CLUB 57 WHERE ARE YOU?
Harvey Wang's Photographs of the Legendary East Village Club 1979-1983
1. Do you remember when Club 57 started, and how long it remained open?
It opened in 1978 shortly after the New Wave Vaudeville show at Irving Plaza. It started off with a few sporadic events, but by 1979, there was a full-fledged calendar of events. The place closed around 1983.
2. How was a typical month programmed (what was the mix of movies, live music, performance, parody events, etc)?
The Monster Movie Club night was a weekly event. It occurred every Tuesday night. Members and interested parties would call Ann, Tom or Susan and submit an idea for an event and generally the Club would be very accommodating. Film, Musical, Fashion and Art events would start to populate the calendar. Ann was very responsible and good at coordinating the calendar. At some point when there would inevitably be blank dates to fill and so Ann and her cohorts would basically make up an event from out of the blue. The more absurd it sounded the better. Events like "Putt Putt Reggae Night" and "Model World of Glue Night" developed from such inspired moments and then took on a life of their own.
3. Who were the regulars and "where are they now?"
This is a short list of people who immediately come to mind but I am sure that I am missing a few principal people.
Kenny Scharf - Painter now living in California
John Sex - Died of AIDS
Wendy Wild - Died of complications from breast cancer
Klaus Nomi - Died of AIDS
Joey Arias - Still performing - star of the Cirque du Soleil show "Zumanity"
Tseng Kwong Chi - Died of AIDS
Tom Rubnitz - Died of AIDS
David McDermott and Peter McGough - Became noted artists of canvas and performance and are now living in Ireland.
Fab Five Freddy - Fred went on to host YO MTV Raps, is a producer now living in Sugar Hill. He is featured in the films "Downtown 81" as well the new Brink documentary "TV Party."
Dany Johnson and Andy - Dany is a well known DJ and photographer whose images of Club 57, the Pyramid, and other downtown activity have been in several exhibitions. Dany and Andy were married recently in one of the first sanctioned lesbian marriages in Massachusetts.
William Lively and Tommy Hawk - Died of AIDS
Steve Brown - Filmmaker, died of AIDS
Barry Shils - Filmmaker living in Los Angeles
Alexa Hunter - Writer and mother living in Los Angeles
Scott Whitman and Marc Shaiman - Conceived and created the hit Broadway show "Hairspray"
Lisa Baumagartner - The creator of "Bikini Girl" magazine; has moved to France and has written a book about her life entitled " I Was For Sale"
Keith Haring - Died of AIDS
Kitty Brophy - Lives on an avocado farm on Hawaii and continues to paint and write.
Tom Scully - Lived for the past 18 years in the south of France attempting to get in touch with his inner Henry Miller.
Susan Hannaford - Now lives in Berlin where she is about to open another club and tea lounge. She also is a foreign correspondent for "People" magazine.
Jimmy Uliana - Brilliant house band guitarist and unsung hero died of HIV complications.
Kristofer Haines - Works at Paula Cooper Gallery in NYC
4. What were the influences that created Club 57? What did Club 57 spawn?
Actually I was not around for the inception of 57. I know that Ann met Tom Scully and Susan Hannaford and they developed the "New Wave Vaudeville Show" which featured the creme de le crumbs of the downtown "entertainment" scene. Ann described it as "a like-minded menagerie of punk rockers, wayward art students, and assorted local eccentrics at Irving Plaza, singing and dancing between the strip acts and Planet of the Apes movie trailers." Ann, Tom and Susan shared an appreciation for Dadaism, B-films, Russ Meyer, Conceptual art and Pere Ubu. Not to mention Bowie, the New York Dolls, and Fellini films.
Soon after Stanley offered up the smaller club space he had in the basement of the Holy Cross Polish National Church on St. Mark's Place. This was where much of the history was made. It was the alternate living room for the lost creative and poetic society. It was a psychedelic think tank and showcase and it became venue for the more experimental ideas.
Personally, I always thought of it as a low rent answer to Andy Warhol's Factory. What the Factory was to the sixties 57 was to the eighties. Many events directly tipped their hat to Warhol. For example, "Velvet Mania" was a tribute to the Velvet Underground where Ann brought the house down when she performed as Nico. (Velvet Mania was an answer to the Broadway show Beatle Mania. The poster designed by John Sex contained their modified slogan. 'Not the Velvets but an incredible simulation') Warhol "superstar" Holly Woodlawn starred as Maria in a satirical version of the Sound of Music, re-titled the Sound of Muzak (created by Scott Whitman and Marc Shaiman of "Hairspray") as well as making a cameo in Trojan Women. Other cast members included Michael Musto, Lenny Dean, John Sex, and Wendy Wild. Shortly afterwards, Holly Woodlawn appeared in "Tinseltown Tirade" on Off-Broadway. Another Warhol "superstar," Ondine starred as Raymond Burr in Bill Landis's play "Burr".
Club 57 influenced every single Club and Lounge that came in its wake. The very idea of it continues to influence fashion, music, art and literature. In the middle years we started to notice photographers and trend spotters from Japan and Europe making regular visits. There continues to be a fascination with the high creative output of the East Village in the eighties and Club 57 stood at its core.
5. When did its heyday begin to wane, and why?
Here I quote Ann Magnuson, "Ironically, about the same time money and fame entered the picture, so did AIDS. By that time, Club 57 was winding down. After that, a good third of our surrogate family died from the Plague and we were forced--reluctantly, and painfully--to grow up."
6. What was unique about the time and place that made Club 57 possible?
New York in the late 70's and early eighties was economically depressed and crime ridden. Times Square was full of Junkies, Prostitutes and sex shops. However rents were very affordable. Although the east side was littered with abandoned buildings and ruins, one could take over a storefront and overnight it would become a gallery or a rehearsal space. It seems in retrospect that people had more free time and could survive working just one or two days a week. Perhaps because the city had served as a backdrop for so many poignant films (i.e. "Midnight Cowboy" and "Taxi Driver"), there existed a romantic allure and dark poetic notion of NYC at the time. In the same way that certain artists are curious about heroin and drag queens are attracted to tinsel, the city became a magnet for art students, runaways and lost personalities. The circumstances all came together in a rare mix where the creative and their inspirations could live side by side in dark dramatic splendor.