Remembering That Day, That Girl, Central Park, & Danceteria

A long time ago, I sat on a blanket and ate luscious food and listened to friends talk about important things and I held a hand of a special gal who I never wanted to go away and is now lost in time. There was always a guitar, and I remember our squire singing the Simon and Garfunkel song bookends. 

"Time it was, and what a time it was, it was 
A time of innocence, a time of confidences 
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph 
Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you"

I remember that day, that girl, that moment, and that song, but it’s all so long ago. No names and shadows of faces. My life is filled with memories like that; photos stuffed in boxes and dressers that remind me just-not-enough of a past that has left me here. It seems, when looking at an old video or photo, that I was always quite innocent (even when I was found guilty). There is always a naivety in the 2D, and I wonder if that’s my biggest problem. I believe I’ve grown afar from the things that made me happy on that Central Park blanket day. Yet the fundamentals, the core of me, is the same. I have lost too much in glitz and glam. It is a day of reflection after Obama and MLK Day, but also because an old friend is in town to say hey. 

George Haas, a door person at a club long gone, will meet and greet old acquaintances. Danceteria was as good as it ever got. Some can argue for Studio 54 or Mudd Club or The World or Paradise Garage or Area (a sort of Danceteria on steroids), but in the annals of club history of which I have served a humble role, Danceteria stands tall. It was the ’80s, and from what I can see from the black and white images, the clothes were mostly ridiculous. But the sex, the drugs, the adventures were unparalleled.

I often say that a club is often great because it hits you at a time of your life that you are ready for it. Danceteria hit me hard. I had hundreds of one night stands there. I woke up in strange places. I had more friends than even Facebook would allow me now. There was chaos and dangerous adventure and girls with hair that could hurt me. I met a wife there.

There are still groups on the internet that converse, tell tall tales and "remember the time…" stories. I try to always look forward. I try to define myself in the time I live and with the work that I do now, but nostalgia. according to Don Draper, comes right after "NEW" with the way it pulls our strings. I’m feeling that pull, and I will go to Lit Lounge tonight to see old George and the dinosaurs that come out to gather. Time has changed us, but like that piano player said in that movie: "The fundamental things apply as time goes by." I believe that. 

George Haas, Haoui, Rudolf, John and so many others put the fun in the fundamentals back at old Dancetera. That other crazy author said you can’t go back again… I’m gonna try.

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On My Radar: A Roundup of Events

Those who say nightlife is dead invariably point to the lack of artistic types running joints. For example, we interviewed Rudolf Piper last week from his nightlife empire hideout in Brazil, and remembered his joint, Danceteria. It was a joint where creativity trumped the chase of money. Danceteria was arguably one of the best joints ever, but it owes a great deal to two spots that preceded it. The Mudd Club and Club 57 were places run and inhabited by the creative types who have mostly abandoned today’s club culture. Born out of the punk chaos of the late 70’s and early 80’s, they were hosts to what I refer to as the “lost generation” of clubs. AIDS devastated this scene, taking the best and scaring the rest. For me, they was my Wonder Bread years, the years when I was just starting to go out in earnest. I was a moth addicted to the light they were casting, and I gleaned life lessons from wunderkinds Joey Arias and the late Klaus Nomi, who took the time to corrupt me to happiness. On Thursday, October 28th, a reunion will be held at The Delancey. Everyone will be there. While “special guests” are still to be announced, the confirmed performers are a who’s who of the era: Ann Magnuson, Richard Lloyd, Tina Peel, Sic F*cks, Marilyn, Bush Tetras, Walter Steding, Comateens, and Phoebe Legere. The list of MCs and DJs is lengthy as well.

Mc’s and DJ’s include L Anita Sarko (DJ), Dave Street (MC), Ivan Ivan (DJ), Mark Kamins (DJ), Tessie Chua (MC), and Dany Johnson (DJ). John Kelly will perform. There will be photos and video from Allan Tannenbaum (photography), Harvey Wang (photography), Marcia Resnick (photography), Merrill Aldighieri (video), Nightclubbing (video), Robert Carrithers (film, photography), Marty Abrams (video), Linda Dawn Hammond (photography), Frank Holliday (video), and Francine Hunter McGivern (video, photography). There will be tributes to Patti Astor, Lisa Lost, and Deb O’Nair. The Mudd Club, Club 57, and Danceteria were the the counterbalance to the 800 pound gorilla of clubs like Studio 54, which dominated the scene and dominated that time. I wouldn’t have been caught dead at 54, but I did anything to get into these joints. The reunion is a must.

I am also fascinated by the Art Guitar Auction being held this Thursday at BB King. My friend Erik Foss of the Fuse Gallery, which is that fabulous art fortress at the back of my favorite haunt, Lit, is telling me all about the event. His DRAW co-curator, Curse Mackey, has produced this charity auction, which features Fender Stratocaster art guitars that have been painted by celebs, rock stars, and Fuse Gallery favorites. “The auction includes guitars painted or drawn on by Kenny Scharf, Travis Louie, Rich Jacobs, Slash, Stephen Colbert, the legendary Stan Lee, Lou Reed, Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, David Stoupakis, DRAW guest curator and artist Miguel Calderon, Stanley Mouse, Gene Simmons of KISS, actress Juliette Lewis, James Hetfield of Metallica and more.”

You can attend or buy online. The proceeds go to Little Kid Rock, an organization that transforms the lives of children by restoring and revitalizing music education in underfunded public schools. It’s free lessons and instruments for underprivileged children in US public schools with over 1,000,000 students served to date in over 1,200 schools in 24 cities nationwide. Little Kids Rock honorary board members include Bonnie Raitt, Slash, Paul Simon, B.B. King, Ziggy Marley, and other famous friends in the music industry.

Also on my radar is P.J.S. (a gallery on 14th and 8th), which is hosting the Paper Spaceship and CMJ Music Marathon & Film Festival. It’s an exhibit of 30 years of CMJ photography. I try to avoid most CMJ stuff, but now I can see everything I’ve missed over the decades in one place. I guess CMJ is about listening, but I’ve never been too good at that. Running October 19th through the 31st, CMJ 30 will kick off with a huge opening reception on Thursday, Oct. 21st from 7:00pm to 10:00pm, with complimentary beer from Porkslap. The gallery will be filled with black and white prints—wheat-pasted on the walls—from over 20 different photographers. “We’re incredibly thrilled to work with Paper Spaceship and CMJ Music Marathon for this upcoming exhibit,” says Patrick Sullivan, owner of P.J.S. “Band photography has always played such an integral role in sharing the live music experience.”

Oh, and another usually reliable source confirms the rumor I heard about The Box opening up in London, and tells me it’s headed for Vegas too. I’m digging deeper and will let you know.

Rudolf Piper Is Alive in Brazil

When I was king of the forest, and a young bright person would come to me with aspirations of a career in nightlife, I would make them listen to a little ditty: “I will hire you, but you must understand that nightlife is like a roller coaster. You spend a little money to get on the ride and the first thing it does is it takes you up a great hill from which you think you can see the whole world. It broadens your horizons, and the anticipation of what lies ahead is a huge adrenaline rush. Then you plunge headlong into it—fast and fun, steep curves, and drops and spills, and you have barely enough time to catch your breath or see much else. Suddenly it’s over, and you basically went around in a circle and didn’t get anywhere, and the only person to really make any money is the guy who owns the thing.” For the great majority of aspiring Steve Rubells or Noah Tepperbergs, that’s all she wrote. Some are satisfied with the gal above their pay grade or the recognition at the club du jour’s door, but few make a real career from it. I was very lucky to have worked for so many brilliant men who did, and Rudolf Piper was as good as they get.

He understood the money end and never let it get in the way. He knew without the bucks there would be no Buck Rogers, but he was an artist first. The clubs were a canvas that sometimes sold for lots of loot and sometimes a little less. The value of art is not necessarily in its price tag. I think Andy Warhol would have disagreed. I think Andy felt its value was in its ability to generate cash, but although Andy did something in almost every creative field, he never ran a joint. Nowadays, few operate places for little more than the money, and maybe the gals. There is nothing wrong with that, but it has led to the migration of the creative types to other boroughs—or even hemispheres. Rudolf Piper now resides in playful, hedonistic Brazil. He is making money there for club operators from NY, Miami, and elsewhere. He takes familiar brands visited by South Americans during the warm weather when they migrate north, and recreates them near their home. Yesterday I gave Rudolf 15 minutes of fame, and today I’ll give him another 15. Andy wouldn’t have minded. Rudolf is a man for all seasons, a bon vivant. He found himself in a paradise and furnished it to his tastes.

When operators look for a name of some garage or warehouse that will be “the place to be” for a few years, they no longer think small. They envision their brand in Vegas, or Miami, or Atlantic City – or with Rudolf’s help – Brazil. A name must transcend the boundaries of Manhattan’s rivers. It must be able to travel and be relevant elsewhere, wherever the party people live and play. Sometimes it’s merely a pop-up at Sundance or Cannes, but often it is a full blown joint in a faraway land. I learned much from my mentor, Mr. Rudolf Piper, and I apparently have a great deal more to learn. He invited me to visit him way down there, but I had to decline. I’m just getting used to Brooklyn, which feels like a foreign (but absolutely wonderful) country to me. Besides, from what my old boss has been telling me, I’m not sure i would ever come back. I often say you can only live one life. My old pal once again proves me wrong. Like an old cat, he survives continually and recreates himself and the world around him. I asked him a few questions via modern technology.

So, how does it feel doing club business in Brazil? First and foremost, it’s fun, sexy and lucrative. Meaning, it’s better than in many other places in the world. The economic crisis never arrived, or has been extraordinarily late in coming, so the economy is booming. Here, everybody that has money is really nouveau-riche, and therefore prone to spend a lot on lifestyle. It’s no secret that Brazilian girls are ultra-sexy, so that takes care of that. One generally overlooked factor is that the local population is of a joyous nature: they are happy, easygoing, and welcoming, and that’s a major differential. What other countries in the world could be labeled as “happy”? If you think about it, I’d say that there is almost none. So, it’s much better to live in a place where people are party-oriented, than in places where they are weird or depressed.

You have specialized in licensing foreign club brands in Brazil. How did that happen? It all started because Jeffrey Jah was trying to install a Lotus club in São Paulo in 2005. He was having difficulties, because a lot of the investors did not speak English down there. Then, at my birthday dinner at the Bowery Bar in 2005, where you and Jah apparently made up, I was sitting right next to Jeffrey and he got a call from Brazil, and he passed the phone to me. My Portuguese is impeccable, don’t ask me why because the story is too long. In any case, suddenly I was thrown into the middle of this project, and loved every minute of it. Then, that same night, some bizarre queen came out of nowhere and trashed our entire table setup, remember? Well, that incident gave me a good feeling about this whole plan, and I’ve been south of the border ever since then. There were many branches of Lotus down there. What other places did you license? Yes, Lotus had clubs in São Paulo, Guarujá, Salvador, Campo Grande, Campinas and Campos do Jordão. A nightmare to control. Then, I licensed Buddha Bar from Paris, owing to my friendship with Raymond Visan, who just passed away a few days ago. Later, I was briefly part of Pink Elephant-Brazil, and then purchased the Mokai brand from Miami. Recently, I was involved in the development of Kiss & Fly, which is now going to Punta del Este too. Currently, I’m working to open SET, from Miami, for next year, and I have some more things up my sleeve.

Talk about the strategy behind bringing these brands to Brazil. It definitively makes money and sense. Brazil is still a class-divided society, and the upper echelon is well-informed, has money to burn, and does not like to hear samba in their clubs. They travel a lot, and once back home, they want that same house music and DJs they listened to abroad. In a nutshell, they really want that NY club they liked so much in their own backyard. So, I took it upon myself to bring those venues over. How do you hook up with a foreign brand and how do you select which club you want to approach? First of all, I do research amongst the target clientele, to see which U.S. clubs seem to excite them most. And they always want American clubs, because nobody really knows what clubs are trendy in Europe. Once I have three or four possible candidates, I fly over and start negotiations with the people from NY or Miami. Normally, some 50% of the selected venues clinch a deal. The reason why the other places don’t is because they charge too much or create obstacles. Many fail to see that a licensing deal for Brazil is like money found on the street. They get concerned about the image of their brand, forgetting that most American clubs have only a short lifespan, so what possible damage could Brazil do to them? Others start preparing complicated contracts, some gigantic legal monuments that nobody in Brazil will sign. The rule of thumb is “easy does it.”

So, once you have signed a US brand and secured a property in Brazil, what do you do next? I start doing all those things that you do so well here in NY, like drawing up plans, getting additional investors, hiring contractors, decorating, starting initial promotion and presswork. As a matter of fact, I consider myself to be the Steve Lewis of Brazil! Well, thank you, I guess I’m flattered! It feels good to know that I became a mentor to my old mentor somehow. Now, changing subjects radically, let me ask you a question that a lot of our friends have been wondering about. Why, after so many successful clubs in the 1980’s, did you suddenly leave NY in 1991 without notice? They didn’t run you out of town, did they? To be honest, I think I did! No, seriously, there were a few reasons. First, I believed that the magic of NY had evaporated by then. Boy, was I right. Second, I realized that nightlife was subject to cycles of trendiness, which ended abruptly and was substituted by new ones. Most people who seriously identify with the times just past, normally have difficulties in a new situation because they were considered passé. The best example of this was when disco ended from day-to-nite in 1979, for no specific reason. The morning after, nobody would be caught dead in a disco outfit! Something happened to me when New Wave gave way to hip-hop. I was too close with those skinny black jeans! Plus, when I say that I ran myself out of town, there is a certain truth to that, because I opened Mars in 1990, and that was the first legally established place to really play some kick-ass hip hop—and I absolutely hated hip hop! I was not gonna put up with it! Then, because of all the shootings and stabbings in Mars, I decided to get away from the young crowd, and became a partner with Mark Fleischman at Tatou, a very successful supper club that existed in midtown for many years. When we decided to open branches in Aspen and Beverly Hills, I thought it was time to say farewell to NY. Then you initiated some kind of a pilgrimage around the world that lasted for roughly 20 years? Yes! I’m this German that became the Wandering Jew! Well, long story short, after a few years, California became just too lame for me and, besides, I heard voices telling me that my destiny was to go back to Germany, where I hadn’t been in 25 years. So, not wanting to argue with those voices, I sold my part in Tatou, went back to Berlin, and got a nice apartment there. Three months later, I realized that I couldn’t stand all those krauts around me, and I started to remember why exactly I had left Germany in the first place! It is an impossible place to live! I threw myself out of town again, and fled to Paris. In Paris, I was the promotions director of Les Bains Douches for a while, and did many other clubs and events for 6 years. Then, projects in Belgium and London followed suit. I spent one year in Lisbon, 4 years in Miami, and now 5 in Brazil. Yes, I call it tourism in slow motion, because in every damn place that people normally visit for a couple of days, I ended up staying there for years and years. I had fun, though. Of all these clubs you participated in, which one do you consider the greatest, most incredible nightspot you ever were involved with? You know, I hate being nostalgic and like so many other club people, I live for the here and now. But, as we both are true blue connoisseurs, let me just say the following: Up until recently, I would have said Danceteria, no question.That place had an un-fucking-believable magic, and, as you were part of it, I need to explain no longer. A short while ago, however, I came across an old issue of Mao Mag that had a long article about the Palladium, and I came to realize that this was really the most fabulous club of all time. And you were involved in it too! I came to think of all the aspects that made that place so great, like that fantastic old theater, Arata Isosaki the architect, Steve and Ian, the sheer luxury and size of it, those incredible parties for 5,000 people, all dressed up. It was a castle of dreams, a never ending ball at the Grand Opera. I also realized that, nowadays, the Palladium has been overlooked and even forgotten, in spite of the fact that no other place like that existed in the whole world—ever! There was an aura there, some atmosphere that cannot be repeated, and that will never come back. But then, again, Marx said that “History does repeat itself, but the second time around, only as a farce.”

Freddy Bastone: Master DJ and Jack of All Trades

Diving into the nightlife business is way easier than climbing out. Waitrons need to score a rich husband, or land that career-making role, or finish school, or move up to management. Promoters need to become owners, or use their new-found connections to do what they learned in school. The “who you know” factor often kicks in and these types often enter the real biz world higher up than they would have if they had plodded up the corporate ladder. Knowing hot chicks, and having access to swanky clubs is good for gooses, ganders, bosses and clients. Some top tier ex-promoters now run things in that straight world. Bartenders must open a joint, become management, or land that role, or finish school, or start to sell those fabulous metal sculptures that they make in their spare time. Clubs put people through school, but are also a school of their own. Many make a good living in clubs, but many can’t get out, and find themselves too old to really be there. My path went this way. I was able to get to a top tier position, but then circumstances—that were in and out of my control—spun me out and into another direction. I didn’t have one more second in me at a club when I segued into other careers. I write this little column and am a designer of joints. My club experience gave me the tools I needed to get out. In the design field there are thousands of people who can choose fabulous woods, or simply gorgeous fabrics, but few—if any have actually ever sold a beer. I’ve sold lots of beer, and I know where bars should be and banquettes, and so on. I had an exit strategy and I tell everyone in the club world to devise one.

DJs are the rockstars of clubdom. The technology of the modern world makes almost every sound, twist, and remix available to every one of them. Their art relies heavily on their personality and love for the music. The best ones know how to listen to others, exchange ideas, and grow. Those stuck in their own schtick often get stuck in the mud, and end up spinning in the uncool parts of the outer boroughs, or not at all. The modern DJ has a suitcase packed, a management team, agent, PR, website, and maybe even a bobble head of his likeness. Freddy Bastone and I worked together back in the Danceteria days and beyond. He is still out there, strutting his stuff. I had the pleasure of hearing him play recently, and was amazed how skillful and relevant he remains. When I was doing fashion shows for a living, Freddy did my music. We made sure that the hottest new rags were accompanied by the hottest new sounds. I caught up to my old pal and asked him about how to survive and thrive in an industry where youth has almost as many advantages as experience.

Hello, Freddy. Good evening sir. First of all, thanks for this lil interview, and sorry getting back to you so late. I’ve been working 12 hour days, acting on a ABC pilot “Proof of Guilt.”

Great to hear from you, and it was great seeing you the other night. Great set. Tell me about your musical journey. What were you playing when you started? What are you playing now, and all the time in between? My musical journey started at home with my father who was a jazz musician. He and I had drum battles: me playing John Bohnam beats, and my dad doing his Max Roach. So I was surrounded by music, day and night. I put my guitar and drumsticks down in my last year of high school. I was fascinated by my Latin friends, and dance music, which was disco, and the very beginnings of hip hop. I was the only white boy playing parks and house parties, doing the disco and my partner doing the salsa, but I always had my rock ‘n’ roll ears going, so I always added the punk, or new wave to my sets. The Clash, Yello, Kraftwerk, The Jam. I continued that style of being able to mix all those elements flawlessly, which I believed set me apart from the rest of the DJs at the time anywhere in the world. You either did this style or that style. I remember starting to work in a club, no names, and the clique of DJs were like, who’s this kid think he is, mixing beats for new wave/punk into funk and disco? They got over it quick ‘cause they needed to learn the trade or they’d be out. I still very much enjoy taking people on a musical journey from deep house to soulful house to a old reggae into real rock and roll, without the dance mixes that are usually terrible. Back into electro to funk then go into classic disco. And when done, these days—even more than before—people are just blown away, because people expect the washing machine effect when entering a dance venue .

What clubs have you worked. The best? The worst? The best club to me, by far was Danceteria. It didn’t have the best sound system, but it was the atmosphere created by the people who worked there. Everyone had a following, from the DJs, to the bar backs, and everyone in between. The Palladium and Studio 54 were also huge to me, because I was playing live on the radio every Saturday night. That made me a good amount of mulla with the record companies at the time with remixes. The best sound system was The Hacienda, and Space. The worst has to be the two strip clubs I played at. You would think: what fun, but no. The girls do not want to be there dancing for these pathetic men. They’re mostly in the locker room fighting, and getting high to get through the night, very sad really.

Tell me about producing and how that started. I really started my producing by being the club ears of big name producers. They would ask me to come in the studio and want to know what would work and what wouldn’t. I learned a lot from them but I was like, wait a minute, I got to do this for myself! So I made my own label, I named it Metropolis, which was distributed by Emergency Records, who, at the time I was doing my second A&R job—my first with Profile Records. I had my first #1 record with my alias, Corporation of One “The Real Life,” which really made me a wanted man in the UK. I’ve always been someone to take chances and I think the UK is more receptive to that, which is probably why all my favorite music comes from there, and they like my thing. I have had many top ten records and many # 1’s. I’m currently working on the first 2 singles for P Diddy, also Cassie, and I’m doing a 2010 version of the Real Life.

What are you working on besides DJing? I’ve been acting the last 12 years here, and in the UK, TV, theater, films, all the major NY shows like the Law & Order, Sopranos, and I just finished a four-month run of a one man show on Lenny Bruce, which was directed by the wonderful and talented Susan Batson. I have a one-man show on Tennessee Williams coming up, and doing all this as a single dad. That’s funny they look after me more. Haha, no, they’re my kids, and my best friends, and they’re not kids anymore.

Uncle Steve to Father Steve: Club Dads Over the Years

I spent yesterday in Queens with my family celebrating Father’s Day. It was real nice, underscoring what is important in this world, at least for me. Dad is my reality star, having fought in World War 2 and survived a Great Depression that makes our own woes seem trivial, and raising us kids with his old school and honest values. Mom and him have been together for over 60 years. When I got back to Manhattan, it was off to Goldbar to say goodbye to Natalie Glanzman, who has been my assistant for a bit. There was a birthday party for a friend as well, and everyone was to wear lingerie or bed clothes. Seemed like a good idea on paper, but looked quite odd in reality. Goldbar honcho Jon Lennon told me that he always considered me one of his club fathers, me and Mark Baker both. We’re his co-dads. I got a lot of that yesterday on Facebook, and in texts from people who see me in this light. Uncle Steve might graduate to Father Steve if I stick around long enough. After 2 marriages and no kids, I just assumed I had been shooting blanks.

Survival in club-land isn’t all that easy, and it’s arguable that I didn’t actually survive my club career as I was put out to pasture by the powers that be a bit earlier than I wanted. Still, I had a good run and am proud of much of what I have done. So many of our city’s owner/operators worked with me over the years. I hope I was a positive influence. It is nice to have bright, successful people give me props. I, myself, have many fathers besides dad to thank.

My first club father was Rudolf. Under him I learned the value of “fabulous” at Danceteria, and later, the Palladium. His partner at Danceteria, John Argento, taught me to temper the “fabulous” with a common sense, bottom line focus. I learned from them that almost anyone can actually make money in this business—just look around at the fools doing it today. Also, almost anyone can make the place fun, exciting and well, fabulous—but to do both, to make it fabulous and make money, is an art. I approached all my club endeavors with this attitude. Rudolf is in Brazil having opened over 75 joints, and John has a place in New Jersey making money, selling booze.

The greatest club dad I ever had was Steve Rubell. I was the director of the Palladium under Steve and Ian Schrager. Steve’s Rolodex of bold face names was unparalleled. He new everyone. He was always the brightest, most charismatic guy in the room. He taught me how to spend money to make money. He taught me the importance of detail. He personally hired every single employee. They represent you and your brand. I could write for hours about what I learned form Steve and Ian. Steve passed years ago and Ian has a hotel empire.

Maurice Brahms and his partner Angelo were pure grit. They taught me to watch every dollar, and the importance of people you can trust. Maurice had Infinity, the Underground, Redzone, and eventually the Palace de Beaute. He is largely forgotten, even though his joints were often the best in town. He rarely stepped on my toes. He wanted to know why, but let me and mine run it, recognizing that is what we were good at. He was the most honest man I ever met in the world of clubs, and I learned that honesty with staff and in business has rewards far beyond the bottom line. He works with a national health club chain and we remain friends

Peter Gatien built an empire with Michael Alig, myself, and a cast of characters that books and movies rarely describe correctly. At our peak we had Palladium, Tunnel, Limelight, and USA—four clubs that should figure in everyone’s top twenty. Unfortunately, Peter was the greediest of them all. His drive took him to the top of the heap, but his need to have it all left him empty. I learned how to delegate and the importance of the door under Peter. He valued sound, lights and a great DJ in coordination with the social/promoter scene I had mastered. He made me better at my job. Peter is living in Canada. An exile, not on main street, with his club Circa taken from him. I hear he is not well, and I wish him happiness and peace of mind.

Frank Roccio, Arthur Weinstein, and Peter Frank were also some of my dads. The World on East 2nd street was one of the top 5 joints there ever was. I was its director. Frank Roccio pushed me out front, where I dealt with guns, creeps, wannabe’s and real be’s. It was violence waiting to happen, and deals were made with the devil just to open the doors. Frank helped me grow my balls. There was no backing down for me, I stood up and fought the good fight and learned from him that the street is where it all comes from. The music, the fashion, and the ideas all come from the gutter. Arthur took nothing for himself that he wasn’t going to give back to the crowd immediately. He taught me about the lights, and the importance of the show. He was always comfortable with the little people and made the rich, talented, and powerful prove themselves everyday. Phrases like “What have you done lately?” or “So what?” dressed blustering swells and pseudo celebs down. Peter Frank was aware he was swimming with sharks, but managed to keep the unmanageable afloat. In the end, intellect will get you through when experience and balls aren’t enough. His thought process, honed at Harvard, defined my future. Arthur passed and everyone assumes Frank has as well. Peter’s fate is almost as bad. He’s a lawyer in upstate New York.

There were many others that I worked with who taught me so much. Barry Gutin and Larry Cohen in Philly, Suzanne Bartsch, Steven Greenberg, and many more showed me better ways to operate. But these were my club dads. They taught me more than I taught them, and I am always thankful. I had a good run in clubs. I saw a list the other day of the top 10 joints of all time, and I ran 5 of them. It’s nice now, looking back and being called Uncle Steve and such, and the Fathers Day greetings were cute. Any success I may have had was owed to the people I’ve learned from, because of the opportunities I had working for so many brilliant men. Isaac Newton said about the physicists who preceded him: “If I have seen further than other men, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Generations Pack It In for Danceteria’s 30th Anniversary

Friedrich Nietzsche said “For art to exist, for any sort of aesthetic activity or perception to exist, a certain physiological precondition is indispensable: intoxication.” Last night an extremely artistic crowd gathered for the aesthetic activity called partying. The perception was that they were all very experienced in this endeavor. All — well, most — seemed to possess many physiological preconditions as well as a desire to get extremely intoxicated. It was a crowd for the ages, meaning they were all quite elderly. They gathered for the 30th anniversary of Danceteria, a club that will just not gracefully fade away. It still wants to go inside and play and for a Camelot moment it did again last night.

Danny Cornyetz put up some old-school videos including David Bowie with Klaus Nomi and our favorite downtown ringmaster, Joey Arias. Conversations rambled about the new movie about Klaus’s life with Alan Cummings cast to play the lead. Everyone thought that was brilliant. DJ sets from Mark Kamins, record mogul Craig Kalmon (chaiman and CEO of Atlantic Records), new father Walter Vee, Richard Sweret, Freddy Bastone, Walter Durkatz, Jette Vandenberg and many others had us on the dance floor. It was frenetic as if they had in mind the Bowie lyrics, “Let’s dance for fear tonight is all.” Tom Silverman told me about the return of his New Music seminar, which predated the Winter Music Conference and others that filled the void when Tom and his old partner, Mark Josephson, pulled the plug after 15 years. For its run, the seminar was the birthplace of new music and new ideas. Daily panel discussions about technical advances, trends, nightclubs and social issues drew thousands of people from all over the world.

Many opted to break out the old leather jackets or spandex body armor. Others showed off the skinniest of ties and black shirts that almost hid the waistlines. Everyone looked real good for their age and the lifestyles that occupied a great part of their legacies. Cheyne, who did the song “Call Me on the Telephone” back in the day, flew in from London for the event. She was an elevator operator along with Entourage’s Debi Mazar at Danceteria. The club had many floors, roof included, and stairs were sometimes not an option. Some came from the west coast. Infamous doorman Tom Starker flew in from Ohio, but alas without his trademark cowboy hat. Some came from the deep past bringing tears to many eyes. Some couldn’t make it due to distance, illness or Mother’s Day. When we booked the date, Joe Stanich and I just didn’t check. Yes we have both been called mothers before, and I of all people know to look for such things. Thank god I’m out of practice.

There were others missing because life ended too abruptly. A moment of silence was observed for Haoul Montaug, who passed almost nine years ago. Haoui was the soul and smarts for this generation. Danceteria owner John Argento came and talked of his New Jersey nightspots. He donated an original barstool to the event. Kamins came up with a couple dozen original t-shirts, which were gobbled up. Danceteria’s ring master Rudolf Pieper called me from Brazil and wished everyone well. He couldn’t make it because he has just opened Kiss and Fly down there. He says it’s his 76th club! TV and movie star Lisa Edelstein, who we used to call “Lisa E,” sat with Phoebe Zeeman Fitch and Sally Randall Brunger, and all looked as if time had forgotten them. The event was a cornucopia of mixed nuts, beautiful Mrs. and Misses, some mixed fruits, many missed opportunities, a number of excuse me miss is that you’s?, some messes, two make no mistake about it’s, a few misused, a number of missed the boats, a handful of misbegottens and a smattering of “I’d check this out closely because it might not be a miss at alls.”

As I worked the room I was particularly amused by the tourists who stumbled into the Aspen Social Club not knowing what was going on. They saw a real intense 1980s party with appropriate music and dress. Maybe it just felt natural — like they say, if it’s midnight in Manhattan, it must be 1984 in Kansas.


Party Reunions and Backwards Gossip

“Up is down and down is up,” is Eddie Dane’s cryptic observation from Miller’s Crossing, an early Coen brothers flick. The two sensational clubland cases I written about involving anti-heroes Justin Ross Lee and Tarale Wulff may not be what they seem, as the two are not what they seem to be on the surface. I have had extensive conversations with all parties involved regarding Ross Lee’s big bang-up and Wulff’s class acts. Things don’t seem to be as they appeared in the initial reports. These stories have more legs than a 1Oak cocktail waitress and I’m just dying to tell you, but I can’t say much more as of yet. Except maybe up is down and down is up. I am told things in confidence and being a man of my word, I must wait until I am unleashed to blab.

But I can talk about the weather. As Spring is about to be sprung, the old fogies of my era and those before me are dusting off the pointed boots, ripped jeans and the well-worn leather jacket as reunion parties of long dead clubs are the order of the night. This Thursday we’ll find the legendary Tommy Gunn hosting “a one night stand, 20 years later.” The one night stand will be held at one of the only venues that still holds old-school values, Bowery Electric, the Joey Ramone place on the bowery. Tommy has lined up 10 bands, including New Zealand rockers Electric Mary and local vocals Wild Street. Project Runway’s Stella Zoltis will toss in a fashion show for good measure and go-go dancers are promised. Let’s just hope the dancers are not from the old days. The host committee made up of 24 folks, including myself, Gaslight owner Matt de Matt, Rock photog Bob Gruen, 80’s rocker Sally Cato (Smashed Gladys and The Conchords) and Danceteria’s John Argento. I asked Tommy why he decided to throw a party two decades after his last shindig. His reply: “I wanted to find out if New York City was ready to rock again! I wanted to bring back the magic one more time.”

It might take more than magic to bring back the old days. A crowd that will have to look for their dentures when they’re getting dressed or be literally resurrected might be in order. Luckily young stud promoters like Sam Valentine will ensure a current crop of revelers will join in the throw-back.

A reunion of sorts is now scheduled for Sunday, May 9th for the Danceteria crowd. This unofficial gathering will take place at Aspen Social at 8pm- a starting time that obviously takes into consideration the age of those who will be reuniting. The gathering marks the 30th anniversary of the legendary club, which means most attendees will be in their late 40’s, at best. I did the math.

There are other reunions for Club57 and the Mudd Club. I also I heard of a Cat Club reunion as well. When put into this context, I don’t think I can picture a future where any of today’s clubs would be remembered with such nostalgia and that any of today’s staff and patrons would maintain relationships strong enough to have a reunion 30 years from today. Personally, I never thought I’d survive Tunnel. Maybe I really didn’t?