Iconic Mudd Club Experience to be Revived at New Roxy Hotel

Photography: © Marcia Resnick from her new book, “Punks, Poets and Provocateurs”

This Thursday, everybody who’s anybody will gather at the new Roxy Hotel, 2 Avenue of the Americas, to relive the Mudd Club experience. The event, put together by former Mudd Club owner Steve Mass, will benefit the Bowery Mission Women’s Center and feature co-hosts Glenn O’brien, Maripol and my pal Paul Sevigny.

Paul, who’s Paul’s Baby Grand is the best joint in town, no comparison, no debate, usually avoids the spotlight, but he enthusiastically told me all about this event. I asked him why he was involved and he spoke to me in his usual “one hundred words per second with an in-between chuckle” manner. He said something like this: “Everybody knows the Mudd Club was the best place ever. Even Donald Trump would say that. Everybody says it. My father went there and told me all about it.He said it was the best place ever.”

Maybe it was. When nightlife writers offer those “best clubs ever” lists, the Mudd is always top tier. The host committee includes Victoria Bartlett, Richard Boch, Jeffery Deitch, Eric Goode, Kim Gordon, Deborah Harry, Kim Hastreiter, David Herskovitz, Darryl Kerrigan, Humberton Leon, Debbi Mazar, Patrick McMullan, Robert Molnar, Lisa Rosen, Lola Montes Schnabel, Kate Simon, Anna Sui, threeASFOUR and Linda Yablonsky. There will be live performances by Kate Pierson and Pat Irwin of the B-52’s and Lenny Kaye of the Patti Smith Group. Special unannounced guests are also promised and I think its going to be historical. Tickets are $200 and can be purchased here.

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I shouldn’t have ever been allowed into the Mudd Club—I was’t that cool, but my friend’s drug dealer was there and we had to meet him; he got us in and I’d never seen anything like it. I worked every angle and every connection to be part of it, until suddenly, I was. I don’t know why I was chosen, but the door people saw something in me that I wasn’t aware of and years later when I was at the doors of my clubs I looked at the unlikely with more forgiving eyes.

The music from David Azark, Anita Sarko, Johnny Dynell and Justin Strauss was everything I ever needed and little that I had ever expected. Steve Mass and his cohorts curator Diego Cortez and no wave scenester Anya Philips were always changing the game—the look, the feel, the sound.  It was an era when you didn’t need to know what was going on. You came for the club and crow—not the famed DJ of the moment.

The girls were all “it” girls and the dudes cooler than any I  knew back in Queens. I’d say “hi” to Keith Haring; I’d chat up a distraught Jonny Lydon in the bathroom, I watched a stadium level rock star have sex, not in a corner, but right there in the light of night; I scored with women way out of my league; I’d leave and come back, rinse and repeat. I was always confused whether I was cool and therefore allowed into the nightclub or cool simply because I got into the nightclub.

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I never slept again; I had most meals within walking distance of the White Street joint. I slept with a different person every night. It destroyed me; it made me. Suddenly, I had to get upstairs, since that was where everyone in my world clamored to be. Chi Chi Valenti womened the ropes and my best clothes didn’t work. I couldn’t sneak in with a more worthy person, so I dressed the way I dressed normally: ripped jeans, Keds and a Ramones tee. I brought a perfect red rose and bowed my head as I acknowledged the goddess Chi Chi, and I was hooked in nightlife forever. That was the moment when I became Steve Lewis and Chi Chi always laughs when I remind her.

Richard Boch, one of the door persons who let me in, described the Mudd to me: “I’ve always referred to the Mudd Club as the ‘scene of the crime’—always meant as a term of endearment. It was the night that never ended, the day before never happened and the day after—a long way off. There was nothing else like it and I wound up right in the middle.”

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Richard and all the other door people were curators of a mixed bag of nuts that included a sprinkling of celebrities: Bowie, Lauren Hutten, Basquiet, Debbie Harry, Alan Ginsbug—you get the idea. The fashion designers were there, the rockstars, the hookers, the druggies and the pretty ones. The door people had to be ruthless; for every person that got in, three or four did not, yet when you got to know them they were the sweetest of souls. If I close my eyes I can see Marianne Faithfull singing through Laryngitis, while I balanced another rock star who was standing on my shoulders and hanging onto a pole.

The Mudd Club experience is also a Rummage Sale, featuring the coolest downtown things all donated by the coolest of downtown royalty to help the Bowery Mission. I think it’s going to be the downtown event of the year and that’s saying a lot. The generation that made Mudd and Danceteria and Area don’t gather en masse very often, but when they do watch out. They know how to party like it’s 1979.

Some fortune cookie once said, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Well, photographer Marcia Resnick has been snapping thousands of pictures for a minute or so, and offered us these words: “The Mudd Club years were enchanted, endangered and unrepeatable.”

The Perfect Storm, Election, & Party

The perfect election distracted us from the destruction of the perfect storm. Those with power and comfort hosted those without as the election served as a bit of relief from immediate woes. Donald Trump, whose wig must be on too tight or his hair must be growing into his brain, provided comic relief with Twitter rants that underscore his new role. The Donald now plays the fool. We seek joy where we can find it as even the Obama win can’t allay our continuing anxiety.

I am still without heat, although space heaters powered by sacred electricity make my Sandy experience less frightful. I have no cable yet, but of course compared to so many neighbors I am doing brilliantly. The streets I saw as I traveled to a friend’s to watch the results were empty as election night seemed to be bad for the booze business. The debate still rages on whether the result of the election is good for business in general. Those seeking an Obama celebration stayed local, as  travel is still problematic. There are few events worth the fuel, and suburban NY, a huge part of the bottom line, can’t get here. They will come when they can as there still isn’t a place outside of our crippled town that can satisfy their party itch. I missed David Davis’ birthday bash last night over at Westgay. Frankie Sharp, through hard work and mad creativity, has made Westgay at Westway a must-attend weekly party. The L train, the lifeblood of North Williamsburg, is reportedly still packed with mud-keeping hipsters and wannabe hipsters and those too hip to go near that moniker near home. The local bars and restaurants are packed. I will go out, but will pick my spots.

There once was this little spot downtown, off Broadway and White, that thrilled us all back in the day. By all accounts and my experience the Mudd Club was one of the greatest places ever to be. I learned my business there and hobnobbed with celebrities and the fabulous people long before I sought a club career. It was heaven on earth for a young rascal who never would have made it in save for the kindness of doorman Richard Boch. For every person inside, there were 10 outside, and I was blessed that Richard saw something in me that he believed belonged. Tomorrow UNDER CONSTRUCTION, Works In Progress (and other adventures) will be happening at The Gershwin Hotel, 7 E.27th St. at 8pm sharp. There will be readings by Richard Boch from his in-progress manuscript: If You’ve Been Standing Here For More Than Ten Minutes: A Mudd Club Memoir 1979-1980, as well as readings by Maggie Estep. I will attend and expect to see many faces that have been swept into the corners of my mind.

Thursday night, man-about-town Nick Andreottola will use his resources to help The Lower East Side Girls Club. While most of the news focuses on the valiant relief efforts in Staten Island and Breezy Point and the Jersey Shore, there are people in our backyard who have lost everything. The storm surge flooded basement apartments in the LES and sent the poorest among us scrambling. Many still have no power or heat, diapers, food, and blankets. Nick’s legendary Champagning party will help raise cash and take in donated canned foods and supplies to make sure the young girls at The Lower East Side Girls Club continue on their journey to success. The event is tomorrow, November 8th, at 7pm at RSVP, 15 Watts St. at W. Broadway, hosted by Nicole Rose Stillings.

Bow Down to Princess Xtravaganza and Her Royal House of Magnifique

For over 20 years I have attended balls. The balls I attend aren’t the ones seen in old movies, with rich white ladies in gowns and rich white gentlemen in tuxes, sipping champagne and listening to the unlistenable. That’s not really me and I’m never really invited to those except when some misguided publicist thinks I might cover their charity soirèe. The balls I attend are the balls thrown by the houses sometimes referred to as the voguing houses. I was honored to be a judge at an Xtravaganza Ball a couple years back. This culture became popularized by Madonna with her song "Vogue." The world learned to pop, dip, and spin, and the balls were never the same. In reality, balls and this culture have been around for a century. I am a regular at the annual Latex Ball which is now turning 21. This ball is presented by the GMHC, now in its 30th year of helping educate and support people with AIDS. Education helps with prevention. Despite a very relaxed attitude by the general public regarding this scourge, HIV and AIDS are still killing people.

The houses play an extremely important role for people who are sometimes left out of the process we call society. They serve as a support group for people who are sometimes shunned by family and schoolmates and their surroundings. They are perceived as different, often made outcasts by a world of the straight and narrow, and more often than not – racist. The balls are an opportunity to show the community and family of like-minded souls what they have and why it is wonderful.  
 
The date of this year’s Latex Ball has not been announced, but I was told that it will be held, as is the norm, on the third Saturday in August. The August 18th bash is by far – at least for me and mine – the best party of the year. You will scream and cry and yell and laugh and protest and agree as judges of reputation and qualification award prizes to the best in 20-something categories. As we get closer to the event, I will inform you.
Princess Xtravaganza
 
I am writing about it at this early juncture because of an announcement which has shocked and awed the Lewis household…in a good way: my dear friend Princess Xtravaganza has announced the reformation of the House of Magnifique. It gets better. She is now once again Princess Magnifique and she has asked me to play a major role in this endeavor. This is a great honor and something that I had always wanted. As a straight white male, to be asked to be part of this legendary House is something I didn’t think was possible. It has left me speechless and you all know how impossible that is. 
 
Princess has asked me to be Emperor of the Royal House Of Magnifique. Chi Chi Valenti is Empress. Princess will be the Mother of the House, and  Adrien Xtravaganza will be the Father of the House. Before I was anybody except my parent’s son, I hooked up with the Ramones and, as a friend of their’s, was awarded access to the best clubs in town, including the legendary Mudd Club. There I was, able to learn the club world and meet many different types of people that my Queens upbringing had denied me. I had regularly met up with Joey Arias and Klaus Nomi at Fiorucci and on St. Marks place. They taught me to think outside the box that everyone I grew up with accepted. My head always tilted to the left of my upbringing and, until Joey and Klaus, I thought I was alone.
 
Although connected, I wasn’t connected enough to gain access to the VIP second floor of Mudd. Chi Chi Valenti was the separator, the door person. She denied me time and time again. Not deterred, I studied the crowd she embraced and came back one night in torn jeans, a Ramones t-shirt, and carried a perfect red rose. I presented the rose with my head bowed slightly for Chi Chi and she smiled and let me in. I have never left. She is to blame for my club career – an honor she may or may not embrace. Now she is the Empress of the Magnifiques and I am there.
 
This probably sounds like a bunch of hooey to many of you. I urge you to google voguing balls or The Latex Ball and such and see this world that has now honored me with acceptance. I see this as an opportunity to do some good…make a difference. Punk Rock Frankie is one of the original Magnifiques and his blessing was all-important. I asked Princess to tell us all about this happening.
 
Why are you relaunching the Royal House of Magnifique? 
We were such an amazing House, and when it started getting stronger, I forgot what really happened – why Punk Rock Frankie closed the House. But it’s been on my mind for some great time to reopen this again. I just felt it in my soul that this time is the right time to make this bigger than ever… powerful and in the name of Punk Rock Frankie.. so this is why I’m not letting this Royal House die. Point 1: This is where my roots are I’m grateful that I have Punk Rock Frankie’s blessing. I’ve got to bring this back on top. This is not a game, point blank.  
 
What is a House and what is the history of the Houses as you know it?
What is a House? Well, this House is a group of powerful, talented people that not only go to a ball, in battle for trophies. We are a performance house that travels the world, showing what Magnifique is made of. This Royal Family is of every color and background, gay and straight, boys and girls, men and women. This house was born in 1986 and now again in 2012. 
 
Who else is joining you?
You ask who else is joining… only the chosen talented, and some of the most colorful and artistic people that are powerful and fit – what I’m looking for and what Magnifique stands for. I’m holding a casting next month to requite new, fresh, talented members. 
 
You gave asked me to be Emperor of the Royal House of Magnifique. I am deeply honored but must ask this…as I am a straight white male… isn’t this a departure from the norm? Am I qualified. Am I worthy of this honor. Is it a statement that the Magnifiques are going to be traditional but unafraid to break new ground?
Yes, I ask you, Steve Lewis, to be the Emperor. It really does not matter if you are gay or straight. You have that personality to do it, so I fell you can do it. You must believe in yourself. Bring it. Chi Chi brings it all the time and she is the Empress of this Royal Family. 
 
Will there be a ball to celebrate?
Yes, of course we will be having a major ball to really announce our return. 
 
How does belonging to a house help you in your own life?
Just because you belong to a house… you can live your life as you always do, or you can also benefit from belonging to a strong talented house full of people that are talented in every known way. It really depends on what type of house you belong to.