The Decay Dance of Dr Mudd’s Club
First of all I wanna make clear that the title isn’t about the decay of the people frequenting the Mudd Club but rather about the decaying of a society that was in full expansion, artists and musicians of all sorts and parts of them ended ”cleaned up”, being mistaken for drunks and drug addicts. It’s sad that the party life is perceived as decadence when it’s in fact a very healthy way of meeting people and kindred spirits. Why is there always problems with the city about bars? Is it some kind of reminiscence of the prohibition’s years that makes the police look good each time they close up a bar in New York City??? There was some sort of urgency that was in the air but no one knew why… Boch describes it as ‘‘the days of struggling without a struggle”. It’s as if you get so used to the violence and crime that when people start to be kind, someone has to fuck it up so that no one gets any happiness for free; I mean artists are the ones who gave a second breath to New York and the whole world in a period where nothing good was happening, the fifties. But yes the 60’s got their roots in the 50’s and in the end something always got to give. I think in the end, of the 60’s, a lot of things gave way. People got to listen and see and hear various pioneers and some clubs like the Mudd were to art what foreplay is to sex. People came to see the show and went home with it, subconsciously creating with it or, if they weren’t musicians, more open-minded to anything out of the ordinary because that’s what New York was about! Anyways my point is Mudd Club or Heaven…It’s pretty much the same.. Some people called the author St-Peter and its not all that exagerated. Some Talking Head named David Byrne said in a song called Life During Wartime:
(…)High on a hillside, the trucks are loading,
Everything’s ready to roll
I sleep in the daytime, I work in the nighttime,
I might not ever get homeThis ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco,
This ain’t no fooling around
This ain’t no Mudd Club, or C. B. G. B.,
I ain’t got time for that nowHeard about Houston? Heard about Detroit?
Heard about Pittsburgh, P. A.?
You oughta know not to stand by the window
Somebody see you up thereI got some groceries, some peanut butter,
To last a couple of days
But I ain’t got no speakers, ain’t got no headphones,
Ain’t got no records to play (…)
The ”Game” seems easy from an onlooker point of view; You start from this place, the Mudd Club and an event, a phone call from the owner Steve Mass of the Mudd Club to the author, Richard Boch, hiring him (almost) right then and there as one of the main doorman, a title that implies a lot more than it seems to the naked eye. Simply put, the doorman is largely responsable for the general atmosphere, the overall mood of the crowd, the type of evening and in the end, the reputation of the club. Also picking who pays, who doesn’t (but not always) can make you look like a traitor by those you like the most. One could even say that it’s like being a sculptor who creates a virtual mood using people as the foundation to a party. Not letting someone who is hot at the moment because you don’t know him could be a massive mood killer and reflect very badly on the club. Being let in the Mudd Club is like exactly the contrary of the 27 Club but at the same time. It’s mainly because no one dies, nor is required, nor expected to. Fantastic!
By the way, The Mudd Club was named after Samuel Alexander Mudd, a doctor who treated John Wilkes Booth in the aftermath of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.The Mudd Club was mainly a venue for underground music and counterculture events. Located at 77 White Street in downtown Manhattan and opened by Steve Mass, art curator Diego Cortez and downtown punk scene figure Anya Phillips. The club featured a bar, gender-neutral bathrooms, not unlike the rave culture of the late ‘1990’s-early 2000’s and a rotating gallery curated by Keith Haring on the fourth floor. Live performances included new wave, experimental music, literary icons Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, and catwalk exhibitions for emerging fashion designers Anna Sui and Jasper Conran, crazy theme nights and as you read the book you feel that the club was its own entity and had a life of its own and it was vibrant.
It’s moment frozen in time, half a decade of half-decadence and it’s as if someone had said StOp! No one decays anymore. You can go crazy and look pretty fucked up but you still have the possibility to go back and start a new, a fresh start. And them there are al the others who were in their prime too, doing their thing. Now these were wonderful times..Sounds like paradise right? But it’s not all that there is to it. You also get friends, almost a family, a sex partner for well, depends, AIDS wasn’t such threat back then until we lost Klaus Nomi (God Bless him and may he rest in peace)
The Mudd Club was also playing a huge part in Glenn O’Brien’s TV-Party that was a cult punk public access cable show that ran from 1978 to 1982 in New York City and featured everyone from Debbie Harry to David Byrne to Iggy Pop to Samo a.k.a Jean-Michel Basquiat paving the way for the future that we are in now. Watch some episodes here thanks to VICE!
Even the name of the book publisher stands for something since the chief editor and founder, of Feral House, Adam Parfey him…He died. What an hecatombs of rock’n’rollers and other strange characters we’ve had this year. A little more and we’d be hearing conspiration theories just like those times when , Jones, Jimi, Janis and Jim died. All at 27, all with a ”J” in one of their name, all of overdose in strange circumstances. Anyways…As I was saying Adam Parfey was a strange character that could be classified along with some folks that are mentioned in the book who were known to have links with the Satanic Church; like Kenneth Anger who was certainly aware of the Babylonian state of NYC. I can see people from the Bible Belt already rising an eye but I’m mentioning those 2 just to show that it sometimes takes a little of everything to give a swift kick in the ass to the already established order and restore chaos back because from chaos comes creation and creativity and a RENAISSANCE which I think Warhol was the instigator in New York even if he had some (a lot) of work, done before him by Marcel Duchamp, Dada and the Surrealists, all wanting to give back art to the people. We sure do owe a lot to all of those people, whichever way they chose to stir things up just to make us see things form a different angle.
”The Anger Show fit right in with the Mudd Club’s wide-net/wide-vision range of enlightening entertainment. Smart stuff; Dirty and dangerous, funny and beautiful”– The Mudd Club, p.377
Some exceptional people were special enough and got to celebrate their birthday at the 3rd floor of the Mudd Club. In the book you can sense the admiration that Boch has for Gerard Malanga who was loved by everyone and was considered such a kind soul ( I can vouch for that!). I was wondering if Mr Malanga remembered these parties. He was very enthusiastic about it and told me he would find a picture that he had. This was his reply:
Gerard Malanga:” I went immediately to a slipcase album of various fotos I haven’t looked at in years, thinking that’s the likely place for me to have placed it; and sure enough, my hunch was right. Found the foto and it was dated also: March 20th 1982. My 39th Birthday.
Steve Maas hosted the event in his 5th Floor flat above the Mudd. Some of those in attendance were Jim Rosenquist, my close friend Joe Coplan aka Hoe (r.i.p.) and Allan Gross, the fashion writer, though I may have his frist name wrong. Needless to say, a crowded event.”
An excerpt from a 1979 People article about The Mudd Club:
“Ever on the prowl for outrageous novelty, New York’s fly-by-night crowd of punks, posers and the ultra hip has discovered new turf on which to flaunt its manic chic. It is the Mudd Club, a dingy disco lost among the warehouses of lower Manhattan. By day the winos skid by without a second glance. But come midnight (the opening time), the decked-out decadents amass 13 deep. For sheer kinkiness, there has been nothing like it since the cabaret scene in 1920s Berlin.
In just six months the Mudd has made its uptown precursor, Studio 54, seem almost passé and has had to post a sentry on the sidewalk. The difference is that the Mudd doesn’t have a velvet rope but a steel chain. Such recognizable fun-lovers as David Bowie, Mariel Hemingway, Diane von Furstenburg and Dan Aykroyd are automatically waved inside. For the rest, the club picks its own like some sort of perverse trash compactor. The kind of simple solution employed by U.S. gas stations is out of the question: At the Mudd, every night is odd. Proprietor Steve Mass, 35, admits that ‘making a fashion statement’ is the criterion. That means a depraved version of the audience of Let’s Make a Deal. One man gained entrance simply by flashing the stump of his amputated arm.
The action inside varies from irreverent to raunch. Andy Warhol is happy to have found a place, he says, ‘where people will go to bed with anyone—man, woman or child.’ Some patrons couldn’t wait for bedtime, and the management has tried to curtail sex in the bathrooms.”
It was an immense priviledge reading this book and thanks to Richard Boch I can now say that there is a very detailed document about this legendary club which I had heard so much about. Thanks for sharing those memories both for those who were there so they can remember and for those who weren’t they can now have more detailed dreams about how it would have been with them in the story!!! Buy the book you will NOT REGRET BUYING this piece of NYC history!
5 thoughts on “The Mudd Club”
‘‘the days of struggling without a struggle”.
I think this characterizes many of the protesters out there these days. Seems they just have to hate something or be perpetually angry. In 1968 we had real reasons.
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This is my last post but there,s a q and a witht he author coming up retty fast. PLUS if you click on menu on the top right and side, you can search amongst the 263 post I made by subject. (!) Thanks fo rtaking the time to read all my articles. I hope it was of any interest for you!!!
Yes…..The end of 60’s beginning of 70.s wwere pivotal years i think..