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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Annotated Bibliography Two – Annotation Eight

Fierman, Michael. The Saint Promo. CD. New York, n.d.

Cupid’s Arrows

The video fades from black to a brightly-toned image of a muscular man with his legs folded beneath him. The man’s arms hang above his head from a light brown rope that binds his wrists together. His head is tilted back, exposing his long neck and protruding Adam’s apple.

A spotlight has been cast on the man’s body, but his upturned face obscures prominent facial features in shadow, especially his eyes. The man has a light brown beard and smooth skin. There is hair on his underarms, which are visible to the viewer.

The bound man has six-pack abs and is completely naked. His folded right leg partially obscures his penis, but the right half of his penis as well as his pubic hair is still visible to the viewer. The man’s left leg is folded backwards so that only the knee of that leg is visible. His right leg has been folded at a right angle in front of the man’s body and extends outwards slightly. The man leans to the right underneath his tied hands.

A black curtain backdrop hangs behind him.

An arrow plunged into the man’s right side (in his rib cage) appears to half been stuck deep; vastly less than half of how one might typically imagine an arrow is visible. Red string appears to have been wrapped around its end.

The next image similarly depicts a man tied up by his wrists; his hands have been hitched above his head.

It is harder to discern this man’s position, for instance, whether he is standing or lying down.

The man’s head is turned to the right, yet presents more discernible facial features than the first man. The size of his lips, the shape of his left eyebrow, and the bags under his left eye individualize his face to a far greater extent than the first photograph’s subject.

He also wears a thick cloth that covers his genitals. The cloth is white and has been wrapped around the greater part of his upper thighs. This image is of a bluish black and white, almost suggestive of an underwater scene. This man has two arrows sticking from his body, one in the left side of his abdomen (appearing on the right to the viewer) and one in his left breast, close to his nipple.

Following these two images is a poster for the Saint depicting a man with a hairy chest and a happy trail leading down it. The poster exhibits the man’s torso and head.

Rainbow laser beams depart his eyes as navy blue beams exit his fingertips. The man is very tan and is framed by a baby blue backdrop with twinkling star-like sparkles in it. Three images of the light structures of the Saint appear.

could it be magic, donna summer

As the previously-described photos appeared, a light instrumental played, featuring what sounded like a soprano flute.

As the video begins its next chapter after 1 minute, the songs “Prelude To Love” by Donna Summer begins to play, opening with a breathy apostrophe to a lover that states “Oh baby it’s been so long, I’ve waited so long, and now that I have you, I want you to come. Come, come, come into my arms.” Here are the rest of the lyrics.

“Prelude To Love” by Donna Summer

Eventually, “Prelude To Love” transitions into the following song:

“Could It Be Magic” by Donna Summer

Whilst these songs grace the listener with transcendent choral tracks, moans, and orchestral melodies, images of space, stars, and vibrant, psychedelic patterns splash across the screen.

Once more, images of the inside of the Saint appear, though this time they depict the sheer size of the crowds found at the Saint as well as the colorful choreography of the light technicians. Between photos, a smooth transition fades away the primary picture by slowly replacing it with the next picture.

One of the photos depicts a bright blue sky over-top a horizon of white puffy clouds. The sun shines in the center of the photo and presents a glare on the image because of its brightness. The sun’s glare is patterned in rectangular shapes of light that form a ring around the sun. The transition from this photo is beautiful. It looks like the sun then begins to set behind the shadowy black mountains and beneath the sky of shooting stars presented in the next photo.

Images of the Saint appear once more, particularly its various light patterns. These light patterns can be observed through in the next four photographs.

The photos so far have either depicted the Saint or are related to space, the galaxy, the moon, the earth, the solar system, or the stars.

an eclectic essence

Around 5:30 seconds, the music switches tempo, and changes to a deep, jazzy piano instrumental. A acoustic guitar begins to be plucked in a classical style. The instrumental continues to blend genres in a pleasing and unique way.

Then, a really sexy classical guitar, paired with the steady tempo of some percussion, is joined by a low-noted string instrument, which is likely a cello.

The end of the video informs us that the “music and visuals” have been created by Michael Fierman.

Michael Fierman. Image Credit: Facebook

During this time, the images abandon predictable forms and surpass clear-cut organization.

The images portray dark floating discs over an a rippling body of water, then random streaks of colorful light. Like paintings or photographs of artful, colorful blurs in time, the images belonging to the video’s eclectic instrumental are similarly of wide variety and taste.

One photograph possesses large bubbles on its left side while a streak of white light shoots from a partially-visible orb of energy on the right side. The overall color scheme of this image is baby blue, but darker seaweed shapes in the background suggest an underwater environment where blue remains the dominant color.

Two photos of Stonehenge appears.

This section of instrumental music features a collection of photos that fails to be as cohesive as those presented with Donna Summer’s “Could It Be Magic.”

Color blocks and black and red photos of a swirling design materialize. Silvery blue puddles of a mercury-like fluid stretches across the video frame in a still image.

The images of this section are often hard to discern, or are a little blurry. They move fairly rapidly across the screen, remaining for one to two seconds as the music continues to pick up in tempo.

Some images are linked together by one singular design that continuously shifts in color.

At around seven minutes, the music shifts into the song “Make That Feeling Come Again” by Boris Midney and the Beautiful Bend.

make that feeling come again, boris midney and beautiful bend

The section of the video narrated by the song “Make That Feeling Come Again” showcases more photos of the Saint, specifically of the club’s the planetarium projector and light structures.

A photo of a disco ball can be found after the first photos of the Saint.

Then the video returns to the theme of space, presenting photographs of twinkling stars, and a moon.

The planets and their various moons appear next, including Earth.

There a few photos in the video that are often repeated throughout the video.

snail SHELLS and other mollusks

A white slide marks the beginning of this section.

Then, random psychedelic images, including those of fluorescent snails begin to dazzle the viewer in a display of entertaining colors, lights, and designs.

A sequence of snail-shell like images dominates the video for a few minutes.

Tightly coiled shells and bodies have visible signs of spiral deigns and segment attachments. its the snail shell. A white slide separates the snail-shell section from the following sequence of images.

FORBIDDEN LOVE, MADLEEN KANE

As Madleen Kane’s song “Forbidden Love” plays, the viewer is presented with a blueprint of the Saint containing plans for the construction of the club’s light structure,  dance floor, balcony, and other physical fixtures and features in the disco.

Next, the viewer sees an artistic rendition of the crowd at the saint, which is lined like a comic sketch. Then the actual photograph of the crowd appears.

The crowd is half-naked, there is a lot of bare skin. the photograph has an orange tinge to it due to the disco lights shining at the time that the photograph was taken. The crowd is pressed closed together in a massed embrace.

One can clearly see that the 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.”

Following this photo of the dance crowd, the video presents a spread of posters and ads advertising different holiday parties that took place at the Saint.

Some of the posters advertise parties from the Saint-at-Large, which developed after the Saint’s demise.

Many of the posters are black and white because they advertise for the Black and White Parties of the Saint and Saint-at-Large.

After displaying party posters and advertisements, the video renders  altered images of the advertisements’ models in various psychedelic patterns and shapes. One man is naked and stands with his back turned. However, his image has been repeated enough times to connect his butt with the exact image of himself in a ring shape.

Though some of the advertisements used cannot be found on the Saint-at-Large’s website, many of them can be viewed there.

This source has a plethora of posters and advertisements from the Saint as well.

According to the video’s inclusion of one particular advertisement, Madleen Kane, who sings one of the songs presented in the video, once performed at the Saint.

The advertisement gave notice about a White Party celebration, for which Madleen Kane performed live, Robbie Leslie deejayed, and Richard Tucker choreographed the lights.

hills of katmandu, tantra

Though many of the advertisements inform the viewer of past Black and White parties (the most popular events), there are posters announcing Halloween’s bash, the Christmas Party, and the Easter celebration of the Land of Make Believe.

There was even a benefit party for the NYC Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project.

Thus, the last 8 to 10 minutes of the Saint promo video advertises past events hosted by the Saint and Saint-at-Large by exhibiting the posters and advertisements celebrating and thrumming up excitement for those events.

souvenirs, voyage

This song is the last song to play on the video.

They following photos demonstrate the popularity of Saint parties.

The immense crowd in either photo is almost totally shirtless. Bare skin shines under the lights from above.

The promotional video ends with a photo of the words HOLD ON TO MY LOVE spray painted in white onto the wall of a building, which likely contained the former entrance to the Saint. A person wearing all black walks away from the words under a black umbrella on the left side of the photograph. Papers have been posted beneath the words, but I cannot know what they say. The words SILENCE IS have been spray-painted onto the wall outside the black strip stating HOLD ON TO MY LOVE. The next word is blocked by the person’s umbrella, but is likely “DEATH.” Silence Is Death is the slogan protesters embraced to call attention to the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.

At the end of the video, the music fades away as well as the photograph.

The text “Music And Visuals By Michael Fierman” concludes the film.

discussion of the Saint promotional video

It is unclear when this video was made and how it was distributed.

The video is formatted into a CD, and my access to the material encased within the video depends on my ability to access a CD player. The CD/DVD player limits the amount of outreach the video may have to current viewers. CDs are used less often in 2017 than they were in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The video appears to have been made after the Saint’s closing and after 1998, given that the youngest posters shared in the film are from the late 1990s. However, the posters appear to have been pulled directly from the Saint-at-Large’s poster gallery, which could indicate an even more recent creation of the film.

The photographs of the Saint shared within the film enhances the viewer’s ability to imagine the former disco, and brings one closer to the memories of the powerhouse.

Collectively, the Saint has obviously produced a masterpiece of creativity that is sometimes grotesque in its depiction of sinister themes, or else seductive in its muscled, well-endowed appearance.

This video does well to present the entire legacy and history of the Saint franchise through a heavy use of posters and advertisements as well as of the use of photographs taken inside the former Saint.

Annotated Bibliography Two – Annotation Two

Rist, Darrell Yates. “A Scaffold To the Sky And No Regrets.” New York Native, 2 May 1988, pp. 17-18. 

controversy at the new york native

The New York Native is responsible for publishing the first public report on AIDS, with an article headlined “Disease Rumors Largely Unfounded.” In this May 1981 article, the Native’s medical correspondent, Lawrence D. Mass, wrote that the rare cancer that had struck some gay men was “ubiquitous.” The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had denied the rumors of a “gay cancer” on a phone call with Mass, after which Mass wrote that most people have an immunity to the viral subject of the rumors. How wrong Lawrence D. Mass was proven to be later on. Nevertheless, the Native’s article, which dismissed the severity of HIV and AIDS, stands as the first published report on what became a horrific epidemic.

However, Larry Kramer, a playwright and distinguished activist during the AIDS epidemic and onward, wrote in the New York Native in March 1983. His piece, entitled “1, 112, and Counting,” was a fierce criticism of the contemptible inaction of healthcare organizations in the United States in response to AIDS. Thus, the Native once expressed rally cries for the queer community being afflicted by the violent, deadly disease. The newspaper was historic in its coverage of AIDS, and possessed a circulation of 20,000 in the early 1980’s, meaning that the Native distributed 20,000 copies on an average day. However, the newspaper’s circulation dropped to 8,000 as time went on.

Though the newspaper once hoped to increase awareness of the AIDS epidemic by writing on the injustice of the government and national media’s silence on the public health crisis, the New York Native later descended into an ugly mire of controversial theories. Hosting conspiracy theories about the real cause of AIDS, which was apparently not HIV but the African Swine Fever Virus (or was it Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?), the newspaper officially closed in 1997 due to “financial difficulties” (Pogrebin). Founder Charles Orteb oversaw the newspaper as a publisher and editor for over sixteen years, yet even he could not deny that the paper’s controversy contributed to its financial decline. The paper’s “insane tangent” even denied that AIDS existed (Pogrebin). ACT UP, the now international action advocacy group that serves and advocates for people living with HIV and AIDS, boycotted the New York Native in the mid-1980’s.

goodbye to the saint

Written in 1988, the following article by Darrell Yates Rist belonged to a newspaper that had by then descended into troubling, controversial conspiracies surrounding AIDS. While this article deals directly with the founder of The Saint dance club and the St. Mark’s Baths, Bruce Mailman, it is important to note the controversy surrounding not only the article’s subject, but also the article’s place of publication. However, this article is still valuable despite its controversial container paper. The article was written on May 2nd, 1988, a mere two days after The Saint officially closed. May 2nd, however, is also the day that the Saint’s last celebration ended, during that Monday’s “early afternoon” (Dunlap). The interview is a primary source given right at the moment of The Saint’s closing, when Mailman’s emotions were fresh.

Issue 263 of the New York Native, which Rist’s article is a part of, features an extended spread of articles categorized by the header GOODBYE TO THE SAINT. Darrell Yates Rist wrote about an interview with The Saint’s founder, Bruce Mailman. Other “remembrances” were written by Andrew Holleran, Jan Carl Park, R.J. Markson, and J.P.David.

In all caps, the words GOODBYE TO THE SAINT have been printed in a non-serif white font over a 9.75 inch (24.8 centimeter) narrow black strip. Underneath this header is a blueprint of The Saint dance club, which has the article’s title in white serif font in the top row of the map.  At the bottom, the words An Interview With Bruce Mailman On the Occasion of the Closing of the Saint appear in smaller, italicized font similar to the font of the article’s title.

The blueprint of The Saint is dominated by a plan for its central sky-like dome and light platform, beneath which is the dance floor. The Saint itself contained a “4800 square-foot oak surface” as a dance floor, and “a lighting tower with about 1,500 fixtures, topped by a planetarium-style star projector.” A mirror ball could be lowered from the ceiling, and The Saint’s dome acted as a “theatrical scrim” (Dunlap).

a dreamer’s beginning

Around 1980, Bruce Mailman decided that he no longer wanted to spend money on his vices. Mailman “loved dancing,” and would often haunt the Flamingo dance club to do so. To Mailman, Flamingo represented the “zenith” of dance’s physicality. The club’s “hard-driving, sexual” beat fueled Mailman’s romance with his disco dancing vice.

Studio 54, a famous nightclub and discotheque, possessed “imagination and theatricality.” Together, these combined elements provided a formative experience to Mailman and prompted him to create his own haven of vices that he could go to for free. Mailman wanted to build a home for his vices so he could indulge them “for nothing.” He says that the urge to create his own space always occurs if he has a particular vice or desire; he never wants to continue paying money for something he could design or engineer himself.

Bruce Mailman’s desires were elevated by his intention to add a new dimension to the disco scene.

Mimicry was unacceptable; Mailman wanted to devise something new, but, at first, he could not figure out what to do. One night, Mailman went to sleep pondering ideas for his new club of vices. The next morning, Mailman awoke with the image of a planetarium in his mind.

The club he envisioned wouldn’t be “limited to a stage.” What would become The Saint would be “completely round,” with a large dome sky. To Mailman, this feature would make it seem like club-goers were dancing outside. Mailman immediately began calling planetarium companies to see if his fantasy could become a practical and affordable reality. Was there any place big enough to hold a starry dome?

Fortunately, there was. Mailman revolutionized the Loew’s Commodore Theater for nearly $5,000,000 US dollars in 1980. Located on Second Avenue and East Sixth Street, the Commodore Theater underwent a truly heavenly transformation for The Saint’s opening. A modeled hemisphere of earth and the Milky Way contributed to the The Saint’s otherworldly allure, whilst sophisticated lighting platforms and hydraulic floors advanced the club experience to an enlightened level.

The Saint’s eventual opening is an unforgettable story. In order to spread awareness about his new club, Bruce Mailman asked ten people he knew went out regularly to ask ten people they knew who went out regularly to come to the Saint. Open only to gays, The Saint attracted many gorgeous gay men on its opening night who all shared a love for dancing and having a good time. At midnight on a 1980 September morning, nearly 3500 men lined almost an entire square block hoping to get into The Saint. The fire lieutenant came to shut down the commotion, but Mailman’s lawyer defended his club by stating that it cost a lot of money and would surely “be around [for] eight seasons.”

So The Saint was born. Mailman stated that the appeal of The Saint was that “it was a place where you were special if you came.” Other discotheques attracted the stars and celebrities as famed, esteemed guests. Yet at The Saint, “no one looked at other people.” The people themselves “were the stars,” and their “anonymity” made their experience all the more exciting. The Saint was a place of drugs, sex, and “decadent” sin. Darrell Yates Rist, this article’s author, remembers “a perpetually euphoric storm of orgies in the balcony above the planetarium dome” as well as the “endless fountain of drugs from […] men who themselves were intoxicating.” Yet soon controversy began to swirl around the Saint’s owner, Bruce Mailman.

accusations against mailman

People began to accuse Mailman of condoning the transmission of HIV and AIDS. Some said Mailman was liable for his inaction. Others called him a “killer” because of the known sexual acts that took place in the balcony of his club’s haven. No one was safe once the “Saint’s disease” struck; people accused Mailman of not doing enough to stop HIV and AIDS from devastating the community of clubgoers and other persons associated with the Saint (Dunlap).

In his interview with Rist, Mailman insists that the balcony was never intended to be used for sex. He swears that he tried time and time again to get people to stop using the balcony for sex by writing to members; however, Mailman certainly did not desire to police people’s behavior by metaphorically “hosing [them] down.”

Mailman is “not happy” if “someone was harmed” in his club by contracting HIV, but he has “no regrets.” Mailman does not believe that people should look back and say that they shouldn’t have engaged in sexual activity in the clubs or elsewhere; he feels that gay men “fought hard to be at that level of liberalization,” and that such free expression was not inappropriate or foolish, but delivering.

Mailman does not feel that gay men should be sorry for what they did when they engaged in sex at clubs like The Saint. He states that “we [gay people] needed to be there,” declaring that he does not think that “we can look at [our behavior] with what’s happened to us, with this thing that’s marched into our lives and say, ‘Well, we shouldn’t have done that. We were what we were for very good reasons, and we’ve changed – for equally good reasons.'”

the saint was revered

There is no denying that Bruce Mailman created a phenomenal institution.

According to author Darrell Yates Rist, the club’s “divine” DJs “transformed” the souls of dancers. Bruce Mailman notes that the DJs at the Saint all had a unique style and flavor, and often were allowed to “experiment with the crowd.” The DJs “had something special that was their own.” The way they dealt with different currents of music was electric. Some of the DJs Mailman lists as “big DJs” are Terry Sherman, Robbie Leslie, and Michael Fierman. Shawn Buchanan is another DJ from the club, who “to some extent,” was also a big-name act. Buchanan has been memorialized on the AIDS Quilt on Block 1087. Read a description of this panel here.

To Mailman, music at The Saint was “much more important than at the other places.” People came to The Saint to dance, and would remain there for six to eight hours. Unlike Studio 54, where people “had a drink,” or Palladium, where people “danced two dances and talked,” The Saint was where people came to dance. There was a “group energy” that connected people to each other and to the lights and to the sound. There was a “euphoric” atmosphere in The Saint when things were “really connecting.” Though euphoric escapades did not embrace The Saint’s dancers every night, the rapture of the club’s energy happened often enough for people to continue coming back. Yet rapidly, the excitement of clubbing turned to a dreadful misery.

fear

With the sudden onslaught of HIV and AIDS, many people who went to The Saint, began dying in mass numbers. Many others had friends who had fallen ill or worse to the disease, including author Darrell Yates Rist.

The “ghosts of friends” haunted the lives of many people in the gay community of New York City. People stopped coming to the Saint because of the fear of AIDS. Most of the crowd that had frequented the Saint were older gay men who had either died from AIDS or were grappling with the devastating grief of knowing those who had died from AIDS.

Though a younger crowd began to populate the Saint, they didn’t come as often to the club as older members once did because they didn’t have as much money. Financial troubles began to appear on the horizon. Bruce Mailman began to feel that he could only own the club “for so long.” The stigma attached to The Saint did not help its case either, which repelled people away from The Saint with the knowledge that the members who had “made such an impression” on the club were now dead because of AIDS.

In the article, Mailman acknowledges that he no longer has “[his] finger on the pulse of what [the] market is” for the disco lovers now dispirited and demoralized by the ruins AIDS spread across the country. Both with his raunchy bathhouse, St. Mark’s Baths, and his discotheque, the Saint, Bruce Mailman has been wrapped in the controversy of whether or not he acted morally as the descent of AIDS began to devastate his establishments. In response to his known controversy, Mailman states the following:

“Revision [..] is a big problem in gay life. People want to say ‘Oh, it shouldn’t have been this way.’ I think they should say, ‘What we had was wonderful. Then something walked in and disrupted it and we’re building something else. And we’re going to make that wonderful, too. No one asked for this. […] Of all the things that happened in the Saint, maybe the number of membership letters that came back stamped ‘deceased’ got to me. I mean, maybe that is responsible for my overload or for the fact I’m so fed up, and maybe if that hadn’t happened, I would have gone on and on doing it-and loved it.”

And you do get tired of being in the center of all the controversy with it, too. I mean, you know-the baths and whether or not my positions were right or wrong. There’s that whole things that’s disheartening and eventually wears you away and eventually, you just…you don’t want to do it any more. It’s not that you don’t believe in it or you don’t believe it was good. You just know it’s over.”

See photos of The Saint

These are other photographs from the newspaper that date it to the 80s (aged paper, dated photographic quality) as well as inform the observer that the New York Native is a gay newspaper (it features many ads of hot hunks waiting for a call).