Sexual Expression and its Subsequent Suppression: Bibliography

  • 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<yasirlateef112@gmail.com, Yasir. “FAQs – The Names Project.” Accessed December 2, 2017. http://www.aidsquilt.org/about/faqs.

 

  • Lateef<yasirlateef112@gmail.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.

 

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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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Sexual Expression and its Subsequent Suppression: Kingdom of a Saint

painting music on a blank cAnvas

After the First Party, the Saint dance club became the “hottest, most exclusive ticket in town,” partly because of its astounding technology. The Saint set “new standards for lighting and sound,” that showcased the truly unique properties of a club with a planetarium inside of it (McEwan, 39). According to Jason McCarthy, the former night manager of the Saint, the planetarium dome of the club “was like a canvas” (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 effect of the multitude of lights cast onto the dome was breathtaking; splendid stars and psychedelic designs delighted audiences as they danced beneath the large dome. Susan Tomkin, Bruce Mailman’s assistant, 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). Tomkin’s declaration demonstrates the impossibility of conveying any true experience of the Saint to a person who has neither seen, felt, heard, nor entered the club. Essentially, without experiencing the Saint firsthand, men and women will never truly know what it meant to dance under the Saint’s dome. 

Image Credit: Saint Promo
Image Credit: Saint Promo
Image Credit: Saint Promo

worship

The Saint aroused a spiritual thrill in its masses. Many have described the disco as a deliverer of near religious rapture. Frank Courson, a management consultant in Manhattan, describes the Saint as a temple (McEwan, 40). Author Jonathan McEwan expounds upon Courson’s claim in his 1994 article entitled “The Saint Goes On.” McEwan 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” (40). Thus, the Saint seemed to provide the services a traditional church would. Going to the Saint certainly provided experiences that many would call religious; however, devout members of the Saint were not puritan men solely concerned with enjoying the night’s music or getting emotionally stimulated (McEwan, 40). Men chased the high of unreserved worship, which lasted for hours, beginning Saturday night and concluding on the following Sunday afternoon (McEwan, 40). During this time, deliciously “decadent” drug use and sexual pursuits sinfully silhouetted the Saint against its rather innocent namesake (Rist, 18). Author Darrell Yates Rist remembers “a perpetually euphoric storm of orgies in the balcony above the planetarium dome” as well as an “endless fountain of drugs from […] men who themselves were intoxicating” (18). What was saintly about Mailman’s disco was not its innocence, but its absolute embrace of male pleasure.

Stories of the Saint – Chapter 3: The Trip

to be special, to be beloved

Open only on Saturdays and Sundays, the Saint made sure to wow crowds with unique experiences every time they attended the club (McEwan, 40). Former manager of the Saint Joel Teitelbaum notes that on Saturday 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). The continuous production of remarkable art for the promotion and adornment of the Saint gratified members and visitors by making them feel “special” every time they walked into the club (qtd. In Rist, 17). Other discotheques attracted celebrities as famed, esteemed guests, yet at the Saint, “no one looked at other people” (qtd. in Rist, 17). The people themselves “were the stars,” and the Saint devoted every passionate night to its audience so that each person there could receive the best experience possible (qtd. in Rist, 17). Parties at the Saint were planned ahead to an impressive amount of detail;  (McEwan, 40). 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. The Saint dance club’s unique holiday schedule also challenged staff members to entertain crowds according to different themes (McEwan, 40)

DJ performances at the Saint also contributed to the club’s dominion of disco. In Brooks Peters’ 1994 article “The Sexual Revolution Mailman Delivered,” Michael Fierman, an esteemed DJ of the Saint, explains that DJs had a responsibility to “make a musical statement” (qtd. in Peters, 140). At the Saint, evenings were given structure by the DJ’s desire to “take the crowd someplace” (qtd. in Peters, 140). Their desire to establish a musical journey developed into a methodological procedure for eliciting various emotions from their audience. First, lighter fare music escalated into Hi-NRG music (now known as EDM or electronic dance music in 2017). Then those Hi-NRG “hard-driving beats” would melt into “melodic morning music,” before concluding with songs later classified as “sleaze” (Weinstein). Sleaze described the swoon of romantic ballads that cascaded from the Saint’s planetarium dome like stardust.

transcendence

Joel Teitelbaum witnessed the transcendent nature of music and dance in the Saint. He states that dancing at the Saint was “a kind of trip […] that started around midnight and didn’t reach its destination until 2:00 the next afternoon” (qtd. in McEwan, 39). The trip that Teitelbaum references symbolizes the ability of the Saint to transport crowds to a spiritually resonant realm. Carol Cooper cites Chaka Khan, the Emotions, and The Talking Heads, as famed performers of music traditionally played at The Saint (162-163). 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 also “instant Saint standards” (38). 

Unfortunately, despite all the liberation the Saint stirred in its gay members, many populations in the queer community never directly received a similar hearty 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 because they did not fit the culturally-imposed ‘ideal’ gay man or woman, who were white (141). Peters also notes that “drag queens were definitely not welcome” at the Saint and that lesbians were just “not included” (141). Others steered clear of the Saint by their own volition; the sexual nature of the club was off-putting to them. Critics of the Saint believed that gay liberation should not be equated with promiscuous and anonymous sex, however, others felt that their physical excursions in disco clubs like the Saint were freeing and necessary (Peters). 

The Saint was nevertheless highly influential despite these internal debates.

“Rocket to Your Heart” by LISA

“Trippin’ On The Moon” by Cerrone

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