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: 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: A Beacon and a Boycott, Pt. I

profiteer, or promoter of civil rights?

In the early 1980s, the St. Marks Baths became known as the “epicenter” of a deadly disease later known as AIDS (Peters, 82).

During this time, Bruce Mailman was accused of being an exploitative, “merciless profiteer” when he “resisted shutting down the baths early in the AIDS crisis” (Peters, 82).

To Mailman, the St. Marks Baths were a “hard-won symbol of fraternity, equality, and liberty.” 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.”

Civil rights was on Mailman’s mind when he failed to close the Baths as early as critics wanted him to. Anyway, Mailman believes that more would have been done to “control the epidemic” during the virus’s germination period in 1980, but no one knew of the 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 better able to protect his customers against a disease that only seems predictable in hindsight. In reality, AIDS descended without warning.

Additionally, 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 remained silent whilst AIDS devastated the gay community. Kenneth Bunch, or 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 the 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. The gay community was forsaken.

The government had abandoned its responsibility for its citizenry because of homophobia, ignorance, spite, and indifference.

A binary that persisted throughout the crisis described AIDS as a gay cancer. AIDS affected the gay community, not anyone else, not anyone normal. A blatant segregation of consciousness stated that AIDS has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with them. The government felt no responsibility for heathens.

a conservative manipulation

Tom Steele wrote that AIDS was like a “shark attack” (qtd. in Peters, 82).

For a while, New York experienced a “dreadfully grim” period of despair in which a “sexual shutdown” created an emotional “black hole” (qtd. in Peters, 82).

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

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

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).

But is it just to fault one man for the devastation that resulted from a complex network of inaction and ignorance? Mailman wondered why members of the gay community would blame him or themselves for a disease that was unpredictable and, thus, uncontrollable.

His next business venture similarly entered a cloud of contention, just as the St. Marks Baths did.

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 Nine

Large, The Saint At. SUBmerged: The Black Party 2016 Trailer, 2016. https://vimeo.com/156787064.

underwater, sunken and submerged

The Black Party arouses and praises acts of Domination, submission, sadomasochism, and other explicit play (mature content: general information about BDSM).

Performances at the Black Party cover a broad range of activities, including, famously, a boa constrictor, according to Darrell Yates Rist’s article. This video advertises the Saint-at-Large’s 2016 spring Black Party.

Entitled SUBmerged: The Black Party 2016 Trailer, the video is marked as mature on its host site, Vimeo.

Within the first four seconds of the video, the words THE SAINT AT LARGE PRESENTS materializes on the screen. In what appears to be a bold white Arial font, the opening announcement emerges atop a black and gray background of viscous bullet-like shapes. These black gelatinous forms start shooting up from the bottom of the video frame like bullets, spiking to random heights to an unknown beat until the forms closest to the middle rise to the top of the frame and the words THE SAINT AT LARGE PRESENTS disappear.

The sound of a radar’s ping prompts the next images of the video to appear. Three old TVs sit side by side and depict the searching triangular slice of a submarine radar in a sea green color. The two TVs on either side of the middle TV depict flickering images of a radar’s grid and seem to be experiencing static.

An audio recording of a male voice repeating unintelligible words and the word “dive” begins.

Then, the TV in the middle showcases the text RITES XXXVII, denoting the 37th Black Party celebration. The TVs are barely illuminated and are framed by a dark, shadowy background. They seem to be experiencing interruptions in their signals.

With another sound of the radar’s ping, the image flashes to a singular TV with the same evergreen shade as background, whose center x axis along a typical Cartesian or rectangular coordinate system contains the words THE BLACK PARTY in the same font presented at the beginning of the video.

The image continues to flicker, before it becomes obscured by arrows and other geometric patterns.

The suggestion of an interrupted transmission evokes the presence of something haunted.

Next, the word SUBMERGED appears in thicker, bigger white font. The word “dive” is repeated with increasing volume. SUBMERGED flickers like a light, then disappears into a shifting gray ocean from its perch within a cloudy, overcast sky. The video turns black.

caution, danger!

Then, suddenly at around 15 seconds, the tempo of the video rapidly increases. An alarm sounds from the video’s audio as a red light surrounded by white and gray water and a red warning symbol (typically associated with radiation warnings) flash across the screen.

Radiation warning symbol. Image Credit: Wikipedia

Black dye diffuses in a red koolaid-like liquid. Green tentacles wiggle through red water, stirring large bubbles.

Two men engage in a heated wrestling of the arms and torso, their angered faces visible in the black and white film as their metal earrings glint against the incoming light. The men’s muscles bulge, and their closely-shaved Mohawks reveal pulsing veins in their foreheads. Random numbers, symbols, and letters appear in small, gray font across the clip of the wrestling men in an upside down triangle shape that has a bar running through it.

Their pearly white teeth glint.

The symbol for anarchy (an A inscribed within a circle) opens the next sequence of images.

In between flashes of the caution symbol is a clip of an anonymous male dripping in the black viscous fluid found at the beginning of the video. His body, though covered in the sliding black liquid, is otherwise naked. His eyes are closed and his head lolls to his right side as his back arches. His photo remains still, and is soon superimposed by an upside down crimson triangle. The triangle is outlined in a lighter red strip with a line cutting beneath its top point (near the bottom), which then disappears, taking the man with it.

reach, glide, hands, octopi

Eight TVs flicker green images of radar scans, and the sound of the alarm calms to a rapid sputtering of radar beeps.

Gray octopus tentacles sway in black waters, before the video quickly cuts to clawed hands dripping in similar black viscous fluid as they disconnect from each other in a slow parting.

Bare tan skin lies stark against the black liquid netted on its surface. An arrow on what appears to be a sphygmomanometer, which measures blood pressure, swings back and forth. A hand clenches a red object beside a naked man’s muscled butt and thigh, around which a black strap squeezes.

Sphygmomanometer. Image Credit: Medtree

Several hands reach across two outstretched legs encased in nearly thigh-high, leather stiletto boots.

The gelatinous fluid reappears, as well as a green, smooth tentacle which swishes out of frame and leaves only red water. A symbol of a trident whose handle tip is inscribed within a triangle appears within a plethora of similar small numbers and letters as those seen earlier in the video.

These images last for less than half a second on the screen.

The radiation symbol once again appears in red.

musical witchcraft

A steady club beat opens the next succession of images.

Glitching gray text informs the viewer of the music artists who will be performing at the 37th Black Party.

These artists include Alyson Calagna (click here and here for more of Calagna’s profiles), Danny Tenaglia (see here and here for more of this DJ’s profile), Jason Kendig (see here and here for more of Kendig’s profiles), Rob Sperte (click here and here for more of Sperte’s profiles), and Tama Sumo (click here and here for more profiles on Tama Sumo).

Their names type across the video screen swiftly, appearing under the header MUSIC.

Following the presence of this text are more octopus tentacles, which first wave through iron-colored waters as rusty limbs. Next, the tentacles reflect a greenish color at the viewer from within rose-wine illuminated waters, rippling like ribbons across the screen. WITH is the header that announces the final three musical acts to be seen at the 2016 Black Party, which include Massimiliano Pagliara (click here for more information about Pagliara, but you must have a Facebook account to view it), Ron Like Hell (click here and here for more information about Ron Like Hell), and Will Automagic (click here for an additional profile on Will Automagic).

static chaos

A sound like static emits from the video as the gelatinous goo vibrates. The symbol of chaos, which is represented by eight arrows piercing out from the circumference of a circle, appears twice in different scarlet red designs over a circle of darker red water through which black dye diffuses. A clawed hand covered in black gelatinous goo reaches out from within the bullet-like stalagmites seen at the beginning of the video, and the sound of static and white noise intensifies.

Thick octopus arms, complete with suckers, extend from an unseen center body.

The octopus arms are as thick as human arms or calves; they twist in gray water in a counter-clockwise motion before the image transforms into a clip of several masked and anonymous shirtless men reaching along the bare legs encased in the boots from earlier. Most of these lean men wear various hoods found in Dom/sub play, including a leather skin that obscures the entire face, and an elastic mask with eye holes and a mouth hole. One wears a gas mask.

The pentacle, or symbol of witchcraft denoted by a pentagram inscribed within a circle, appears upside down in red over a lighter red nautical grid. A blip in the sound of static is soon perceived.

Green clawed hands sweep across a phallic structure in water, with another sudden blip unveiling a close-up of a gray face, over which an octopus arm sweeps. The right eye of this face is startling, both because of its wideness and because of its white iris. The man appears to be screaming, with an open mouth, yet only soft echos dominate the audio track at this point in the video.

In the next scene, however, as tentacles frame his face, the man’s head appears tilted back, away from the camera. His half-lidded eyes peer beneath his eyelashes and his mouth opens slightly, as if in a gasp.

Pentacle. Image Credit: Wikipedia

The audio sounds like a soft wind and remains subtle for the next few images. Orange octopus arms, lit by a white light, drift close by the camera’s lens. Individual suckers can be examined for their size and shape.

A man’s tilted face, framed by light brown stubble, rests beneath the same dripping black viscous liquid as before. The liquid reaches the corner of his mouth and slides off his lip.

There is an extreme close-up on the man’s face in this shot; only the mouth, nose, and part of his neck is visible.

Next the camera gives the viewer a closeup of the same man’s chest, which is covered in the black liquid. He slides a hand down his right pec.

Then, the two wrestling men from before rest their foreheads against one another as a tone sounds from the previously quiet audio.

white eyes, bright eyes

The same white eyes from before now stare into the camera from within a black hood. The person fits into the center of the frame exactly.

The black hood the person wears covers his or her entire face, and visibly stretches across his or her nose and cheeks. Lips seem to be visible, but have likely been painted black so that they could blend into the surrounding fabric. Or this person’s lips may be concealed by the hood. It is hard to tell.

The white eyes continue to stare intensely and directly into the camera.

Image Credit: Chez Priape, which the Saint-at-Large linked to from their website

The person wearing the hood appears to be crouched or hunched.

Bare shoulders are visible beside the person’s face, and the person’s skin, particularly the creases found around his or her exposed collarbones, is illuminated by a red light that shines from beneath their body.

What I have just described of this hooded figure is the top half of this particular image.

The bottom half of the image acts like a reflection of the top half.

On the bottom, the person’s face appears upside down, and his or her eyes stare at the camera less noticeably. The entire “reflection” is subdued and softened by the black shadows that surround it, whereas the top half of the image stands out due to its ominously red spotlight.

Soon, these faces disappear with a sound somewhat similar to crinkling newspaper or a camera shutter.

HOOKS IN YOUR FLESH

Two men in gas masks stare each other down under green lighting as they stand with their arms braced against the other’s neck and back, respectively. A radar scans over their image, before the man on the left pushes his companion away. The image flickers to the same sound of static or crinkling newspaper.

The steady club beat from before reenters the video, increasing the pace of the images once more.

Green and blue bars fly across the screen, and the scene changes to a man in a beige gas mask, whose eyes are just barely visible, cradling the man from earlier, whose thigh and butt was encased in a black harness (though only a strap was visible at the time). The piece of clothing he wears is likely a jockstrap.

The man who wears the gas mask, which has a black mouthpiece, has tan skin, and may or may not be naked. His thighs and chest are completely bare, and only the other man he holds blocks the viewer’s view of his genitals.

The man being held has silver hair and smokey eye makeup. He is pale and possesses a neck tattoo as well as a sleeve tattoo on his right arm. His stomach is lightly muscled, and his legs are bent. The other man holds him underneath his back and his knees.

The other man is sitting down, and the tattooed man rests on his lap, sideways. His head lolls to the left in open air. The backdrop of the two figures is a molten gray.

The steady bass beat picks up with a bit of an electronic melody.

Small numbers and letters cross the screen in the pattern of the anarchy symbol and pulse over the two men. The two figures disappear leaving a black background beneath the white and gray anarchy symbol, before reappearing, then flashing away to reveal a mirror image of the hooded face from before.

The person wears a black hood and has white irises and looks at the camera with an open mouth. Orange tendrils divide the screen between the two nearly identical faces.

Anarchy symbol. Image Credit: Wikipedia

Red vats of boiling liquid appear, and the words STRANGE LIVE ACTS strike across the screen in the same thick font used to announce the musical artists. The music has a prominent melody now, and sounds like something you would hear in a club.

The next clip shows a person’s skin being punctured by a gold metal hook under bright fluorescent lighting.

The hook looks like a bait hook, and its place of piercing lies next to a bloody 6 inch line of metal additions. The camera pans out and focuses on a similar golden hook already pierced in that body’s expanse of skin.

What might be a silver fish’s open red and orange mouth appears in the next clip.

The next clip really flutters one’s stomach; it depicts forceps pulling out something clear from beneath the skin of an indescribable mass. I would guess that the the lens of a fish eye is being removed by the metal tool. I can not be sure. A nautical grid overlays these gray and white images.

The next image portrays a similar monochromatic scheme.

merman tattoos

A merman’s swaying tail appears in gray atop a starry black background. The camera zooms out to reveal the entire body of the figure, whose tail appears to be confined in a starry underwater environment. The merman bobs up and down lightly and is the same tattooed man who was being cradled in the lap of another earlier. This man has the same tattoos, and now wears black gloves. His arms are bent at the elbows and are raised on the level of his shoulders, with his palms facing the water below him. He has been illuminated with white light from his right side, though the image remains black, white, and gray.

An upside down pentacle appears on the screen once more, in gray, atop the merman’s body. It’s quite large. Then the pentacle changes design and appearance, and appears smaller, covering most of the merman’s tail, and not his entire body. The music continues to intensify.

DRESS: HEAVY are the next words to appear on the screen (in the same font as the other words, if not a little bigger this time. Condensation drips down the words.

Next, a flurry of images beat across the screen to the sound of melodic sixteenth notes. The images are of octopus arms the color of oxidized iron whirling back and forth in active white waters frothing with bubbles. These images move at a lightning speed and comprise a narrative about as long as a second.

Image Credit: WordPress

Then, the music cools off into a sound of an indistinguishable mash of techno voices, and the video slows its pace.

a heated caress

At this point, a man wearing a black jock strap faces away from the viewer, so that his bare butt is visible. His arms are flexed at his sides, as another male caresses leather-gloved fingers down his behind, slightly squeezing it.

The beat picks back up.

Then the clawed hands seen earlier in the video begin to hold the long, phallic shape (which has a pointed end, like an eel) in either palm against a lime green backdrop.

Again, someone appears to poke around a fish eye.

The wrestling men reappear and arm wrestle as they glare each other down.

The man on the right is shorter than his companion.

The wrestling men still appear in black and white, yet this time they have the nautical grid superimposed on them, which almost looks like the lens through which a sniper might view a target.

Flames dance over the image of the wrestling men before a man smoking a cigar and wearing a garrison cap appears behind a porthole framing. He wears the same necklace as the shorter wrestler and appears to have the same tattoos. This is the first time the viewer will have seen this man face on, instead of from his left side.

A garrison cap. Image Credit: Etsy

The phallic, eel-like forms reappear in red water and in four reflections of each other, with each shaft pointing from the center of the video frame. The upside down triangle with the bar crossing through it reappears as well.

The upside down pentacle is expressed in thin white lines over an open fish eye.

The hooded figure with the white eyes appears underwater, and bubbles sprout to the surface.

The symbol of chaos reappears over a black background before transitioning to the image of the men caressing the booted legs between them. Their hands reach up, up, and up until they touch the top of the screen.

Octopus arms lick around their figures as the music fades to the quiet gurgling and breathy sounds of underwater existence, before picking back up with an image of the phallic eel and sphygmomanometer. The arrow gauge on the clock-like device swings back and forth on the right side of the instrument. It is not exactly like a sphygmomanometer, or even a speedometer, because the numbers on this device increase in increments of 100 from 0 to 1000.

Next, we see the two wrestling men making out or kissing passionately (with tongue).

More octopus arms gleam gray in the video frame. At one point the tentacles turn colorful and expand like a flower in the center of the frame, before shivering downwards and turning gray again.

The men wearing the various hoods and masks reach the feet of the legs wearing the black leather boots, and together, they drag the legs down.

3_19_2016 appears on the screen next, followed by the word BROOKLYN.

This denotes the location and date of the Saint-at-Large’s 2016 Black Party: March 19th, 2016 in Brooklyn.

The heavy club beat that had been recently narrating the video’s rapid imagery drops off to a tinny noise within the last frames of the video.

BLACKPARTY.COM is the last text of the video, and it is quickly obscured by the previously-seen black bullet-like forms pulsating from the bottom of the video frame.

The video is 1 minute and 15 seconds long.

about the video

The text in the summarizing section of the video states the following:

“Video Trailer Directed by Rob Roth
For Tickets & More Information: blackparty.com

THE SAINT AT LARGE
presents

Rites XXXVII:
THE BLACK PARTY

“SUBmerged”

Saturday March 19, 2016
10 pm until Sunday afternoon

1260 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn

Main Floor DJs:
Alyson Calagna
Danny Tenaglia
Jason Kendig
Rob Sperte
Tama Sumo

Back Room DJs:
Massimiliano Pagliana
Ron Like Hell
Will Automagic

Strange Live Acts | Dress Heavy

Set in world of surging oceans and drowning cities, rogue submarines break surface in the black of night to whisk willing survivors to an unregulated subterranean world of brothels, dungeons and decadence.

The Rites of Spring celebration, an intensely immersive environment ignited by world-renowned DJs and infamous Strange Live Acts, has firmly established itself as gay New York’s biggest night of the year.

21+ Valid Photo ID Required

NO CAMERAS, NO CELLPHONES

For Tickets & More Information: blackparty.com

Powered by Scruff
Sponsored by Chez Priape & Pjur Lube

© The Saint At Large 2016″

This is the video:

discussion of the black party trailer

The nature of this video is intense, and the narrative displayed is extremely fast-paced.

Images flit across the scene, and remain for barely half a second before flashing to another potent, well-crafted, and emotionally-charged photograph or clip. Colorful frames are juxtaposed by dark, monochromatic scenes. The video’s beauty is haunting.

This source does well to display 2016’s Black Party theme, which suggests themes of submersion, water, danger, and maybe even a Little Mermaid-like tale.

The source presents a compelling narrative that arouses the viewer’s interest, increasing the heartbeats of many with its dramatic storytelling.

One of the drawbacks of the source is that some of the images move so fast that one can only glimpse them before they disappear.

However, manually moving the dial on the video to control its pace allows one to view images in more detail, otherwise they move too fast for proper assessment.

This source is digital, so it requires an internet connection to be accessible.

Conversely, given its internet-friendly format, the video is accessible to a larger audience than just those people with a CD-player, for instance.

The video does not name any of its actors, creators, or current hosts and organizers of the Saint-at-Large, which might be helpful information for someone who wants to learn more about the Saint-at-Large organization, however, it does offer a link to the organization’s website at the end of the video.

Still, the 2016 Black Party trailer video may still be limited in its impact, if only those with the means to visit the party it is advertising can attend the celebration (people who live close to or in Brooklyn and people who are able to travel there and find housing accommodations are the only ones who could go).

Yet even if the video advertises an unattainable dream for those people who cannot travel to Brooklyn, it still presents many elements of the Saint-at-Large’s creative energy and atmosphere in an impactful way. The viewer should not be disappointed if he or she may only be able to watch a video this time.

The art this organization creates to advertise its holiday events is stunning on its own.

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?

 

Annotated Bibliography Two – Annotation Two

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

controversy at the new york native

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

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

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

goodbye to the saint

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

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

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

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

a dreamer’s beginning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

accusations against mailman

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

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

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

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

the saint was revered

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

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

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

fear

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

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

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

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

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

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

See photos of The Saint

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