Decadence, fame & excess at Les Bains Douches, the Parisian answer to Studio 54
09:57 am

Pop Culture

Les Bain Douches

From the late 1970s through the 1990s, Les Bains Douches was a nightclub in Paris located at 7 rue du Bourg l’Abbé in the 3rd arrondissement. What made it distinctive from most other nightclubs were the availability—as the club’s very name promised—of large baths for its patrons to cool off or generally frolic in. It was originally built in 1885 by the Guerbois family and soon became one of the most famous thermal baths in Paris. Originally it was used by workers in the area who would come there after an arduous night shift for a shower and a coffee. At the same time Les Bains Douches also a more affluent clientele massage as well as sulphur and steam baths.

In 1978 it was re-conceived by famed designer Philippe Starck as a nightclub. Starck cannily chose to retain the baths and the original tiles. Fans of postpunk music may recognize the name from the title of an excellent Joy Division live album that saw an official release in 2001; the album is simply called Les Bains Douches 18 December 1979. For the next couple of decades Les Bains Douches would become a magnet for the rich and famous to rival only Studio 54 and the Chateau Marmont. Of course, its location in Paris guaranteed that its selection of celebrities would have a more European cast, but that did not prevent many of the ultra famous from dropping in, including Jack Nicholson, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, alongside such European figures as Roman Polanski, Brigitte Nielsen, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Julie Delpy, and so on.

By the 2000s, the heady era of fame and excess was rapidly becoming a memory. French DJ David Guetta and his wife bought the club but soon encountered management problems. In 2010 the club finally shut its doors for good. In 2013 it was the site of a street art exhibition, and it is expected to reopen later this year.

These pictures were taken by the nightclub’s resident photographer, Foc Kan. They are true unadorned documents of the moment in all their smeary splendor. You can practically smell the cocaine, can’t you, and there’s plenty of libido to go around too (a good many of Kan’s pictures were taken before AIDS had exerted its check on promiscuity). It’s worth clicking through to see many more vintage pics of the goings on at Les Bains Douches.


Iman and David Bowie


Mick Jagger


Iggy Pop

Emmanuelle Seigner and Roman Polanski

Robert De Niro


Nicolas Cage and Grace Jones

Keith Haring
More pics after the jump….

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
1980s nightclub invitations from ‘Downtown’ New York

Keith Haring, invitation for “Larry Levan’s Birthday Bash,” 1986

It’s… interesting—and a reminder of how fucking old I’m getting—that I’m starting to see promotional ephemera from nightclub events I attended (or worked at) in my… younger days turning up in museums and art galleries. Good thing for me that I have boxes of these types of invitations that I’ve kept sitting out in the garage. Twenty years from now, I’ll spend my dotage as an eBay seller specializing in… shit I’ve kept.

What’s slightly worrisome, though, is how little of some of these events I call recall in any detail. I’ve heard older friends of mine say things like “Well, it was the sixties!” (or the seventies) but even so, the 80s were a seriously decadent (and dangerous) time to be young and living in New York City. I have always lucked out and been at the right place at the right time, I like to think.

Without putting too fine a point on it, drugs were better then—especially cocaine, which, sorry is just a joke now, kids—and super easy to get your hands on. People were more extreme then. As someone who (luckily) lived through it all, it’s very easy for me to see why so many of today’s young people romanticize the East Village or “Downtown” scene—which will never, ever, happen again (at least not there)—It’s because it was better then. It just was. All the elements, including cheap rent, came together then. A perfect storm, culturally speaking.

It didn’t last that long—Manhattan nightlife is all rich kids and bankers these days—but if you were there you know what I mean. And if you were there, perhaps like me, you’re starting to find that a lot of it’s pretty damned foggy by now, so it’s good to have exhibits like this one, online at Marc Miller’s Gallery 98, which specializes in this sort of artifact, to jar our memories.

This mix of ambitious high art with popular entertainment and performance emerged first when two clubs, CBGB and Max’s Kansas City, helped launch Punk in all its many and varied creative directions in the late 1970s. By the 1980s dozens of new nightclubs and bars including Area, Club 57, Danceteria, Limelight, Mudd Club, Palladium, Paradise Garage, Pyramid and the Tunnel consciously strove to be part of the art world by presenting new music, art, film, video, fashion, and performance.  It was a period in art not unlike that of Paris in the 1890s when the cafés of Montmartre helped mold the fin-de-siècle aesthetic. Gallery 98 presents here a selection of nightclub invitations and posters from this exhilarating moment in the 1970s and 80s. For artists and performers it was a golden age with clubs needing to book events seven-days-a-week.  To attract the trendy crowd, artists were recruited to paint murals and design publicity; curators were hired to organize exhibitions; photographers were booked to present slide shows and document events; filmmakers and video artists were paid for screenings; and performers were engaged to make music, stage cabaret shows and host interactive events involving audience participation.  Out of this milieu, stars were born: performers Ann Magnuson, John Sex, Joey Arias, Phoebe Legere; artists Colette, Nan Goldin, Keith Haring, Mark Kostabi; curators Baird Jones, Neke Carson, Carlo McCormick, Michael Alig.  And in the wake of all this activity came the thousands of cheaply produced but creatively designed cards and posters that the artists and clubs created to publicize events in this pre-Internet era. Presented here is a small sampling of nightclub ephemera available through Gallery 98.  All items are for sale.


Take for instance this invitation for a 1989 party for British filmmaker Derek Jarman at Mars, a four story club on 12th Ave. I worked as the doorman at the fourth floor VIP room (Vin Diesel worked the front door) and I recall working at this party, and indeed still have the invite below in my possession. The thing is, I have no memory whatsoever of seeing or meeting Derek Jarman there, which is weird, because you’d think I would. Perhaps it was because I was outside of the party and not in it, but I don’t know because the invite aside, I’m drawing a complete blank! [I should probably take this opportunity to mention that I was perhaps the very worst—or best, depending on how you look at it—VIP room doorman in all of NYC nightlife history. How do I know this? Because I let every single person who walked up to the rope inside. Every one of them. The sole exception was when some idiot timidly asked me “You don’t want me in there, do you?” and I just silently shook my head “no” and he turned around and fucked off. Had he just kept his mouth shut, the rope would have parted for him.]

“Family! The New Tribal Love Rock Musical” with Joey Arias and Ann Magnuson at Danceteria, 30 West 21st Street, New York

A Seconds magazine party for the NY Debut of “Serial Killers” by Richard Kern at Madam Rosa’s, 24 John’s Lane, New York, 1987

Kembra Pfahler at Pompeii, 104 East 10th St., NYC, 1985

Joey Arias and Ann Magnuson “Request the Pleasure of Your Company at a Mad Tea Party,” which they hosted in character as Dali and Gala, Danceteria, 1985

The opening night invite for AREA’s “American Highway” theme, 157 Hudson Street, New York, 1986. The club changed its highly elaborate decor every six weeks or so, so scoring these opening night invites was a matter of some importance. Plus, if you were on their mailing list, you tended to “mysteriously” get onto the mailing lists for other clubs.

Girl Bar, a popular lesbian night out, one of very few at the time, happened at Boy Bar on St. Mark’s Place once a week.

There’s a picture of me, age 23 perhaps, with really long hair in one of the issues of Project X

James White’s Sardonic Sincopators, at Save the Robots, 1986. Save the Robots was a super sleazy afterhours club. If you were there, chances are you were fucked up, not likely to be sleeping anytime soon and probably up to no damned good.

Finally, both sides of a business card for former Yippie leader Jerry Rubin’s afterwork networking parties. He threw these parties at different clubs, including the Limelight, where I was working in 1985, and they were the fucking worst parties ever, with the worst crowd and the worst tippers and these parties simply sucked. Rubin’s networking parties, I do have vivid memories of, none of them good.

Via Stupefaction

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
New York’s a go go and everything tastes nice: Freakout at the Cheetah Club, 1966
10:42 am

Pop Culture


Opening its doors in April 1966, The Cheetah Club was New York City's first massive multimedia mega club. With its roots in many earlier dance ballrooms dating back to the 1920's, dancing was the only thing the walls and floors of this building had ever known. According to Steven Watson's book Factory Made: Warhol and the Sixties, it “was the granddaddy of the big commercial disco”:

The most elaborate discotheque was Cheetah, on Broadway and 53rd Street, where everybody, according to LIFE, looked like “a kook in a Kubla Khanteen.” The three thousand colored lightbulbs dimmed and flicked and popped into an infinity of light patterns, reflecting off shiny aluminum sheets. Cheetah held two thousand people and offered not only dancing but a library, a movie room, and color television. “The Cheetah provides the most curious use of the intermedia,” wrote Jonas Mekas. “Whereas the Dom shows are restricted (or became restricted) to the In-circle, Cheetah was designed for the masses. An attempt was made to go over the persona, over the ego to reach the impersonal, abstract, universal.”


Brewster and Broughton’s Last Night A DJ Saved My Life describes the place as follows:

This had been opened by Le Club’s staid Frenchman, Oliver Coquelin. Situated on the site of the Arcadia Ballroom near Broadway’s theatre district, it threw its doors open on May 28, 1966. The cavernous space had a dancefloor with circular podiums scattered randomly like outsized polka dots. Each supported a girl frugging. Above, a cavalcade of 3,000 colored lights palpitated gently, while a boutique at the back sold the latest Carnaby Street fashions. And there was smooth and soft black velvet everywhere—except the bar, which was covered in fake fur. In the basement there was a TV room and on the upper floor a cinema showed the latest, strangest, underground movies. Variety got rather excited about this new boite: “GOTHAM’S NEW CHEETAH A KINGSIZED WATUSERY WITH A FORT KNOX POTENTIAL.” A striking Puerto Rican teenager, Yvon Leybold, clad in hot pants and fishnets, ventured down from Spanish Harlem. “Cheetah was the first real disco club I went to,” she recalls. “That was a lot of fun. It was a very mixed atmosphere. It was the first time I went into a place and you see lights and you see atmosphere, instead of the rinky-dink places I was used to.”

Joel Lobenthal’s Radical Rags: Fashions of the Sixties offered this description:

By the time Cheetah opened near Times Square in April 1966, the discotheque had become a self-contained Aladdin’s Cave, in which the visitor surrendered his or her everyday identity in search of Dionysian transport. Cheetah employed many conspiring elements to bedazzle its switched-on congregation. Banks of colored lights shone on its patrons. Suspended high above the writhing crowds, huge sheets of chrome—a giant mobile created by industrial designer Michael Lax—undulated rhythmically, while at the club’s opening night the customers echoed the mise en scene: “each girl was more electric than the next,” Eugenia Sheppard reported. “The swinging hair. The wild colors. The mini-mini-skirts.”...Cheetah initiated a trend by selling earmarked discotheque attire in a boutique included in a multi-level complex consisting of dance floor, underground-film screening room, and hot dog stand. The proprietor of Cheetah’s boutique noticed that many customers were purchasing clothes to exchange for those they had arrived in, so the checkrooms were specially expanded.

Even among the endless psychedelic distractions in the club (seperate bars, stores, library, TV room, etc), it was still all about dancing, to DJ’s and to live bands.
Apparently the club had its own dance, according to this guy named Larry who posted about his experiences: He had to pay for the dance classes, but he learned more about moving his feet from his job at the Cheetah - New York’s first discotheque. In between checking coats, Larry got his feet wet, so to speak, on the dance floor at the hottest of hot spots in the hottest of hot cities on the planet. “It’s time for ... the Cheetah Shuffle!” That was the rallying cry—an approximation of it, anyway. Gangs of dancers would hit the floor at the call and perform the line-dance like moves and grooves that constituted the Cheetah Shuffle. The regulars, such as they were, got so attuned to the fancy footwork that they actually gave their motions names and numbers. “Cheetah 1!” “Cheetah 2,3!” “Cheetah Cheetah!” With a word or two and a number or two or three—and don’t forget the exclamation point—the gangs would move in sequence. And Larry, because he was there every night, checking coats, was soon their leader.

At this time the small but prolific record label called Audio Fidelity released an LP with the Cheetah logo on front, featuring the house bands at the time The Esquires, Mike St. Shaw & The Prophets, and The The Thunder Frog Ensemble doing very hip (by today’s garage snob standards) hits of the day by the Rolling Stones, James Brown, etc. The LP cover is at the top of this article. Amazingly, I just noticed the LP is available on Amazon in MP3 form, click here for sound samples and to purchase Where It’s At - Live At The Cheetah.
The Squires played there in 1966, featuring Curtis Knight and pre-fame Jimi Hendrix (dig those site-specific cheetah-print shirts!). Richie Havens reminisces about young Jimi’s performance here.

The Velvet Underground and Tiny Tim played the Cheetah on April 11, 1967. This event, a benefit for WBAI, was billed as “An Imperial Happening” to mark “the coronation of his Serene Highness, Prince Robert, first American Emperor of the Eastern Byzantine Roman Empire.”

A Dark Shadows costume party was held there, possibly on a Halloween night, with cast members in attendance and between its Public Theater debut and its long Broadway run at the Biltmore Theater, HAIR had an engagement at the Cheetah from December 22, 1967 through January 28, 1968.

There were also Cheetah clubs in Los Angeles (in the former Aragon Ballroom on Lick Pier in Venice Beach), Chicago, and Toronto, all having incredible shows with the most legendary bands of the 60’s (especially the one in Los Angeles).

The Cheetah later enjoyed a very successful second life as the center of Boogaloo and Salsa music. “Salsa” is a term that was possibly first used—but definitely made popular—at the nightclub.

Suzanne de Passe was the Cheetah’s talent booker before embarking on careers as a Motown executive and later as head of her own television production company. WABC-TV filmed a documentary short called “Cheetah, The Mod Mecca,” unseen for decades, it has been found and uploaded to YouTube. It strikes me as quite odd that the lion’s share of this 23 minute documentary is straight up live footage of great frat/club bands The Esquires and The Jewels just doing their set while people dance. An amazing slice of pre-hippie, early LSD era life not usually seen outside of very short edited clips. The Cheetah Club was indeed “where it was at” for many thousands of people in the perfect pop culture year of 1966 and could only have really lasted a short time (a couple years) in its original form, as the world at that time was spinning too fast and moving faster than any wild cheetah could.

A tip of the hat to the It’s All The Streets You Crossed Not So Long Ago blog.

Posted by Howie Pyro | Leave a comment
The Art of Parties: New York’s legendary 80s nightclub, AREA
06:43 pm



There was, for slightly better than a decade, a “golden era” of insanely decadent, yet terribly smart and sophisticated New York City nightlife. For sake of argument, let’s say it began with Studio 54 opening in 1977 and ended in the late 80s due to several factors, including AIDS, the invasion of the “club kids” and the general financial difficulties of operating anything requiring significant amounts of space in such an expensive city. Some (arguably most) of it happened before my time, but I did get to personally experience a lot of it. When I was younger, I went out just about every single night. I felt like if I stayed in, I might miss something. At the time, this was most certainly true and I made it a point to try to cram in as many crazy experiences as I could. Quite successfully, I might add…

Although I can’t say that it was personally my favorite nightclub (the Danceteria was more what I was into, with hot girls my own age), I would have to say that AREA was probably the best or greatest New York club of the 80s, at least in my experience. Every six weeks, a team of about 30 artists and carpenters would work around the clock to ready the club for the opening of a new and quite elaborate artistic “theme” like “Red” or “Confinement” or “Suburbia.” To get across what a spectacularly mind-bending and magical place it was, here’s what I saw there, with my own eyes, coincidentally on my very, very first night as a “real” New Yorker:

I arrived in New York City in late November of 1984. After setting myself up in a (surprisingly decent) $50 a night hotel, I scanned the Village Voice for something fun to do, before deciding to go to the Danceteria. Not quite understanding what was the appropriate time to show up at a Manhattan hot spot at that age (I had just turned 19 and was in fact too young to even be there legally) I arrived too early, before practically anyone else had shown up. I sat on a couch and watched Soft Cell videos as the bar staff set up for the evening. Soon I was joined by a couple about my age—a sharp-dressed black guy and his blonde Swedish girlfriend. We struck up a friendly conversation and he revealed to me that he had cocaine—about a kilo’s worth—and did I want any? The answer to that was a resounding “Yes!” and he used a NyQuil cup to scoop out at least an eight-ball from a big ZipLoc bag and just handed it to me.

So this is New York, huh? I think I like it already!

Soon we were joined by another pair of early birds, future “club kid murderer” Michael Alig—then a first year student at Fordham University in the Bronx—and a female friend. They, too, were offered some a lot of coke, accepted gladly, and Michael (who was later played by Macaulay Culkin in Party Monster) asked if we were planning to attend the opening night of AREA‘s “Faith” theme later?

I’d just gotten to town and had never even heard of the place. He insisted that he had the pull to get us all in for free, and that it was going to be amazing, so around midnight, we hopped into a cab to 157 Hudson Street, just below Canal, and disembarked into a teeming throng of people waiting to get in, waving their arms at the doormen, Day of the Locust style. True to his word, the sea of people parted and Michael got us all in for free (we were dressed weird so that helped), but as I was between the taxi and the door, I could see that there was a procession coming down the street, carrying a man on a cross with arrows—in my mind they were flaming arrows—in his stomach, like St. Sebastian. It was attention grabbing, I can assure you.

As you entered AREA, there was an impressive castle-like stone hallway, with windows on the right-hand side like you might see in a department store, but with works of art, displays, people, animals, performance art and all manner of things going on inside them. Soon the crucified guy was being carried down the hallway before he was ultimately deposited upright into a shark pool in the lounge. AREA‘s “Faith” theme saw the entire nightclub transformed into a gigantic gallery of campy religious iconography and spiritual irreverence (The bathrooms, notoriously unisex, I recall having video monitors with the Pope, Jim Jones and Jerry Falwell over the urinals at eye-level).

Utterly astonishing to me, Andy Warhol was there. Michael asked “Oh, do you want to meet Andy?” I said “Sure!” and he promptly pushed me at the great artist, from behind, as HARD as he could, with both arms. So hard that I nearly knocked Andy Warhol on his ass. (Luckily for me, Warhol had seen what had happened and directed his annoyance at Michael and not at me, so I was able to slink away, mortified, and move to another part of the club.)

The crowd AREA attracted was eclectic, to say the least. You had the freaks, the beautiful people, the up-and-comers, the semi-famous, the very famous, the very wealthy, fashionistas, artists, gallerists, professional liggers and hanger-oners, art students, rich Europeans, frat boy Wall Street-types (the ones who actually paid to get in and for their drinks) and just about any type of human being you can imagine, really. It was the sort of place where you could look around the room and see Joan Rivers, the B-52s, Boy George, Allen Ginsberg, Billy Idol, members of the Psychedelic Furs or Duran Duran, John Waters, John Sex, Ann Magnuson, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Byrne, Malcolm McClaren, Lauren Hutton, Matt Dillon, Federico Fellini, Barbara Walters, Peter Beard, Michael Anderson (the dwarf from Twin Peaks), Nile Rodgers, Stephen Sprouse, Steven Meisel, transsexual model Teri Toye, Calvin Klein, Sting,  etc, etc, etc, all potentially on the very same night. Their opening parties, especially, were not to be missed under any circumstances. Everyone in attendance knew there was no cooler place to be that night anywhere else in all of Manhattan, if not the entire planet.

It was an extraordinary nightclub for an extraordinary time in New York’s history. The city was a wild, creative and dangerous (define that how you will) place then. AREA was a reflection of the best of what the city had to offer, a place where uptown wealth met downtown chic. It’s one of the longest-running, most brilliantly realized art projects—one pulled off by a small army of weirdos (many of AREA‘s hardworking artists were junkies), visionaries and money men—probably, I don’t know… ever. That they were able to sustain it for so long, night after night, theme after theme at such a high level creatively and then go out while they were on top makes it seem all the more remarkable.

But as an art form, a party, no matter how legendary it becomes in the minds of the people who were there, is still a very ephemeral thing. Aside from memories, there are only photographs, videos and mementos left (AREA was well-known for their elaborate invitations. How I wish I’d have kept mine!). The multi-leveled social/artistic/business genius that was AREA has now been commemorated in what I’d rank as perhaps the very best art/art history book of the year. If you were there, Abrams’s AREA: 1983-1987 is a must and chances are that you already own it. If you weren’t there, it’s fascinating record of an amazing, once in a lifetime scene that will hopefully inspire some new crew to take on something this elaborate again one day. It’s a book with a cult audience, to be sure, but a cult audience that will absolutely treasure it.

Put together by AREA‘s Eric and Jennifer Goode, with an introduction by Glenn O’Brien, principal text by Stephen Saban (beyond a doubt the very best person for the job) and the photography of Volker Hinz, Ben Buchanan, Patrick McMullan, Wolfgang Wesener, Michael Halsband, Dana Buckley and others. On every level, I’d rate this publication a perfect 100/100, as a book (in literary, historical sense) and as a beautifully designed object.

More photos of AREA here.

Below, this John Sex video, “Hustle With My Muscle,” directed by the late Tom Rubnitz, is one of the few examples I can find of inside AREA on YouTube. The theme at this time would have been “American Highway” in 1986. Sadly, you really can’t get a sense of the size of the club from what you see here.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘The Tube’ 1983 NY clubbing special ft New Order, Klaus Nomi, Paradise Garage & more

The Tube was an early-to-mid 80s British “yoof” TV program covering music and fashion, hosted by Jools Holland and Paula Yates. This special report comes from sometime around 1983 (the date is unspecified but we know that Klaus Nomi has already died) when Holland and guest presenter Leslie Ash take a trip around New York’s most happening night spots. That includes the Paradise Garage, Danceteria, The Roxy and even a brief, passing glimpse of CBGBs.

If you can ignore the cheesy presenting style (“Wow! Clubs in New York stay open until FOUR o’clock!”, “I hear this club has a “happening” sound system.” etc) there are some great interviews here, as well as some priceless footage inside the clubs mentioned. So we get the likes of Arthur Baker talking about producing New Order, Nona Hendryx and Quando Quango performing live, Afrika Bambaataa on the turntables at The Roxy,  The Peech Boys backstage at the Paradise Garage, and Ruth Polsky and Rudolph of Danceteria talking about their good friend, the recently deceased Klaus Nomi: 

Thanks to Andrew Pirie.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
‘Limelight’ - a new documentary about the legendary New York nightclub

I’m sure we’re all pretty familiar with the Michael Alig/club kids story by now, but let’s face it, no matter how many times it is told it never fails to shock and entertain. Limelight is a new documentary which recounts the story yet again, but as opposed to Party Monster, Shockumentary or James St James’ excellent Disco Bloodbath book, the focus this time in on the Limelight club itself and its owner, the nightclub impresario Peter Gatien.

Gatien owned a string of venues in New York, Atlanta and London during the 80s and 90s, including the very successful Tunnel and Club USA in Times Square. The Limelight was perhaps the most notorious (due in no small part to the club kids’ involvement), and became the focus of Mayor Giuliani’s crackdown on the city’s night life and drug culture. Gatien made a fortune from his venues, but was found guilty of tax evasion in the late Nineties and deported to his native Canada. Gatien is interviewed in Limelight, along with a prison-bound Michael Alig and everyone’s favorite vegan porn-hound Moby (who describes the Limelight as being like “pagan Rome on acid”). The documentary is released on Friday, here’s the trailer: 

Previously on DM:
Larry Tee & the club kids: Come Fly With Me
Ghosts of New York: the Limelight disco is now a mall
Party Monster: new Michael Alig prison interview
Nelson Sullivan: pioneering chronicler of NYC nightlife in the 1980s (featuring an interview with the legendary queen Christina)

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment