew they had met someone. Once when I was working for him it rained real hard and the crowd was small and he walked in and I made a rain excuse about the numbers. He said “shud up! never blame the rain” and looked around the room “what a great crowd everybodies having fun, get in there with a smile on that puss of yours” and so I did and it was great and I had learned , one lesson of a thousand lessons.

You can’t tell a man’s life in a thousand words and as I write this I’m hard pressed to stop as if when I do he’ll actually be… really gone, I’ve cried for hours and I can’t remember the last time I’ve cried and I remember the last time I saw him so thin, so weak with tubes draining fluids and that tachometry hole and I had been warned by Greg Brier( Arthur and my dearest friend) that it would be shocking. In a few short weeks he had lost his body following the loss of his ability to speak a few months before. I walked in and said “hey art I got 2 tickets to the Yankee game… lets go!” and he opened his mouth wide in a huge silent laugh and I saw my poor friend with his best rings on and knew the fight would soon be over. Colleen and Dahlia, his wife and daughter, will be part of my family forever and I will do my best to be there for them. With his death Arthur has given me new life and commitment to try to live up to the standards he set for me. That he considered me his friend is the greatest validation ive ever had, Im gonna have to stop now as I cant see my words any longer."

Reuniting The World Nightclub

A Facebook friend asked me if it wasn’t time for a World reunion. He was referring to a joint I ran during its best incarnation back in the day. It had been around before me and survived a little while after I moved on. The World opened, I believe, on September 17th, 1987. That’s a little more than 25 years ago. I’ll quote some poet and say "Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now." I was so sure of what I was doing, knew everything I needed to thrive. The place was famously "gangstar.” Long before hip-hop and house were breaking mainstream, we went with it. We booked Public Enemy for the opening (my notes say I paid them $1200). I was paying big acts of those early years, like Kid and Play and Big Daddy Kane, like $400 to perform. My main floor DJs were David Morales, Frankie Knuckles, and David Piccioni (Black Market Records).

I declined being involved with the reunion thing. Three of the four owners are scattered to the winds, and the 4th, my friend the great Arthur Weinstein has sadly passed. Last I heard, Paul Garcia (who I never dealt with) was up in Martha’s Vineyard or someplace like that. Peter Frank was practicing law up in Kingston, NY, and Frank Roccio had fallen on hard times. He has a Facebook page that says he is living in Brooklyn. I wish him well.

Although I remember it fondly, I have no desire to go back and relive it – even for a night. It might be nice to see a few old friends, but Facebook allows me an occasional "hey, how ya doing," and that’s enough. There will never be another club like The World unless it’s post apocalypse. It was dangerous fun in a wild west kind of hood that was the Lower East Side of the late ’80’s. During the day, you could buy drugs and guns right there in front of the place. The buildings up and down the block were abandoned, and dealers would often cement themselves in and drop their products in tin cans to the needers below. That sort of atmosphere has been outlawed, at least in Manhattan, and although an underground scene still survives in the outer boroughs, it is comparatively safe, almost saccharine.

I wrote a story called “Five Easy Pieces," which named The World as one of the top five places of all time. The others were Studio 54, Area, Max’s Kansas City, and the Paradise Garage. Here’s The World excerpt.

"The World (254 East 2nd Street) was a mess. It was my fault, as I helped run it. It was where house went from the Paradise Garage crowd to the hipster crowd. It’s where hip hop broke out from the streets to everywhere. Public Enemy played, plus Salt-n-Pepa, and Beastie Boys, but also Bowie and Sinead and Bjork and even Neil Young. One night Pink Floyd rolled in unexpectedly and wowed us. It was a place where Keith Haring was arting up the bathroom stalls and Andy Warhol was calming me down. It was dangerous and smart. It was Caroline Herrera wearing a zillion dollars worth of emeralds while project kids popped and spun. Owner Peter Frank says, "The true stars of The World’s universe were the club kids and patrons … when they came through the doors, they became anyone they wanted to be." The building was torn down some years ago. Today the East Side Tabernacle resides on the first floor, while upstairs East Villagers listen to music that broke there  back in the day. Setlist: “Paid in Full” (Eric B and Rakim), “Yo Bum Rush” (Public Enemy), “Saturday Night” (Schooly D), “Open Your Heart” (Madonna), “Brass Monkey” (The Beastie Boys)."

Here’s an piece of an obit I wrote for Arthur after he passed:

"Art passed yesterday, after a courageous fight with cancer. Known to everyone with clout in the nightclub industry, Art was a familiar face for a few decades. He owned and operated some of the best clubs in history. The World, Hurrah, The Continental, and The Jefferson provided thousands of extraordinary nights for thousands of hipsters long before the word was unfortunately popularized. Everybody loved and respected him, even those who were over him. Even years after he had operated anything he could still get Calvin or Ian or Grace on the phone. Grace Jones recently paid a visit to him as he lay dying in his Chelsea Hotel apartment. He told me of hanging with Ian Schrager and David Bowie, who he called the White Knight. He never ceased to amaze me with stories of life in the fastest lane. It wasn’t the drugs or the booze that killed the beast, it was, as Carl Denham once said, beauty that killed him. He was trapped by the drug called clubs, its  kaleidoscope-like enchantment, its vision and pitfalls, and by his camera and his art. Arthur ignored the pitfalls, as he only saw the possibilities."

Consider this a reunion.

Celebrating Legends Arthur Weinstein & Don Hill

Today is all about the old school. It would have been the 64th birthday of club legend and dear friend Arthur Weinstein, and tonight a ton of people who are grayer than they ever thought possible will gather for a tribute for the dearly departed Don Hill. This benefit at Irving Plaza will start at 6:30, not only because these days many of us roll that way but also because of the amount of talent that will be hitting the stage to show love. Although this list is likely to be incomplete, the following artists are slated to perform: David Johansen, Richard Butler (Psychedelic Furs), Jesse Malin & the St. Marks Social, Manitoba, Royston Langdon (Spacehog), Lenny Kaye, The Toilet Boys, Daniel Rey, Triggers All-Star Band, Theo, Hired Killers INC., Bebe Buell Band, Adam Bomb, La Dolce Vita (Michael Imperioli), Brucifer & Bitch Band, At War With the 60’s, and Girl to Gorilla.

There will be walk-ons and all sorts of rock-and-roll hullabaloo as a celebration of the life of Mr. Don Hill will require a true to your school rock fest. The pain of our loss is still real. The man and the joint that bore his name will always be impossible to replace. I look forward to seeing faces I haven’t seen in years. Some fool once said "you can’t go home again," and some people believe that shit. Tonight those who were there will return home to gather with their extended NYC rock family. At one point all of us will look at the rafters and smile for Don. At one point all of us will gaze down at the ancient wood floor and drop a tear on it. Irving Plaza has the chops, the credibility to host this gala. We all have seen a lot of great shows in that room. We will all come to praise this Caesar of rock and roll. We buried him months ago. There will much love coming from the stage and around the bars for a man that everyone found easy to love.

After all the bands, speeches, and such, Michael Schmidt will recreate his Squeezebox club night which was as much as a part of Don Hill’s as the tattoo art that he adorned the walls with. That should begin around 1am. Mistress Formika of Squeezebox fame will also host, as will Johnny and Chi Chi of "Mother," Frankie Inglese of "Beahver," and Justine D and Nick Mark of "Tis Was." If you have no idea what I am talking about then I behoove you to come and find out. Don Hill touched and changed the lives of so many. Tonight’s gathering will be all about the love that will never fade.

As I said up top, my dear friend Arthur Weinstein would have been 64 today. I posted this Winnie the Pooh quote on his still very active Facebook page: “If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever”. The first time I saw Arthur was at Danceteria. I was a pay-to-get-in patron of that great old club and I was sitting in the restaurant part of the joint with a couple of friends. Arthur walked in with his beautiful wife Colleen. I had no idea who he was but all eyes were transfixed on the white tux-wearing club mogul. One of the wise guys at my table said "it takes a lot of practice to walk that slow." "What do you mean?" I asked. He explained that Arthur was walking very slowly to make sure everyone saw him and to make sure he saw everyone seated at the tables, acknowledging with a smile or a nod anyone he felt was important. I was intrigued by these thoughts of someone working the room and  endeavored to meet him. It took time and a lot of proving myself, but one day there we were constant friends and co workers. I named my dog after him and Arturo Vega. He was my go-to guy for advice when an honest voice was needed. He would never mince words. So often he would tell me I was fucking up just when I thought I was reaching Nirvana, and he’d be right. Sometimes when I was at my lowest, when the world was doing it’s best to beat me to a pulp he’d lift me to heaven. Not with words of encouragement, but with a couple tickets to a game or by introducing me to some unbelievable character that sold accordians or lived on the streets that he had befriended. When they came for me hard he was my backbone. He could see right through people, show me the worst in the best and the benefits of those I would otherwise ignore. Like Don Hill, we buried Arthur a while back but he still is in our hearts–forever

Art And Art

The late great Arthur Weinstein would have celebrated his birthday today. He passed a little over a year ago. Those who were there can say that although the cancer took his life it never touched his dignity. It failed to dampen his courage or his spirit and it left so many of us appreciating our time and place on this merry-go-round. Greg Brier and I became fast friends as Arthur faded and remain so to this day. His life continues to inspire me and so many others. A wikipedia page about Art might tell you that he owned some of the best joints ever, Hurrah, The World, the Jefferson, The Continental. Hurrah was so formidable that Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager offered Art a partnership in Studio 54 so they wouldn’t have to compete.

Trigger’s joint on Saint Marks and the Bowery is called Continental with no “the” in front of it out of respect for Arthur Weinstein. That wikipedia page would say that early in life Art was a great photographer who morphed into a great silkscreen artist. Maybe it would say he was the crown prince of the Chelsea hotel when “everybody” lived there. Wikipedia would talk of scandal and dirty cops and Russian mobsters. It would call him a devoted husband and father. When the booze and other distractions prevented him from having the focus to actually own a joint anymore he began doing lights for everyone. To the club world he was a king. He was a wise guy who could read between the lines better than anyone I’ve ever met. When people complained about their troubles or bragged about success, Art would give them his trademark “shuddup, you’re making me sick” and that was that. I guess all the bullshit he saw and heard and took upon himself came back at him. Those who knew him well will start any discussion with love. He gave more love out than any man I ever knew. So even though his heart may have given out it still beats for the many of us who got to know him. Google him and learn some more. Happy birthday Arthur Weinstein.

image

The club scene is a trap for many. For every successful owner or operator there are a thousand failures, a thousand caught up without a viable exit strategy. Bartenders and waiters making beaucoup bucks often have a hard time working in careers outside the biz where salaries don’t afford them the same lifestyle as night work. When I ran places I always hired just actors or singers or musicians or artists. I felt it was my part in the scheme of New York culture. These people needed support so that our local culture was vibrant, without the clubs and restaurants and hotels supporting these peeps could Broadway even exist? Could there be an art scene? John Perry hovered around my joints worked in others and is a familiar fellow to clubdom. With his new show at Gallery 199 he proves to all that he isn’t just a pretty face. I grabbed a few seconds of his time while being awed by his art.

The work looks great. How did nightlife influence your art? Well the connection between my work and New York nightlife, has been two-fold. One of the first jobs I had, after had got my MFA from Parsons, was working as a manager at a club called Sybarite, which was on Wooster Street and owned by Grace Jones. While I worked there, I always had a sketchbook with me, and would draw incessantly, the people dancing, talking in groups, making out, generally doing what people do at clubs. It forced me to work quickly and develop my eye to the point where I could capture the essence of a form, with a minimum of means. Also living uptown and working downtown, meant that I spent a lot of time on the subway late at night, when people would be sleeping. I started to draw those people as well. Though I don’t work in clubs anymore, drawing people on trains has stayed with me over the years.

image

How did nightlife influence and support your work? Well, less directly, but probably more profoundly, is the fact that being in clubs led me to a lifestyle that, as it can do for some people, was down a dangerous path. I ended up spending quite a few years living in a way that allowed me to break with many preconceptions I had about life, and therefore art. As a result, my work became, and remains to this day, raw, and in my opinion, without pretense. Spending time in clubs, and nightlife in general, allows one to develop a sense for what is genuine and what is not.

Your work, no matter if it’s the cityscapes, the subway drawings, I believe you call them the Series Subterranea, your nude figure paintings, and your portraits, all have a kind of quintessential New York feel. For me, what makes New York what it is, much less than the physical space, is the people. Having said that, if you spend a lot of time in clubs, and I don’t mean just a certain type of club, but if you go to many different spots, in all boroughs, you get a chance to see people truly being themselves. I feel that sort of thing cannot but help get into a person’s work, perhaps through osmosis, no matter what kind of art they do.

image

John Perry’s exhibition “An Allegory of The Last Ten Years of My Life in New York” runs till December 29th at Gallery 199, at 199 Lafayette Street on the corner of Lafayette and Broome. Contact Gallery199@gmail.com.

One Year After: Arthur Weinstein, Robert Isabell, & the New Nightlife

My dear friend Arthur Weinstein died about a year ago, and the sense of loss that haunted me for so many months has morphed into gratitude that I was able to call him friend. A random comment left on his still-maintained Facebook page was accompanied by my pal’s grinning puss. It read, “Guess who I just ran into? Robert Isabell!” The greatest events planner since the Louvre epoch, Robert died last week; the generation of club types that pre-dated me is getting thin. For me, Arthur was the voice of reality as he rarely sugar-coated anything and often saw the truth hidden behind layers of fatty lies and misrepresentations. The clubs that the New York Times was talking about the other day — the specialty joints catering to the needs of a special few — were his forte. Hurrah’s, the Continental, and the Jefferson were the exact mix of exclusive, celebrity and real beautiful cool with downtown art, fashion, and music types. It was the Bea before Paul learned how to pee by himself. It’s a forgotten era between Studio 54 and the modern clubs.

Art was offered a partnership by Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell in Studio, but he turned them down. His club Hurrah around the way from Lincoln Center was the only game in town before the boys tore it up with my friend Carmen D’Alessio at The Greatest Club of All Time, Studio 54. The NYTis right when it talks about a spread out scene and “club” being the dreaded “C word” now. The scene has changed so much in the last year as the economy and persecution has driven clubs to constantly redefine themselves from music format, point of sales, and even price points. A year ago I wouldn’t be designing dance floors into joints; now with bottle service fading faster than a speeding bullet, such are in high demand. Even the shape of the banquette and table is changing as pushing cocktails and finger food pushes out the mixers, chocolates, and strawberries that often accompanied the liter of vodka.

The last week saw the pressures of summer hit a boiling point as there were three separate incidents involving door people. First came the now famous Wass squash, then lanky doormander Timothy went south at Southside and finally it was Noah Tepperberg and door guru Genc at The Box — the last incident raised more than a few eyebrows. I say if dudes like that are going to roll around The Box and get physical, then put it up on stage and promote the hell out of it. Noel Ashman could ref.

A place my pal Arthur would have loved is Collective Hardware. It is for sure a poor man’s Factory, but Andy has been hanging with Arthur and Robert Isabell these days, and that’s the difference. Yet week after week Stuart Braunstein and pals put up something worth the trip to Bowery and Delancey. There’s always a great art show, a record being recorded, people getting their hair cut or rearranging the joint. I regularly hang with Peter Rosenthal of Pee Wee’s Playhouse fame, Ronnie Cutrone of Andy Warhol’s world, and photographer Clayton Patterson, who is currently shopping his amazing documentary Captured in L.A. this week. Stuart Braunstein is working on a film called Monstererotica. Check out the press release:

Monsterotica is an iconoclastic film from Collective Hardware Productions based on a story by Stuart Braunstein. The film will be comprised of six different erotic fairytales. Each fable is a stand-alone short film as well as part of a narrative feature connected through the story of a runaway girl, lost in New York City. Principle photography for Monsterotica is scheduled to commence on Aug. 25, 2009 with production of the first segment, Djin and Toxic, starring Adam Senn and Sara Beth Stroller. Djin and Toxic tells the story of a beautiful bohemian girl(Sarah Stroller “Connection, Shaman and conceptual development coordinator”) and her lover (Adam Senn, from the MTV show “The City”). One night at a crowded gallery, the girl rubs a painting of a Magical lamp releasing her sexual fantasy, which she was trying to escape. A new York story told in a fantastical way. Stuart Braunstein and Michael Boisson will take turns producing and directing these stories. The first segment, Djin and Toxic will be screened to the press in October along with a documentary of The Making of Monsterotica, and live music, by Electric Black, and Collective Hardware’s own Gabriel Friedman, Sage Brantley and Kevin Tooley’s new band(currently un- named) produced in the music studios, show casing the production facility. This will be the beginning of Stuart’s dream of a content driven business and art movement like none other.

I love the energy down at Collective. It certainly isn’t a club or lounge, but its crafts are often shown at night, and I find myself there quite often.

Nightlife lives during the day at pool parties and rooftops. It’s fond of dive bars and especially one-off events at galleries and loft spaces. There is a line in the sand filled with ashtrays, as places are classified as cool if you can smoke there and mainstream if you can’t. The world of clubs has changed drastically since Arthur left us. During the last few years of his life, he would push me to do one last joint with him. I didn’t understand the urgency in that statement, and I’m awful sure I’m content to be defined by the places I’ve already done. For now and going back awhile, a club has been defined by me as a place where people can drink and dance, and a lounge is a place where they can drink and — well, lounge. Now we have that Avenue place calling itself a gastrolounge. We used to call those places restaurants, but I will buy into the name and concept — if only for reasons of self defense and the fact that it’s really working.

Good Night Mr. Lewis: Arthur Weinstein Roast and Toast

One of the largest gatherings of Clubdom Royalty and Dinosaurs paid their respects to the memory of Arthur Weinstein in a tribute on Greg Brier’s fabulous Highbar roof. It rained all day, but Greg, citing all sorts of meteorological sources (like the Farmer’s Almanac and NY1) guaranteed sunshine for the 5PM ceremony. I had the honor of MCing the event, which meant keeping the speakers from getting too teary-eyed or longwinded. Jen Gatien spoke of respect and sound advice. Peter Frank remembered buying two nightclubs from Arthur and finding out Art actually owned only one of them. Stanley Bard spoke of Art’s photos and artwork, which to this day cover some of the storied walls of the Chelsea Hotel where Arthur lived for many years. I spoke to Stanley, and we agreed we had almost the same job back when I ran clubs.

We had this…obligation…for lack of a better word to take care of the artists, actors, singers and dancers trying to make it in NYC. I gave them jobs to pay their rent, and Stanley put them up for virtually nothing when they spent their rent money on other things. Perri Lister–Billy Idol’s ex–came in from California with their son Willem, who got visibly upset by all the wonderful stories told about my departed pal; Willem was sad he hadn’t had the chance to meet Art. Anthony Haden Guest told of coming to New York and not really finding it anything special until he met Arthur: “Now this is New York,” Anthony recalled. I sat before the event with Anthony, Johnny Dynell, Chi Chi Valenti and Anita Sarko. I was asked what the economic downturn would mean to the world of clubs.

One of the positives is that the term “VIP” will be redefined. The yuppie with no money to buy bottles will be relegated to pre-boom status: he won’t get in, or at least he won’t be treated like he’s actually important. The artists and actors are always living in lean times until they break out, so they’re used to it. Style will come back, and not the type of style that involves dropping down the black card to buy the Marc Jacobs dress and Christian Louboutin shoes, but real style, the kind the old-school clubbers were good at.

A bit from a thrift store, a bit from a sale, something borrowed, something shortened or cut with scissors, or something sewn by one’s own hand. Anthony thought it wonderful that out of the ashes of Wall Street may come a creative era yielding a rebirth of style and substance, as a criteria for club status. The silver lining in the current crises might be, as Anthony might say, a return to form. Others in attendance included Thierry Mugler, Muse Larissa, ex-Limelight VIP room host and cabaret star Fred Rothbell Mista, artist Neke Carson, fashion designer Michael Savoia, artist Rene Ricard, ex-Kid Creole Coconut Adriana Kaegi, Matty Silver, and Left Coast DJ/fashionista Kelly Cole. As I was working the Crowd, gathering the names of those who would speak, someone turned to me: “I’m surprised that Steve Lewis is still alive.” I replied: “I’m Steve Lewis…” “No, you’re not,” she insisted. “Well, I used to be” I compromised.

Good Night Mr. Lewis: A Send-Off for Arthur Weinstein

imageThis Sunday at Highbar, beginning at 5 p.m., the club community will roast and toast our good friend Arthur Weinstein. One of the most influential figures in nightlife’s history, Arthur died a few months back from the complications that defined his life. Highbar will be packed with club owners and operators, celebrities, and his friends from the street who have made the necessary RSVPs and such. If you’re a friend of Art’s and haven’t RSVP’d, someone you know will be at the door. I’ll be MCing the event, showing photos and video of this incredible persona. Arthur owned many clubs — including some of best ever — such as The World, The Jefferson, The Continental and Hurrah! The latter was such a dominant club that when Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager were about to open Studio 54, they offered him a partnership just to ensure its success.

Arthur turned them down. In the last few years of his life he “did lights” for just about every significant joint around. It was Art who lit up the outside of the Limelight, turning what looked like a derelict church into an imposing monument to club life. Arthur hung with the fast set of my era: Stephen Sprouse, Debbie Harry, Ian Schrager, Steve Rubell, Grace Jones, and a list of etceteras that would fill volumes. He went out like a champ. With his body withering away and his ability to speak gone, Arthur was on the Highbar roof one afternoon toward the end, still showing us how it’s done. We will toast Arthur with Stoli & OJ, which will henceforth be called the “Arthur” at Highbar’s beautiful roofdeck. As the sun sets, I will hold my glass to the sky where he now dwells and lead the group in a collective “Shud Up!” — his familiar hello, goodbye, and general answer to annoying questions. We will laugh and celebrate a life well done.

Industry Insiders: Spencer Sweeney, Your New Santa

Spencer Sweeney, artist and one of the forces behind Santos’ Party House, talks community boards, sketchy after-hour clubs, and why he’s changing his name to Santa.

Point of Origin: I came to New York about ten years ago from Philadelphia where I was an art student. I started DJing when I moved here at a sketchy after-hours spot on Ridge Street. Looking back, it was a pretty significant place culturally. My first party there was with Eugene Hutz of Gogol Bordello. The club was basically some guy’s apartment, and he got arrested every weekend. I think he had an incarceration fetish. There was this party at Standard Notions on Ludlow, which was a big hangout. Every week you’d have the guys from A.R.E. Weapons, Chloe Sevigny, Ben Cho. That’s where we all came together. At the time, DJing was very genre-driven. If you went into a record store, everyone would ask what you spun, and you’d have to be like “Organic Deep House,” you know?

Occupation: I co-own Santos’ Party House with Andrew WK, Larry Golden, and Ron Castellano. I had been DJing at the Hole, and the owner was basically raping me, paying me in pennies. And I thought how cool would it be if we could have our own space. It took us three years to build out Santos. Part of the impetus behind the club has to do with the Dadaists and the Futurists, which were artistic movements that had very strong social legs to them. We started with the stage and sound system, getting the best we could. And the idea of calling it Santa’s Party House was to try to make the most radical departure from nightclub naming as it currently exists. It was originally Santa’s, and then we were advised by our lawyer not to go with Santa, because if someone really wanted to fuck us, they could say it’s like Joe Camel trying to appeal to young children. So Andrew came up with the shift of Santa’s to Santos. But I found a way around it. I’m actually legally changing my name from Spencer to Santa. Really. I will be Santa Sweeney. It’s gotta be called Santa’s. It’s perfectly absurd.

imageSide Hustle: I’m an artist. I have solo show coming up at the Jack Hanley Gallery in San Francisco. I was in a performance art troupe called The Actress with Lizzi Bougastsos of Gang Gang Dance and some others. I wanted to move into visual art. I had just quit my job as an artist assistant — I was a terrible assistant — and I was walking down the street, I had heard about Gavin Brown and the bar Passerby and I thought that would be a good place to do parties and performance. We had a lot of good stuff — Fischerspooner and Andrew WK — it worked out great. Then I did a solo show for Gavin.

We’re going to be working with a lot of artists at Santa’s, have more live music and a theater group too, that Kembra Pfahler of The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black is going to direct. Our liquor license took a year. Our neighborhood didn’t have a community board, so we were thrown to Tribeca by default. We were like “we won’t even be in your neighborhood,” and they’re like “we don’t care!” It was a bunch of angry old ladies. We had all our friends at museums write letters on our behalf, saying it would be a place for artists and culture. The board was like “what kind of artist is gonna be up at two in the morning have a drink?”

Favorite Hangs: I liked Lit on Mondays and Wednesdays. And I like … uh … I guess that’s the only place I go. Erik Foss, the owner, is a nice guy. Of course there’s also Max Fish which has been a great place for 20 years now.

Industry Icons: I don’t want to emulate anyone else’s career. But there’s definitely inspiration. Mickey Ruskin at Max’s Kansas City. I mean everyone went there. And Steve Paul who owned a place called the Scene. And the biggest inspiration was Arthur Weinstein, who I was very good friends with, who just passed away a few months ago. He owned one of the first discos called Hurrah. They were really hot for a season, then Studio 54 opened up. I learned a lot of lessons from him.

Known Associates: I’m collaborating at Santos’ Party House with a great choreographer named Maria Hassbi. Who else do I want to give shout-outs to? Andrew WK. Gavin Brown. Elizabeth Peyton. Agathe Snow, Carol Lee at Paper magazine, Ben Cho, Chloe Sevigny, Meredith Monk — we hope to have her perform. Will Oldham — him too.

What are you doing tonight? Going to a reggae party. I’m excited.