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: 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: The Afterlife of a Saint

staying afloat

Bruce Mailman made a number of changes to the Saint in order to keep it afloat in its sea of controversy. In 1985, Mailman began to sell liquor at the club; though he later opened the disco to heterosexual people on Fridays, attendance at the club still waned dramatically (McEwan, 42). The “ghosts of friends” haunted many members of the New York City gay community (Rist, 18). Most of the crowd that had frequented the Saint were older gay men who had either died from HIV/AIDS or were grappling with the grief of knowing those who had (Rist, 18). Many people avoided the Saint.

The younger crowd that began to populate the Saint didn’t come as often as older members once did because they didn’t have as much money; financial troubles swiftly appeared on the horizon, and Bruce Mailman began to feel that he could only own the Saint “for so long” (Rist, 18). Soon thereafter, the Fillmore East Village Associates Ltd. offered to buy the Saint from Mailman for 6.5 million dollars; by the Saint’s 1987 Halloween Party, the sale of the building had already “passed the point of no return” (qtd. in McEwan).

In 1988, the Saint’s surviving DJs and lighting technicians enlivened the club for the last time. The “Last Party” spanned “three days and three nights,” with Saint regulars attending 30 of the 36 hours (McEwan, 42). Jimmy Ruffin’s song “Hold On To My Love” played near the end of the Last Party; appropriately, the words HOLD ON TO MY LOVE have been stitched onto the bottom of the Saint’s memorial quilt. The words’ ash-colored lettering overlay a thick strip of the same shiny, silver material found elsewhere in the panel.

Jimmy Ruffin’s “Hold On To My Love”

reincarnation

Gay nightlife was “quiet” without the Saint (McEwan, 42). The Paradise Garage and Flamingo dance club had already closed when the Last Party took place, so, when Halloween came around after the Saint’s official closing in April of 1988, Bruce Mailman decided to host a party (McEwan, 42-44). This Halloween Party commenced a series of parties that became known as Saint-at-Large events (McEwan, 44).

Saint-at-Large parties now annually commemorate the four holiest celebrations of the original Saint: Halloween, New Years Eve, the White Party, and Black Party; the White and Black parties are the most popular events of the year (McEwan, 44). This annotation describes the Saint-at-Large’s 2016 Black Party trailer, whose wicked marine imagery elicits awe from the viewer. Further showcasing the living legacy of Bruce Mailman’s inventive artistry is the 1998 poster advertising the Saint-at-Large’s White Party.

Though the Saint-at-Large seeks to “keep the spirit of the original [Saint] alive,” many people have noted that the Saint-at-Large celebrations are mere “shadows” of what the Saint’s parties used to be (Peters, 142). The permanent loss of the euphoric disposition of the Saint’s heyday emphasizes the irretrievable nature of the past. Memories can never be replicated; the Saint will always maintain a “mystique” that is impenetrable even by vigorous research (Peters, 141). Generations now will never learn the liveliness of the original Saint; young gay men will never enjoy the “wonderful playground” that was Bruce Mailman’s very own haven of vices (Peters, 141). Though men still dance beneath dazzling lights and kiss in rhythm with Hi-NRG melodies, they cannot relish the gratification of the hours upon hours men their age spent in the original Saint (Peters, 142). They cannot travel back in time. To Jason McCarthy, the former night manager of the Saint, this restraint on any true comprehension of the Saint is lamentable (McEwan, 44). Younger gay generations who never experienced the original Saint “don’t know what it was [or] what they’ve missed” (qtd. in McEwan, 44). The naivete of this generation is astonishing to him given that they are grossly unfamiliar with the brilliant spark of their antecedents (Peters, 143). 

The disconnect that exists between the disco generation and the grunge youngsters saddened Bruce Mailman (Peters, 143). Mailman worried that his generation would not get to share its “collective wisdom” with the next generation of queer youth because of the devastation of AIDS (qtd. in Peters, 143). The sense that the “young [gay population] arrived newly born and can’t benefit from anything that went before them” is upsetting to Mailman (qtd. in Peters, 143). For the men and women who emerged out of the disco era and the sexual revolution, it seems the Saint is best appraised in recollection rather than revival (McEwan, 44). For them, nothing can compare to the original Saint and the original high of liberation (McEwan, 44). The freedom of the 70s never included the burden of AIDS now attached to gay identity; Mailman feels that the epidemic has darkened an otherwise beautiful expression of gay sexuality and identity (Peters, 143). He hopes that future gay generations will find the “same freedom [his generation] once had,” otherwise the community will continuously struggle to recover its historical vitality (qtd. in Peters, 143). 

Even if the Saint cannot be relived, its narrative must still be retold. The Saint is not irrelevant, even if, as Frank Courson acknolwedges, there “are entire portions of the city where [the gay community] can be comfortable” (McEwan, 44) The magnetizing majesty of the Saint comforted young gay men and offered them a “safe place” to be themselves and to love their significant others and lovers (McEwan, 44). The Saint shone like a beacon within the gay community, offering shelter and a supportive celebration of patrons’ self-hood that may seem unfit for the currently saturated generation (McEwan, 44). However, even despite the progress of civil rights within the LGBTQ+ community, the dissemination of the Saint’s story is still necessary.

Saint Dance Club Memorial Block; Image Credit: NAMES Project

The unusually large size of the Saint’s memorial block attempts to communicate the club’s extraordinary impact on New York’s gay history. The quilt’s size symbolizes both the magnificent breadth of the physical Saint as well as its metaphorical significance in history. 

The Saint was a sinfully sexual disco that manifested the spiritual realization of an unapologetic existence (Peters). Serenading its customers with the rapturous anthems of a liberated generation, the Saint dance club was emblematic of the entire disco generation (“Chapter 4: The Era“). Primarily, the Saint bestowed a jubilant embrace of unrestrained, open desire upon its gay patrons (“Chapter 4: The Era“). In the Saint, desires and dreams were set free as a hot revolution of self-respect unfastened the binds of closeted men and women and turned them towards self-acceptance and sexual liberation (“Chapter 4: The Era“). The lifetime of the Saint embodies the rise and fall of the gay generation during the 1980s due to the AIDS epidemic by encapsulating both the heroism and vulnerability of New York’s gay community. The Saint’s memorial block fails to communicate the tremendous culture of the Saint, however its archival materials convey the club’s life span well.

As Carol Cooper acknowledges, the lack of firsthand documentation from the people “most qualified” to tell the story of disco threatens to diminish the presence of the “rich social history of New York club life” (Cooper, 164). If future generations cannot access firsthand accounts of disco’s growth, transformation, and divergence into various cultural expressions, then “myths and rumors” will begin to dilute and destroy the truth (Cooper, 165). Cooper laments that writers purporting to be “authorities on cult clubs like the Paradise Garage never interviewed its visionary owner Michael Brody, or its principal deejay Larry Levan” (Cooper, 165). However, quite a few of the materials cited in this essay involve direct quotations from the Saint’s founder, Bruce Mailman. Darrell Yates Rist, Brooks Peters, and Jonathan McEwan are authors whose invaluable articles contain interviews with Bruce Mailman himself as well as interviews of other close associates of the Saint. Though direct experience is the only way one can truly understand disco clubs or feel the true impact of disco music, written narratives still provide a crucial glimpse of the nature of the disco revolution. Without the circulation of firsthand documentation on the Saint, Mailman’s concern that there is no “continuity in the gay population” will come true (Peters, 143). To communicate across generational lines the struggle, liberation, and resilience of the gay community (particularly in New York, U.S.A.), the story of the Saint must be shared, as it both explains the importance of discos to the gay community as well as the role of uninhibited sexuality in the community’s freedom from oppression.

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Sexual Expression and its Subsequent Suppression: The Fall of a Saint

his moral character

Erotic social scenes, such as the Saint and the St. Marks Baths, facilitated the development of honest sexual expression among its gay patrons; however, these institutions later became infamous “epicenters” of an emerging disease known as AIDS (Peters, 82). During the onset of the deadly health crisis of HIV/AIDS, figures of the media accused Mailman of acting as 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 St. Marks Baths in the wake of the mounting evidence that AIDS was a sexually transmitted disease (Peters). Mailman, however, considered the civil rights of gay men when he failed to close his businesses as early as critics wanted him to (Rist, 18). Gay men had fought valiantly to achieve the sexual liberation that marked the decades of the 1970s and 1980s; he did not regret the sex that occurred in his establishments – it was necessary – even though many of the men who were members of his businesses were dying (Rist, 18).

Portrayed as either a guiding light to the gay community or a ruthless businessman who condoned the spread of AIDS in order to continue collecting profits, Mailman wrestled with a torrent of public disputes over his moral character throughout the 1980s (Rist, 18). To Mailman, the St. Marks Baths were a “hard-won symbol of fraternity, equality, and liberty;” the bathhouse had released men from the psychological turmoil of unrealized desire (Peters, 82). Author Brooks Peters explains that the “right to be a homosexual man without harassment from society was closely linked to the right to have promiscuous sex” (Peters, 82). This quote shows the close link between sexual expression and the vanquishing of oppression. Mailman did not wish to discontinue an institution that had allowed men to live and love uninhibited by shame or fear, even if shame and fear were intervening into the consciences of gay and queer residents once more (Rist, 18).

In Mailman’s opinion, closing the Baths when critics wanted him to would not have made any impact on the spread of or obstruction of AIDS (Peters, 82). Closing the St. Marks Baths during the germination period of HIV/AIDS in 1980 would have been done more to “control the epidemic,” but no one knew of the impending public health crisis back then (qtd. in Peters, 82). To Mailman, accusations against him presented an argument based on hindsight bias. Critics falsely believed that Mailman should have been able to better protect his customers against a disease that only seems predictable in hindsight. In reality, AIDS descended without warning, and by the time it arrived, many members of the St. Marks Baths, and the Saint, had already fallen ill (Peters, 82).

laying the blame

AIDS decimated the Saint disco’s community. Many members of the Saint became sick. Others were dying. At least 700 membership renewal forms were sent back through the mail bearing the message “Return to Sender. Occupant Deceased” (McEwan, 42). Once the AIDS epidemic swept through the country, Saturdays at the Saint drew in at most 500 people, though the club had a capacity of 5400 (McEwan, 42).

People accused Mailman of condoning the transmission of HIV and AIDS. Others said he was liable for his members’ deaths due to his inaction. It was a known fact that sexual acts took place in the Saint’s viewing balcony. In his interview with Darrell Yates Rist, Mailman insists that the balcony was never intended to be used for sex. He swears that he wrote to members of the Saint and tried time and time again to get people to stop using the balcony for sex; however, Mailman certainly did not want to police people’s behavior (Rist, 18). Mailman is “not happy” if “someone was harmed” in his club by contracting HIV/AIDS, but he has “no regrets” (Rist, 18). Mailman does not believe that people should look back and feel that they shouldn’t have engaged in sexual activity in clubs like the Saint; he feels that gay men had “fought hard to be at that level of liberalization,” and that their free expression was neither inappropriate nor foolish (Rist, 18). It was emancipating. Mailman wondered why members of the gay community would blame him or themselves for a disease that was unpredictable and, thus, uncontrollable (Rist, 18). To Mailman, revision of the past is a problematic and pervasive attitude within the gay community (Rist, 18).

 

citizen and country

The AIDS crisis was exacerbated, not only by what some consider to be the failures of individuals, but also by governmental neglect. The Reagan administration witnessed the devastation of the gay community due to AIDS silently. Sister Vicious Power Hungry Bitch of the order of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, felt afraid that the gay community would “disappear” because of AIDS, but the government proved its ugliness through gross inaction (qtd. in La Ganga). To what extent would Mailman, as an individual, have been able to alleviate the severity of AIDS when the federal government itself refused to acknowledge the thousands of sick and dying men and women? Research into AIDS was not being funded. Healthcare provisions were abysmal. It appeared to many people that the gay community had been forsaken (La Ganga). The binary that persisted throughout the crisis described AIDS as a gay cancer. AIDS affected the gay community, not anyone else. This blatant segregation of consciousness stated that AIDS has nothing to do with the government, and everything to do with those people (La Ganga). The government felt no responsibility for gay men and women, so is it just to fault one man for the trauma that resulted from a complex network of inaction and ignorance?

To Mailman, it is clear that the media hoped to scapegoat a distinguished gay businessman in New York City in order to “appease people’s hysteria” (Peters, 82). 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, but, eventually, he lost (Peters, 82). 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). Not everyone could so easily remove Mailman from the list of blame. 

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Sexual Expression and its Subsequent Suppression: And So Disco Begins

black RADIO BECOMES BLACK DISCO

In the 1930’s and 1940’s of the United States, white broadcasters owned black radio, and white announcers stifled black music (Cooper, 159). Air time dedicated to black musicality featured gospel music because it contained “nothing offensive or potentially seditious” (Cooper, 159). By failing to hire black announcers, white broadcasters deprived black musicality of its cultural context as well as of “any power to affect America’s social status-quo” (Cooper, 159). Radio refused autonomy over the black community’s own musical history. The struggle for authentic space and expression driven by members of the black community 

speak for yourself, be yourself, and create your own context and community, find a space that is your own, embrace your rights to be loud, open, and honest about your identity and your

Image credit: iHeartRadio

Yet, when the WDIA station of Memphis, Tennessee became the first “all black-formatted station featuring black on-air announcers,” black DJs began to thrive.

Spinning storied tracks that conversed with their audiences, black DJs demonstrated the talent, complexity, and necessity of black music. They became “community leaders” around the nation (Cooper, 159); along with black entrepreneurs, black DJs helped to engender a new culture of music: disco.

diverse disco cults

According to Carol Cooper, the author of “Disco Knights: Hidden Heroes of the New York Dance Music Underground,” the “1960s and 1970s were the golden decades for diversity in radio, and the 1970s and 1980s were years of tremendous progress and diversity in clubland” (160).

New York’s five boroughs were “particularly full of social and technological experimentation” (Cooper, 160). Black entrepreneurs began to transform college frat fundraisers and town rent parties into professional entertainment platforms.

The Manhattan clubs of Leviticus, Othello’s, Pegasus, and Down Under were birthed from the “art of throwing a party people would pay to attend” (Cooper, 160). And though these “black-oriented clubs” were strongly influenced by popular black radio, none of these clubs attracted the same audience (Cooper, 160). They were diverse.

Carol Cooper believes that “The biggest myth of late 1970s disco portrayed the disco audience as homogeneous in attitude and composition” (Cooper, 160). Disco has always been a “vast, multiethnic subculture” of music, whose various establishments served particular communities.

Disco “cults” fell along certain group categories such as gay discos, “new wave” discos, or “black mainstream discos” (Cooper, 161).

The Saint Dance Club is seen by many as the culmination of gay disco.

setting the stage for the saint

Stories of the Saint – Chapter 4: The Era

Bruce Mailman was an entrepreneur based in New York City, U.S.A. who was integral in providing sensual havens for the gay community during the 1970s and 1980s.

In the eras of the Sexual Revolution and of disco culture, Bruce Mailman endeavored to engineer an oasis of open desire and free expression in which gay men could engage.

To do this, Mailman first created the St. Marks Baths, a bathhouse described by author Jonathan McEwan as an “exciting place in which to enjoy the pleasures of the then unhindered sexual revolution” (36). Later, Bruce Mailman founded the Saint disco club, which, to many, came to represent the apotheosis of the disco era.

Saint Dance Club Memorial Block; Image Credit: NAMES Project

The unusually large size of the Saint’s memorial block attempts to communicate its extraordinary impact on New York’s gay history. The quilt’s size symbolizes both the magnificent breadth of the physical Saint as well as its metaphorical significance in history.

Stories of the Saint – Chapter 5: The Clubs

Sexual Expression and its Subsequent Suppression: An Introduction

Block 1087 of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt is a quilt block that memorializes the staff members, DJs, and associates of the New York City Saint disco club.

According to Janece Shaffer, the Communications Director at the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, the size of the Saint disco club’s singular memorial panel is much larger than the average panel submitted to the quilt. Typically, panels 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” (“AIDS Memorial Quilt”). Blocks are usually composed of eight individual 3×6 foot (0.9×1.8 meter) panels, yet this block is its own individual dedication (“FAQs”).

The primary colors featured in the quilt are black, burgundy, and silver, though there are exceptions; the quilt’s inky colors evoke a funereal quiet. Many of the objects on the block have been stitched onto an expanse of either black or burgundy felt material, which raises them from the quilt’s flat surface. Three prominent features of block 1087 are its moon-like mirror ball, its expanse of golden five-pointed stars, and its colorful light structure (read more about this block).

Saint Dance Club Memorial Block; Image Credit: NAMES Project

In this essay, I intend to address how disco clubs liberated the gay and queer community in New York City by offering a historical account of the disco movement as well as a narrative of its seeming culmination in the creation of the Saint dance club. This paper will examine the effect of AIDS on the gay disco generation by honing in on remembrances and discussions of the Saint and other disco clubs in New York City.

My position on this topic will address the complexity of the influence of erotic social scenes, such as the Saint or founder Bruce Mailman’s other creation, the St. Marks Baths, on the spread of AIDS. I will attempt to answer the question that dominates Bruce Mailman’s controversy: did he condone the spread of AIDS through his refusal to close down his businesses? Was Mailman really a “merciless profiteer” who continued to ruthlessly benefit from the sex that took place in his establishments, despite growing awareness that HIV/AIDS was sexually transmitted (Peters, 82)? Neither a ruthless villain nor a sinless business owner, Bruce Mailman is a man who believed that he was protecting and affirming the civil rights of his customers.

My essay will first begin with a description of Bruce Mailman’s biography as well as a discussion of his philosophy towards gay male identity. Then, I will detail Bruce Mailman’s inspirations for the Saint dance club and examine the evolution of the extraordinary discotheque. I will conclude with an analysis of the impact of Mailman’s creation, as well as reactions to the onslaught of AIDS in the gay community and what that meant for the reputation of the Saint.

By describing the lifetime of the Saint, I will expand upon the current general knowledge of the disco era and make the details of disco’s presence in the 80s known. I will display the interaction between the gay community and the disco community by demonstrating the formation of the gay community around gay clubs that embraced the sexual liberation of the disco era (“Chapter 4: The Era”). As discos became cultural emblems of the gay community, their musical, physical, and emotional embrace liberated both young men and women by providing the space for their self-determination and youthful exploration (“Chapter 3: The Trip”).

I hope to increase awareness of the different ways that AIDS destroyed disco culture and the continuation of gay history. Once the disease disseminated throughout disco clubs and the larger gay community, AIDS ruptured the vitality of gay oral history. Death, sickness, and the isolation of the epidemic’s survivors disrupted the narrative of the gay disco generation (Peters, 143). Block 1087 captures only a fragment of the Saint’s significance.

READ THE FIRST CHAPTER

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 Six

McEwan, Jonathan. “The Saint Goes On.” Metrosource, 1994, pp. 36-44.

secondhand qualities of the source

This magazine article has likely been scanned into a digital format and subsequently printed out. The article does not appear to be in its original form for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the photographs contained within the article are black-and-white, blurry depictions of the Saint disco club. Even the ads scattered throughout the text are in black and white, which seems to suggest that the article text has been reprinted from an original, colorful format.

The article was published in New York City in 1994; color photos and text would have been common in the USA’s mainstream media by this time. This source surely would have made use of color, given its subject of the sensual Saint disco. Though I cannot be sure that the article first appeared in color, its lack of color seems to suggest that the material I possess is a reprinted copy of the original source.

Additionally, the pages of the article are out of order. Beginning with page 36, and ending with page 38, the article has been stapled together in an haphazard fashion. The last page of the article, page 44, can be found in the middle of the packet. Pages 41 and 43 are missing, though their absence fails to interrupt the article’s narrative oddly enough.

The paper materials cited in this annotated bibliography have all come from The NAMES Project Quilt Gallery located on 117 Luckie Street NW, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. The tangible materials I cite in my bibliography (including this one) are secondary copies of the NAMES Project’s archival materials relating to the Saint’s memorial block, block 1087. Thus, it is possible that this article has been reprinted by a staff member of the NAMES Project, and stapled in the wrong order. It is also possible that the original owner stapled the pages in the wrong order, and the NAMES Project maintained the owner’s array. I can not be certain of either claim.

Regardless, the text contained within the article presents captivating details about the Saint’s demanding beginnings, the disco’s subsequent euphoric popularity, and the gay culture within which the Saint boomed and later withered, only to be gloriously revived once more.

the closet, the underworld

Author Jonathan McEwan opens his article with a description of the “dark and underwordly” nature of gay clubs such as the Flamingo and The Paradise Garage at the time of the Saint’s origination.

Though the late 1970s enjoyed the “height” of the disco era, exclusively gay clubs “were often dingy holes-in-the-wall” that were “hidden from view.” The “gay community was still tinged with the musty odor of a deep, dark closet,” whose liberation during the sexual revolution had yet to see an open representation of or welcoming of its population (McEwan, 36). Gay dance halls insinuated “criminal refuge” much the same as the “speakeasies of the twenties” did (McEwan, 36). To McEwan, they hardly evoked festivity or “dreams” (36).

Author Jonathan McEwan wholeheartedly believes that the Saint’s founder, Bruce Mailman, “gave the community something extraordinary” when he constructed the St. Mark’s Baths and the Saint dance club. Mailman created something “wonderful” that sadly lasted only for a “brief shining moment” (McEwan, 36).

Yet when the Saint shone, it radiated like a beacon, and drew crowds and crowds through its doors. Bruce Mailman’s inventive vision of the gay community’s liberation did not only include a thriving, gay disco. First, Mailman founded a steamy, gay bathhouse.

bruce mailman’s gay social scene

Bruce Mailman sought to “perfect what already existed and claim it for the gay community alone” (McEwan, 36). Multiple heterosexual bathhouses sprung up in New York City during the 1970s and 1980s in the United States, yet there were hardly any bathhouses marketed towards the gay community.

To fulfill his endeavor for a perfected gay haven of free expression and community, Mailman created the St. Marks Baths, described by author Jonathan McEwan as an “exciting place in which to enjoy the pleasures of the then unhindered sexual revolution” (36).

Mailman’s bathhouse became a “gay social scene” and, thus, a measure of the level of acceptance extended to fellow gay men (McEwan, 36). Attendance at Mailman’s Baths became sacred to a man’s gay identity. According to a former visitor to the St. Marks Baths, “anonymous sex” was expected of gay men; suspicions of self-loathing or ignorance arose when gay men did not attend the Baths (qtd. in Peters). Read more about this here.

The St. Marks Bath inspired Mailman’s next business venture, or rather, its name did.

By the end of the 1970s, Mailman had begun to fantasize about owning an exclusive disco club. When his otherworldly disco came to fruition, Mailman named it the Saint, after the St. Mark’s Baths.

Before the saint

Upon arriving at the Loews Commodore movie theater (which later became the Saint), Bruce Mailman’s long-time business partner, Steve Casko, noted that the place looked like a “disaster” (qtd. in McEwan, 36).

Once one of the sixth largest movie theaters in New York City, the Commodore theater experienced quite a few transformations before its regeneration into the Saint.

For a while, the theater was lonely and abandoned, until it became a rock haven called the Fillmore East in the 1960s. In 1979, the old theater was considered by a man with a fantastic vision, and eventually unveiled as NYC’s hot new disco.

But the Saint had a rough beginning.

Aside from the fact that “it looked like someone had detonated a bomb in the orchestra pit,” according to Steve Casko, there were also quite a few strings attached to the theater that required tedious bureaucratic untangling (qtd. in McEwan, 36).

Casko informed author Jonathan McEwan that it took thirteen months for he and Mailman receive permits to construct a disco club in the former theater.

An additional nine months were then devoted to the actual construction of the Saint, which included the removal of the theater’s seats and a demolition of a part of its balcony.

Due to a sudden revelatory insight, Mailman decided that his disco would be a planetarium in which men could dance, lit by projected images of the stars. His stunningly unique vision necessitated the implantation of a planetarium dome, which, upon its completion, spanned three stories above the dance floor.

Though originally estimated to be 2 million U.S. dollars, the Saint’s entire construction ended up costing a little over 4.5 million U.S. dollars (McEwan).

But Mailman knew what he wanted and had already amassed an annual revenue of millions of dollars during the popular years of the St. Marks Baths.

But not everyone approved of Mailman’s new business.

When he first tried to purchase a planetarium projector for his club, Bruce Mailman solicited Zeiss for the projector. At the time, Zeiss was the leading manufacturer of planetarium projectors. Zeiss denied Mailman.

Zeiss’s rejection of Mailman’s request was explained as an “inappropriate use for their equipment,” yet Steve Casko asserts that Zeiss just “didn’t want to be associated with a gay disco in New York” (qtd. in McEwan).

Fortunately, the two business partners were later able to purchase both a planetarium dome and planetarium projector from Spitz Space Systems. Through the use of mobile lenses in the club’s projector, hundreds of unique slide images could be projected onto the planetarium dome and reflected off of the Saint’s dancing crowds, illuminating them with bright images of starlight and other exciting designs.

the first party

The Saint’s premiere, entitled “The First Party,” was postponed until July 30 1980 due to a series of untimely impediments. However, during this word, the buzz surrounding Mailman’s mysterious new club grew exponentially.

To announce the opening of the Saint, Bruce Mailman sent out a blueprint of the club; the flyer demonstrated sketches of the Saint’s basic layout and informed readers of the benefits of membership at the club.

A $175 membership purchase guaranteed buyers a reduced cost of admission into the Saint as well as a locker in the club. The benefit of a locker applied only to the first 700 members. By the time the Saint opened, the club had 2500 members. Word about the Saint had spread fast. The Saint’s legendary opening night began with a line of men “wrapped completely around the block and back up to the door and into the street” (McEwan, 38). The Saint had officially become a hot commodity. Read more about opening night here.

Then, the doors opened.

As crowds explored the newly opened Saint, George Gershwin‘s Rhapsody in Blue “swelled” from the sound system and encased the public in a luxurious mood of classical music. I do not know if the orchestral rhapsody or the piano version of Gershwin’s composition was played during The First Party. I have included both versions below.

Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue on the piano

Original version of Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue

A spacious lounge dominated the main floor of the Saint, with metal stairways leading up to the the dance floor. The top floor had been devoted to a viewing area.

A fenced-in balcony overlooked the dance floor below it through a “porous aluminum dome.” A “knee-lighting array” called the mothership encased the planetarium projector found in the center of the dance floor (McEwan, 38. As the projector splashed light across the planetarium dome in “spectacular patterns of orange and rose,” men continued to explore Mailman’s new club (McEwan, 38).

As the night progressed, classical music slid into “slow and sexy dance music,” and sometime after 2:00am, the pace of the club “picked up” (McEwan, 38).

The mothership, mounted on a hydraulic lift, was able to rise and fall on its axis.

After 2am, the mothership rose above the heads of the dancers. Andrew Holleran, who wrote a remembrance of the Saint in the May 1988 issue of the New York Native reviewed the Saint’s 1980 opening party for Soho News. He remembers that as Donna Summer’s “Baby I Love You” began to play a little after 3:00am, “the stars appeared above and, as the song took off, the galaxies began to rotate. There was nothing to do but scream, throw up your hands, and keep screaming” (qtd. in McEwan, 38).

Joel Teitelbaum, the former manager of the Saint and passionate organizer of GMHC fundraisers, states that by the time the Saint opened, mirror balls had become “de rigeur – all the clubs had them” (qtd. in McEwan, 38). However, upon arriving at the Saint, the night dancers noticed that there was no disco ball. The stars “rotated” and the “galaxies and planets appeared and disappeared and lights strobed in tempo with the rhythm and vocal tracks,” and people began to assume that the club simply did not have a disco ball, given its marvelous overhead display (McEwan, 38).

Yet when the “music again appeared to crescendo, four spotlights shone dramatically into the center of the dome. An octagonal hole opened and, to the reverlers’ sheer delight, after a few minutes an enormous mirror ball began to lower into the space above them” (McEwan, 38-39). An otherwise anonymous attendee named Charlie describes the moment as “fabulous.” Charlie states the following:

“Up until then we were dancing in the Hayden Planetarium and that was cool. But the ball-it made it a disco!”

The mirror ball’s lighted revolutions n the planetarium dome was “Simply dizzying, dazzling, amazing…” (qtd. in McEwan, 39).

The First Party of the Saint proved the club was a king of discos.

the saint is king

From that moment, the Saint dance club became the “hottest, most exclusive ticket in town,” that “set new standards for lighting and sound” (McEwan, 39). Mark Ackerman “designed and operated the lighting for the first few years,” and later hired a young technician named Richard Sabala (he operated the lights for the 1998 White Party) to hold the brilliant reigns of the disco’s transportive illumination (McEwan, 39).

The planetarium dome of the Saint “was like a canvas” according to Jason McCarthy, the former night manager of the Saint and the manager of Roxy at the time this article was written in 1994 (qtd. in McEwan, 39). Lights “aimed at the [dome from the] mothership, from the base of the walls and from the catwalk that circled the outside of the dome” (qtd. in McEwan, 39). The Saint was revolutionary in its phenomenally immersive technology.

Joel Teitelbaum explains that “Dancing at The Saint was like nothing else then-or even today. [At the Saint,] It wasn’t just a night out. It was a kind of trip. A trip that started around midnight and didn’t reach its destination until 2:00 the next afternoon” (qtd. in McEwan, 39).

Susan Tomkin, Bruce Mailman’s assistant of thirteen years by 1994, similarly states that “Being under the dome on the crowded dance floor with the lights and the stars was a spectacular visual experience that if you didn’t have, you’ll never know” (qtd. in McEwan, 40).

As explained in my annotation on Carol Cooper’s article “Disco Knights: Hidden Heroes of the New York Dance Music Underground,” various musical distinctions defined the popular discotheques of the 70s and 80s, such as the Saint and the Paradise Garage. In my annotation, I state the following:

“Carol Cooper cites Chaka Khan, the Emotions, and The Talking Heads, as famed performers of mid to high frequency music, which was traditionally played at The Saint.”

According to author Jonathan McEwan, songs fitting the club’s “interstellar” theme such as “Rocket to Your Heart” by LISA and “Trippin’ On The Moon” by Cerrone were similarly “instant Saint standards” (38).

“Rocket to Your Heart” by LISA

“Trippin’ On The Moon” by Cerrone

DJ performances at the Saint also provided a unique experience.

A stage within the planetarium dome had a wall that could slide up and down; the deejay resided behind this wall and, thus, remained hidden from the crowd for much of the musical journey that he or she weaved into the night.

DJs generally just blended the crowd “into the beginning of [a] song,” but sometimes the wall blocking the DJ from view would recede and the DJ would give a “performance” (qtd. in McEwan, 39-40). The spectators who could see the DJ would “scream and applaud;” after “the performance was over the wall would come back up and the DJ would mix right into the next song-and the boys never stopped dancing,” according to Joel Teitelbaum (qtd. in McEwan, 40).

Open only on Saturdays and Sundays, the Saint made sure to wow crowds with unique experiences every time they attended the club. The club provided crowds with different experiences between Saturday night and Sunday night on the weekends. Former manager of the Saint Joel Teitelbaum notes that the staff of the club would “set up art installations or fill the club with balloons and cotton clouds. Then, right after the last dancer left on Sunday afternoon, a crew would remove all traces of the Saturday night party and reset the lights so that Sunday’s would be completely different” (qtd. in McEwan, 40).

Parties at the Saint were planned ahead to an impressive detail. DJs contained playlists of songs to which they envisioned specific staging cues (such as the descent of the mirror ball, or the appearance of the stars) being enacted. On Saturday, “a seamless performance shaped to build until five or so and then taper off slightly before pausing for applause around seven” (qtd. in McEwan, 40). Sleaze music would then carry the club into the Sunday afternoon.

According to Jason McCarthy, the Saint “was an entire environment.” The club was a “safe place removed from the often difficult hetero world outside” (qtd. in McEwan, 40).

dance dance dance worship

Frank Courson, a management consultant in Manhattan, describes the Saint as a temple.

Author Jonathan McEwan expounds upon Courson’s claim. He explains that the Saint had “four opposing entrances that led to the circular dance floor, an icon of worship (the mirror ball) and even an altar (the DJ booth). The DJ played a liturgy designed to engage the congregation in ritualistic dance” (McEwan, 40). The Saint certainly seemed to provide the services a traditional church would, and going to the Saint provided experiences close to what some might call religious.

Frank Courson states that “a lot of guys […] planned their entire lives around the seasonal calendars sent out by The Saint. There were people who leased apartments in New York, just so they could have a place to stay when they came to events” (qtd. in McEwan, 40).

The Saint was a big deal.

a saintly schedule

The Saint dance club had a unique schedule.

The club opened only on Saturdays and Sundays, and would present a special party for each month of its season of opening.

September brought the Opening Party of the season.

Halloween showcased yet another celebration, and the night before Thanksgiving boasted the Night People at Thanksgiving party.

During the month of December, the Christmas Party occurred, and in January, the News Years Eve party took place.

In February, the White Party embraced love.

In March, the “passage of spring” exhibited the “S&M and fetish tinged Black Party” (McEwan, 40).

Easter was celebrated with a Land of Make Believe party in April, and the Closing Party ended the Saint’s season in May. When summer approached, many “Saint boys” left the city to vacation at Fire Island or in the Hamptons (McEwan, 40).

Frank Courson notes that the “high holy days” of the Saint’s season were Halloween, New Years Eve, the White Party, and the Black Party (qtd. in McEwan, 40). DJs became famous for their performances at certain holiday parties at the Saint. Robbie Leslie always played the White Party, and Michael Fierman always played the Black Party.

This was their signatures.

Yet the Saint soon became known for more than just its music; what of its carnal celebrations?

disenchantment

The Saint was known to host frequent balcony sexcapades. The “narrow spiral staircases” led up to a “dark sexual scene” that came to haunt the Saint club’s memory in the eyes of many (McEwan, 42).

When AIDS struck, it decimated the Saint’s community; around 700 membership renewal forms were sent back through the mail bearing the message “Return to Sender. Occupant Deceased” (McEwan, 42).

DJs, staff members, and technicians at the Saint also fell ill.

Charges of tax evasion and a drug-dealing conspiracy were held against Mailman (though later dropped due to proven bias) at the same time that attendance in dance clubs and bars began to “radically” decline (McEwan, 42). Mailman became “disenchanted with the gay community,” according to Steve Casko, when he found himself fighting conservative city bureaucrats alone.

Though the club had a capacity of 5400 people, once the AIDS epidemic swept through the country, Saturdays at the Saint drew in at most 500 people.

Members were sick, and those who weren’t sick, were afraid to go back.

In 1985, Bruce Mailman began to sell liquor at the Saint.

Mailman later opened the club to heterosexual people on Fridays. To Susan Tomkin, Mailman’s assistant, straight people “just didn’t appreciate it” (qtd. in McEwan, 42).

Soon an offer to buy the Saint for 6.5 million dollars from the Fillmore East Village Associates Ltd. was extended to Mailman. By the Saint’s 1987 Halloween Party, the sale of the building had already “passed the point of no return” according to Joel Teitelbaum (qtd. in McEwan).

The final party at the Saint in April of 1988 lasted 36 hours.

the last party. the last party?

in 1988, the “surviving DJs and lighting technicians and a roster of live performers” enlivened the Saint one last time.

Saint regulars attended 30 hours of the 36 hour-long party, only going home to “bathe and change clothes,” according to Frank Courson (qtd. in McEwan, 42).

The Last Party spanned “three days and three nights,” evoking yet another Christian motif.

All things that are sacred come in threes.

Jimmy Ruffin’s song “Hold On To My Love” played as the Saint’s last party “drew to a close” (McEwan, 42).

After Jimmy Ruffin’s song ended, Marlena Shaw, a famous American singer closed the Saint with “Suite Seventeen,” a medley of the following songs: “It Was A Very Good Year,” “Love Dancing,” “Thank You,” and “Touch Me In The Morning.”

Shaw sang softly to a “tearful crowd” (McEwan, 42).

As Marlena Shaw’s performance culminated, “lightning flared in the [planetarium’s] night sky, the stage closed and the stars slowly circled over head. It was over” (McEwan, 42).

On the following day, the public noticed that the words “Hold On To My Love” had been spray-painted over the main entrance to the Saint. Bouquets were left in front of the door to the Saint on the sidewalk according to Frank Courson. Shown on the Saint Promotional Video, the following image likely depicts the textual memorial of the Saint, represented by Jimmy Ruffin’s song.

Gay nightlife was quiet without the Saint.

The Paradise Garage and Flamingo club had already closed; Spike and the Eagle’s Nest were “really cleaning up” according to Jonathan McEwan (42).

Yet when Halloween came around after the Saint’s official closing in April of 1988, Bruce Mailman decided to host a Halloween party that, due to the circumstances, was not located at the Saint.

This Halloween Party, held outside of the Saint’s physical reach, began a series of parties that became known as Saint-at-Large events.

During the first Halloween party without the Saint, too few restrooms and an inefficient coat check hampered the novel Saint at Large event. Fortunately, they got over that.

Saint-at-Large parties are celebrated even today in 2017!

The four holiest parties of the original Saint (Halloween, New Years Eve, The White and Black parties) are currently hosted every year and are annually commemorated celebrations of the Saint’s legacy. In 1994, the White and Black parties were the most popular Saint holiday parties to be revived, and they remain so today.

Curt Wagner states that when he goes to the Saint-at-Large parties, he cannot “find a familiar face anywhere” (qtd. in McEwan, 44). Wagner believes that there is a whole “new generation out there-maybe two” (McEwan, 44).

Jason McCarthy laments that “so many of these young guys out there dancing never saw The Saint itself. They don’t know what it was-what they’ve missed” (qtd. in McEwan, 44). McCarthy believes that it is possible to bring the Saint back, but Frank Courson disagrees.

Though life without the Saint “seems somewhat stark and somber,” the world and all its people can “never go back” according to Courson (qtd. in McEwan, 44). Susan Tomkin cannot imagine the expense it would cost to build the Saint today, when it already cost 4.5 million dollars in 1979.

Today, there “are entire portions of the city where [the gay community] can be comfortable,” according to Frank Courson (44). During the 1980s, Frank Courson states that “we needed a safe place where we could be who we were and love as we wanted,” however Courson believes that the world has changed for the better since that decade.

discussion of The saint goes on

The Saint at Large continues to dazzle crowds the same way the Saint once did.

A “sea of muscular men [dance] in the darkness beneath incredible lighting” and the music “follows the same programming format” as before, which was described in Steve Weinstein’s article. Parties don’t end until “well into the afternoon” (McEwan, 44).

This source is valuable because it includes interviews from people who experienced the Saint directly, whether through working there, or attending its celebrations. Interviews of people who experienced the Saint’s phenomenon firsthand are critical to presenting an accurate narrative towards one’s audience.

This source is also valuable because it provides more detail on the season of the Saint, and of what its celebrations entailed.

The article is also helpfully aware of the importance of multi-modality, and utilizes pleasing visual, spatial, and linguistic modes appropriately.

Unfortunately, one drawback to the article is the blurriness of some of its images; many of the photographs included in the article are indistinguishable lumps of black and white. However, the photographs I recognize, though in black and white in this article, appear in color in the Saint’s promotional video.

This article provides critical personal experiences from people close to Bruce Mailman (his assistant and business partner), and from people who enjoyed his creations.

Though none of my sources contain interviews from John, Mailman’s partner, I believe this source, in particular, provides detailed narratives of the Saint that showcase both familiarity and fond remembrance.

Annotated Bibliography Two – Annotation Five

AnOther. “A Rare Glimpse Into 1970s New York City Club Culture.” AnOther. Accessed October 10, 2017. http://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/8415/a-rare-glimpse-into-1970s-new-york-city-club-culture.

Meisler’s Childhood Inspirations

Meryl Meisler is a Long Island photographer known for capturing quirky, humorous, and theatrical photographs. In 2016, Meisler premiered an exhibition of her young adulthood, which traversed the decades of the 1970s and 1980s.
Meisler’s exhibition opened at the Steven Kasher gallery in New York City, New York.
Growing up in the North Massepequa suburbs, Meisler matured whilst surrounded by the subjects of her first “serious” photographs: Meisler’s relatives, neighbours, and […] best friends.” Describing her collection as a “retrospective of [her] life in the 70s,” Meisler depicts photographs of New York nightclubs, sunny summers at Fire Island, and memories of her childhood home (qtd. in “A Rare Glimpse”).
MOVING ON UP
When Meisler moved to the upper west side of New York, she was embraced by a “diverse group” of poets and musicians. Living with her distantly related cousin and other “completely different types of people,” Meisler felt sure that she was home and in a place that was both comforting and compelling (qtd. in “A Rare Glimpse”).
Meryl Meisler “carried [her] camera everywhere,” hoping to capture every “thrilling” moment of her new life (qtd. in “A Rare Glimpse”) in the city. Having just come out, moved out, and struggled through “economic and social difficulties,” Meisler felt extraordinarily thankful that she had found a place where she “belonged” (qtd. in “A Rare Glimpse”).

Meisler began to frequent disco clubs in the area and grew immensely fond of their energy and charm. At first, Meisler primarily attended CBGB, where one of the two photographs I have included in this annotation, was captured. See above.

However, Meisler also “went with a friend to Studio 54,” and “loved it!” (qtd. in “A Rare Glimpse”).

Meisler also loved to dance. However, no nightclub was complete without Meisler’s handheld camera, which she often brought with her onto the dancefloors of various disco clubs, into the crowds and throbbing sounds of the deejay’s sonic magic.

Meisler claims that she “went to all the hot clubs in Manhattan,” and asserts that she “preferred the music in the clubs.” She also enjoyed the “mixed” atmosphere of the clubs she partied in, never wanting to attend “only gay nights, or only lesbian nights” (qtd. in “A Rare Glimpse”).

Channeling Brassaï

Taking photographs on the dance floors of disco clubs sometimes produced images that were “really not safe for work” (qtd. in “A Rare Glimpse”). The people Meryl Meisler encountered on the floors of disco clubs were really “friendly;” she was always able to dance with strangers, and later photograph them, even if they were in states of sensual and sexual expression.

In this article, Meisler states that there are some “people in [her] show that are totally naked, yet [are] very comfortable with being photographed, because [she] danced with them on the weekends” (qtd. in “A Rare Glimpse”).

Inspired by the French-Hungarian photographer, Brassaï, who took photographs of Paris and Parisians in the night, Meryl Meisler documents the nightlife of New York City in an exhibition of her experience within the disco dance scene.

Meryl Meisler was young when she started attending dance clubs, but, generally, always had a very positive experience in the clubs. As a young queer Jewish woman, Meisler remembers that “everyone was very friendly, warm, joyful, having a ball and finding themselves” (qtd. in “A Rare Glimpse”). Alongside those changing adolescents, Meryl Meisler, too, began to mature and grow in confidence, both in her identity and in her art. On the dance-floor, through the lens of her camera, Meisler came of age.

But she had fun doing it. Meryl Meisler “felt like [she] was living [her] nightlife,” when she hopped from one club to the next, night after night. In the article, Meisler discloses that it was “a good thing that the doorman at Studio 54 liked us,” indicating that the doorman’s favor was likely the reason she could enter and enjoy Studio 54. However, “if the guy at the door that liked you wasn’t there, you’d go to another club” Meisler adds (qtd. in “A Rare Glimpse).

CLUB-HOPPING WAS A TYPE OF DISRESPECT

Meisler’s club-hopping undermines the importance of membership at disco clubs like Studio 54 or the Saint.

Carol Cooper writes in her article “Disco Knights: Hidden Heroes of The New York Dance Music Underground,” that the “best golden-era deejays worked hard to mark each night they played a special event, which is how membership-only spots developed” (Cooper, 165). People “proved [their] appreciation [of particular venues] by becoming a dues-paying member” (Cooper, 165).

At The Loft, founder David Mancuso threatened to withdraw patrons’ membership if they did not attend his private disco parties on a weekly basis. To Mancuso, the presence and feedback of the audience was just as important as the disc jockey’s musical compositions in the booth. To Mancuso, those savoring the musical, sensual, and transcendent fruits of disco clubs should, in turn, offer their thanks and appreciation by becoming paying members.

To Carol Cooper, “building that sense of interdependence between a deejay and his or her public was the key to the growth of black radio in this country, and subsequently the key to the growth of a dance music community out of the disco underground” (165). Thus Meryl Meisler’s club-hopping might have been frowned upon by some disco owners, who felt that the crafts hosted within their clubs deserved commitment.

a discussion of meisler’s narrative

Meisler’s narration of her experiences during the 1970s provide a personal, subjective insight into the goings on of popular disco clubs. Her narrative serves as a specific historical account of the disco era, which narrows one’s perceptions of the era to precise moments in time and intimately connects an observer to an otherwise foreign epoch.

The photographs included in this article are expressive and impactful; they serve as communicative devices beyond the somewhat flat affect of written accounts. Photographs from inside of the disco clubs one reads about do well to express the physicality and attitude of the club as well as its attendees.

In contrast, Meisler’s verbal account of her experience during the 70s leaves the reader grasping for more information, details, and stories. Though somewhat lacking in volume, Meisler’s memories still attempt to satisfy the dilemma introduced in Carol Cooper’s article “Disco Knights: Hidden Heroes of New York Dance Music Underground.”

Currently, the disco era suffers from a lack of firsthand documentation of the disco experience from the people “most qualified” to report on the era (Cooper, 164). In this article, Meryl Meisler’s storytelling attempts to provide such firsthand documentation, even if she lacks the details of the inner workings of disco clubs that owners, DJs, or other staff members would have been able to share. Her account still delves the reader deeper, personally, into an era he or she may be unfamiliar with.

Read more about why the disco era lacks firsthand documentation beneath the MISSING FIRSTHAND DOCUMENTATION header on this annotation, found near the bottom.

Annotated Bibliography Two – Annotation Four

Weinstein, Steve. “DJ Sharon White Returns to NYC Nightlife For a Celebration 35 Years in the Making | Village Voice.” Accessed October 18, 2017. https://www.villagevoice.com/2015/11/17/dj-sharon-white-returns-to-nyc-nightlife-for-a-celebration-35-years-in-the-making/.

born in the 50s, Disc jockey in the 70s

Sharon White was born in 1954. As an adolescent, White grew particularly attached to “British blues rock,” and admired artists such as Led Zeppelin, John Mayall, and the Faces (Cooper, 162). White grew up in Babylon, Long Island, New York, U.S.A and became passionate about drumming and percussion early on in her life. Music beat through her like a lyrical pulse.

Image Credit: Beatport Mixes

Studying drumming at a Manhattan conservatory during college, Sharon White befriended Allison Steele, a widely admired radio DJ for the NYC-based WNEW-FM station, through her own participation in college radio. Through her connection to Allison Steele and her work in radio, White was exposed to the culture of disc jockeying. She became intensely interested in the craft of deejays, and eventually received airtime on the radio after diving into the craft. Achieving radio play precipitated White’s first live disc jockeying gig, which was performed at a bar in Long Island alongside Roy Thode. Thode was a friend and mentor to Sharon who was respected as “one of the great innovators of his craft” (Weinstein).

White’s live gigs only extended so far. In the earlier parts of her career, Sharon White was limited to giving performances in women’s bars. However, despite the subset of venues she was able to perform in, White often explored gay clubs downtown such as 12 West and the Flamingo. Though she was the “only black woman in a sea of white muscle,” White would dance with the grooving crowds for the entire night, possessed by the DJ’s extraordinary music (Weinstein). White was amazed by the way a DJ could “shift the mood [of the audience] with a different tempo or key change” (Weinstein). Sharon White studied as she danced, internally hypothesizing the best method for “‘catching'” a beat from record to record (qtd. in Weinstein). How could she transition between songs without disrupting the music’s rhythm?

At the time, sound equipment and technology was rather “rudimentary.” White remembers in some clubs the screeching feedback of records blasted through low-quality speakers. Additionally, needles on the record player sometimes skipped on records played in clubs when vibrations from the dance floor became too forceful. Yet the mid-1970s brought a number of advancements for the disc jockeys of the world.

DISC jockey in the 70s

The following quotes are from my third annotation for Annotated Bibliography One:

12 inch extended single records “improved the ability of deejays to compose a smooth set with seamless transitions.” Similarly, “more sophisticated technology and club sound systems […] began to advance the skill sets of accomplished jocks.”

“During this time, Sharon White was perfecting her craft at a lesbian club called the Sahara. There, White caught the interest of several club promoters and sound engineers of the industry alike. As a percussionist and former radio operative, White possessed a talent for detecting the “sonic nuances” of “densely orchestrated instrumentals and vocal tracks” that only a technical ear could perceive and manipulate to energize crowds (Cooper, 162).”

By the time the Paradise Garage opened in 1977, White had already grown her expertise and experience as a DJ, but she still sought the thrill of the club scene and the musical affairs of other disc jockeys. The Garage more diverse than the other gay clubs White had before attended, with more women and people of color dancing beneath the disco’s lights. Paradise Garage was unique in other ways, too. At the Garage, lead DJ Larry Levan transported crowds on a “musical journey” (Weinstein). Spinning an “eclectic mixing of musical genres,” Levan enthralled audiences until they were “rapt,” or practically oozing at the bliss of his musical theater (Weinstein). Sharon White’s background in musical theory made her all the more appreciative of Levan’s skill.

According to White, the “journey began with David Mancuso at the Loft” (qtd. in Weinstein). One “had to be there from the beginning to hear what was coming,” White continued. Deejay equipment had grown in sophistication throughout the opening of the Loft (1970), the Paradise Garage (1977), and the Saint (1980), able to withstand dance floor vibrations and simulatenously proudce “state of the art” sound.

The musical journey

At the Paradise Garage, the concept of the musical journey emerged; at the Saint, the musical journey evolved into a methodological procedure for stimulating various emotions of the crowds. First, lighter fare music escalated into Hi-NRG (high energy, now known as EDM or electronic dance music in 2017) beats and vibrations. Then those “hard-driving beats” would melt into “melodic morning music,” before concluding with songs later classified as “sleaze” (Weinstein). Sleaze was a swoon of romantic ballads that cascaded from the Saint’s planetarium dome like stardust. Sharon White made a name for herself at the Saint, but that was only after a lucky circumstance propelled her to the club’s DJ booth.

Though invited to join a pre-opening tour for the Saint, Sharon White states that it soon became clear that Bruce Mailman, owner and founder of the Saint, did not want her to occupy the DJ booth. Mailman envisioned the Saint as a male haven; nearly all of the club’s members were male, and female guests had to be pre-approved before attending the night’s festivities. That didn’t stop White from attending Jim Burgess’s last official performance as a DJ. The Saint threw his going-away party in January of 1981, which famously ended in his sudden desertion of the deejay booth.

As the last record Burgess was playing ran out, the crowd turned confused. Burgess had simply “stopped the music, left the DJ booth, got into his Bentley, and left” (Weinstein). People wandered the dance floor, utterly perplexed. The Saint’s coat check then broke down and exacerbated the situation. A manager at the Saint noticed White was in attendance, and commanded her to DJ the crowd. Sharon White asserts that she was “in the right place at the right time” when she instructed a few other staffers at the Saint to go to her home and bring back the bags of records that she had color-coordinated (Weinstein). White played until 1:30pm and caused quite an uproar. Until the Saint’s closing in 1988, Sharon White succeeded as one of the club’s most popular DJs, though she is not cited as a “big” DJ by Bruce Mailman in his interview with the New York Native. Yet she was “big” and her talents attracted the attention of Lenoard Bernstein, a renowned composer and conductor. Bernstein approached White in the booth one night and discussed his pleasured with her adaptations of “a few of [his] pieces” (Weinstein). She “had made a medley of things […] into a dance project,” which her audiences loved. Yet, White didn’t stay local and loyal to the NYC crowds.

After the Saint closed, Sharon White toured clubs in Tokyo, Berlin, even Reykjavík, Iceland where she drummed up the crowd’s energy for the opening of a United Service Organization (USO) center. In Saudi Arabia, Sharon White performed for the king in a burka, yet for the prince, White was able to dress more casually, whose palace he had had transformed into a disco. A London techie organized the sound equipment for White’s later disc jockeying. White states that she “knew him from Fire Island” and that he was on the “down-low” (qtd. in Weinstein). The prince noted that he had three wives, but that everyone at the disco party “knows,” presumably about his sexuality (qtd. in Weinstein).

the next generation

After suffering a horrific trauma in 2000, White escaped to Washington D.C.

There, White played house parties, after-hours bars, and small clubs, where she “learned to open doors and expose [herself] to different types of music” (qtd. in Weinstein). She adopted a mentoring role to younger DJs, just as Allison Steele had once done for her.  found herself mentoring the next generation of DJs. Later, White reconnected with colleagues from the Saint, who stirred up fond memories of New York, and her old home.

Image Credit: Village Voice

Now, the Saint-at-Large seeks to “keep the spirit of the original [Saint] alive” by reviving famed parties and themes from the 80’s Saint. Led by Stephen Pevner, a distant relative of the Saint’s founder, Bruce Mailman, the Saint-at-Large has recreated the Black Party and hosted a 35th anniversary celebration for the Saint called Night People.

The Black Party was a “fetish-themed […] bacchanal” that took place every March at the original Saint. Night People was a party dedicated every night before Thanksgiving at the Saint.

After inviting White to spin at the Black Party, White was then invited to join two other former Saint DJs Michael Fierman and Ryan Smith at the Night People celebration in 2015.

Here is a clip of Sharon White preparing her set:

According to Steve Weinstein, Sharon White had scheduled gigs for 2016, though there is little Internet coverage for them and little recent news. However, at the time that this article was written, White was posting podcasts and staying active with the newest generation of “DJs and clubgoers” (Weinstein).

She maintains an active Twitter page.

a discussion of weinstein’s article

Though this article is not a primary source, or an interview conducted during the 80s in which Sharon White was disc jockeying, it still serves to provide descriptive firsthand accounts of White’s disco experience.

White herself attended, danced in, and frequented renowned disco clubs such as the Saint, the Paradise Garage, and the Loft. Still active as a disc jockey, White engages her past disc jockeying experience with her current maturity in a fresh, fond perspective on her past.

However, one disadvantage to this article is the author’s reliance on the linguistic mode to convey information about a lively, interactive, and sensual era of music history. Steven Weinstein hardly incorporates other modes of communication such as music clips or photographs. Unlike the piece on Meryl Meisler, which at least contains multiple photographs taken in the disco era, there are no photographic or aural forms of historical evidence captured during the 70s and 80s decades.

There is also a lack of sufficient detail to Sharon White’s storytelling, which leaves the reader wanting for more information.

What were the records that White played on her first night disc jockeying at the Saint?

What were White’s favorite songs, or sets as a DJ in the 80s?

What other types of interactions did she have with people in the club scene at the time?