Bruce Tantum went to everything

Nightlife writer, DJ and gadabout Bruce Tantum is New York’s undisputed champion clubber. Sometime in the late ’70s, as the city’s infinite nightlife possibilities spread out in front of him, a friend advised him to either go to one club all the time, or to every club once. A born contrarian, Bruce resolved to do both. Since that decision he has rarely slept, his metabolism requiring little to sustain it beyond oddball twelve-inch disco dubs and vodka. His band Moot started with a 13-strong line-up supporting New Brunswick’s very own Celibate Sluts in a local parking lot. With their guitar-free, bassline-heavy no-wave stylings – and nine fewer musicians – they went on to span the ’80s, playing at Mudd Club, Danceteria and the Peppermint Lounge, and holding down a dependable Saturday slot at CBGB. DJing then took the strain and for the last 30 years it’s been a rare week in New York when Bruce doesn’t spin records in a dirty basement, or increasingly on air. He can look back fondly on a life lived on the dancefloor, with a memory of it all that would be encyclopaedic if it wasn’t so gloriously blurred. Time Out New York cottoned on to his unique clubland expertise in 1997 when it made him Clubs Editor, a role he inherited from the late Adam Goldstone (who caught the job description from my good self), and in which he spun golden letters for an illustrious 17 years. Despite never having written for publication before, Bruce emerged fully feathered as one of the most informed and entertaining writers on dance music, a skillset he now employs as Editor of DJmag USA. His brilliant seat-of-the-pants DJing makes him a favourite at Low Life which he plays on a roughly biennial basis, or whenever we can afford the gilded sweetmeats in his preposterous DJ rider.

interviewed 19.02.23 by Frank on ZOOM

Frank Broughton: I have a lazy mental shorthand for the Mudd Club as a parallel to London’s Blitz, because it was ground zero for so many creative people. I was reading Johnny Dynell’s interview recently because we finally posted it, and he calls Mudd Club the cradle of civilization. Was it?
Bruce Tantum: It really was in a way. It wasn’t quite as much of a dress-up kind of place as the Blitz. What it was – it was one of the first, if not the first, instances of the down-and-dirty punk rock scene, and the no-wave scene, and the more artistic scene, all merging together. That had been happening at parties, but I don’t think there’d ever been a club that kind of formalised it.

And by the artistic scene, you mean the post-Warhol people. Like Basquiat – who actually DJed there.
Yeah, not the fine art scene, more like the various strains of the underground art scene. All the new-wave filmmakers, and people in various visual arts. But at that point, I still felt like I was on the outside looking in, because I was still pretty new to New York.

Where did you grow up?
In New Jersey, and where I grew up was very rural, a little village called Dutch Neck. We didn’t even have mail deliveries. We had a general store where you would have to pick up your mail. I remember it was a big deal when we got street addresses.

Was there a particular moment when you decided you had to move to the city?
That started when I was five years old. Because where I grew up in Jersey was close enough that we would get the New York television stations. And so I would see on the news, crime and homelessness and the city’s turning to shit. And for some reason I was like, ‘That’s where I want to be!’ I always knew I would move to New York as soon as I had the chance.

I went to school at Rutgers University, which is about 30 miles from New York. And so 1976 to ’80, that’s when I started going out in New York, mostly to punk clubs. CBGB’s, Max’s [Kansas City], a bunch of other smaller places. But I was very much a New Jersey bridge-and-tunnel outsider at that point. Some of my friends had cars, but we usually took the train and we would just stay out till whatever time and then take the first train back in the morning. We were considered the art-punks of Rutgers. T-shirts, ripped-up jeans and Converse sneakers. But I mean, that’s kind of what everybody wore. First I moved to Hoboken, which is right across the river. But my whole social life at that point was already in New York.

Did the punk thing really feel like a movement? Or was it just disconnected bands? What did it feel like?
Well, by the time I started going to these places, it was already ’76. And bands like The Ramones and Blondie were already pretty big. By the time I saw the Ramones I think they already had two albums out. Blondie had their first album.

What were the most memorable gigs of that period?
I remember having some fun at Richard Hell and the Voidoids. A friend of mine was friends with the Misfits and they used to play Max’s all the time. Those were very fun shows because there would be a very strong element of danger. Like there’d be tables flying through the air. For somebody 18, 19 years’ old it was a blast.

In addition to the punk stuff, we were also occasionally coming out to discos as well. Even pre-’76 when I was in high school, we were going to the local New Jersey discos. My whole peer group was listening to Led Zeppelin and Yes, and for some reason, Foghat was really big in my school. But I was always drawn towards slightly weirder stuff, like Bowie and Roxy Music. And I was also one of the few of my friends that had a real thing for whatever disco, or proto disco, they were playing on the radio. At our local mall, Quaker Bridge Mall, there was a place called Duke’s, and they would actually have live bands playing cover versions of disco songs like [Dr Buzzard’s Savannah Band’s] ‘Cherchez La Femme’ and [Salsoul Orchestra’s] ‘Tangerine’.

Amazing! Live disco bands in your local mall.
Yeah, and you could drink underage back then too, so we were like 16 years’ old and we’d go and get drinks and have a laugh.

And in New York you would go to disco clubs as well as punk gigs.
I went to Studio 54 when I was still in college. This was after it had already closed the first time, so it had lost some of its allure. There was one night where we actually went straight from Mudd Club to Studio 54. Shockingly, we never had much of a problem getting in. Even though there were still huge crowds outside.

Well, that’s because of your innate coolness.
I don’t know about that. I think they just went, ‘Look there’s some punks’.

What were the other places?
I was going to Mudd Club a lot. I think the first iteration of Danceteria had opened, when it was on West 37th Street, I believe. That was great. We were still going to all the punk things as well, Peppermint lounge, and very soon, by 1981 I believe, Pyramid opened up. And that was a huge one for me. Because in ’82 or ’83, I actually moved into Manhattan, into the East Village. And Pyramid was essentially my local disco, my corner disco. And we were going there all the time.

I went to The Saint a few times. You supposedly had to be a member. But since we worked in what was their unofficial restaurant, they would let us slide in once in a while. I was working at 103 restaurant, which was right on the corner of Sixth Street and Second Avenue. And the building that kind of surrounded it was the Saint.

Of all the all the clubs I’ve heard described, The Saint just sounds astonishing, that whole theatricality. There are very few photos, was it as amazing as it sounds?
Yeah, it was. I mean, it really was a full on planetarium. I don’t know how they did it. Because it was originally a Yiddish theatre. Then it was Fillmore East, and then I guess, around ’79 it became The Saint. Some of those other big discos were pretty full on as well. Studio 54, of course, but I think The Saint was more impressive because they really did pay attention to the theatrical aspect.

Yeah, programming the light show to the music, it was all coordinated.
It was pretty amazing. But frankly, I was kind of happier going to places like Pyramid or the Mudd Club – with that dingy, falling apart kind of vibe.

Pyramid was where that alternative gender-fuck drag started.
That was sort of a thing. It’s where RuPaul and Lady Bunny and a number of others got their start. Johnny Dynell DJed there for a while, Mark Oates, Sister Dimension. The management always wanted the DJs to play new wave. But the DJs wanted to play more disco and funk and soul, and then early house once that started. So it was like a mix of all those things, musically.

And then Area opened in 1983 and from what I know about it, it kind of formalised things. It was like, ‘Okay, this really works. People love this kind of clubbing life. Let’s put some money into doing a really amazing version.
Yes. I do think they wanted to capitalise on that sort of uptown-downtown aesthetic. And they did it quite successfully for the maybe three and a half years that it was open.

People talk about the great mixing of people. Like Warhol coming down. Was he chatty? Was he hanging out?
I never saw Warhol at Mudd Club. I saw him at Area a lot. Yeah, he would just be hanging out. Usually just standing against a wall

And happy to talk to anyone?
Well, you could talk to him. He wasn’t going out of his way to talk to anybody. He would always have one or two of his assistants with him.

Who were some club characters we might not know of?
I don’t know, umm, Baby Gregor. He was always one of the people in the dioramas at Area. He’s no longer with us. He was a Pyramid person. And one of the co-founders of Wigstock.

And he’d be in one of the glass cases at Area.
He’d be in a glass case at Area. But so would a lot of people, a lot of that downtown underground art scene would eventually end up in a diorama.

Did you?
No, no, no. I wasn’t well-connected enough yet to sit in a fucking terrarium for eight hours straight. They probably paid people I think.

It sounds like clubbing was a full-time way of life. You were going out of your way to visit different places.
I was doing some of everything. Among my friends that was pretty much a normal thing. I mean, we’d just be out at clubs, easily, three, four nights a week, right? Not just out partying, but actually at clubs. My usual routine then was I’d go to Danceteria, which had cheaper drinks. Get kind of sloshed there. And then we had Area, where we knew the door people, so we’d get in really quick. And spend the rest of the night there.

What are some of the nights that stand out in your memory, blurred or not?
I don’t have many specific stories. I really don’t have all that many. Because it is all like a blur. One time somebody gave me some advice: ‘You can do it one of two ways. Go to one club all the time. Or just go to every club once.’ And for some reason, I’ve tried to combine those two things. Every club all the time.

So as I say, it’s all a swirl. Basically, my whole life from from 1980 to 2000 is a big swirl.

My first night of Paradise Garage was very much an anomaly of a night though. It was in ’83, New Order playing there. It was right after ‘Blue Monday’ got big.

I was at the Saint once for Sylvester to play a short little disco set. And I believe it was Two Tons of Fun as backup singers. Though I might be hallucinating that.

So you’re out everywhere, and as as new things came into view, like hip hop, you were aware of them?
Mudd Club was one of the first places that wasn’t a hip hop club that would play hip hop. And then right around that same time, first there was club Negril. Then the Roxy. We weren’t looking at it as a discovery. It was just the music that was swirling around.

How much were you aware of the earlier grassroots scene up in the Bronx, in Harlem?
Yeah, we were aware of that. I was fascinated by hip hop as soon as I heard of its existence, which would have been sometime in the late ’70s. Sugarhill Gang songs and Kurtis Blow ‘The Breaks’ – all those songs were huge on New York radio. Everybody knew where hip hop was at that point. By the time they actually started playing it in the downtown clubs, I was pretty well versed.

There were linking people who connected hip hop to downtown weren’t there? Like [scenester] Fab Five Freddy, [videomaker] Michael Holman, [promoter] Ruza Blue, who did the Roxy, people like that.
Yeah. And I think all of them were Mudd Club people as well.

Right. So it really was the cradle of civilization
Yes. Yeah. Johnny was correct about that. It was the beginning of a strain of clubbing that carried New York nightlife through the ‘80s, right up until the dreaded Giuliani time. It kind of laid the basis for clubs that were very different but that still had some of the same methods – like The Roxy, like Area.

Who were the DJs you were aware of?
Well, Justin Strauss and Johnny Dynell because they’re playing at Mudd. And I knew Anita Sarko, and Mark Kamins at Danceteria. And of course, everybody knew people like David Mancuso and Larry Levan. Then Tony Humphries over at Zanzibar. I don’t know if Tony had his Kiss FM radio show yet or not. But yeah, we knew the bigger DJs. But as great as they were, you didn’t really go to clubs specifically for the DJ, you went for the club. For most people DJing wasn’t really a thing. It wasn’t really a aspirational kind of career decision. Like at Danceteria, unless somebody told you, you wouldn’t even know where the DJ booth was. That was true of a lot of clubs. At the Pyramid, you were perched in this sort of crow’s nest about as far above the floor as you could get. Nobody could really see you.

What was your DJing debut?
That was a little bit later, around 1987. Me and my friend Mickey Hohl used to do a party in this little bar called Chameleons which was on Sixth Street near Avenue A. It’s now Club Cummings, a little venue owned by Alan Cummings. We were playing basically disco and house. People hated it. House hadn’t really caught on yet in New York, I guess? And disco… it was too soon for a revival. People would get into fights with us. But we stuck with our guns and we eventually started getting a crowd and had fun.

We did a night called Home Shopping Club, where we would have little shows and give away cheap, shitty merchandise. House, disco, and electro, dancier new wave. A mix of stuff. And eventually we brought that party to the Pyramid. Early ’90s.

Just how lawless was the city when you first arrived?
It was fully lawless. Yeah. I mean, there were like 3000 murders a year for one thing. So you could do whatever you want. There was very little police presence at that point. The restaurant where I worked at, one night somebody was shooting it up. So we had bullet holes in the window. You know, there was a lot of crime, there was a lot of homelessness. There still is a lot of homelessness.

That lawlessness brings freedom, though, doesn’t it? I always imagined that if I’d been there ten years earlier, it would have been even more amazing than the amazing time I had.
Well you’ll always say that. I wish I had been there in the mid ’60s.

The late ’70s just sounds so much fun.
Well you can see it, if you watch a movie like Downtown 81. Or any number of flicks from back then. There’s plenty of photographic documentation. And that is what it was like, that’s not an exaggeration. It was half bombed-out, people are shooting up all over. The trade-off is, you have 3000 murders a year – and you have $300 a month rent. You take the good with the bad. Actually, my first apartment was $300 a month, and I thought I was being ripped off because I had friends who had better places for $150 a month. Back then, even with the minimum wage being practically nothing, you didn’t have to work too hard to get your rent together.

So people were free to be who they wanted to be. You could do your art or your music, or just go out all the time. I mean, we really did party. I remember once we found an abandoned building, this would have been ’86, ’87. We found an open basement of a building. ‘Hey, this basement looks nice. Let’s do a party.’ I think there might have been some people living in the building, I don’t know.

There were all these little weird, like, not even after-hours. Some of them were like regular hours. There were places I didn’t even know the names of but like, basically, people would take a whole tenement building and turn it into a temporary after-hours club.

I was always amazed you and Adam [Goldstone] knew all these little speakeasies. That side of the culture was so established in New York, I remember going to that tiny place Brownies which was basically someone’s living room.
There’d be people snorting lines off the table. But if you swore, if you said ‘shit’, Brownie, or one of his minions would come over and say ‘You be careful.’

They were like, ‘You know the rule! No profanities!’
Right. They were very strict about that.

It’s a good way of keeping people’s voices down, because you’re trying not to swear so you watch what you’re saying.
There was another place called Frank’s, right on Second Street. between Second and First avenues. Classic sort of, knock on the door, the little thing opens up. And like, you have to say, I know Frankie, or something.

How were you making a living? What are you doing to pay the rent?
Well, I worked at at 103 restaurant until about ’85. Then I started working at the Museum of Holography, which at that point was still museum-worthy. Before they started printing holograms on cereal boxes. That was a really easy job. And paid fairly well.

What clubs really established house in New York?
There were already parties like House Nation and Wild Pitch, but I think The World was one of the first full-on house clubs. The World was a trip. Around 1990. That was another of my corner discos. It didn’t last very long. It was big, but it was incredibly decrepit, literally falling apart. Frankie Knuckles and David Morales were the residents. And that’s probably the first place I ever heard Frankie play. David Morales I’d heard one place or another before then. This was obviously well after the Warehouse, after Frankie had come back from Chicago. But I think The World was one of the first full-on house clubs in New York. House was being played everywhere. But there weren’t many clubs that were fully invested in it – yet. It was normal for people to mix house into their sets. It was unusual for there to be all-house nights.

Was that because of what drugs people were taking?
Well, there were a lot of drugs, everywhere. But it wasn’t like everybody was doing ecstasy, like it was in the UK. It wasn’t like a full-on ecstasy-rave kind of thing. There was a variety pack of drugs.

I think that’s the difference. The UK had this sort of Year Zero for this new thing of house music plus ecstasy, whereas New York had more varied drug tastes.
Yeah, we had much longer experience. I first did ecstasy in ’80, ’81 It was straight out of that club in Dallas, the Starck. Somebody had brought it up to New York – or Hoboken, ’cos I was still living in Hoboken at that point. And we actually, the first time – I hope none of my relatives ever read this – the first time we ever did MDMA, we injected it.

Oh my god. How come?
I think somebody had advised us to do it that way.

How did that turn out?
We had some classical music playing. And immediately the classical music in my mind turned into heavy industrial music. And I was floating in a universe of coloured bubbles. And then, after 15 minutes maybe, I settled down into a normal ecstasy experience.

So it was a kind of at-home thing, not at a club dancing?
Yeah. The first time I ever did it was at home. I mean, yeah, I had already been doing ecstasy for a long time before the summer of love over there. For you guys.

Tell me about your band, Moot. I guess a band was the more obvious route to stardom than DJing back then.
I think they were both highly unlikely. It was a band with some of my old Rutgers friends, formed in 1981. A minimalist pop band. We had a small degree of success. I mean, ‘success’ is being very relative. We had one 7-inch single come out, ‘Mavis’. But we played Danceteria, we played Peppermint Lounge. We opened for Toots and the Maytals once. Opened for the Bongos once somewhere. We played at Mudd Club once. This is in Mudd Club’s dying days I should add. For some reason Hilly Kristal took a liking to us and we would play headline slots on Saturday nights at CBGB’s. This is also after CBGB’s salad days, I should also add.

Too modest! Any chance of reformation?
I’ve sold my bass guitar. I just sold it like a year ago. It’s been sitting in the corner of the place for 20 years without me touching it.

When did you start writing for magazines?
That wasn’t until literally when I started at Time Out New York.

Seriously? Never before that?
Yeah. You had bequeathed the job to Adam. And it was still a part time job at that point. But it was getting successful enough that they were expanding. And I think they gave Adam a choice. You can either start working full time, or you can get an assistant. And Adam being rather, you know, allergic to work, said I’ll do the assistant route. And he asked me.

At this point, I was working at a shop called Air Market, which sold Japanese stuff, like Hello Kitty kind of shit. So I said, Yeah, I’ll give it a shot. I went in, the job interview consisted of the managing editor asking me, ‘So you want a job?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ She was like, ‘You’re hired.’ And then I started writing. And then immediately Adam stopped showing up.

Without any warning?
He had some battle going on. We had had to cut a lot of the listings because there wasn’t space. There was one party and some friend of the editor was like, ‘Make sure you get that in once in a while.’ And Adam was like, ‘He can’t tell me what to do. Until he backs down. I’m not going to show up.’ So the full-time gig was thrust upon me. And I was there for 17 years.

How did you meet Adam in the first place?
A party at Mickey Hohl’s house actually. Adam was already a known entity. He was Club Kid of the month in a magazine called Project X, which was basically the Disco 2000 fanzine. And he was friends with Colleen Murphy, DJ Cosmo, because they both went to NYU. And Colleen brought Adam to a party at Mickey’s House.

Disco 2000. That was the first club night I went to in New York. At Limelight, when techno was starting to be a thing.
Limelight had a pretty interesting history. They opened way back in ’84. It was owned by a Canadian guy, Peter Gatien, who wore a pirate’s eyepatch.

He’d supposedly lost his eye playing hockey and used the insurance pay-out to buy his first nightclub.
Yeah. There was a Limelight in London as well. Peter Gatien had two. In fact there had been a bunch of clubs called Limelight. There was a Limelight in New York beforehand, in the ’70s, that had nothing to do with Peter Gatien. The New York Limelight in a church opened in ’84, as a rock and roll club. well, different nights for every kind of music. But around ’89 or ’90 Disco 2000, which was Club Kid ground zero, was the big thing. That was actually kind of fun.

I remember at Disco 2000 they’d get regular clubbers to strip naked on stage as a competition. Was it Lady Bunny who compered?
It was Larry Tee. He was an oddball figure in New York clubbing history. He produced RuPaul’s ‘Supermodel’. He produced a Lady Bunny song too. I think I’ve got that.

Peter Gatien would hire the Club Kids as freaks to spice up his clubs. With Michael Alig as the prime mover. [Alig was famously jailed for murdering his dealer Angel Melendez, as detailed in the book Disco Bloodbath]
I used to go to a lot of the Outlaw parties. Michael Alig’s things. Michael Alig and his Club Kid minions. There was one in a McDonald’s, one at a subway platform. I think it was the First Avenue L train stop, if I recall correctly. Everybody got on the train. Up to Limelight, I think. There was one in a car park somewhere, I forget.

Did you go to the Sound Factory much? That was my home from home.
I went to the Sound Factory some. I didn’t go a lot at that point. What years was that?

I started going probably ’91. Junior Vasquez’ era. I missed Frankie Knuckles there.
Yeah, I saw Frankie there

What about Jackie 60. Did you ever play there?
I never played at Jackie. Johnny didn’t have that many guests at Jackie 60.

There was always a performance, so DJing wasn’t the whole story.
Yes. It was Johnny split up by various performances. Once in a while they would have other DJs. I know David Morales played there once or twice. I think Danny Tenaglia might have played a Jackie 60 night. But it was almost always Johnny Dynell. That was another of my real regular places when that was going on. I guess it would have been early ’90s.

I went to Jackie a few times. It was a Tuesday, wasn’t it?
Yeah, Jackie 60 was Tuesday. But they had the whole place, the building Mother, which was originally called Bar Room 432 before Johnny and Chi-Chi [Valenti] took it over. They had parties of various sorts every night of the week: Meat, which was their gay, techno night. Aldo Hernandez was one of the DJs. They had Click and Drag, which was their sort of proto cyber night. Clit Club, a lesbian night. And one or two others. Yeah, that was a real locus of fun, that place, while it lasted.

I remember a redneck bar next door.
Hogs and Heifers? That’s it. We’d often go there, get tanked up and then go to Jackie 60. That’s when the Meatpacking District was still the Meatpacking District. With actual meatpacking going on. And with the girls working the streets as well. They were all pretty flamboyant. And fun to talk to. That all went away, obviously. The Meatpacking District is a chi-chi upscale neighbourhood now.

We have to talk about Giuliani. Nowadays he’s known as Trump’s useless lawyer, but when he was mayor in the ’90s he was a real crusader against clubs. What was your experience of the whole Giuliani time?
The first half of it was fine. I mean, he had a war on clubs, but the clubs were still there. He really had it out for the Peter Gatien empire, which was Limelight and Palladium and Club USA. Palladium was opened by Steve Rubell and I think Ian Schrager still as well [creators of Studio 54]. Palladium was a great place. That was another of my corner discos, but on a much grander scale than Pyramid.

Yes. Giuliani had a real thing out for clubs – for closing them down. He would get red in the face and sputtering when he talked about them. And one of his Deputy Mayors, Rudy Washington, famously said, I’m paraphrasing a bit here, but not much, ‘We’re going to close down every one of these little buckets of blood.’ And he did close a lot of them down. With the Cabaret Licence thing. He enforced this law from 1926 that had been ignored for half a century that said you couldn’t have dancing unless a bar had this particular licence.

And this was at a time when suddenly there were scores of smaller places opening up: bars adding turntables and putting on interesting music nights, like a Brazilian night or a drum and bass night.
Right, this this little-used tool that he picked up on. He realised, hey, I can close places down with this. I was at a few bars, bars with turntables, that got closed down. They would come in like gangbusters, the Nightlife Taskforce. And there’d be like, 20 of them. They’d just come in and start shining flashlights in everybody’s faces asking for ID. Shut the place down.

Did that ever happen any way you were DJing?
Not where I was DJing, but parties I was at. So that started the era where every venue that did have music that didn’t have a cabaret licence had to have those ‘No Dancing Allowed’ signs up on the wall.

I’ve got one somewhere, for posterity.
Yeah, I should have saved a few. It got really petty. Then he was finally able to shut down the Gatien clubs and do some serious damage. Those got to be pretty dark days in New York clubbing. I remember doing the listings for Time Out New York around ’98 or ’99 and realising there’s not a single thing this whole week that I actually want to go to. It was a huge change. So Giuliani did a considerable amount of damage, then 9/11 happened, which also didn’t help things.

I remember, before he was mayor, on the day he got elected, all the police went crazy stopping cabs one night. Do you remember that?
What was the rationale for that?

A show of force to express solidarity. I got stopped. I was in a cab with Fritz coming home from Supper Club.
Oh, because you had a black fella with you.

I guess. They were literally doing roadblocks and looking into every cab. They got us out and we had to assume the position and everything, for no other reason. Giuliani was a nasty piece of work. The other thing I remember about him before he was mayor was when he led that police strike on the bridge. Whipping up a bunch of drunk off-duty cops.
Yes, he was rabble rousing. And rabble rousing in a very overtly racist way. Yeah, he was just an asshole.

I guess like Trump, everyone in New York knew that he was an asshole for a long time before the rest of the world figured it out.
Indeed. But one thing I should mention is that the crackdown on clubs started even before Giuliani. I really have to think of the Happy Land fire. At which 80-some people died. It was an illegal social club, that only had one exit. That was 1990. And that led the the fire department to come around and inspect every place.

Another thing that seemed to change in the ’90s, it just became a bit more mainstream. I remember when the Sound Factory reopened as the new Sound Factory around ’95. It was really above board, whereas before it had always felt like a big secret.
Yeah. Well, all of New York was being gentrified. It was been getting much more expensive to live here. Yeah. which meant the clubbing demographic was far different than it had been in the ’70s or ’80s or even ’90s. It was a more mainstream kind of crowd? So the clubs were more mainstream.

And that whole gentrification process has accelerated. I mean, it took the East Village 25 years. I don’t want to call gentrification a natural process, but it happened naturally or at least gradually. And nowadays, it’s just like, boom overnight. They just put a luxury high rise in the middle of a poor neighbourhood. And then the gentrification flows out from there.

But the club scene is fairly strong right now. Even with the pandemic having happened and a few economic downturns over the years. I don’t want to say it’s the strongest it has been since pre-Giuliani days – it’s definitely not as creative and full of wild abandon as it used to be – but it’s pretty good right now. There are clubs like Good Room, and Nowadays? and a whole bunch of smaller places.

They’re outside Manhattan generally. I guess that’s the biggest change, isn’t it?
Yes and I’m stuck in my rent stabilised apartment in the East Village where there’s basically no clubbing to be had. Mind you Nicolas Matar, who was the owner of Cielo, and co-owner of Output just opened a small venue in the Lower East Side, like 150 people. But yeah, it’s really strong. And they actually got rid of the cabaret laws. They’re not even a potential tool to be used.

That’s room for celebration.
They haven’t been enforcing them since Giuliani left at the end of 2001, but now they’re not even a thing. And the thought of it being gone is good. Now there are smaller venues that never would have gotten a cabaret licence back in the old days, a place like Jupiter disco in Bushwick, or Black Flamingo in Williamsburg. These are legitimate small clubs with small dance floors, where they no longer have to put up the no dancing allowed signs. And they get decent DJs. Yeah. It’s pretty kind of fun right now. I don’t go out to clubs three or four times a week, like I used to, but I’m out once a week at least.

© Bill Brewster & Frank Broughton