Sunday, July 19, 2009

Notorious Limelight Nightclub Becomes A Mall


This story makes me so incredibly sad and makes me feel so incredibly old. One of the reasons I moved to NYC in the early 90's was because there were places like the notorious Limelight night club. Or, as we affectionately called it back in the day, "The Slimelight".

Waiting to get in


The Limelight was opened in a deconsecrated Episcopal church in 1983 by nightclub impresario Peter Gatien. My fascination with the club began in college, when I would read Michael Musto's column in the Village Voice to find about the infamous "Club Kids", who ran amok in NYC clubland at the time. The Club Kids fascinated me, and although I didn't fancy wearing eye makeup and outrageous costumes myself, I loved how they were able to manufacture a certain level of celebrity out of nothing. Basically they got dressed up, went out to clubs, got drunk and high, and acted nuts - and for this, some of them were quite well-known.

Club Kids at the Limelight


So, on my many visits to NYC before I moved here, I always went to the Limelight. Wednesdays ("Lick It") and Fridays ("Heaven") were the best nights to go, because half the club was strictly gay, and the other half was mixed. The cool thing was that us gay boys could go anywhere in the club, but straight guys (and many girls) weren't allowed into the gay party. We even had our own entrance, and it felt very "VIP".

I moved to NYC in November of 1993, and I spent my very first Thanksgiving Eve (Lick It Wednesday) at the Limelight. I arrived at the club early (before the cover charge kicked in - I was broke) and I found myself in "The Chapel" (the gay dance floor) in the middle of a Thanksgiving feast - WITH THE CLUB KIDS! I don't know who threw the party, or quite how I managed to get in, but it was fantastic. They had put out a serious buffet - complete with Turkey, Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, and all the traditional trimmings - served on china (not paper plates). It was the only Thanksgiving turkey I had that year.

The meal was most likely provided by Peter Gatien to show his love for the Club Kids by giving them a decent holiday meal. After all, most of these kids didn't have much money - like me they were fabulous but poor. And it would make sense for Gatien to thank them, because many of us came to Limelight just to be near these outrageous characters.

On the dance floor of the Limelight


After a while, many of the Club Kids got out of control with drugs - and The Slimelight became well-known as a place where you could buy Ecstasy, Cocaine, Special K, and pretty much any other drug you wanted. And drug use was quite out in the open - most people didn't even bother to take it to a bathroom stall. This drug-fueled madness culminated in the killing of drug dealer Angel Melendez (who I remember from Limelight - he really did wear wings) by Club Kid King Michael Alig back at Alig's apartment. This was the story portrayed in that horrible movie, Party Monster.


Sex was pretty much out in the open also. I saw guys having sex on couches beside the dance floor, I saw a sex show performed in a small room on a single bed, and at one point there was a room full of bunk beds for anyone to use. But, most famously, there was "The Lick-It Lounge" - the dark room down a long ominous hallway where boys "got to know each other". Or so I've been told...

For a blond party-boy from Pennsylvania in his mid-twenties, the Limelight was pretty much the absolute greatest thing ever invented. However, open drug use and rampant sex don't get overlooked forever - especially when Rudy Giuliani runs your city. So NYC finally shut the Limelight down, and the Feds deported Peter Gatien back to his native Canada for tax evasion. The party was over.

After a unsuccessful stint as a club called "Avalon", the Limelight stood vacant for years. However, they have recently opened the main dance floor for use as a space for Sample Sales...


And now, according to recent media reports, the Limelight will be turned into a mall. And even though clubbing isn't my thing anymore, the idea of that fabulous space featuring racks of "Juicy Couture" makes me incredibly sad.

10 comments:

H2B said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

As we get older, it is hard to watch the things we loved and grew up with change. Thanks for sharing your moving to NYC history :o)

Eggsontoast said...

I was never a limelight fella. I tended to lean toward Splash then wander on down to the Spike and Eagle area.

frogponder said...

I saw a smidgen of Party Monster once. After reading your entry today I went off and researched the Limelight and the people and events surrounding it. Really interesting and tragic all at the same time. You never disappoint! xo

Deep Dish said...

Thanks for sharing your fabulous Limelight experiences, Mr. Dust! It is difficult to see things you loved growing up come to an end or change.

Kailyn said...

Back in the late 80s, I had a subscription to the Village Voice. I'd read about places like the Limelight and would dream of going to NYC. Glad one of us made it.

Howard said...

When I go back to NYC, it is strange for me. I recognize some things, but much has changed. Hell, every company I worked for is no longer around. Time and gravity really suck - both are dragging my ass down. LOL

Zombie Mom said...

Wow - what a shocker.... I remember being sooooooo insanely happy to go the limelight back around 85.... yes, dear god, I am really that old... its hard to believe it is going to be retail... and of course, I loved Party Monster...

Those days are so gone- staying in alphabetland with people shooting porn in flats that had the little tub/sink in the kitchen....

great post- made me nostalgic.'

mistress maddie said...

Alas,tear,tear, another great place gone. You know girl I was in black for weekes after the Palludium wnt down! And Avalon was a complete joke!

Mark in DE said...

Thanks for sharing your great story about the Limelight. It must have been exciting for you!

Spouse & I walked by the Limelight and saw the sample sales. Its kind of sad when an era ends.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...