Sexual Expression and its Subsequent Suppression: Birth of a Saint

club of vices

The Saint honored the gay community by providing the “climax” of gay liberation: unfettered drug use, impassioned sex, and musical ecstasy comprised the ingredients of this mighty discotheque, though the club’s stunning architectural features similarly indicated the Saint’s superiority (qtd. in Peters, 80). At the Saint, a planetarium projector transported crowds into outer space whilst dexterous deejays weaved melodic memories into the night (Rist, 17).

The Saint originated as a house of Bruce Mailman’s vices, or the pleasures Mailman paid money to enjoy. One of his vices was dancing at the Flamingo night club (Rist, 17). Another vice was Mailman’s deep appreciation for the “imagination and theatricality” of Studio 54, whose attractiveness caused Mailman to return to the club rather often (qtd. in Rist, 17). Together, the “hard-driving” sexuality of disco dancing and imagination of theatrical nightlife supplied formative experiences for Mailman. He was thus inspired to construct a haven of vices that he could go to for free (Rist, 17). However, Bruce Mailman’s desires were elevated by his intention to add a new dimension to the disco scene.

Simple mimicry bored Mailman; he wanted to produce a unique club of vices (Rist, 17). At first, Mailman could not figure out how to promote the individuality of his disco, yet following the night that Mailman went to sleep pondering ideas, the man awoke with the image of a planetarium in his mind (Rist, 17). The club Mailman envisioned wouldn’t be “limited to a stage;” what would become The Saint would be “completely round,” with a large dome sky (qtd. in Rist, 17). The dome would immerse club-goers in an environment similar to the great outdoors; men would kiss and dance in bliss underneath strobes or stars.  Following his revelation, Mailman called planetarium companies to see if his fantasy could become a practical and affordable reality. In 1980, Mailman redesigned the old Loew’s Commodore Theater for almost $5,000,000 US dollars; the large theater could accommodate both a planetarium projector and a planetarium dome (Rist, 17). Located on Second Avenue and East Sixth Street, the Commodore Theater underwent a truly heavenly transformation for The Saint’s opening.

Stories of the Saint – Chapter 2: The Architecture

the first party

Bruce Mailman and business partner Steve Casko acquired a planetarium dome and planetarium projector from Spitz Space Systems, structures fundamental to the architectural anatomy and jaw-dropping identity of the Saint (McEwan). The use of mobile lenses in the club’s planetarium projector permitted light technicians to project hundreds of unique slide images onto the sky-like dome (McEwan). These images reflected off of the Saint’s dancing crowds and illuminated them with bright patterns of starlight and other exciting designs. The Saint Promotional Video exhibits photographs of crowds in the midst of sweaty gyrations and stirring light choreography. The following image can be found on the Saint’s memorial block; it displays a representation of the Saint’s planetarium projector and light structure. The stitched-on representation of the light structure is a weathered gray color that has been topped by an orderly row of circular bulbs that exude colors of red, green, orange, purple, turquoise, yellow, and pink. The structure juts from the bottom of the quilt panel and is comprised of a material that feels sturdy and thick, a composition that demonstrates its purpose of strength, support, and vibrant bedazzlement. The actual Saint contained a “lighting tower with about 1,500 fixtures, topped by [the] planetarium-style star projector” in the center of its dance floor (Dunlap).

light structure representation found on the quilt

On September 20, 1980, the anticipation of 3500 men in East Village, New York was subdued and satisfied by the Saint’s impressive premiere celebration, entitled “The First Party” (Rist, 17). At midnight, these men (2500 of whom had already become members of the Saint), lined almost an entire square block hoping to unravel the mystery of Bruce Mailman’s new creation. When the doors of the Saint opened, these gorgeous gay men eagerly began to explore the newly opened disco (Rist, 17).

George Gershwin‘s Rhapsody in Blue “swelled” from the sound system and encased the public in a luxurious mood of classical music as the projector splashed light across the planetarium dome in “spectacular patterns of orange and rose” (McEwan, 38). As the night progressed, classical music transformed into more sensual ballads, and sometime after 2:00am, the pace of the club “picked up” (McEwan, 38). The mothership, mounted on a hydraulic lift, rose above the heads of the dancers. The Saint had milked the virgin qualities of its club-goers by prolonging the reveal of those spectacular tricks hidden up Bruce Mailman’s sleeve, but their emergence was near. As Donna Summer’s “Could It Be Magic” began to play, the club lights dimmed and the planet’s stars appeared. In the video below, Michael Fierman recalls a distinct gasp from the crowd at the sight of the stars, before a mad cheer erupted. Fierman’s disclosure indicates the brilliance of the club’s planetarium projector, and illustrates the first sublime experience of the Saint.

Stories of the Saint – Chapter 1: The Opening

Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue on the piano

Original version of Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue

Donna Summer’s “Could It Be Magic”

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Annotated Bibliography Two – Annotation Eight

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

Cupid’s Arrows

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

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

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

A black curtain backdrop hangs behind him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

could it be magic, donna summer

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

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

“Prelude To Love” by Donna Summer

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

“Could It Be Magic” by Donna Summer

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

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

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

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

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

an eclectic essence

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

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

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

Michael Fierman. Image Credit: Facebook

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

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

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

Two photos of Stonehenge appears.

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

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

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

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

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

make that feeling come again, boris midney and beautiful bend

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

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

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

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

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

snail SHELLS and other mollusks

A white slide marks the beginning of this section.

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

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

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

FORBIDDEN LOVE, MADLEEN KANE

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

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

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

One can clearly see that the planetarium dome has been illuminated from behind. According to David W. Dunlap, the “The skin of the dome was porous, acting like a theatrical scrim; solid when lighted from within, translucent when illuminated from behind.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hills of katmandu, tantra

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

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

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

souvenirs, voyage

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

They following photos demonstrate the popularity of Saint parties.

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

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

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

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

discussion of the Saint promotional video

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

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

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

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

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

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

Primary Source Description One – Gabrielle Williams

About the Quilt

According to Janece Shaffer, the Communications Director at the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, the size of this 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.” Blocks are usually composed of eight individual 3×6 foot (3.7×3.7 meter) panels, yet this block is its own individual dedication.

The quilt described in this piece is Block number 1087. According to the NAMES Project website, there are currently 5956 blocks, indicating that this particular block is a somewhat early addition to the AIDS Memorial Quilt. The subject of this quilt’s memorial are the members and staff of The Saint Dance Club in New York City, NY, USA.

The primary colors featured in the quilt are black, burgundy, and silver, though there are exceptions. Many of the objects have been stitched on to an expanse of either black or burgundy felt material, which raises them from the quilt’s flat surface. Thus, this description will be organized by the objects and images found on the quilt. These descriptions will also progress from the center of the quilt towards its outer edges.

First, I will describe the moon-like figure on the quilt, which immediately drew my eye when I first viewed the panel. Then, I will describe the “sky” the moon rests in, where many stitched stars shine. Next, I will describe the structure found underneath the stars, before expanding my focus to the larger, outer sections of the quilt, and their encompassing design.

The outer sections of the quilt include the black felt section of silver triangles, the burgundy felt section containing the memorial note, the silver section containing the words HOLD ON TO MY LOVE, as well as the cream outer border.

Disco Night

What appears to be a moon glows near the center of the 12×12 foot (3.7×3.7 meter) block. Painted onto the quilt, and aligned on the vertical axis that cuts the panel square into two twin-bed-sized halves, the moon first appears to be silver in color. Upon closer inspection, the moon reveals itself to the viewer: swirling grays and ultramarine tones sparkle from within the moon as the glitter dressing the moon’s surface reflects overhead light back at the viewer. This moon could very well be a disco ball, shining 3.5 feet (1.07 meters) from the top of the quilt. In fact, according to David W. Dunlap of The New York Times, The Saint Dance Club contained a “ceiling hatch through which a three-foot mirrored ball could be lowered.” Dunlap’s observation indicates that the moon-like figure on the quilt could represent a disco ball. The figure could even double as both a mirror ball and a moon. For the purpose of this description, this figure will continue to be referred to as a “moon” or “moon-like figure,” whose form is thickly coated with glitter paint, but feels smooth, if not a little grainy, to the touch. 

moon-like figure on the quilt

Circling the neat, spherical shape of the moon are twinkling rays of light. A shimmery green like the underside of a maple leaf comprises the first ring of glitter glue light. Just outside of this soft, mint green band, are similar brush strokes of a glittery electric blue. This blue is the color one might see in pool tiles or during twilight. These marks pop from the burgundy material surrounding the moon, and feel like gentle sandpaper under one’s fingertips. These hand-painted marks contrast in both material and boldness to the moon’s solidity. The moon’s radiance is faint, brushed by hand with glitter paint or gel. 

Additionally, though the moon is full, with an 8 inch (20.3 centimeter) diameter, its light seems subdued in power when compared with the entire quilt. The moon’s overwhelmingly silver color contributes to its quiet brightness.

A section of black felt contains the upper glitter essence surrounding the moon, which, due to its differing background color, may alter one’s visual perception of the glitter’s color. Given the background color change, the previously electric blue color appears to me as more turquoise on the black felt section. However, to my vision, the green color remained relatively the same. Other altered states of the colors may be observed through another person’s eyes.

Starshine

a close-up of the quilt’s section of stars

Once one expands one’s focus from the moon, the stars on the quilt become apparent. Acting as a spotlight in the quilt panel’s sky, the moon rests at the apex of a triangular section of stars, which does not form a shape nearly as geometric as the moon. Altogether, the starry section of the quilt looks like a skinny stingray, or thick boomerang. If the moon is the kneecap of a slightly bent human leg, then the stars fall like a curtain beneath it. 

As David W. Dunlap notes, these stars represent an actual feature of the subject of this quilt’s dedication, The Saint Dance Club. “The Saint” contained a “a sweeping planetarium dome,” with stars that flashed across its surface and illuminated the dancers below (Dunlap). 

On the quilt, most of the stars are evenly spaced. Like party confetti, these stars are golden, with five points that could prick one’s finger. Their surface is flat and slightly cool to the touch though their points are sharp.

A burgundy wine color splashes in the space between the stars, complimenting the deep black fabric found above the stars on the block.

Between all of the stars are brush strokes of the same kind of glitter essence found around the moon, though it is featured in both electric blue and bright silver coloring. These strokes could be shooting stars.

Candy Lights

light structure representation found on the quilt

Beneath the stars, a stitched-on representation of a tall structure juts from the bottom of the panel. The structure is a kind of weathered gray, like one might see on a beach dock. Similarly, the material that the structure is comprised of feels sturdy and thick.  Its composition demonstrates its purpose: strength and support.

The structure’s 3 foot (91 centimeter) long center column upholds a 2.3 foot (71 centimeter) wide horizontal frame. Providing additional support to the rendered horizontal platform are two similarly-colored pieces sticking out from the center column like short, thick arms. These pieces form two right triangles underneath the structure’s horizontal platform; however, these triangles are not identical, and are different sizes. Both of the triangles’ hypotenuses face the open wine-colored felt material surrounding it, whereas their shortest sides are contained within the horizontal bar above them.

An orderly row of colorful spheres sit atop the thundercloud-colored horizontal frame. These spheres resemble a row of Smarties or even a candy bracelet, exuding colors of red, green, orange, purple, turquoise, yellow, and pink. There are sixteen of these 1 and 7/8 inch (4.8 centimeter) circles, and all of them contain a white line of stitching that connects them to the quilt. These sixteen spheres are some of the smallest circular shapes on the quilt panel, with cloth hairs that tickle one’s fingers upon contact. These circular shapes are likely club lights, given that The Saint also contained a “lighting tower with about 1,500 fixtures, topped by a planetarium-style star projector” in the center of its dance floor (Dunlap).    

Two cloth sticks upholding two bagel-sized circles jut from within the row of round candies. Similar to the moon’s size and coloring, these two circles are slightly smaller, like baby moons. They have a diameter of 5.5 inches (14 centimeters), and their cloth material raises them from the quilt. In fact, the entire structure in this part of the quilt possesses depth, puffing its chest from the flat quilt square. The baby moons jutting from the row of candies lean inwards towards each other and touch at several points along their surface.

Their heads protrude into the quilt’s star-filled sky.     

Silver Shrine

a close-up of the silver material and the text of John Reed’s name

There are three sections on the quilt panel; these sections are differentiated both by the color of the section’s felt background and the images and content that section contains. Felt is a thick fabric with short fibers that are both soft and dense. The smoothness of felt is distinct, though it also feels almost impenetrably thick. When one traces one’s fingers down the material of this quilt, a sound somewhat like the falling water of a distant waterfall emits from the quilt. 

At the top section of the quilt, reflective silvery material similar to the color of tinsel has been cut into triangular shapes and sewed onto a large expanse of black felt. These smooth, reflective triangles are dissimilar in shape and size. Some of the triangles are flexible or slightly warped. Other triangles appear like rigid sword sheaths. Still, others are fat, isosceles pizza slices. However, these triangles do share a significant characteristic: all of the triangles point towards the moon. Like a halo of shards of glass, or fragments of light, these triangles come from many directions. They occupy the block panel from 8:00 to noon on the left side of an analog clock and from 4:00 to noon on the right side of an analog clock.

Thirty three of the triangles have the following names stitched or ironed onto them: Shawn Buchanan, Mario Z, Alan Noseworthy, Alan Kanghi, Alan Magioncalda, Tony Devizia, Greg Koulis, Bob Updegrove, John Mensior, Tommy Ayala, “Michael Beck, M.D.,” Hector Garcia, Bill Bruno, Jim Hicks, Elliot Siegel, Mel Albaum, Robert DeVito, Jim Leys, Joe Palmeri, Julio Morales, Jorge Villardel, Jürgen Honeyball, Victor Zaragoza, Peter Spar, Mark Ackerman, Mel Fante, Peter Vogel, Frank Olivia, John Reed, Bruce Crave, Tom Clancy, Eddie Lopez, and Joe Semiday.

Where Memories Lie

a close-up of one of the letters used in HOLD ON TO MY LOVE

In the bottom left corner of the panel, the words IN MEMORY OF THE MEMBERS AND STAFF OF: are completed by the ones followed in the bottom right corner of the panel: ‘THE SAINT’ DANCE CLUB OF NEW YORK CITY. The text of this memorial note is smaller than that found at the very bottom of the quilt panel; in white, thin lettering, these words stand out against their burgundy background.

There are no stars or glitter in this section of burgundy felt. The material is solid burgundy, whereas the starry section provides decoration to the burgundy.

With the use of a running stitch, the words HOLD ON TO MY LOVE have been attached to the bottom of the quilt. The words’ soot or ash-colored lettering overlay a thick strip of the same shiny, silver material found in the top section of the panel. This silver strip is 8 and 2/3 inches (22 centimeters) wide.

“Hold On To My Love” is a song by musical artist Jimmy Ruffin. According to David W. Dunlap, Ruffin’s song was one of those played on April 30, 1988, as The Saint Dance Club prepared to close after eight years of business. Though this closure turned out to be temporary, in 1989, The Saint closed permanently

The letters in HOLD ON TO MY LOVE are four inches (10 centimeters) tall, and have been stitched on with dark gray thread. A cream colored border two inches wide surrounds the entire quilt, like the color of slightly aged vanilla icing. 

See photos of The Saint below:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/timothyhartleysmith/sets/72157603013834938/with/3346237383/