Personally speaking, I was always more of a live music venue guy than strictly a club guy, but as fate had it, a lot of New York City’s most storied establishments in those respective capacities doubled as both. While I was never what one could ever credibly describe as a “Club Kid” (nor would I have ever have wanted to be), I did manage to get inside a few of them.
My early pseudo-employment with a couple of music publications got me out and about within Manhattan’s nightlife realm quite a bit, but I think the biggest conduit towards infiltrating many of New York’s hot spots — in the very early `90s, at least — was my friend Christine. Initially an intern at the New York Review of Records (most recently discussed on this post), Chris was a tireless young Columbia student who also pursued a sideline in club promotion. As such, several nights a week she’d frequent five or six clubs a night, doling out invites to the likely inclined. Given her outgoing nature and the fact that she was a strikingly fit, attractive blonde, she was remarkably adept at this task. Oh, her supervisor in this role — for serious want of a better term — was none other than the notorious Michael Alig. On one of the evening I tagged along on her on her missions, I got to actually meet the guy. He was wearing ass-less pants with teardrops painted on his buttocks. Oh, the `90s!
Again, my main attraction to clubs was when there was a band playing. As such, my particular favorites were the Ritz (both incarnations, 1tth Street and 54th), Danceteria (above during a Sisters of Mercy gig in `85), CBGB, the Marquee (the one on the western end of 21st Street, not the later incarnation), Tramp’s, Wetlands Preserve, the Cat Club (later re-imagined as The Grand), the Palladium and, of course, the Limelight. But through Christine and my editor at the New York Review of Records (who moonlit as a club D.J.), I managed to also patronize places like MK’s, The China Club, The Tunnel, Building and some seemingly forgotten ventures like Big City Diner, the Lovesexxy Lounge and about a dozen other places I’ll never remember the names of.
These days, most of the places cited above are all gone. Not only is the fabled era of the “big club” long over, but the city itself doesn’t seem conducive to such ventures anymore. Sure, Webster Hall (what had been the original Ritz before it moved into Studio 54’s old spot) is still there, but that’s about it.
The only reason I’m bringing any of this up is because of a listicle I spied on Blackbook dubbed “The 101 Greatest Clubs of All Time.” The piece is a first-person rumination by a gent named Steve Lewis. Out of curiosity, I flew the list by my old club-savvy comrade from high school Willie (not his real name, but initially invoked here). He dismissed large swathes of it, but he knows the author. It’s also all relative. What may have seemed like an iconic place to one denizen might have seemed like a hive of lame to another. To each their own.
In any case, I did a bit of tallying and I at least managed to get to 24 out of Steve’s 101 favorites. How about you? (It’s not a competition, mind you).
For a less exclusive take, there’s also this list from AMNY.