Cooper, Carol. “Disco Knights: Hidden Heroes of the New York Dance Music Underground.” Social Text, no. 45 (1995): 159–65. https://doi.org/10.2307/466679.
Fierman, Michael. The Saint Promo. CD. New York, n.d.
Dunlap, David W. “As Disco Faces Razing, Gay Alumni Share Memories – NYTimes.Com.” Accessed October 10, 2017. http://www.nytimes.com/1995/08/21/nyregion/as-disco-faces-razing-gay-alumni-share-memories.html?mcubz=1.
Ganga, Maria L. La. “The First Lady Who Looked Away: Nancy and the Reagans’ Troubling Aids Legacy.” The Guardian, March 11, 2016, sec. US news. http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/mar/11/nancy-ronald-reagan-aids-crisis-first-lady-legacy.
Kennedy, Shawn G. “The New Discotheque Scene: ‘Like Going to a Big House Party.’” The New York Times, January 3, 1976, sec. Archives. https://www.nytimes.com/1976/01/03/archives/the-new-discotheque-scene-like-going-to-a-big-house-party.html.
Large, The Saint At. SUBmerged: The Black Party 2016 Trailer, 2016. https://vimeo.com/156787064.
Large, The Saint At. DARK MATTER: The Black Party 2017 Trailer, 2017. https://vimeo.com/208734189.
Lateef<firstname.lastname@example.org, Yasir. “FAQs – The Names Project.” Accessed December 2, 2017. http://www.aidsquilt.org/about/faqs.
Lateef<email@example.com, Yasir. “The AIDS Memorial Quilt – The Names Project.” Accessed December 2, 2017. http://www.aidsquilt.org/about/the-aids-memorial-quilt.
McEwan, Jonathan. “The Saint Goes On.” Metrosource, 1994, pp. 36-44.
Peters, Brooks. “The Sexual Revolution Mailman Delivered.” Out, 1994.
Rist, Darrell Yates. “A Scaffold To the Sky And No Regrets.” New York Native, 2 May 1988, pp. 17-18.
TheSaintAtLarge. Stories of the Saint – Chapter 1: The Opening. Accessed November 2, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WObdp6fRsY.
TheSaintAtLarge. Stories of the Saint – Chapter 2: The Architecture. Accessed November 1, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwtJiKCrW9s.
TheSaintAtLarge. Stories of the Saint – Chapter 3: The Trip. Accessed November 12, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mtpBRrgI8o.
TheSaintAtLarge. Stories of the Saint – Chapter 4: The Era. Accessed November 11, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WObdp6fRsY&list=PL_lECoVkeC8XKYN27-kssQwDG43QFN_Du&index=4.
TheSaintAtLarge. Stories of the Saint – Chapter 5: The Clubs. Accessed November 2, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HY8sFvbAeQw&t=3s.
Weinstein, Steve. “DJ Sharon White Returns to NYC Nightlife For a Celebration 35 Years in the Making | Village Voice.” Accessed October 18, 2017. https://www.villagevoice.com/2015/11/17/dj-sharon-white-returns-to-nyc-nightlife-for-a-celebration-35-years-in-the-making/.
“1998wp98.Jpg (554×768).” Accessed November 3, 2017. http://saintatlarge.com/wp-content/uploads/photo-gallery/1998wp98.jpg.
Bruce Mailman made a number of changes to the Saint in order to keep it afloat in its sea of controversy. In 1985, Mailman began to sell liquor at the club; though he later opened the disco to heterosexual people on Fridays, attendance at the club still waned dramatically (McEwan, 42). The “ghosts of friends” haunted many members of the New York City gay community (Rist, 18). Most of the crowd that had frequented the Saint were older gay men who had either died from HIV/AIDS or were grappling with the grief of knowing those who had (Rist, 18). Many people avoided the Saint.
The younger crowd that began to populate the Saint didn’t come as often as older members once did because they didn’t have as much money; financial troubles swiftly appeared on the horizon, and Bruce Mailman began to feel that he could only own the Saint “for so long” (Rist, 18). Soon thereafter, the Fillmore East Village Associates Ltd. offered to buy the Saint from Mailman for 6.5 million dollars; by the Saint’s 1987 Halloween Party, the sale of the building had already “passed the point of no return” (qtd. in McEwan).
In 1988, the Saint’s surviving DJs and lighting technicians enlivened the club for the last time. The “Last Party” spanned “three days and three nights,” with Saint regulars attending 30 of the 36 hours (McEwan, 42). Jimmy Ruffin’s song “Hold On To My Love” played near the end of the Last Party; appropriately, the words HOLD ON TO MY LOVE have been stitched onto the bottom of the Saint’s memorial quilt. The words’ ash-colored lettering overlay a thick strip of the same shiny, silver material found elsewhere in the panel.
Jimmy Ruffin’s “Hold On To My Love”
Gay nightlife was “quiet” without the Saint (McEwan, 42). TheParadise Garage and Flamingo dance club had already closed when the Last Party took place, so, when Halloween came around after the Saint’s official closing in April of 1988, Bruce Mailman decided to host a party (McEwan, 42-44). This Halloween Party commenced a series of parties that became known as Saint-at-Large events (McEwan, 44).
Saint-at-Large parties now annually commemorate the four holiest celebrations of the original Saint: Halloween, New Years Eve, the White Party, and Black Party; the White and Black parties are the most popular events of the year (McEwan, 44). This annotation describes the Saint-at-Large’s 2016 Black Party trailer, whose wicked marine imagery elicits awe from the viewer. Further showcasing the living legacy of Bruce Mailman’s inventive artistry is the 1998 poster advertising the Saint-at-Large’s White Party.
Though the Saint-at-Large seeks to “keep the spirit of the original [Saint] alive,” many people have noted that the Saint-at-Large celebrations are mere “shadows” of what the Saint’s parties used to be (Peters, 142). The permanent loss of the euphoric disposition of the Saint’s heyday emphasizes the irretrievable nature of the past. Memories can never be replicated; the Saint will always maintain a “mystique” that is impenetrable even by vigorous research (Peters, 141). Generations now will never learn the liveliness of the original Saint; young gay men will never enjoy the “wonderful playground” that was Bruce Mailman’s very own haven of vices (Peters, 141). Though men still dance beneath dazzling lights and kiss in rhythm with Hi-NRG melodies, they cannot relish the gratification of the hours upon hours men their age spent in the original Saint (Peters, 142). They cannot travel back in time. To Jason McCarthy, the former night manager of the Saint, this restraint on any true comprehension of the Saint is lamentable (McEwan, 44). Younger gay generations who never experienced the original Saint “don’t know what it was [or] what they’ve missed” (qtd. in McEwan, 44). The naivete of this generation is astonishing to him given that they are grossly unfamiliar with the brilliant spark of their antecedents (Peters, 143).
The disconnect that exists between the disco generation and the grunge youngsters saddened Bruce Mailman (Peters, 143). Mailman worried that his generation would not get to share its “collective wisdom” with the next generation of queer youth because of the devastation of AIDS (qtd. in Peters, 143). The sense that the “young [gay population] arrived newly born and can’t benefit from anything that went before them” is upsetting to Mailman (qtd. in Peters, 143). For the men and women who emerged out of the disco era and the sexual revolution, it seems the Saint is best appraised in recollection rather than revival (McEwan, 44). For them, nothing can compare to the original Saint and the original high of liberation (McEwan, 44). The freedom of the 70s never included the burden of AIDS now attached to gay identity; Mailman feels that the epidemic has darkened an otherwise beautiful expression of gay sexuality and identity (Peters, 143). He hopes that future gay generations will find the “same freedom [his generation] once had,” otherwise the community will continuously struggle to recover its historical vitality (qtd. in Peters, 143).
Even if the Saint cannot be relived, its narrative must still be retold. The Saint is not irrelevant, even if, as Frank Courson acknolwedges, there “are entire portions of the city where [the gay community] can be comfortable” (McEwan, 44) The magnetizing majesty of the Saint comforted young gay men and offered them a “safe place” to be themselves and to love their significant others and lovers (McEwan, 44). The Saint shone like a beacon within the gay community, offering shelter and a supportive celebration of patrons’ self-hood that may seem unfit for the currently saturated generation (McEwan, 44). However, even despite the progress of civil rights within the LGBTQ+ community, the dissemination of the Saint’s story is still necessary.
Theunusually large size of the Saint’s memorial block attempts to communicate the club’s extraordinary impact on New York’s gay history. The quilt’s size symbolizes both the magnificent breadth of the physical Saint as well as its metaphorical significance in history.
The Saint was a sinfully sexual disco that manifested the spiritual realization of an unapologetic existence (Peters). Serenading its customers with the rapturous anthems of a liberated generation, the Saint dance club was emblematic of the entire disco generation (“Chapter 4: The Era“). Primarily, the Saint bestowed a jubilant embrace of unrestrained, open desire upon its gay patrons (“Chapter 4: The Era“). In the Saint, desires and dreams were set free as a hot revolution of self-respect unfastened the binds of closeted men and women and turned them towards self-acceptance and sexual liberation (“Chapter 4: The Era“). The lifetime of the Saint embodies the rise and fall of the gay generation during the 1980s due to the AIDS epidemic by encapsulating both the heroism and vulnerability of New York’s gay community. The Saint’s memorial block fails to communicate the tremendous culture of the Saint, however its archival materials convey the club’s life span well.
As Carol Cooper acknowledges, the lack of firsthand documentation from the people “most qualified” to tell the story of disco threatens to diminish the presence of the “rich social history of New York club life” (Cooper, 164). If future generations cannot access firsthand accounts of disco’s growth, transformation, and divergence into various cultural expressions, then “myths and rumors” will begin to dilute and destroy the truth (Cooper, 165). Cooper laments that writers purporting to be “authorities on cult clubs like the Paradise Garage never interviewed its visionary owner Michael Brody, or its principal deejay Larry Levan” (Cooper, 165). However, quite a few of the materials cited in this essay involve direct quotations from the Saint’s founder, Bruce Mailman. Darrell Yates Rist, Brooks Peters, and Jonathan McEwan are authors whose invaluable articles contain interviews with Bruce Mailman himself as well as interviews of other close associates of the Saint. Though direct experience is the only way one can truly understand disco clubs or feel the true impact of disco music, written narratives still provide a crucial glimpse of the nature of the disco revolution. Without the circulation of firsthand documentation on the Saint, Mailman’s concern that there is no “continuity in the gay population” will come true (Peters, 143). To communicate across generational lines the struggle, liberation, and resilience of the gay community (particularly in New York, U.S.A.), the story of the Saint must be shared, as it both explains the importance of discos to the gay community as well as the role of uninhibited sexuality in the community’s freedom from oppression.
The Saint honored the gay community by providing the “climax” of gay liberation: unfettered drug use, impassioned sex, and musical ecstasy comprised the ingredients of this mighty discotheque, though the club’s stunning architectural features similarly indicated the Saint’s superiority (qtd. in Peters, 80). At the Saint, a planetarium projector transported crowds into outer space whilst dexterous deejays weaved melodic memories into the night (Rist, 17).
The Saint originated as a house of Bruce Mailman’s vices, or the pleasures Mailman paid money to enjoy. One of his vices was dancing at the Flamingo night club (Rist, 17). Another vice was Mailman’s deep appreciation for the “imagination and theatricality” of Studio 54, whose attractiveness caused Mailman to return to the club rather often (qtd. in Rist, 17). Together, the “hard-driving” sexuality of disco dancing and imagination of theatrical nightlife supplied formative experiences for Mailman. He was thus inspired to construct a haven of vices that he could go to for free (Rist, 17). However, Bruce Mailman’s desires were elevated by his intention to add a new dimension to the disco scene.
Simple mimicry bored Mailman; he wanted to produce a unique club of vices (Rist, 17). At first, Mailman could not figure out how to promote the individuality of his disco, yet following the night that Mailman went to sleep pondering ideas, the man awoke with the image of a planetarium in his mind (Rist, 17). The club Mailman envisioned wouldn’t be “limited to a stage;” what would become The Saint would be “completely round,” with a large dome sky (qtd. in Rist, 17). The dome would immerse club-goers in an environment similar to the great outdoors; men would kiss and dance in bliss underneath strobes or stars. Following his revelation, Mailman called planetarium companies to see if his fantasy could become a practical and affordable reality. In 1980, Mailman redesigned the old Loew’s Commodore Theater for almost $5,000,000 US dollars; the large theater could accommodate both a planetarium projector and a planetarium dome (Rist, 17). Located on Second Avenue and East Sixth Street, the Commodore Theater underwent a truly heavenly transformation for The Saint’s opening.
Stories of the Saint – Chapter 2: The Architecture
the first party
Bruce Mailman and business partner Steve Casko acquired a planetarium dome and planetarium projector from Spitz Space Systems, structures fundamental to the architectural anatomy and jaw-dropping identity of the Saint (McEwan). The use of mobile lenses in the club’s planetarium projector permitted light technicians to project hundreds of unique slide images onto the sky-like dome (McEwan). These images reflected off of the Saint’s dancing crowds and illuminated them with bright patterns of starlight and other exciting designs. The Saint Promotional Video exhibits photographs of crowds in the midst of sweaty gyrations and stirring light choreography. The following image can be found on the Saint’s memorial block; it displays a representation of the Saint’s planetarium projector and light structure. The stitched-on representation of the light structure is a weathered gray color that has been topped by an orderly row of circular bulbs that exude colors of red, green, orange, purple, turquoise, yellow, and pink. The structure juts from the bottom of the quilt panel and is comprised of a material that feels sturdy and thick, a composition that demonstrates its purpose of strength, support, and vibrant bedazzlement. The actual Saint contained a “lighting tower with about 1,500 fixtures, topped by [the] planetarium-style star projector” in the center of its dance floor(Dunlap).
On September 20, 1980, the anticipation of 3500 men in East Village, New York was subdued and satisfied by the Saint’s impressive premiere celebration, entitled “The First Party” (Rist, 17). At midnight, these men (2500 of whom had already become members of the Saint), lined almost an entire square block hoping to unravel the mystery of Bruce Mailman’s new creation. When the doors of the Saint opened, these gorgeous gay men eagerly began to explore the newly opened disco (Rist, 17).
George Gershwin‘s Rhapsody in Blue “swelled” from the sound system and encased the public in a luxurious mood of classical music as the projector splashed light across the planetarium dome in “spectacular patterns of orange and rose” (McEwan, 38). As the night progressed, classical music transformed into more sensual ballads, and sometime after 2:00am, the pace of the club “picked up” (McEwan, 38). The mothership, mounted on a hydraulic lift, rose above the heads of the dancers. The Saint had milked the virgin qualities of its club-goers by prolonging the reveal of those spectacular tricks hidden up Bruce Mailman’s sleeve, but their emergence was near. As Donna Summer’s “Could It Be Magic” began to play, the club lights dimmed and the planet’s stars appeared. In the video below, Michael Fierman recalls a distinct gasp from the crowd at the sight of the stars, before a mad cheer erupted. Fierman’s disclosure indicates the brilliance of the club’s planetarium projector, and illustrates the first sublime experience of the Saint.
In the 1930’s and 1940’s of the United States, white broadcasters owned black radio, and white announcers stifled black music (Cooper, 159). Air time dedicated to black musicality featured gospel music because it contained “nothing offensive or potentially seditious” (Cooper, 159). By failing to hire black announcers, white broadcasters deprived black musicality of its cultural context as well as of “any power to affect America’s social status-quo” (Cooper, 159). Radio refused autonomy over the black community’s own musical history. The struggle for authentic space and expression driven by members of the black community
speak for yourself, be yourself, and create your own context and community, find a space that is your own, embrace your rights to be loud, open, and honest about your identity and your
Yet, when the WDIA station of Memphis, Tennessee became the first “all black-formatted station featuring black on-air announcers,” black DJs began to thrive.
Spinning storied tracks that conversed with their audiences, black DJs demonstrated the talent, complexity, and necessity of black music. They became “community leaders” around the nation (Cooper, 159); along with black entrepreneurs, black DJs helped to engender a new culture of music: disco.
New York’s five boroughs were “particularly full of social and technological experimentation” (Cooper, 160). Black entrepreneurs began to transform college frat fundraisers and town rent parties into professional entertainment platforms.
The Manhattan clubs of Leviticus, Othello’s, Pegasus, and Down Under were birthed from the “art of throwing a party people would pay to attend” (Cooper, 160). And though these “black-oriented clubs” were strongly influenced by popular black radio, none of these clubs attracted the same audience (Cooper, 160). They were diverse.
Carol Cooper believes that “The biggest myth of late 1970s disco portrayed the disco audience as homogeneous in attitude and composition” (Cooper, 160). Disco has always been a “vast, multiethnic subculture” of music, whose various establishments served particular communities.
Disco “cults” fell along certain group categories such as gay discos, “new wave” discos, or “black mainstream discos” (Cooper, 161).
The Saint Dance Club is seen by many as the culmination of gay disco.
setting the stage for the saint
Stories of the Saint – Chapter 4: The Era
Bruce Mailman was an entrepreneur based in New York City, U.S.A. who was integral in providing sensual havens for the gay community during the 1970s and 1980s.
In the eras of the Sexual Revolution and of disco culture, Bruce Mailman endeavored to engineer an oasis of open desire and free expression in which gay men could engage.
To do this, Mailman first created the St. Marks Baths, a bathhouse described by author Jonathan McEwan as an “exciting place in which to enjoy the pleasures of the then unhindered sexual revolution” (36). Later, Bruce Mailman founded the Saint disco club, which, to many, came to represent the apotheosis of the disco era.
The unusually large size of the Saint’s memorial block attempts to communicate its extraordinary impact on New York’s gay history. The quilt’s size symbolizes both the magnificent breadth of the physical Saint as well as its metaphorical significance in history.
According to Janece Shaffer, the Communications Director at the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, the size of the Saint disco club’s singular memorial panel is much larger than the average panel submitted to the quilt. Typically, panels are3×6 feet (0.9×1.8 meter); however, the size of this quilt is that of an entire 12×12 foot (3.7×3.7 meter) “block” (“AIDS Memorial Quilt”).Blocks are usually composed of eight individual 3×6 foot (0.9×1.8 meter) panels, yet this block is its own individual dedication (“FAQs”).
The primary colors featured in the quilt are black, burgundy, and silver, though there are exceptions; the quilt’s inky colors evoke a funereal quiet. Many of the objects on the block have been stitched onto an expanse of either black or burgundy felt material, which raises them from the quilt’s flat surface. Three prominent features of block 1087 are its moon-like mirror ball, its expanse of golden five-pointed stars, and its colorful light structure (read more about this block).
In this essay, I intend to address how disco clubs liberated the gay and queer community in New York City by offering a historical account of the disco movement as well as a narrative of its seeming culmination in the creation of the Saint dance club. This paper will examine the effect of AIDS on the gay disco generation by honing in on remembrances and discussions of the Saint and other disco clubs in New York City.
My position on this topic will address the complexity of the influence of erotic social scenes, such as the Saint or founder Bruce Mailman’s other creation, the St. Marks Baths, on the spread of AIDS. I will attempt to answer the question that dominates Bruce Mailman’s controversy: did he condone the spread of AIDS through his refusal to close down his businesses? Was Mailman really a “merciless profiteer” who continued to ruthlessly benefit from the sex that took place in his establishments, despite growing awareness that HIV/AIDS was sexually transmitted (Peters, 82)? Neither a ruthless villain nor a sinless business owner, Bruce Mailman is a man who believed that he was protecting and affirming the civil rights of his customers.
My essay will first begin with a description of Bruce Mailman’s biography as well as a discussion of his philosophy towards gay male identity. Then, I will detail Bruce Mailman’s inspirations for the Saint dance club and examine the evolution of the extraordinary discotheque. I will conclude with an analysis of the impact of Mailman’s creation, as well as reactions to the onslaught of AIDS in the gay community and what that meant for the reputation of the Saint.
By describing the lifetime of the Saint, I will expand upon the current general knowledge of the disco era and make the details of disco’s presence in the 80s known. I will display the interaction between the gay community and the disco community by demonstrating the formation of the gay community around gay clubs that embraced the sexual liberation of the disco era (“Chapter 4: The Era”). As discos became cultural emblems of the gay community, their musical, physical, and emotional embrace liberated both young men and women by providing the space for their self-determination and youthful exploration (“Chapter 3: The Trip”).
I hope to increase awareness of the different ways that AIDS destroyed disco culture and the continuation of gay history. Once the disease disseminated throughout disco clubs and the larger gay community, AIDS ruptured the vitality of gay oral history. Death, sickness, and the isolation of the epidemic’s survivors disrupted the narrative of the gay disco generation (Peters, 143). Block 1087 captures only a fragment of the Saint’s significance.
Large, The Saint At. SUBmerged: The Black Party 2016 Trailer, 2016. https://vimeo.com/156787064.
underwater, sunken and submerged
The Black Party arouses and praises acts of Domination, submission, sadomasochism, and other explicit play (mature content: general information about BDSM).
Performances at the Black Party cover a broad range of activities, including, famously, a boa constrictor, according to Darrell Yates Rist’s article. This video advertises the Saint-at-Large’s 2016 spring Black Party.
Entitled SUBmerged: The Black Party 2016 Trailer, the video is marked as mature on its host site, Vimeo.
Within the first four seconds of the video, the words THE SAINT AT LARGE PRESENTS materializes on the screen. In what appears to be a bold white Arial font, the opening announcement emerges atop a black and gray background of viscous bullet-like shapes. These black gelatinous forms start shooting up from the bottom of the video frame like bullets, spiking to random heights to an unknown beat until the forms closest to the middle rise to the top of the frame and the words THE SAINT AT LARGE PRESENTS disappear.
The sound of a radar’s ping prompts the next images of the video to appear. Three old TVs sit side by side and depict the searching triangular slice of a submarine radar in a sea green color. The two TVs on either side of the middle TV depict flickering images of a radar’s grid and seem to be experiencing static.
An audio recording of a male voice repeating unintelligible words and the word “dive” begins.
Then, the TV in the middle showcases the text RITES XXXVII, denoting the 37th Black Party celebration. The TVs are barely illuminated and are framed by a dark, shadowy background. They seem to be experiencing interruptions in their signals.
With another sound of the radar’s ping, the image flashes to a singular TV with the same evergreen shade as background, whose center x axis along a typical Cartesian or rectangular coordinate system contains the words THE BLACK PARTY in the same font presented at the beginning of the video.
The image continues to flicker, before it becomes obscured by arrows and other geometric patterns.
The suggestion of an interrupted transmission evokes the presence of something haunted.
Next, the word SUBMERGED appears in thicker, bigger white font. The word “dive” is repeated with increasing volume. SUBMERGED flickers like a light, then disappears into a shifting gray ocean from its perch within a cloudy, overcast sky. The video turns black.
Then, suddenly at around 15 seconds, the tempo of the video rapidly increases. An alarm sounds from the video’s audio as a red light surrounded by white and gray water and a red warning symbol (typically associated with radiation warnings) flash across the screen.
Black dye diffuses in a red koolaid-like liquid. Green tentacles wiggle through red water, stirring large bubbles.
Two men engage in a heated wrestling of the arms and torso, their angered faces visible in the black and white film as their metal earrings glint against the incoming light. The men’s muscles bulge, and their closely-shaved Mohawks reveal pulsing veins in their foreheads. Random numbers, symbols, and letters appear in small, gray font across the clip of the wrestling men in an upside down triangle shape that has a bar running through it.
Their pearly white teeth glint.
The symbol for anarchy (an A inscribed within a circle) opens the next sequence of images.
In between flashes of the caution symbol is a clip of an anonymous male dripping in the black viscous fluid found at the beginning of the video. His body, though covered in the sliding black liquid, is otherwise naked. His eyes are closed and his head lolls to his right side as his back arches. His photo remains still, and is soon superimposed by an upside down crimson triangle. The triangle is outlined in a lighter red strip with a line cutting beneath its top point (near the bottom), which then disappears, taking the man with it.
reach, glide, hands, octopi
Eight TVs flicker green images of radar scans, and the sound of the alarm calms to a rapid sputtering of radar beeps.
Gray octopus tentacles sway in black waters, before the video quickly cuts to clawed hands dripping in similar black viscous fluid as they disconnect from each other in a slow parting.
Bare tan skin lies stark against the black liquid netted on its surface. An arrow on what appears to be a sphygmomanometer, which measures blood pressure, swings back and forth. A hand clenches a red object beside a naked man’s muscled butt and thigh, around which a black strap squeezes.
Several hands reach across two outstretched legs encased in nearly thigh-high, leather stiletto boots.
The gelatinous fluid reappears, as well as a green, smooth tentacle which swishes out of frame and leaves only red water. A symbol of a trident whose handle tip is inscribed within a triangle appears within a plethora of similar small numbers and letters as those seen earlier in the video.
These images last for less than half a second on the screen.
The radiation symbol once again appears in red.
A steady club beat opens the next succession of images.
Glitching gray text informs the viewer of the music artists who will be performing at the 37th Black Party.
Their names type across the video screen swiftly, appearing under the header MUSIC.
Following the presence of this text are more octopus tentacles, which first wave through iron-colored waters as rusty limbs. Next, the tentacles reflect a greenish color at the viewer from within rose-wine illuminated waters, rippling like ribbons across the screen. WITH is the header that announces the final three musical acts to be seen at the 2016 Black Party, which include Massimiliano Pagliara (click here for more information about Pagliara, but you must have a Facebook account to view it), Ron Like Hell (click here and here for more information about Ron Like Hell), and Will Automagic (click here for an additional profile on Will Automagic).
A sound like static emits from the video as the gelatinous goo vibrates. The symbol of chaos, which is represented by eight arrows piercing out from the circumference of a circle, appears twice in different scarlet red designs over a circle of darker red water through which black dye diffuses. A clawed hand covered in black gelatinous goo reaches out from within the bullet-like stalagmites seen at the beginning of the video, and the sound of static and white noise intensifies.
Thick octopus arms, complete with suckers, extend from an unseen center body.
The octopus arms are as thick as human arms or calves; they twist in gray water in a counter-clockwise motion before the image transforms into a clip of several masked and anonymous shirtless men reaching along the bare legs encased in the boots from earlier. Most of these lean men wear various hoods found in Dom/sub play, including a leather skin that obscures the entire face, and an elastic mask with eye holes and a mouth hole. One wears a gas mask.
The pentacle, or symbol of witchcraft denoted by a pentagram inscribed within a circle, appears upside down in red over a lighter red nautical grid. A blip in the sound of static is soon perceived.
Green clawed hands sweep across a phallic structure in water, with another sudden blip unveiling a close-up of a gray face, over which an octopus arm sweeps. The right eye of this face is startling, both because of its wideness and because of its white iris. The man appears to be screaming, with an open mouth, yet only soft echos dominate the audio track at this point in the video.
In the next scene, however, as tentacles frame his face, the man’s head appears tilted back, away from the camera. His half-lidded eyes peer beneath his eyelashes and his mouth opens slightly, as if in a gasp.
The audio sounds like a soft wind and remains subtle for the next few images. Orange octopus arms, lit by a white light, drift close by the camera’s lens. Individual suckers can be examined for their size and shape.
A man’s tilted face, framed by light brown stubble, rests beneath the same dripping black viscous liquid as before. The liquid reaches the corner of his mouth and slides off his lip.
There is an extreme close-up on the man’s face in this shot; only the mouth, nose, and part of his neck is visible.
Next the camera gives the viewer a closeup of the same man’s chest, which is covered in the black liquid. He slides a hand down his right pec.
Then, the two wrestling men from before rest their foreheads against one another as a tone sounds from the previously quiet audio.
white eyes, bright eyes
The same white eyes from before now stare into the camera from within a black hood. The person fits into the center of the frame exactly.
The black hood the person wears covers his or her entire face, and visibly stretches across his or her nose and cheeks. Lips seem to be visible, but have likely been painted black so that they could blend into the surrounding fabric. Or this person’s lips may be concealed by the hood. It is hard to tell.
The white eyes continue to stare intensely and directly into the camera.
The person wearing the hood appears to be crouched or hunched.
Bare shoulders are visible beside the person’s face, and the person’s skin, particularly the creases found around his or her exposed collarbones, is illuminated by a red light that shines from beneath their body.
What I have just described of this hooded figure is the top half of this particular image.
The bottom half of the image acts like a reflection of the top half.
On the bottom, the person’s face appears upside down, and his or her eyes stare at the camera less noticeably. The entire “reflection” is subdued and softened by the black shadows that surround it, whereas the top half of the image stands out due to its ominously red spotlight.
Soon, these faces disappear with a sound somewhat similar to crinkling newspaper or a camera shutter.
HOOKS IN YOUR FLESH
Two men in gas masks stare each other down under green lighting as they stand with their arms braced against the other’s neck and back, respectively. A radar scans over their image, before the man on the left pushes his companion away. The image flickers to the same sound of static or crinkling newspaper.
The steady club beat from before reenters the video, increasing the pace of the images once more.
Green and blue bars fly across the screen, and the scene changes to a man in a beige gas mask, whose eyes are just barely visible, cradling the man from earlier, whose thigh and butt was encased in a black harness (though only a strap was visible at the time). The piece of clothing he wears is likely a jockstrap.
The man who wears the gas mask, which has a black mouthpiece, has tan skin, and may or may not be naked. His thighs and chest are completely bare, and only the other man he holds blocks the viewer’s view of his genitals.
The man being held has silver hair and smokey eye makeup. He is pale and possesses a neck tattoo as well as a sleeve tattoo on his right arm. His stomach is lightly muscled, and his legs are bent. The other man holds him underneath his back and his knees.
The other man is sitting down, and the tattooed man rests on his lap, sideways. His head lolls to the left in open air. The backdrop of the two figures is a molten gray.
The steady bass beat picks up with a bit of an electronic melody.
Small numbers and letters cross the screen in the pattern of the anarchy symbol and pulse over the two men. The two figures disappear leaving a black background beneath the white and gray anarchy symbol, before reappearing, then flashing away to reveal a mirror image of the hooded face from before.
The person wears a black hood and has white irises and looks at the camera with an open mouth. Orange tendrils divide the screen between the two nearly identical faces.
Red vats of boiling liquid appear, and the words STRANGE LIVE ACTS strike across the screen in the same thick font used to announce the musical artists. The music has a prominent melody now, and sounds like something you would hear in a club.
The next clip shows a person’s skin being punctured by a gold metal hook under bright fluorescent lighting.
The hook looks like a bait hook, and its place of piercing lies next to a bloody 6 inch line of metal additions. The camera pans out and focuses on a similar golden hook already pierced in that body’s expanse of skin.
What might be a silver fish’s open red and orange mouth appears in the next clip.
The next clip really flutters one’s stomach; it depicts forceps pulling out something clear from beneath the skin of an indescribable mass. I would guess that the the lens of a fish eye is being removed by the metal tool. I can not be sure. A nautical grid overlays these gray and white images.
The next image portrays a similar monochromatic scheme.
A merman’s swaying tail appears in gray atop a starry black background. The camera zooms out to reveal the entire body of the figure, whose tail appears to be confined in a starry underwater environment. The merman bobs up and down lightly and is the same tattooed man who was being cradled in the lap of another earlier. This man has the same tattoos, and now wears black gloves. His arms are bent at the elbows and are raised on the level of his shoulders, with his palms facing the water below him. He has been illuminated with white light from his right side, though the image remains black, white, and gray.
An upside down pentacle appears on the screen once more, in gray, atop the merman’s body. It’s quite large. Then the pentacle changes design and appearance, and appears smaller, covering most of the merman’s tail, and not his entire body. The music continues to intensify.
DRESS: HEAVY are the next words to appear on the screen (in the same font as the other words, if not a little bigger this time. Condensation drips down the words.
Next, a flurry of images beat across the screen to the sound of melodic sixteenth notes. The images are of octopus arms the color of oxidized iron whirling back and forth in active white waters frothing with bubbles. These images move at a lightning speed and comprise a narrative about as long as a second.
Then, the music cools off into a sound of an indistinguishable mash of techno voices, and the video slows its pace.
a heated caress
At this point, a man wearing a black jock strap faces away from the viewer, so that his bare butt is visible. His arms are flexed at his sides, as another male caresses leather-gloved fingers down his behind, slightly squeezing it.
The beat picks back up.
Then the clawed hands seen earlier in the video begin to hold the long, phallic shape (which has a pointed end, like an eel) in either palm against a lime green backdrop.
Again, someone appears to poke around a fish eye.
The wrestling men reappear and arm wrestle as they glare each other down.
The man on the right is shorter than his companion.
The wrestling men still appear in black and white, yet this time they have the nautical grid superimposed on them, which almost looks like the lens through which a sniper might view a target.
Flames dance over the image of the wrestling men before a man smoking a cigar and wearing a garrison cap appears behind a porthole framing. He wears the same necklace as the shorter wrestler and appears to have the same tattoos. This is the first time the viewer will have seen this man face on, instead of from his left side.
The phallic, eel-like forms reappear in red water and in four reflections of each other, with each shaft pointing from the center of the video frame. The upside down triangle with the bar crossing through it reappears as well.
The upside down pentacle is expressed in thin white lines over an open fish eye.
The hooded figure with the white eyes appears underwater, and bubbles sprout to the surface.
The symbol of chaos reappears over a black background before transitioning to the image of the men caressing the booted legs between them. Their hands reach up, up, and up until they touch the top of the screen.
Octopus arms lick around their figures as the music fades to the quiet gurgling and breathy sounds of underwater existence, before picking back up with an image of the phallic eel and sphygmomanometer. The arrow gauge on the clock-like device swings back and forth on the right side of the instrument. It is not exactly like a sphygmomanometer, or even a speedometer, because the numbers on this device increase in increments of 100 from 0 to 1000.
Next, we see the two wrestling men making out or kissing passionately (with tongue).
More octopus arms gleam gray in the video frame. At one point the tentacles turn colorful and expand like a flower in the center of the frame, before shivering downwards and turning gray again.
The men wearing the various hoods and masks reach the feet of the legs wearing the black leather boots, and together, they drag the legs down.
3_19_2016 appears on the screen next, followed by the word BROOKLYN.
This denotes the location and date of the Saint-at-Large’s 2016 Black Party: March 19th, 2016 in Brooklyn.
The heavy club beat that had been recently narrating the video’s rapid imagery drops off to a tinny noise within the last frames of the video.
BLACKPARTY.COM is the last text of the video, and it is quickly obscured by the previously-seen black bullet-like forms pulsating from the bottom of the video frame.
The video is 1 minute and 15 seconds long.
about the video
The text in the summarizing section of the video states the following:
“Video Trailer Directed by Rob Roth
For Tickets & More Information: blackparty.com
THE SAINT AT LARGE
THE BLACK PARTY
Saturday March 19, 2016
10 pm until Sunday afternoon
1260 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn
Main Floor DJs:
Back Room DJs:
Ron Like Hell
Strange Live Acts | Dress Heavy
Set in world of surging oceans and drowning cities, rogue submarines break surface in the black of night to whisk willing survivors to an unregulated subterranean world of brothels, dungeons and decadence.
The Rites of Spring celebration, an intensely immersive environment ignited by world-renowned DJs and infamous Strange Live Acts, has firmly established itself as gay New York’s biggest night of the year.
The nature of this video is intense, and the narrative displayed is extremely fast-paced.
Images flit across the scene, and remain for barely half a second before flashing to another potent, well-crafted, and emotionally-charged photograph or clip. Colorful frames are juxtaposed by dark, monochromatic scenes. The video’s beauty is haunting.
This source does well to display 2016’s Black Party theme, which suggests themes of submersion, water, danger, and maybe even a Little Mermaid-like tale.
The source presents a compelling narrative that arouses the viewer’s interest, increasing the heartbeats of many with its dramatic storytelling.
One of the drawbacks of the source is that some of the images move so fast that one can only glimpse them before they disappear.
However, manually moving the dial on the video to control its pace allows one to view images in more detail, otherwise they move too fast for proper assessment.
This source is digital, so it requires an internet connection to be accessible.
The video does not name any of its actors, creators, or current hosts and organizers of the Saint-at-Large, which might be helpful information for someone who wants to learn more about the Saint-at-Large organization, however, it does offer a link to the organization’s website at the end of the video.
Still, the 2016 Black Party trailer video may still be limited in its impact, if only those with the means to visit the party it is advertising can attend the celebration (people who live close to or in Brooklyn and people who are able to travel there and find housing accommodations are the only ones who could go).
Yet even if the video advertises an unattainable dream for those people who cannot travel to Brooklyn, it still presents many elements of the Saint-at-Large’s creative energy and atmosphere in an impactful way. The viewer should not be disappointed if he or she may only be able to watch a video this time.
The art this organization creates to advertise its holiday events is stunning on its own.
McEwan, Jonathan. “The Saint Goes On.” Metrosource, 1994, pp. 36-44.
secondhand qualities of the source
This magazine article has likely been scanned into a digital format and subsequently printed out. The article does not appear to be in its original form for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the photographs contained within the article are black-and-white, blurry depictions of the Saint disco club. Even the ads scattered throughout the text are in black and white, which seems to suggest that the article text has been reprinted from an original, colorful format.
The article was published in New York City in 1994; color photos and text would have been common in the USA’s mainstream media by this time. This source surely would have made use of color, given its subject of the sensual Saint disco. Though I cannot be sure that the article first appeared in color, its lack of color seems to suggest that the material I possess is a reprinted copy of the original source.
Additionally, the pages of the article are out of order. Beginning with page 36, and ending with page 38, the article has been stapled together in an haphazard fashion. The last page of the article, page 44, can be found in the middle of the packet. Pages 41 and 43 are missing, though their absence fails to interrupt the article’s narrative oddly enough.
The paper materials cited in this annotated bibliography have all come from The NAMES Project Quilt Gallery located on 117 Luckie Street NW, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. The tangible materials I cite in my bibliography (including this one) are secondary copies of the NAMES Project’s archival materials relating to the Saint’s memorial block, block 1087. Thus, it is possible that this article has been reprinted by a staff member of the NAMES Project, and stapled in the wrong order. It is also possible that the original owner stapled the pages in the wrong order, and the NAMES Project maintained the owner’s array. I can not be certain of either claim.
Regardless, the text contained within the article presents captivating details about the Saint’s demanding beginnings, the disco’s subsequent euphoric popularity, and the gay culture within which the Saint boomed and later withered, only to be gloriously revived once more.
the closet, the underworld
Author Jonathan McEwan opens his article with a description of the “dark and underwordly” nature of gay clubs such as the Flamingo and The Paradise Garage at the time of the Saint’s origination.
Though the late 1970s enjoyed the “height” of the disco era, exclusively gay clubs “were often dingy holes-in-the-wall” that were “hidden from view.” The “gay community was still tinged with the musty odor of a deep, dark closet,” whose liberation during the sexual revolution had yet to see an open representation of or welcoming of its population (McEwan, 36). Gay dance halls insinuated “criminal refuge” much the same as the “speakeasies of the twenties” did (McEwan, 36). To McEwan, they hardly evoked festivity or “dreams” (36).
Author Jonathan McEwan wholeheartedly believes that the Saint’s founder, Bruce Mailman, “gave the community something extraordinary” when he constructed the St. Mark’s Baths and the Saint dance club. Mailman created something “wonderful” that sadly lasted only for a “brief shining moment” (McEwan, 36).
Yet when the Saint shone, it radiated like a beacon, and drew crowds and crowds through its doors. Bruce Mailman’s inventive vision of the gay community’s liberation did not only include a thriving, gay disco. First, Mailman founded a steamy, gay bathhouse.
bruce mailman’s gay social scene
Bruce Mailman sought to “perfect what already existed and claim it for the gay community alone” (McEwan, 36). Multiple heterosexual bathhouses sprung up in New York City during the 1970s and 1980s in the United States, yet there were hardly any bathhouses marketed towards the gay community.
To fulfill his endeavor for a perfected gay haven of free expression and community, Mailman created the St. Marks Baths, described by author Jonathan McEwan as an “exciting place in which to enjoy the pleasures of the then unhindered sexual revolution” (36).
The St. Marks Bath inspired Mailman’s next business venture, or rather, its name did.
By the end of the 1970s, Mailman had begun to fantasize about owning an exclusive disco club. When his otherworldly disco came to fruition, Mailman named it the Saint, after the St. Mark’s Baths.
Before the saint
Upon arriving at the Loews Commodore movie theater (which later became the Saint), Bruce Mailman’s long-time business partner, Steve Casko, noted that the place looked like a “disaster” (qtd. in McEwan, 36).
Once one of the sixth largest movie theaters in New York City, the Commodore theater experienced quite a few transformations before its regeneration into the Saint.
For a while, the theater was lonely and abandoned, until it became a rock haven called the Fillmore East in the 1960s. In 1979, the old theater was considered by a man with a fantastic vision, and eventually unveiled as NYC’s hot new disco.
But the Saint had a rough beginning.
Aside from the fact that “it looked like someone had detonated a bomb in the orchestra pit,” according to Steve Casko, there were also quite a few strings attached to the theater that required tedious bureaucratic untangling (qtd. in McEwan, 36).
Casko informed author Jonathan McEwan that it took thirteen months for he and Mailman receive permits to construct a disco club in the former theater.
An additional nine months were then devoted to the actual construction of the Saint, which included the removal of the theater’s seats and a demolition of a part of its balcony.
Due to a sudden revelatory insight, Mailman decided that his disco would be a planetarium in which men could dance, lit by projected images of the stars. His stunningly unique vision necessitated the implantation of a planetarium dome, which, upon its completion, spanned three stories above the dance floor.
Though originally estimated to be 2 million U.S. dollars, the Saint’s entire construction ended up costing a little over 4.5 million U.S. dollars (McEwan).
But not everyone approved of Mailman’s new business.
When he first tried to purchase a planetarium projector for his club, Bruce Mailman solicited Zeiss for the projector. At the time, Zeiss was the leading manufacturer of planetarium projectors. Zeiss denied Mailman.
Zeiss’s rejection of Mailman’s request was explained as an “inappropriate use for their equipment,” yet Steve Casko asserts that Zeiss just “didn’t want to be associated with a gay disco in New York” (qtd. in McEwan).
Fortunately, the two business partners were later able to purchase both a planetarium dome and planetarium projector from Spitz Space Systems. Through the use of mobile lenses in the club’s projector, hundreds of unique slide images could be projected onto the planetarium dome and reflected off of the Saint’s dancing crowds, illuminating them with bright images of starlight and other exciting designs.
the first party
The Saint’s premiere, entitled “The First Party,” was postponed until July 30 1980 due to a series of untimely impediments. However, during this word, the buzz surrounding Mailman’s mysterious new club grew exponentially.
To announce the opening of the Saint, Bruce Mailman sent out a blueprint of the club; the flyer demonstrated sketches of the Saint’s basic layout and informed readers of the benefits of membership at the club.
A $175 membership purchase guaranteed buyers a reduced cost of admission into the Saint as well as a locker in the club. The benefit of a locker applied only to the first 700 members. By the time the Saint opened, the club had 2500 members. Word about the Saint had spread fast. The Saint’s legendary opening night began with a line of men “wrapped completely around the block and back up to the door and into the street” (McEwan, 38). The Saint had officially become a hot commodity. Read more about opening night here.
Then, the doors opened.
As crowds explored the newly opened Saint, George Gershwin‘s Rhapsody in Blue “swelled” from the sound system and encased the public in a luxurious mood of classical music. I do not know if the orchestral rhapsody or the piano version of Gershwin’s composition was played during The First Party. I have included both versions below.
Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue on the piano
Original version of Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue
A spacious lounge dominated the main floor of the Saint, with metal stairways leading up to the the dance floor. The top floor had been devoted to a viewing area.
A fenced-in balcony overlooked the dance floor below it through a “porous aluminum dome.” A “knee-lighting array” called the mothership encased the planetarium projector found in the center of the dance floor (McEwan, 38. As the projector splashed light across the planetarium dome in “spectacular patterns of orange and rose,” men continued to explore Mailman’s new club (McEwan, 38).
As the night progressed, classical music slid into “slow and sexy dance music,” and sometime after 2:00am, the pace of the club “picked up” (McEwan, 38).
The mothership, mounted on a hydraulic lift, was able to rise and fall on its axis.
After 2am, the mothership rose above the heads of the dancers. Andrew Holleran, who wrote a remembrance of the Saint in the May 1988 issue of the New York Native reviewed the Saint’s 1980 opening party for Soho News. He remembers that as Donna Summer’s “Baby I Love You” began to play a little after 3:00am, “the stars appeared above and, as the song took off, the galaxies began to rotate. There was nothing to do but scream, throw up your hands, and keep screaming” (qtd. in McEwan, 38).
Joel Teitelbaum, the former manager of the Saint and passionate organizer of GMHC fundraisers, states that by the time the Saint opened, mirror balls had become “de rigeur – all the clubs had them” (qtd. in McEwan, 38). However, upon arriving at the Saint, the night dancers noticed that there was no disco ball. The stars “rotated” and the “galaxies and planets appeared and disappeared and lights strobed in tempo with the rhythm and vocal tracks,” and people began to assume that the club simply did not have a disco ball, given its marvelous overhead display (McEwan, 38).
Yet when the “music again appeared to crescendo, four spotlights shone dramatically into the center of the dome. An octagonal hole opened and, to the reverlers’ sheer delight, after a few minutes an enormous mirror ball began to lower into the space above them” (McEwan, 38-39). An otherwise anonymous attendee named Charlie describes the moment as “fabulous.” Charlie states the following:
“Up until then we were dancing in the Hayden Planetarium and that was cool. But the ball-it made it a disco!”
The mirror ball’s lighted revolutions n the planetarium dome was “Simply dizzying, dazzling, amazing…” (qtd. in McEwan, 39).
The First Party of the Saint proved the club was a king of discos.
the saint is king
From that moment, the Saint dance club became the “hottest, most exclusive ticket in town,” that “set new standards for lighting and sound” (McEwan, 39). Mark Ackerman “designed and operated the lighting for the first few years,” and later hired a young technician named Richard Sabala (he operated the lights for the 1998 White Party) to hold the brilliant reigns of the disco’s transportive illumination (McEwan, 39).
The planetarium dome of the Saint “was like a canvas” according to Jason McCarthy, the former night manager of the Saint and the manager of Roxy at the time this article was written in 1994 (qtd. in McEwan, 39). Lights “aimed at the [dome from the] mothership, from the base of the walls and from the catwalk that circled the outside of the dome” (qtd. in McEwan, 39). The Saint was revolutionary in its phenomenally immersive technology.
Joel Teitelbaum explains that “Dancing at The Saint was like nothing else then-or even today. [At the Saint,] It wasn’t just a night out. It was a kind of trip. A trip that started around midnight and didn’t reach its destination until 2:00 the next afternoon” (qtd. in McEwan, 39).
Susan Tomkin, Bruce Mailman’s assistant of thirteen years by 1994, similarly states that “Being under the dome on the crowded dance floor with the lights and the stars was a spectacular visual experience that if you didn’t have, you’ll never know” (qtd. in McEwan, 40).
“Carol Cooper cites Chaka Khan, the Emotions, and The Talking Heads, as famed performers of mid to high frequency music, which was traditionally played at The Saint.”
According to author Jonathan McEwan, songs fitting the club’s “interstellar” theme such as “Rocket to Your Heart” by LISA and “Trippin’ On The Moon” by Cerrone were similarly “instant Saint standards” (38).
“Rocket to Your Heart” by LISA
“Trippin’ On The Moon” by Cerrone
DJ performances at the Saint also provided a unique experience.
A stage within the planetarium dome had a wall that could slide up and down; the deejay resided behind this wall and, thus, remained hidden from the crowd for much of the musical journey that he or she weaved into the night.
DJs generally just blended the crowd “into the beginning of [a] song,” but sometimes the wall blocking the DJ from view would recede and the DJ would give a “performance” (qtd. in McEwan, 39-40). The spectators who could see the DJ would “scream and applaud;” after “the performance was over the wall would come back up and the DJ would mix right into the next song-and the boys never stopped dancing,” according to Joel Teitelbaum (qtd. in McEwan, 40).
Open only on Saturdays and Sundays, the Saint made sure to wow crowds with unique experiences every time they attended the club. The club provided crowds with different experiences between Saturday night and Sunday night on the weekends. Former manager of the Saint Joel Teitelbaum notes that the staff of the club would “set up art installations or fill the club with balloons and cotton clouds. Then, right after the last dancer left on Sunday afternoon, a crew would remove all traces of the Saturday night party and reset the lights so that Sunday’s would be completely different” (qtd. in McEwan, 40).
Parties at the Saint were planned ahead to an impressive detail. DJs contained playlists of songs to which they envisioned specific staging cues (such as the descent of the mirror ball, or the appearance of the stars) being enacted. On Saturday, “a seamless performance shaped to build until five or so and then taper off slightly before pausing for applause around seven” (qtd. in McEwan, 40). Sleaze music would then carry the club into the Sunday afternoon.
According to Jason McCarthy, the Saint “was an entire environment.” The club was a “safe place removed from the often difficult hetero world outside” (qtd. in McEwan, 40).
dance dance dance worship
Frank Courson, a management consultant in Manhattan, describes the Saint as a temple.
Author Jonathan McEwan expounds upon Courson’s claim. He explains that the Saint had “four opposing entrances that led to the circular dance floor, an icon of worship (the mirror ball) and even an altar (the DJ booth). The DJ played a liturgy designed to engage the congregation in ritualistic dance” (McEwan, 40). The Saint certainly seemed to provide the services a traditional church would, and going to the Saint provided experiences close to what some might call religious.
Frank Courson states that “a lot of guys […] planned their entire lives around the seasonal calendars sent out by The Saint. There were people who leased apartments in New York, just so they could have a place to stay when they came to events” (qtd. in McEwan, 40).
The Saint was a big deal.
a saintly schedule
The Saint dance club had a unique schedule.
The club opened only on Saturdays and Sundays, and would present a special party for each month of its season of opening.
September brought the Opening Party of the season.
Halloween showcased yet another celebration, and the night before Thanksgiving boasted the Night People at Thanksgiving party.
During the month of December, the Christmas Party occurred, and in January, the News Years Eve party took place.
In February, the White Party embraced love.
In March, the “passage of spring” exhibited the “S&M and fetish tinged Black Party” (McEwan, 40).
Easter was celebrated with a Land of Make Believe party in April, and the Closing Party ended the Saint’s season in May. When summer approached, many “Saint boys” left the city to vacation at Fire Island or in the Hamptons (McEwan, 40).
Frank Courson notes that the “high holy days” of the Saint’s season were Halloween, New Years Eve, the White Party, and the Black Party (qtd. in McEwan, 40). DJs became famous for their performances at certain holiday parties at the Saint. Robbie Leslie always played the White Party, and Michael Fierman always played the Black Party.
This was their signatures.
Yet the Saint soon became known for more than just its music; what of its carnal celebrations?
The Saint was known to host frequent balcony sexcapades. The “narrow spiral staircases” led up to a “dark sexual scene” that came to haunt the Saint club’s memory in the eyes of many (McEwan, 42).
When AIDS struck, it decimated the Saint’s community; around 700 membership renewal forms were sent back through the mail bearing the message “Return to Sender. Occupant Deceased” (McEwan, 42).
DJs, staff members, and technicians at the Saint also fell ill.
Charges of tax evasion and a drug-dealing conspiracy were held against Mailman (though later dropped due to proven bias) at the same time that attendance in dance clubs and bars began to “radically” decline (McEwan, 42). Mailman became “disenchanted with the gay community,” according to Steve Casko, when he found himself fighting conservative city bureaucrats alone.
Though the club had a capacity of 5400 people, once the AIDS epidemic swept through the country, Saturdays at the Saint drew in at most 500 people.
Members were sick, and those who weren’t sick, were afraid to go back.
In 1985, Bruce Mailman began to sell liquor at the Saint.
Mailman later opened the club to heterosexual people on Fridays. To Susan Tomkin, Mailman’s assistant, straight people “just didn’t appreciate it” (qtd. in McEwan, 42).
Soon an offer to buy the Saint for 6.5 million dollars from the Fillmore East Village Associates Ltd. was extended to Mailman. By the Saint’s 1987 Halloween Party, the sale of the building had already “passed the point of no return” according to Joel Teitelbaum (qtd. in McEwan).
The final party at the Saint in April of 1988 lasted 36 hours.
the last party. the last party?
in 1988, the “surviving DJs and lighting technicians and a roster of live performers” enlivened the Saint one last time.
Saint regulars attended 30 hours of the 36 hour-long party, only going home to “bathe and change clothes,” according to Frank Courson (qtd. in McEwan, 42).
The Last Party spanned “three days and three nights,” evoking yet another Christian motif.
All things that are sacred come in threes.
Jimmy Ruffin’s song “Hold On To My Love” played as the Saint’s last party “drew to a close” (McEwan, 42).
After Jimmy Ruffin’s song ended, Marlena Shaw, a famous American singer closed the Saint with “Suite Seventeen,” a medley of the following songs: “It Was A Very Good Year,” “Love Dancing,” “Thank You,” and “Touch Me In The Morning.”
Shaw sang softly to a “tearful crowd” (McEwan, 42).
As Marlena Shaw’s performance culminated, “lightning flared in the [planetarium’s] night sky, the stage closed and the stars slowly circled over head. It was over” (McEwan, 42).
On the following day, the public noticed that the words “Hold On To My Love” had been spray-painted over the main entrance to the Saint. Bouquets were left in front of the door to the Saint on the sidewalk according to Frank Courson. Shown on the Saint Promotional Video, the following image likely depicts the textual memorial of the Saint, represented by Jimmy Ruffin’s song.
Gay nightlife was quiet without the Saint.
The Paradise Garage and Flamingo club had already closed; Spike and the Eagle’s Nest were “really cleaning up” according to Jonathan McEwan (42).
Yet when Halloween came around after the Saint’s official closing in April of 1988, Bruce Mailman decided to host a Halloween party that, due to the circumstances, was not located at the Saint.
This Halloween Party, held outside of the Saint’s physical reach, began a series of parties that became known as Saint-at-Large events.
During the first Halloween party without the Saint, too few restrooms and an inefficient coat check hampered the novel Saint at Large event. Fortunately, they got over that.
The four holiest parties of the original Saint (Halloween, New Years Eve, The White and Black parties) are currently hosted every year and are annually commemorated celebrations of the Saint’s legacy. In 1994, the White and Black parties were the most popular Saint holiday parties to be revived, and they remain so today.
Curt Wagner states that when he goes to the Saint-at-Large parties, he cannot “find a familiar face anywhere” (qtd. in McEwan, 44). Wagner believes that there is a whole “new generation out there-maybe two” (McEwan, 44).
Jason McCarthy laments that “so many of these young guys out there dancing never saw The Saint itself. They don’t know what it was-what they’ve missed” (qtd. in McEwan, 44). McCarthy believes that it is possible to bring the Saint back, but Frank Courson disagrees.
Though life without the Saint “seems somewhat stark and somber,” the world and all its people can “never go back” according to Courson (qtd. in McEwan, 44). Susan Tomkin cannot imagine the expense it would cost to build the Saint today, when it already cost 4.5 million dollars in 1979.
Today, there “are entire portions of the city where [the gay community] can be comfortable,” according to Frank Courson (44). During the 1980s, Frank Courson states that “we needed a safe place where we could be who we were and love as we wanted,” however Courson believes that the world has changed for the better since that decade.
discussion of The saint goes on
The Saint at Large continues to dazzle crowds the same way the Saint once did.
A “sea of muscular men [dance] in the darkness beneath incredible lighting” and the music “follows the same programming format” as before, which was described in Steve Weinstein’s article. Parties don’t end until “well into the afternoon” (McEwan, 44).
This source is valuable because it includes interviews from people who experienced the Saint directly, whether through working there, or attending its celebrations. Interviews of people who experienced the Saint’s phenomenon firsthand are critical to presenting an accurate narrative towards one’s audience.
This source is also valuable because it provides more detail on the season of the Saint, and of what its celebrations entailed.
The article is also helpfully aware of the importance of multi-modality, and utilizes pleasing visual, spatial, and linguistic modes appropriately.
Unfortunately, one drawback to the article is the blurriness of some of its images; many of the photographs included in the article are indistinguishable lumps of black and white. However, the photographs I recognize, though in black and white in this article, appear in color in the Saint’s promotional video.
This article provides critical personal experiences from people close to Bruce Mailman (his assistant and business partner), and from people who enjoyed his creations.
Though none of my sources contain interviews from John, Mailman’s partner, I believe this source, in particular, provides detailed narratives of the Saint that showcase both familiarity and fond remembrance.
Weinstein, Steve. “DJ Sharon White Returns to NYC Nightlife For a Celebration 35 Years in the Making | Village Voice.” Accessed October 18, 2017. https://www.villagevoice.com/2015/11/17/dj-sharon-white-returns-to-nyc-nightlife-for-a-celebration-35-years-in-the-making/.
born in the 50s, Disc jockey in the 70s
Sharon White was born in 1954. As an adolescent, White grew particularly attached to “British blues rock,” and admired artists such as Led Zeppelin, John Mayall, and the Faces (Cooper, 162). White grew up in Babylon, Long Island, New York, U.S.A and became passionate about drumming and percussion early on in her life. Music beat through her like a lyrical pulse.
Studying drumming at a Manhattan conservatory during college, Sharon White befriended Allison Steele, a widely admired radio DJ for the NYC-based WNEW-FM station, through her own participation in college radio. Through her connection to Allison Steele and her work in radio, White was exposed to the culture of disc jockeying. She became intensely interested in the craft of deejays, and eventually received airtime on the radio after diving into the craft. Achieving radio play precipitated White’s first live disc jockeying gig, which was performed at a bar in Long Island alongside Roy Thode. Thode was a friend and mentor to Sharon who was respected as “one of the great innovators of his craft” (Weinstein).
White’s live gigs only extended so far. In the earlier parts of her career, Sharon White was limited to giving performances in women’s bars. However, despite the subset of venues she was able to perform in, White often explored gay clubs downtown such as 12 West and the Flamingo. Though she was the “only black woman in a sea of white muscle,” White would dance with the grooving crowds for the entire night, possessed by the DJ’s extraordinary music (Weinstein). White was amazed by the way a DJ could “shift the mood [of the audience] with a different tempo or key change” (Weinstein). Sharon White studied as she danced, internally hypothesizing the best method for “‘catching'” a beat from record to record (qtd. in Weinstein). How could she transition between songs without disrupting the music’s rhythm?
At the time, sound equipment and technology was rather “rudimentary.” White remembers in some clubs the screeching feedback of records blasted through low-quality speakers. Additionally, needles on the record player sometimes skipped on records played in clubs when vibrations from the dance floor became too forceful. Yet the mid-1970s brought a number of advancements for the disc jockeys of the world.
12 inch extended single records “improved the ability of deejays to compose a smooth set with seamless transitions.” Similarly, “more sophisticated technology and club sound systems […] began to advance the skill sets of accomplished jocks.”
“During this time, Sharon White was perfecting her craft at a lesbian club called the Sahara. There, White caught the interest of several club promoters and sound engineers of the industry alike. As a percussionist and former radio operative, White possessed a talent for detecting the “sonic nuances” of “densely orchestrated instrumentals and vocal tracks” that only a technical ear could perceive and manipulate to energize crowds (Cooper, 162).”
By the time the Paradise Garage opened in 1977, White had already grown her expertise and experience as a DJ, but she still sought the thrill of the club scene and the musical affairs of other disc jockeys. The Garage more diverse than the other gay clubs White had before attended, with more women and people of color dancing beneath the disco’s lights. Paradise Garage was unique in other ways, too. At the Garage, lead DJ Larry Levan transported crowds on a “musical journey” (Weinstein). Spinning an “eclectic mixing of musical genres,” Levan enthralled audiences until they were “rapt,” or practically oozing at the bliss of his musical theater (Weinstein). Sharon White’s background in musical theory made her all the more appreciative of Levan’s skill.
According to White, the “journey began with David Mancuso at the Loft” (qtd. in Weinstein). One “had to be there from the beginning to hear what was coming,” White continued. Deejay equipment had grown in sophistication throughout the opening of the Loft (1970), the Paradise Garage (1977), and the Saint (1980), able to withstand dance floor vibrations and simulatenously proudce “state of the art” sound.
The musical journey
At the Paradise Garage, the concept of the musical journey emerged; at the Saint, the musical journey evolved into a methodological procedure for stimulating various emotions of the crowds. First, lighter fare music escalated into Hi-NRG (high energy, now known as EDM or electronic dance music in 2017) beats and vibrations. Then those “hard-driving beats” would melt into “melodic morning music,” before concluding with songs later classified as “sleaze” (Weinstein). Sleaze was a swoon of romantic ballads that cascaded from the Saint’s planetarium dome like stardust. Sharon White made a name for herself at the Saint, but that was only after a lucky circumstance propelled her to the club’s DJ booth.
Though invited to join a pre-opening tour for the Saint, Sharon White states that it soon became clear that Bruce Mailman, owner and founder of the Saint, did not want her to occupy the DJ booth. Mailman envisioned the Saint as a male haven; nearly all of the club’s members were male, and female guests had to be pre-approved before attending the night’s festivities. That didn’t stop White from attending Jim Burgess’s last official performance as a DJ. The Saint threw his going-away party in January of 1981, which famously ended in his sudden desertion of the deejay booth.
As the last record Burgess was playing ran out, the crowd turned confused. Burgess had simply “stopped the music, left the DJ booth, got into his Bentley, and left” (Weinstein). People wandered the dance floor, utterly perplexed. The Saint’s coat check then broke down and exacerbated the situation. A manager at the Saint noticed White was in attendance, and commanded her to DJ the crowd. Sharon White asserts that she was “in the right place at the right time” when she instructed a few other staffers at the Saint to go to her home and bring back the bags of records that she had color-coordinated (Weinstein). White played until 1:30pm and caused quite an uproar. Until the Saint’s closing in 1988, Sharon White succeeded as one of the club’s most popular DJs, though she is not cited as a “big” DJ by Bruce Mailman in his interview with the New York Native. Yet she was “big” and her talents attracted the attention of Lenoard Bernstein, a renowned composer and conductor. Bernstein approached White in the booth one night and discussed his pleasured with her adaptations of “a few of [his] pieces” (Weinstein). She “had made a medley of things […] into a dance project,” which her audiences loved. Yet, White didn’t stay local and loyal to the NYC crowds.
After the Saint closed, Sharon White toured clubs in Tokyo, Berlin, even Reykjavík, Iceland where she drummed up the crowd’s energy for the opening of a United Service Organization (USO) center. In Saudi Arabia, Sharon White performed for the king in a burka, yet for the prince, White was able to dress more casually, whose palace he had had transformed into a disco. A London techie organized the sound equipment for White’s later disc jockeying. White states that she “knew him from Fire Island” and that he was on the “down-low” (qtd. in Weinstein). The prince noted that he had three wives, but that everyone at the disco party “knows,” presumably about his sexuality (qtd. in Weinstein).
the next generation
After suffering a horrific trauma in 2000, White escaped to Washington D.C.
There, White played house parties, after-hours bars, and small clubs, where she “learned to open doors and expose [herself] to different types of music” (qtd. in Weinstein). She adopted a mentoring role to younger DJs, just as Allison Steele had once done for her. found herself mentoring the next generation of DJs. Later, White reconnected with colleagues from the Saint, who stirred up fond memories of New York, and her old home.
Now, the Saint-at-Large seeks to “keep the spirit of the original [Saint] alive” by reviving famed parties and themes from the 80’s Saint. Led by Stephen Pevner, a distant relative of the Saint’s founder, Bruce Mailman, the Saint-at-Large has recreated the Black Party and hosted a 35th anniversary celebration for the Saint called Night People.
The Black Party was a “fetish-themed […] bacchanal” that took place every March at the original Saint. Night People was a party dedicated every night before Thanksgiving at the Saint.
After inviting White to spin at the Black Party, White was then invited to join two other former Saint DJs Michael Fierman and Ryan Smith at the Night People celebration in 2015.
Here is a clip of Sharon White preparing her set:
According to Steve Weinstein, Sharon White had scheduled gigs for 2016, though there is little Internet coverage for them and little recent news. However, at the time that this article was written, White was posting podcasts and staying active with the newest generation of “DJs and clubgoers” (Weinstein).
Though this article is not a primary source, or an interview conducted during the 80s in which Sharon White was disc jockeying, it still serves to provide descriptive firsthand accounts of White’s disco experience.
White herself attended, danced in, and frequented renowned disco clubs such as the Saint, the Paradise Garage, and the Loft. Still active as a disc jockey, White engages her past disc jockeying experience with her current maturity in a fresh, fond perspective on her past.
However, one disadvantage to this article is the author’s reliance on the linguistic mode to convey information about a lively, interactive, and sensual era of music history. Steven Weinstein hardly incorporates other modes of communication such as music clips or photographs. Unlike the piece on Meryl Meisler, which at least contains multiple photographs taken in the disco era, there are no photographic or aural forms of historical evidence captured during the 70s and 80s decades.
There is also a lack of sufficient detail to Sharon White’s storytelling, which leaves the reader wanting for more information.
What were the records that White played on her first night disc jockeying at the Saint?
What were White’s favorite songs, or sets as a DJ in the 80s?
What other types of interactions did she have with people in the club scene at the time?
Cooper, Carol. “Disco Knights: Hidden Heroes of the New York Dance Music Underground.” Social Text, no. 45 (1995): 159–65. https://doi.org/10.2307/466679.
black radio becomes black disco
Disco emerged out of a struggle for communication and representation.
In the 1930’s and 1940’s United States, “so-called” black radio was owned by white broadcasters, and black music was stifled by white announcers (Cooper, 159). Air time dedicated to black musicality featured gospel music because it contained “nothing offensive or potentially seditious” (Cooper, 159). White broadcasters intended to generate profit by attempting to appeal to black audiences, however such attempts were insulting and selfishly motivated by potential monetary gain. Broadcasters exploited black music by depriving it of its cultural context as well as of “any power to affect America’s social status-quo” (Cooper, 159) by failing to hire black announcers.
The first “all black-formatted station featuring black on-air announcers” was the WDIA station located in Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.A. (Cooper, 159). WDIA was the only station at the time that catered to black listeners, so the station was able to charge advertisers higher prices for air time. Soon, broadcaster chains around the nation began to adopt black-formatted radio stations for the sole purpose of achieving a bigger profit. White corporations realized that they could benefit from recruiting black on-air personalities, and so they did. Yet, black disc jockeys became like “community leaders” across the nation (Cooper, 159). Spinning storied tracks that conversed with their audiences, black DJs demonstrated the talent, complexity, and necessity of black music.
According to Carol Cooper, the author of this article, the “1960s and 1970s were the golden decades for diversity in radio, and the 1970s and 1980s were years of tremendous progress and diversity in clubland” (160). New York’s five boroughs were “particularly full of social and technological experimentation” (Cooper, 160). College frat fundraisers and town rent parties demanded a jock “with personality and great music” (Cooper, 160) Once black entrepreneurs advanced this festive design, charging people to attend those functions developed into a professional entertainment platform (160). Manhattan clubs such as Leviticus, Othello’s, Pegasus, and Down Under were birthed from the “art of throwing a party people would pay to attend” (160). Yet though these “black-oriented clubs” were strongly influenced by popular black radio, none of these clubs attracted the same audience (160). They were diverse.
DIVERSIty, retaliation, CULTS
Disco has always been a “vast, multiethnic subculture” of music, whose various establishments served particular groups. The Copacabana nightclub was “predominantly Latin,” whereas Disco 2000 attracted Italians; Steve Rubell, the co-owner of Studio 54 described his club as the “white, Hollywood version of Leviticus” (qtd. in Cooper, 160). Yet much of the music played at these various disco nightclubs was “uptempo R&B” (Cooper, 160).
However, when record promoters wanted to test “fresh sounds,” they used DJs to expose “different kinds of listeners simultaneously” to their potential hits (Cooper, 160). Personality jocks with a “fanatical following” could often determine “hit records” within a week based off of their crowds’ feedback (Cooper, 160). Jocks were influential, cultural sculptors whose experimentation and increased technological sophistication continuously encouraged jocks to “live up to the expectations of [the] crowd” (Cooper, 161). Loyal, regular patrons loved, respected, and trusted their jocks. The reliability of a regular crowd inspired a confident desire in male DJs to improve their “sound system, […] technique, and record collection” (Cooper, 161). Yet once city policy limited the number of venues that disc jockeys could perform at, competition for sets in popular clubs surged.
Out of the competition for listeners sprung disco “cults,” whose determinations fell along certain group categories such as gay discos, “new wave” discos, or “black mainstream discos” (Cooper, 161). The byproduct of politicized jock competition was a “segregation of the disco market by style and demographics;” rather than being “mere happenstance,” such dissociation of the musical market intentionally and “forcibly [changed] the way new music could be presented to the public” (Cooper, 161). Once DJs acquired a steady gig, they sometimes felt pressured to abstain from making any new sound waves. These DJs played “more proven hits and less risky long shots” in order to maintain their job. The musicality of the disc jockey was quickly becoming stifled by the “narrow formatting” being forced upon crowds. Thus, some DJs began to perform as guests during special event nights at various clubs. Without committing to any one steady gig, these jocks were able to continue mixing different types of music and playing to different types of audiences (Cooper, 161).
This “cultural give-and-take” especially thrived in the 1980s, when jocks moved between uptown and downtown gigs, rendering musical excursions upon their crowds through expressions of rock’n’roll, reggaeton, and R&B music (Cooper, 161). Carol Cooper believes that “The biggest myth of late 1970s disco portrayed the disco audience as homoegenous in attitude and composition,” which, to her, is an undeniable falsehood. (Cooper, 160). Music is multidimensional, multi-ethnic, and attractive in different ways to different audiences. In fact, there seemed to exist a “gulf” in musical interest at white and black gay clubs in the 1970s (Cooper, 162). There were also several musical distinctions between the more popular discotheques of the 1970s and 1980s, such as the Paradise Garage and the Saint.
The Paradise Garage blasted low-end frequency music, whereas the Saint often played high or mid-range frequencies. According to the Paradise Garage Wikipedia page, three songs made popular through the Garage are “Don’t Make Me Wait” by Peech Boys, “Do It To The Music” by Raw Silk, and “Heartbeat” by Taana Gardner.
“Don’t Make Me Wait” by Peech Boys:
“Heartbeat” by Taana Gardner:
“Do It To The Music” by Raw Silk:
Cooper cites Chaka Khan, the Emotions, and The Talking Heads, as famed performers of mid to high frequency music, which was traditionally played at The Saint. The following songs are “Ain’t Nobody” by Chaka Khan, “Stay Up Late” by Talking Heads, and “Don’t Ask My Neighbors” by The Emotions. They give a range of the artistry found at mid to high frequency music.
“Ain’t Nobody” by Chaka Khan
“Stay Up Late” by Talking Heads
“Don’t Ask My Neighbors” by The Emotions
The “densely arranged vocal records” of artists such as Chaka Khan, Talking Heads, and The Emotions were given “a clarity and a […] cerebral jolt unequaled anywhere else” at the Saint when they were articulated through a jock’s musical, technological, and storytelling style. (Cooper, 163). Popular clubs like the Saint, the Paradise Garage, and the Loft did not always play according to their brand though. In order to “pay tribute to their collective dedication to giving their respective patrons a unique musical experience,” these clubs sometimes played music that was usually identified with their so-called rivals (Cooper, 163). Such blatant branding still dictates the complexity of disco styles and genres, showing that the music from this era is not a uniform, indistinguishable mass of sound. Their homage to rival dance clubs additionally shows the aforementioned “cultural give-and-take” of the 80s (Cooper, 161).
On page 162, Carol Cooper divulges to the reader that all the jocks she has been discussing, those who had to grapple with narrow formatting and excelled when exposed to a variety of audiences and music, are male.
However, there are two female disc jockeys that “deserve examination,” despite that fact that mainstream media does not consider them worthy of news coverage since they are “neither tragic nor dead” (Cooper, 161). These two black female jocks are Sharon White and Gail King, whose talents at musical instrumentation imbued their passion for the music scene.
Sharon White grew up drumming and specializes in various forms of percussion. Gail King was the lead guitarist of several jazz and funk bands as a teenager.
In college, both women became exposed to disc jockeying through their participation at college radio stations.
When Sharon White wrote to the famed radio disc jockey Allison Steele, the two women swiftly became friends. Steele had been an “idol” to Sharon White, and acted as her mentor as they got to know each other. Eventually, White “drifted into clubs,” hoping to satisfy the “child” in her that had “always wanted an audience” (qtd. in Cooper, 163). To White, “spinning at a club […] was a hundred times better” than doing radio because she could see “500 people reacting to [her] music,” whereas during her nighttime slots on the radio, only a call or two would inform her that anyone was listening (Cooper, 163). Along with her expertise on the drums, White “knew the music,” having grown up listening to and loving artists like the Faces, John Mayall, and Jimi Hendrix (Cooper, 163). She quickly became extremely influential in the music scene.
12 inch extended single records arrived in the mid-1970s, and they significantly improved the ability of deejays to compose a smooth set with seamless transitions. During this time, Sharon White was perfecting her craft at a lesbian club called the Sahara. There, White caught the interest of several club promoters and sound engineers of the industry alike. As a percussionist and former radio operative, Sharon White possessed a talent for detecting the “sonic nuances” of “densely orchestrated instrumentals and vocal tracks” that only a technical ear could perceive and manipulate to energize crowds (Cooper, 162). Read more about Sharon White here. More sophisticated technology and club sound systems simultaneously began to advance the skill sets of accomplished jocks.
Gail King and Sharon White were among the known accomplished jocks. In the 70s, both women were elected to become members of Billboard’s national deejay panel, which “determined the chart position for dance singles” (Cooper, 163). Whereas Sharon White often drafted playlists of songs fitting the “white gay market,” King’s playlist indicated “potential hits among the young black and Latin vanguard of Generation X” (Cooper, 163).
Gail King possessed further expertise in the field of music.
By 1977, King had immersed herself in roller disco, a subculture of disco that was popular among “dating-age” blacks and Hispanics. King formed a rollerskating performance group that toured local skating rinks for “fun and profit” (Cooper, 163). At the roller disco, Gail King was esteemed for her fantastic ability to play to skating and dancing crowds. It was well-known among observers that “it took a particular ear to choose the perfect records for skating” (Cooper, 164). Read more about roller disco here.
After her escapades with the rollerskating performance group, Gail King became the main disc jockey at an upscale black nightclub called the Red Parrot, where she became a powerful influence on mainstream music. As rap and R&B began to converge into the “newjack” movement, hip hop broke into the mainstream media and radio. In the 1980s, scratching deejays, skate-dancers, graffiti artists, and break dancers all pulled from the musical tastes of the previous decade as well as their own creativity to contribute this hip-hop revolution. The Red Parrot attracted an audience of sports, music, fashion, and film celebrities, to whom King mixed the diverse “idioms” of house, reggae, and rap. King’s mixes were often emulated on the local black radio. Because of her work at the Red Parrot, Gail King became a prominent figure in the club scene and music industry.
If King “broke” your record to an audience at the Red Parrot, then your song was likely to receive air time on local radio stations. King became as essential to pulling crowds as the Red Parrot itself, which the club began to resent. After a dispute with the Red Parrot over its decision to add strippers to the night’s entertainment, King retired from her post as a DJ there. During the day, King had been working at a local radio station as an audio-production engineer. The steady, dependable skill set of King’s day job expanded her resume; King favored it over the fickle nature of the club scene. Not even a year after King left the establishment, the Red Parrot fell into a mockery of professionalism of artistry, and eventually closed.
missing firsthand Documentation
On the last pages of her article, Carol Cooper informs the reader of crucial information regarding the documentation of disco history.
A lack of firsthand documentation from the people “most qualified” to tell the story of disco threatens to diminish the presence of the “rich social history of New York club life” (Cooper, 164). Some of the experts who were present in the disco era are unwilling to write about their experiences. Still, there are influential disc jockeys who “have died without passing on their personal memories of important records and party-moments” (Cooper, 164).
If future generations cannot access firsthand accounts of disco’s growth, transformation, and divergence into various cultural expressions, then “myths and rumors” will begin to dilute and destroy the truth (Cooper, 165). Cooper laments that writers purporting to be “authorities on cult clubs like the Paradise Garage never interviewed its visionary owner Michael Brody, or its principal deejay Larry Levan” (Cooper, 165). Other contributors to the “early club-underground-like the Loft’s David Mancuso-[…] are notoriously shy and dismissive of latecomers to the scene who think they can understand more than a decade of fanatical allegiance to nightlife by pumping a famous jock for a few hours of colorful anecdotes” (Cooper, 165). Firsthand experience of the disco generation cannot be “accurately conveyed through the abstract medium of dry print” (Cooper, 165). Direct experience is the only way one can understand disco clubs or feel the true impacts of disco music. Even recordings of the time period in the mediums of radio and video are insufficient. The “interactive immediacy of a dance club” is the superior way to disseminate music and meaning to the public (Cooper, 165).
a discussion of carol cooper’s article
Cooper’s article is scholarly, well-researched, and well-written. Her article has been published with an accredited university, Duke University, and was published in the journal Social Text.
However, one drawback to her article is that I cannot access Cooper’s list of references through this article alone.
Yet, Cooper’s credibility is strong. She informs the reader of critical details and historical timelines one may otherwise never have known.
Cooper describes the selfish motivations of white broadcasters as well as the media’s disregard for female jocks without citing direct evidence of either entity’s personal inspirations. Though she does not give explicit evidence supporting her assertions, any evidence she could use would be hard to consolidate into one article.
Cooper relies on our ingrained cultural knowledge of the history of race and gender in the United States of America to support her claims, causing readers to conceive of the ways cultural prejudice and cultural diversity also played a role in disco’s origins and disco’s life.
According to Janece Shaffer, the Communications Director at the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, the size of this singular memorial panel is much larger than the average panel submitted to the quilt. Typically, panels are 3×6 feet (0.9×1.8 meter); however, the size of this quilt is that of an entire 12×12 foot (3.7×3.7 meter) “block.” Blocks are usually composed of eight individual 3×6 foot (3.7×3.7 meter) panels, yet this block is its own individual dedication.
The quilt described in this piece is Block number 1087. According to the NAMES Project website, there are currently 5956 blocks, indicating that this particular block is a somewhat early addition to the AIDS Memorial Quilt. The subject of this quilt’s memorial are the members and staff of The Saint Dance Club in New York City, NY, USA.
The primary colors featured in the quilt are black, burgundy, and silver, though there are exceptions. Many of the objects have been stitched on to an expanse of either black or burgundy felt material, which raises them from the quilt’s flat surface. Thus, this description will be organized by the objects and images found on the quilt. These descriptions will also progress from the center of the quilt towards its outer edges.
First, I will describe the moon-like figure on the quilt, which immediately drew my eye when I first viewed the panel. Then, I will describe the “sky” the moon rests in, where many stitched stars shine. Next, I will describe the structure found underneath the stars, before expanding my focus to the larger, outer sections of the quilt, and their encompassing design.
The outer sections of the quilt include the black felt section of silver triangles, the burgundy felt section containing the memorial note, the silver section containing the words HOLD ON TO MY LOVE, as well as the cream outer border.
What appears to be a moon glows near the center of the 12×12 foot (3.7×3.7 meter) block. Painted onto the quilt, and aligned on the vertical axis that cuts the panel square into two twin-bed-sized halves, the moon first appears to be silver in color. Upon closer inspection, the moon reveals itself to the viewer: swirling grays and ultramarine tones sparkle from within the moon as the glitter dressing the moon’s surface reflects overhead light back at the viewer. This moon could very well be a disco ball, shining 3.5 feet (1.07 meters) from the top of the quilt. In fact, according to David W. Dunlap of The New York Times, The Saint Dance Club contained a “ceiling hatch through which a three-foot mirrored ball could be lowered.” Dunlap’s observation indicates that the moon-like figure on the quilt could represent a disco ball. The figure could even double as both a mirror ball and a moon. For the purpose of this description, this figure will continue to be referred to as a “moon” or “moon-like figure,” whose form is thickly coated with glitter paint, but feels smooth, if not a little grainy, to the touch.
Circling the neat, spherical shape of the moon are twinkling rays of light. A shimmery green like the underside of a maple leaf comprises the first ring of glitter glue light. Just outside of this soft, mint green band, are similar brush strokes of a glittery electric blue. This blue is the color one might see in pool tiles or during twilight. These marks pop from the burgundy material surrounding the moon, and feel like gentle sandpaper under one’s fingertips. These hand-painted marks contrast in both material and boldness to the moon’s solidity. The moon’s radiance is faint, brushed by hand with glitter paint or gel.
Additionally, though the moon is full, with an 8 inch (20.3 centimeter) diameter, its light seems subdued in power when compared with the entire quilt. The moon’s overwhelmingly silver color contributes to its quiet brightness.
A section of black felt contains the upper glitter essence surrounding the moon, which, due to its differing background color, may alter one’s visual perception of the glitter’s color. Given the background color change, the previously electric blue color appears to me as more turquoise on the black felt section. However, to my vision, the green color remained relatively the same. Other altered states of the colors may be observed through another person’s eyes.
Once one expands one’s focus from the moon, the stars on the quilt become apparent. Acting as a spotlight in the quilt panel’s sky, the moon rests at the apex of a triangular section of stars, which does not form a shape nearly as geometric as the moon. Altogether, the starry section of the quilt looks like a skinny stingray, or thick boomerang. If the moon is the kneecap of a slightly bent human leg, then the stars fall like a curtain beneath it.
As David W. Dunlap notes, these stars represent an actual feature of the subject of this quilt’s dedication, The Saint Dance Club. “The Saint” contained a “a sweeping planetarium dome,” with stars that flashed across its surface and illuminated the dancers below (Dunlap).
On the quilt, most of the stars are evenly spaced. Like party confetti, these stars are golden, with five points that could prick one’s finger. Their surface is flat and slightly cool to the touch though their points are sharp.
A burgundy wine color splashes in the space between the stars, complimenting the deep black fabric found above the stars on the block.
Between all of the stars are brush strokes of the same kind of glitter essence found around the moon, though it is featured in both electric blue and bright silver coloring. These strokes could be shooting stars.
Beneath the stars, a stitched-on representation of a tall structure juts from the bottom of the panel. The structure is a kind of weathered gray, like one might see on a beach dock. Similarly, the material that the structure is comprised of feels sturdy and thick. Its composition demonstrates its purpose: strength and support.
The structure’s 3 foot (91 centimeter) long center column upholds a 2.3 foot (71 centimeter) wide horizontal frame. Providing additional support to the rendered horizontal platform are two similarly-colored pieces sticking out from the center column like short, thick arms. These pieces form two right triangles underneath the structure’s horizontal platform; however, these triangles are not identical, and are different sizes. Both of the triangles’ hypotenuses face the open wine-colored felt material surrounding it, whereas their shortest sides are contained within the horizontal bar above them.
An orderly row of colorful spheres sit atop the thundercloud-colored horizontal frame. These spheres resemble a row of Smarties or even a candy bracelet, exuding colors of red, green, orange, purple, turquoise, yellow, and pink. There are sixteen of these 1 and 7/8 inch (4.8 centimeter) circles, and all of them contain a white line of stitching that connects them to the quilt. These sixteen spheres are some of the smallest circular shapes on the quilt panel, with cloth hairs that tickle one’s fingers upon contact. These circular shapes are likely club lights, given that The Saint also contained a “lighting tower with about 1,500 fixtures, topped by a planetarium-style star projector” in the center of its dance floor (Dunlap).
Two cloth sticks upholding two bagel-sized circles jut from within the row of round candies. Similar to the moon’s size and coloring, these two circles are slightly smaller, like baby moons. They have a diameter of 5.5 inches (14 centimeters), and their cloth material raises them from the quilt. In fact, the entire structure in this part of the quilt possesses depth, puffing its chest from the flat quilt square. The baby moons jutting from the row of candies lean inwards towards each other and touch at several points along their surface.
Their heads protrude into the quilt’s star-filled sky.
There are three sections on the quilt panel; these sections are differentiated both by the color of the section’s felt background and the images and content that section contains. Felt is a thick fabric with short fibers that are both soft and dense. The smoothness of felt is distinct, though it also feels almost impenetrably thick. When one traces one’s fingers down the material of this quilt, a sound somewhat like the falling water of a distant waterfall emits from the quilt.
At the top section of the quilt, reflective silvery material similar to the color of tinsel has been cut into triangular shapes and sewed onto a large expanse of black felt. These smooth, reflective triangles are dissimilar in shape and size. Some of the triangles are flexible or slightly warped. Other triangles appear like rigid sword sheaths. Still, others are fat, isosceles pizza slices. However, these triangles do share a significant characteristic: all of the triangles point towards the moon. Like a halo of shards of glass, or fragments of light, these triangles come from many directions. They occupy the block panel from 8:00 to noon on the left side of an analog clock and from 4:00 to noon on the right side of an analog clock.
Thirty three of the triangles have the following names stitched or ironed onto them: Shawn Buchanan, Mario Z, Alan Noseworthy, Alan Kanghi, Alan Magioncalda, Tony Devizia, Greg Koulis, Bob Updegrove, John Mensior, Tommy Ayala, “Michael Beck, M.D.,” Hector Garcia, Bill Bruno, Jim Hicks, Elliot Siegel, Mel Albaum, Robert DeVito, Jim Leys, Joe Palmeri, Julio Morales, Jorge Villardel, Jürgen Honeyball, Victor Zaragoza, Peter Spar, Mark Ackerman, Mel Fante, Peter Vogel, Frank Olivia, John Reed, Bruce Crave, Tom Clancy, Eddie Lopez, and Joe Semiday.
Where Memories Lie
In the bottom left corner of the panel, the words IN MEMORY OF THE MEMBERS AND STAFF OF: are completed by the ones followed in the bottom right corner of the panel: ‘THE SAINT’ DANCE CLUB OF NEW YORK CITY. The text of this memorial note is smaller than that found at the very bottom of the quilt panel; in white, thin lettering, these words stand out against their burgundy background.
There are no stars or glitter in this section of burgundy felt. The material is solid burgundy, whereas the starry section provides decoration to the burgundy.
With the use of a running stitch, the words HOLD ON TO MY LOVE have been attached to the bottom of the quilt. The words’ soot or ash-colored lettering overlay a thick strip of the same shiny, silver material found in the top section of the panel. This silver strip is 8 and 2/3 inches (22 centimeters) wide.
“Hold On To My Love” is a song by musical artist Jimmy Ruffin. According to David W. Dunlap, Ruffin’s song was one of those played on April 30, 1988, as The Saint Dance Club prepared to close after eight years of business. Though this closure turned out to be temporary, in 1989, The Saint closed permanently.
The letters in HOLD ON TO MY LOVE are four inches (10 centimeters) tall, and have been stitched on with dark gray thread. A cream colored border two inches wide surrounds the entire quilt, like the color of slightly aged vanilla icing.