club 82

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‘We’d Found This Cave Out of Time’: A Look Back at Glam Rock’s Club 82

(Photos: Aileen Polk)

(Photos: Eileen Polk)

When Judy Garland, Kirk Douglas, Liz Taylor and the glitterati of the ‘50s wanted to walk on the wild side, they headed to the East Village’s Club 82, “New York’s After-Dark Rendezvous.” The notoriety of the basement club, at 82 East Fourth Street, came from its elaborate stage shows performed by 35 female impersonators. Strippers, dancers, comedians and singers, all men in drag, staged three shows nightly, seven days a week well into the ‘60s, when the novelty wore off and the club’s popularity faded.
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Nightclubbing | After-Hours, 1980

Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong continue sorting through their archives of punk-era concert footage as it’s digitized for the Downtown Collection at N.Y.U.’s Fales Library.

Danceteria video lounge (Photo: Emily Armstrong)

When BAD Burger announced last month that it was ditching its plan to stay open 24/7, it seemed like one more market indicator of the neighborhood’s shifting demographic from boho stronghold to, well, we’re not sure what it is anymore, other than upscale. It got us thinking about how much things have changed from those wild years in the late ’70s and early ’80s when rents were low, charm was currency and after hours clubs were everywhere. The fact that these establishments were blatantly illegal barely furrowed a brow back then. They were just part of the city’s recession economy.

For a lot of people, those early Reagan Years were also the Up All Night Years. Typically, an after-hours spot opened around 3 a.m. and gave up the ghost around noon. Somehow, they were always packed and never too hard to find. Given the variety and sheer number of options available, folks tended to flit from place to place, but clubs did have individual identities. AM/PM in Tribeca attracted a mix of Wall Street types, downtown rockers and artists, while Crisco Disco and the Anvil were for the gay boys on the West Side. The Jefferson was shabby chic, a derelict vaudeville theater and a bit of a death trap; there was only a narrow staircase to the second floor where the festivities sometimes spilled out onto a rickety marquee overlooking East 14th Street. It did have romance: a friend of ours met his first wife there. More →