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.

PREVIOUS CHAPTER                             VIEW THIS ESSAY’S MEDIA LIBRARY

Sexual Expression and its Subsequent Suppression: Bruce Mailman Emerges, An Entrepreneur of Ingenious Artistry

oasis of desire

Bruce Mailman was an entrepreneur based in New York City, U.S.A. who was integral in providing sensual havens for the gay community during the 1970s and 1980s (Peters). In the eras of the Sexual Revolution and of disco culture, Bruce Mailman endeavored to engineer an oasis of open desire and free expression in which gay men could engage (Peters). To do this, Mailman first created the St. Marks Baths, a bathhouse described by author Jonathan McEwan as an “exciting place in which to enjoy the pleasures of the then unhindered sexual revolution” (36). Later, Bruce Mailman founded the Saint disco club, which, to many, came to represent the apotheosis of the disco era.

Mailman’s inventiveness sculpted the Saint into a matchless, mammoth disco. Born in Chester, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. to a family of merchants, Bruce Mailman first developed his creative spirit through thespian engagements. In high school, Mailman became involved in art, theater, and music. He went on to attend Temple University and the Tyler School of Fine Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Later, after he graduated with a master’s degree from New York University in the early 1960s, Mailman met his long-time partner, John, a cardiologist. Together, Mailman and John began to invest in real estate, whilst Mailman started producing his own creative works and plays (Peters, 140).

Mailman’s enterprising attitude helped him succeed as both an entrepreneur and an investor; importantly, many of Mailman’s businesses were spaces that encouraged the gay community to live openly and freely (McEwan, 36). Several experiences in Mailman’s life inspired him to create such liberating environments. When he was four years old, Mailman observed a man wearing a “suede jacket without a shirt on underneath” walk into his father’s store. He remembers wanting the man to remove the jacket; he “knew it wasn’t right, [but] didn’t know why.” (qtd. in Peters, 140). Additionally, though he knew of other gay men in university, Mailman still “had to hide” his sexuality. He pronounces that, at the time, being gay was “mysterious, like being part of a private society. […] There was no openness” (qtd. In Peters, 140). Mailman despised this obligatory charade and desired to counter his lingering internalization of the country’s homophobia. For many, the 1969 Stonewall Riots realized Mailman’s aspiration for he and other gay men to be out and honest. Mailman hoped the fierce resilience that arose in the gay community during this time would create an unapologetic sentiment among gay men. It was time to be frank, and it was time to have pride (Peters, 140).

come as you are

At first, gay men did not seek familiarity from one another; most preferred to remain closeted by keeping their nightly escapades private and maintaining their anonymity, even in seemingly safe spaces. Mailman knew well that being gay was “dangerous,” but the shame of some of the men he saw was disheartening (qtd. in Peters, 140). Mailman found it strange, and sad, that “people wouldn’t sign their own names [at gay bars],” and that men were “very embarrassed to see someone they knew on the street” (qtd. in Peters). His observations demonstrate the stifled nature of gay identity during his youth in the 1960s, which Mailman yearned to combat. He intended to untie the fists of gay men bound to closetedness by creating a community where people could be “honest” with each other and with themselves (qtd. in Peters).

Mailman’s particular philosophy of honesty generally manifested itself as a type of sexual expression; at Mailman’s own St. Marks Baths, the physical rapture and release from oppressive confinement exhilarated many customers (Peters, 80). Attracting millions of dollars per year, the St. Marks Baths became synonymous with the 1970s gay and queer culture. Visitors and staff members indulged carnal pleasures on every one of the bathhouse’s five floors; the sexual revolution was truly ablaze (Peters). One visitor to the Baths states that “if you didn’t like the baths, you had to examine yourself. Maybe you had a serious case of self-loathing, or maybe you hadn’t gotten the message. It was part of the culture to have a lot of anonymous sex” (qtd. in Peters). This quote shows how Mailman’s equation of genuineness with uninhibited sexuality was a commonplace ideology in the 1970s.

However, the men who attended the Baths connected more than just their bodies. Mailman’s bathhouse was also a “gay social scene” that affirmed the identity and increased the fraternity and camaraderie among the young men there (McEwan, 36).

Stories of the Saint – Chapter 4: The Era

PREVIOUS CHAPTER                                               READ THE NEXT CHAPTER

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.

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 Seven

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

Mailman’s biography

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

Mailman’s parents were merchants.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a trip in the saint

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

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

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

a sexual revolution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the disease, his controversy

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

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

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

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

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

merciless or innocent?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABANDONed

Things got worse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He experienced a lot of grief.

ghosts of the saint mystique

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another mournful result of AIDS is the disconnect which resulted from it. Mailman feels that his generation did not get to share its “collective wisdom” with the next generation of queer youth because of the disease. He feels that “There is no continuity in the gay population.” The sense that the “young [gay population] arrived newly born and can’t benefit from anything that went before them” is upsetting to Mailman (qtd. in Peters, 143).

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

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

discussion of Brooks Peters’ Article

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

Party Promoter Dallas Boesendahl declares the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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