Sexual Expression and its Subsequent Suppression: Media Library

media from “Introduction”

  1. The photograph below depicts the Saint dance club’s memorial block on the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Archived by the NAMES Project Foundation, the photograph displays a high-quality image of the entirety of the Saint’s memorial block. The club’s quilt block inspired the research present in this essay, and honors the members and staff of the Saint. The primary colors featured in the quilt are black, burgundy, and silver. 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 the Saint’s memorial block here.
Saint Dance Club Memorial Block: Image Credit: NAMES Project

media from “bruce mailman emerges”

  1. The Saint-at-Large is an organization that has revived famed celebrations of the Saint discotheque every year since the disco’s closure. The Saint-at-Large hopes to sustain the fiery spirit of the Saint through annual commemorations of the four holiest celebrations of the Saint: Halloween, New Years Eve, the White Party, and Black Party. On its YouTube channel, the Saint-at-Large provides trailers for its parties and other documentary footage. The video embedded below is a part of a series of five videos entitled “Stories of the Saint.” Chapter 4 of “Stories of the Saint” is the fourth installment in this series.

Chapter 4 describes the exuberant era of gay nightlife that preceded the Saint. Gay people had formed their own “ghetto” in New York along Christopher Street during the 1970s, where nightclubs, shops, gym clubs, and health clubs were owned, frequented, and appreciated by the gay community. By the time of the Saint’s arrival, an “emboldened” community of young gay adults had already eagerly embraced the untroubled, jovial spirit of the Sexual Revolution and further civil rights liberation. Hal Rubenstein, a cultural commentator, describes this legendary era as a “world without guilt.” Photographer David Morgan states that “there was no fear of sex [and] no fear of holding hands in the street.” The 1970s was a “really blissful time [and] a simpler time.” It was a decade “based on sheer innocence” says Hal Rubenstein.

media from “birth of a saint”

  1. The second installment of “Stories of the Saint” discusses the characteristics of and inspiration for the architecture of the Saint. Robbie Leslie, an esteemed DJ of the Saint, describes the Saint as the “manifestation of Bruce Mailman’s vision.” Leslie believes the Saint was the “greatest nightclub because it was conceived as the greatest nightclub.” Susan Tomkin, Bruce Mailman’s longtime assistant, remembers that Mailman thought gay people were entitled to have a fabulous place to go to where they could dance, be themselves, and be a part of a community.

According to Susan Tomkin, Mailman particularly did not want gay men to be “relegated to the backroom in a bar.” When the Saint opened, it was immediately clear that the club was like “nothing that had ever been seen.” According to Steve Casko, Bruce Mailman’s business partner, Mailman did not desire to create the best gay disco. Mailman searched for the qualities that would shape the best disco ever, and Casko asserts that “[the best disco ever] is what [Mailman] got.”

The Saint was a “great piece of architecture” whose physicality contributed to an overall fantastic experience. Hal Rubenstein affirms that the Saint was a “physical knockout.” The club’s planetarium design truly served its intended purpose, which was to enhance the experience of the dancer and attendee of the Saint. Bruce Mailman’s club delved into a new dimension of discotheque design and incited awe among its witnesses.

2. The following image can be found on the Saint discotheque’s memorial block; the photograph 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). The memorial block’s encapsulation of the Saint’s lighting architecture demonstrates its significance to the memory, legacy, and life of the Saint.

light structure representation found on the quilt

3. The first installment of the Saint-at-Large’s “Stories of the Saint” details the Saint’s opening night. Robbie Leslie, one of the club’s famed DJs, compares opening night of the Saint to a “movie premiere.” Before the Saint’s disco debut on Saturday, September 20, 1980, Robbie Leslie had only ever seen long queues of people waiting on the streets in Hollywood documentaries. Leslie believes that some of the men who were in line may have waited half the night to get into the Saint. The anticipation of the crowds drawn together by curious excitement did not prepare attendees for the appearance of the planetarium projector’s celestial surprise.

Once the opening chords of Donna Summer’s hit song “Could It Be Magic” began to play, “all of a sudden [the crowd was] out in the stars.” For miles around, it seemed that there was “nothing but stars” according to Michael Fierman, another great DJ of the Saint. Everyone in the club “gasped” in complete “astonishment.” For the twenty seconds of the piano chords of “Could It Be Magic” before the song’s percussion kicks in, Michael Fierman remembers that everyone was”basically frozen.” Then the crowd cheered “insanely madly.” Robbie Leslie describes the “rush of excitement” that overtook the crowd as “amazing.” The cheer of the crowd “defies words.” The Saint’s opening night was truly spectacular.

4. When crowds first entered the Saint and began exploring the newly opened club, George Gershwin‘s Rhapsody in Blue “swelled” from the sound system and encased the public in a luxurious mood of classical music (McEwan, 38). I do not know if the orchestral rhapsody or piano version of Gershwin’s composition was played during the Saint’s opening night, so both versions have been included in the essay. Both versions are also embedded below.

5. “Could It Be Magic” by Donna Summer was played during the Saint’s premiere on Saturday, September 20, 1980. The song is also included in the Saint’s promotional video. According to Michael Fierman as expressed in Chapter 1 of “Stories of the Saint,” “Could It Be Magic” is based on Chopin’s twentieth prelude. The song begins with “minor key dance chords” that are zapped by an orchestral melody before they are accompanied by Donna Summer’s gorgeous voice.

media from “kingdom of a saint”

  1. The photograph embedded below is a still taken from the Saint’s promotional video. In the photograph, a large half-naked crowd presses close together in a mass embrace inside the Saint. Bare skin greets the viewer in the form of blurry faces and shirtless chests. The photograph has an orange tinge to it due to the disco lights that shone at the time the photograph was taken. One can also clearly see that the Saint’s planetarium dome has been illuminated from behind. According to David W. Dunlap, the “The skin of the dome was porous, acting like a theatrical scrim; solid when lighted from within, translucent when illuminated from behind.” In the photograph, the dome appears to be a translucent orange color.

2. The photograph embedded below is a still taken from the Saint’s promotional video. The photograph depicts a psychedelic light pattern of the Saint of violet, indigo, and pink color. The photograph is an example of the colorful choreography of the light technicians at the Saint, presenting a white cross extending from a dark circle on the ceiling of the Saint, capped by four glowing pink circles. Glittery stars dot the entire formation.

3. Souvenirs by Voyage is the last song to play in the Saint’s promotional video. The immense crowd depicted in the photograph below appears as the Voyage’s song plays. Bare skin shines under the lights within the photograph. Taken from above the crowd, perhaps from the Saint’s balcony, the photograph captures only the upper bodies of the dancers shown. The multitude of lights cast onto the dome reflects on the audience as they dance underneath the dome. Red and blue spotlights tinge the crowd different colors in different spots on the photo.

4. The third installment of “Stories of the Saint” describes the light choreography and musical performances that contributed to a marvelous experience at the Saint. Robbie Leslie, a DJ of the Saint, describes audiences of the Saint as “talented, expert, and knowledgeable.” Hal Rubenstein, a cultural commentator, describes the club experience as a united journey of the masses. At a disco, Rubenstein states, “everyone comes in [and takes] in the same medicine at exactly the same time.” Rubenstein argues that this uniform structure is a “DJ’s dream” because a DJ can “bring everybody up [and then] bring everybody down” simultaneously. DJs had incredible power and influence over their crowds’ sensory stimulation.

Micheal Fesco, owner of the Flamingo nightclub, describes the DJ’s musical journey as a type of choreography. One piece of music follows another in a sequence similar to the methodical steps of an intricate dance. DJs at the Saint invigorated crowds to the point of screaming elation before gently bringing audiences back down from their high. Michael Fierman, another esteemed DJ of the Saint, observed that the structure in which music was played was oftentimes more crucial than individual records. Robbie Leslie describes a great musical journey as meeting the requirements of great sex: a good musical trip in the Saint was “all in foreplay.” The ‘orgasm’ does not matter nearly as much as the journey towards it; according to Leslie, “it’s about how you get there.”

Michael Musto, a nightlife columnist, states that the Saint offered a religious experience to some people through its power to unite crowds to the “beat of dance music.” Jorge Latorre attests that attending the Saint was an “experience on every level.” Latorre states that at the Saint, “all of your senses were […] exploited.” Susan Tomkin, Bruce Mailman’s longtime assistant, discloses that the energy of the Saint was “amazing.” She remarks that there “is no energy like [it] in the world; […] you couldn’t send a man to the moon on that energy.” After a night of dancing, Robbie Leslie asserts that there was a “wonderful feeling of release brought about by a musical catharsis of sorts.” This musical catharsis allowed attendees to express themselves, according to Leslie.

5. The Saint’s planetarium projector projected the club into an otherworldly realm. According to author Jonathan McEwan, songs fitting the Saint’s “interstellar” theme such as “Rocket to Your Heart” by LISA and “Trippin’ On The Moon” by Cerrone were similarly “instant Saint standards” (38). Both songs are included below. “Rocket to Your Heart” begins with a robotic mumbling before transitioning to a rapid drumbeat and playful synths and keytones. “Trippin’ on the Moon” opens with more mellow vibes as a relaxed drum beat accompanies the repeated choral sounds of what may be an organ. The beat picks up around 1 minute with a rhythmic melody.

media from “afterlife of a saint”

  1. In 1988, the Saint’s surviving DJs and lighting technicians enlivened the club for the last time. The “Last Party” of the Saint 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. The day after the Last Party, 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.

“Hold On To My Love” evokes a sense of celebration with an upbeat tempo, but also a sentiment of farewell as Ruffin asks an unknown subject to hold on to his love. Ruffin’s song has appeared many times in reference to the Saint, and is clearly a favorite track of the club. The song begins with bright high notes and a joyful beat. Ruffin’s voice is soulful and sunny. Ruffin passionately declares “our love will live on for the whole world to see.” He animatedly shares his love for the subject of his affectionate lyrics.

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Sexual Expression and its Subsequent Suppression: Birth of a Saint

club of vices

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).

light structure representation found on the quilt

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.

Stories of the Saint – Chapter 1: The Opening

Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue on the piano

Original version of Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue

Donna Summer’s “Could It Be Magic”

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Annotated Bibliography Two – Annotation Seven

Peters, Brooks. “The Sexual Revolution Mailman Delivered.” Out, 1994. 

Mailman’s biography

Bruce Mailman was born in Chester, Pennsylvania, a “poor industrial town outside Philadelphia” (Peters, 140).

Mailman’s parents were merchants.

When he was four years old, Bruce Mailman experienced his “first sexual experience.” A man had walked into his father’s shop wearing a “suede jacket without a shit on underneath.” Though Mailman “knew it wasn’t right, [he] didn’t know why.” However, he remembers wanting the man to “take off the jacket. [He] was consciously interested” (qtd. in Peters, 140).

Growing up, Mailman became aware of the “town queer,” Snookie, but knew he didn’t want to be like Snookie (qtd. in Peters, 140).

Alone in high school, with no gay friends, Mailman worked through his self-identity on his own. He became involved in art, theater, and music in high school, and went on to attend Temple University and the Tyler School of Fine Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the Tyler School, Mailman met other gay men, but still “had to hide” who he truly was. He pronounces that being gay was “mysterious, like being part of a private society. […] There was no openness.” Yet to Mailman, being gay was “as dangerous as it was interesting” (qtd. in Peters, 140).

After Bruce Mailman moved to New York to attend graduate school at New York University, he graduated with a master’s degree in the early 1960s. Mailman began working as a caseworker after graduation, and soon met his long time partner, John, a cardiologist. Together, John and Mailman began to invest in real estate, whilst Mailman began producing his own creative works and plays.

Mailman’s first production of a play took place in 1970.

The play was entitled The Dirtiest Show in Town, and was written by Tom Eyen. Starring a cast that was mostly naked for the entire production, the play nevertheless required costumes, which Mailman designed. Mailman also designed the set of The Dirtiest Show in Town.

The first production enjoyed over 500 performances, attracting a memorable review from critic Clive Barnes who stated that another controversially nude play of the time Oh! Calcutta! was practically “Little Women” in comparison (Peters, 140).

Bruce Mailman soon opened the Fortune Theatre with collaborator Andy Warhol, which Mailman claims to be the first place in New York City to showcase gay porn “commercially” (Peters, 140). Mailman also co-wrote a textbook, and became the manager of another theater. After Mailman created his infamous bathhouse, he became invested in the gay disco scene and excelled in similar fashion there with his creation of the Saint disco club of New York City.

a trip in the saint

In the article, Michael Fierman, an esteemed DJ of the Saint, explains that DJs had a responsibility to “make a musical statement.” At the Saint, evenings were given structure because of the DJ’s desire to “take the crowd someplace” (qtd. in Peters, 140). Fierman describes the Saint as a “decadent place” in a “non-negative way” (qtd. in Peters, 141). Yet of all the liberation the Saint appeared to have stirred in its gay members who reveled in the club’s hot parties, not everyone was welcome.

John Preston recounts that at the Saint there was “a sense of exclusion of those [individuals] who weren’t pretty enough” (qtd. in Peters, 141). Author Brooks Peters states that black people “complained” that they were discriminated against at the Saint, given that they did not fit the culturally-imposed ideal gay male figure. Peters continues on to say that “Drag queens were definitely not welcome” and that “lesbians were not included.”

Others steered clear of the Saint by their own volition. The sexual nature of the Saint was off-putting to them. Critics of the Saint believed that promiscuous and anonymous sex should not be equated with gay liberation, however, others feel that their physical excursions in disco clubs like the Saint were freeing and necessary. The sexual liberation of the Saint was rooted in Mailman’s precursor business, the St. Marks Baths, whose origination inspired a generation to be “honest,” according to Mailman (qtd. in Peters).

a sexual revolution

Andrew Holleran, a prominent novelist, describes Bruce Mailman in the following way:

“‘The thing about Bruce Mailman is that he is the eminence grise, the Cardinal Richelieu behind the scenes in the gay world. He culminated and codified and realized physically the climax of the 70s. He provided the settings, literally the theater, for all of these fantasies'” (qtd. in Peters, 80).

Given that he rarely grants interviews, Bruce Mailman’s reputation generally proceeds his name in any conversation, however in this article published in the July/August 1994 issue of Out magazine, author Brooks Peter hoped he would finally “set the record straight” (Peters, 80).

Following the 1969 Stonewall riot, “more and more gay men and lesbians were organizing support groups and demanding equal rights. And businesses-bars and bathhouses in particular- began to cater openly” to the gay community (Peters, 80). At the time there were several bathhouses that Mailman remembers vividly offering a range of experiences such as steam baths, massages, and rooms where one could get hit with “birch branches” (Peters, 80). The Russian Baths, the Penn Post baths, and the Continental Baths are all famous bathhouses that Mailman remembers from his youth.

However, Bruce Mailman presents some criticisms of the gay bathhouses and community fixtures of the his time. To Mailman, the “whole gay scene was unattractive [and] freaky.” People did not seek familiarity from one another, nor did they want to even meet people. Mailman noticed that at gay bars, “people wouldn’t sign their own names. They were very embarrassed to see someone they knew on the street.” Mailman’s hope was to create a community in which people could be open and “honest” with each other and with themselves (qtd. in Peters).

Mailman also argues that “camp” gay men were “buying into the typical, straight-imposed ‘nellie’ stereotypes” that were self-deprecating and demeaning. He recalls being “outraged” when a young man called him “hon.” Mailman felt that campness demeaned the gay community, and sought to create spaces that manifested masculinity.

Mailman eventually charmed his way into ownership of the existing St. Marks Baths by convincing his backers that they were investing in a “viable proposition” (qtd. in Peters). When he remodeled the St. Marks Baths, Bruce Mailman invited a younger generation of gay men to his establishment, and they lost themselves to the liberation of New York’s sexual revolution. The bathhouse had five floors, a video room, and a luncheonette. It was magnificent.

Larry Kramer, a prominent activist, playwright, and author acknowledges that Mailman “succeeded” in giving the gay community the “nicest baths” (qtd. in Peters).

Attracting millions of dollars each year, the St. Marks Baths became synonymous with gay and queer culture.

One visitor states that “if you didn’t like the baths, you had to examine yourself. Maybe you had a serious case of self-loathing, or maybe you hadn’t gotten the message. It was part of the culture to have a lot of anonymous sex.” Attending the Baths affirmed one’s identity and increased the fraternity and camaraderie among the young men who were there (qtd. in Peters). The baths were a “sexual” gathering where men could meet celebrities, plumbers, even nuclear physicists. Anyone and everyone seemed to belong (qtd. in Peters).

the disease, his controversy

The St. Marks Baths were “always spotless” (Peters, 82).

Inspections were conducted every 15 minutes in the bathhouse to ensure everyone’s safety and to guarantee that there was no injury. Sadly, a member drowned in a hot tub at the St. Marks Baths, however, this is the only time that things went “wrong” (Peters, 82).

Staff members of the Baths were fired “on the spot” if they were caught having sexual relations with guests or members of the Baths, though such relations continued on anyways.

To Mailman’s staff, Bruce was “not easy to work for” because he “had more respect for the clientele than he did for his employees” (qtd. in Peters, 82). Yet Mailman does not see himself as “tough or ruthless;” he is “goal-oriented.” Mailman cares about how he presents his work and simply wants things “done the way [he] want[s] it done” (qtd. in Peters, 82).

However, soon the St. Marks Baths (and later on, the Saint) became known as the “epicenter” of a deadly disease: AIDS (Peters, 82).

merciless or innocent?

Bruce Mailman was accused of being an exploitative, “merciless profiteer” when he “resisted shutting down the baths early in the AIDS crisis” (Peters, 82). Many people, including Larry Kramer and other vocal writers and leaders in the gay community believed that Mailman took too long to close the Saint in the wake of the mounting evidence that AIDS was a sexually transmitted disease. Larry Kramer advised young gay people to avoid sex clubs and reduce their number of sexual partners, even to try abstinence. Yet Mailman did not want to “give up the freedom he had fought for so many years to establish” (Peters).

To Mailman, the Baths was a “hard-won symbol of fraternity, equality, and liberty.” Author Brooks Peters explains that the “right to be a homosexual man without harrassment from society was closely linked to the right to have promiscuous sex.”

Civil rights was on Mailman’s mind when he failed to close the Baths as early as critics wanted him to. Anyway, Mailman believes that more would have been done to “control the epidemic” during the virus’s germination period in 1980, but no one knew of the public health crisis to come back then (qtd. in Peters, 82). To Mailman, the accusations against him promote an argument based on hindsight bias.

Tom Steele wrote that AIDS was like a “shark attack” (qtd. in Peters, 82). For a while, New York experienced a “dreadfully grim” period of despair in which a “sexual shutdown” created a sort of emotional “black hole” (qtd. in Peters, 82).

Two conservative commentators at the time, Pat Buchanan and William F. Buckley, began to advocate for “quarantine camps,” and “tattooing,” in response to the AIDS crisis, procedures reminiscent of the protocols of Nazi concentration camps. By condemning him and “not supporting the baths,” Mailman believes the gay community was “really feeding into the hands of the right wing” (qtd. in Peters, 82).

Bruce Mailman insists that in 1983 the Baths were doing more good than harm in the gay community. His bathhouse offered counseling and distributed condoms in packages that read: “The contents of this envelope can save your life” (qtd. in Peters, 82). Yet, he continued to be villainized.

To Mailman, it is clear that the media hoped to villainize a distinguished gay business-owner in New York City in order to “appease people’s hysteria.”

In 1985, Mailman was forced to close the St. Marks Baths due to increased political and legal pressure.

Mailman states that he spent $300,000 U.S. dollars defending his right to keep the St. Marks Baths open. He lost.

Some writers in the gay community did defend Mailman’s desire to keep the St. Marks Baths open. Bruce Mailman never “sat there with a shotgun and forced people to have sex” says Marc Berkeley, a club promoter in New York who later worked at the Saint during its closing years (qtd. in Peters, 82).

Marisa Cardinale, the executive director of Community Research Initiative on AIDS (CRIA) in 1994, believes the following:

“Our right to privacy and our right to gather are two of the most important things, as gay people, we have. And I don’t think anything, [not] even AIDS, is worse than voluntarily giving up those rights” (qtd. in Peters, 82).

ABANDONed

Things got worse.

The Saint disco lost club members, employees, and DJs to AIDS. The club eventually closed, a mere reflection of its former glory.

In 1991, drug and tax evasion charges were brought against Mailman.

An unjust investigation led by federal prosecutor James J. McGuire. McGuire and a team of IRS agents attempted to unravel the drug scene at Fire Island by targeting Bruce Mailman. Mailman eventually pleaded guilt to the charges of tax evasion, but he “vigorously” denied the raised drug charges (qtd. in Peters, 143).

No one in the gay community defended Mailman during his legal troubles, a fact that severely disappointed Mailman. The community’s easy abandonment of him hurt.

In 1992, Mailman’s case was thrown out of the court of law.

The Justice Department determined that fabricated evidence and homophobic motivations had significantly corrupted the investigation against Bruce Mailman. All charges against him were dropped, including those he pleaded guilty to.

Sadly, Mailman describes the entire experience as “being struck by a car” (qtd.in Peters, 143). What began with the closing of the St. Marks Baths swiftly “escalated” (qtd. in Peters, 143).

He experienced a lot of grief.

ghosts of the saint mystique

in 1994, Bruce Mailman decided to start cleaning out, stating that he was “slowly getting rid of most of what [he] owned” (qtd. in Peters, 143). He was in the middle of “downsizing his operations,” and was already selling his house in the Pines.

Author Brooks Peters believes that Mailman’s decluttering is a physical embodiment of Mailman’s “disenchantment with New York’s gay scene.”

Andrew Holleran, the novelist, had recently visited Fire Island at the time of this article’s writing; once there, Holleran states that he “felt like a ghost.” He believes that Mailman is in a transition, just as he is. Holleran proclaims the following:

“You have to start seeing yourself in a different way. It’s like molting and growing a new skin. One’s ship is changing course, reorienting and using a different compass” (qtd. in Peters, 143).

Bruce Mailman knows that his generation was dramatically affected by the onslaught of AIDS.

To Mailman, being gay “today is to walk around with a burden which certainly wasn’t the case in the 70s” (qtd. in Peters, 143). Mailman hopes that future gay generations will find the “same freedom [his generation] once had.”

Another mournful result of AIDS is the disconnect which resulted from it. Mailman feels that his generation did not get to share its “collective wisdom” with the next generation of queer youth because of the disease. He feels that “There is no continuity in the gay population.” 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).

By 1994, Mailman owned the restaurant 103, was a silent partner in HX, a gay guide to sex clubs, discos, and bars in New York City, as well as the owner of several other real estate and theater investments.

Of course, Mailman still was involved in hosting for the Saint-at-Large, which for those old enough to remember the original parties at the old Saint, were only “shadows” of what they used to be. However, the Saint-at-Large parties remained a spectacle of “go-go dancers [and] horny bubble-butt boy-toys.” The “young, affluent men” who were allured by the Saint-at-Large in the 1990s were described as the “gay-geoisie” (Peters, 142).

discussion of Brooks Peters’ Article

Author Brooks Peters goes on to describe the lasting influence of the Saint in the nation’s queer community in the 1990s even after the club’s closing. Bruce Mailman’s presentation of erotic, masculine images in his establishment’s marketing during the 70s and 80s guided the creation of posters, ads, and book covers in the 1990s as they pay homage to the “scintillating spectacles and libertine sprawl of the Saint” (Peters, 141).

Party Promoter Dallas Boesendahl declares the following:

“Bruce was the king of New York night life. There is a mystique around the Saint that still exists today. It was a truly brilliant entertainment complex. A wonderful playground for gay men.”

This source does well to expand upon the argument mentioned at the end of Carol Cooper’s article, Disco Knights: Hidden Heroes of the New York Dance Underground. If one has not experienced a disco like the Saint for oneself, then the true impact and emotion of the club can never be felt. In other words, you had to be there.

The Saint-at-Large’s revival of the Saint’s parties seem like mere “shadows” of their original forms to the older men who remember the original Saint in its heyday. Their perception of shadowed, or weakened versions of the experience spun by the Saint through the Saint-at-Large’s party revivals, further emphasize the permanent loss of their youth’s pure euphoric freedom. Their memories can never be replicated.

This source also helpfully provides details about Mailman’s childhood, which I was unaware of beforehand.

Peters’ article addresses the history of the St. Marks Baths with extreme clarity, and provides needed information about his legal troubles, investments, and emotional response to the highs and lows of his life.

Peters’ portrayal of Bruce Mailman is also well-rounded. There were statements of Mailman’s that I disagreed with, yet by the end of the article I do not dislike him. I simply feel like I understand him more.

Some of the drawbacks to the source are its frayed edges. This is a physical copy of the 1994 article that appears to have been torn out of the magazine itself. Some words are missing from the text because of the uneven ripping, however, I do not believe those missing words significantly alter the narrative.

The source also quotes other opinions often, which helps to provide further context and thoughts on the particular subject being dressed.

Primary Source Description One – Gabrielle Williams

About the Quilt

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.

Disco Night

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. 

moon-like figure on the quilt

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.

Starshine

a close-up of the quilt’s section of stars

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.

Candy Lights

light structure representation found on the quilt

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.     

Silver Shrine

a close-up of the silver material and the text of John Reed’s name

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

a close-up of one of the letters used in HOLD ON TO MY LOVE

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. 

See photos of The Saint below:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/timothyhartleysmith/sets/72157603013834938/with/3346237383/