I'm doing some research on Jeffery Strouth (_American Fabulous_), specifically his years at Area...I was wondering a) exactly what years Area was open, and b) what songs immediately make you think of Area.
i loved his movie, i watched it with taboo, misty and jimmy paul. my fva part was when he brought that homeless man in and feed him and gave him a bath. the man thought he was going to be topped by jefffey. WRONG! see it if you haven't. 4 stars
Jeffery Strouth, as he recounts it in his twisted little indie movie _American Fabulous_, was one of Area's "window displays" namely the hookah-smoking catapillar--he also recounts sleeping in the back seat of James St. James' Camaro, using the catapillar suit as a sleeping bag (he seems to remember his display gig as being in January of some year, I'm guessing 1987). I'm still dead curious about Area's heyday (I'm guessing 1985-1988, is this right?), and the music--if it is indeed a "subject all it's own," I'd love to hear it talked about, since, pathetic little newbie that I am, I wasn't there. The song that i find most redolent of Jeffery's "white trash fabulousness" is "Justified and Ancient" by KLF feat. Tammy Wynette...is this a song that would have been heard at Area, or no?
No, the KLF song was later-- '90 or '91. And a few years after I moved into my apartment (1984), Area was closing or about to close, if I recall correctly. We had Baby Gregor do the witch-on-broomstick over the Pyramid's door in, I think '85, and she was hired to reprise it at Area afterwards, where she exchanged fisticuffs with Marilyn.
It opened in September 1983 on a night that forever defined "back to school" in a nightlife sense. Interestingly it closed the same night that The Tunnel opened, I remember because Johnny was DJing at the Tunnel so he couldn't go, but I went to represent us and brought a note from him to all his flock - the busboys and barbacks and bartenders who were so devastated - it was their first club closing.
I hung Johnny's note by the timeclock so they would all see it. It was 100% Dynell -
"Sorry I can't be there tonight, children, but remember - The Beat Goes On... ..And So Do We!- Love, Daddy"
I believe that closing night was December 1986. Area stayed vibrant for a surprisingly long time, due in large part to the elaborate, imaginative themes which were changed about every six weeks. The absolute heyday of Area was in 1984, at Malcolm McLaren's Butterfly Ball (for the release of "Madame Butterfly".) Totally epic.
I often think about Eric, who was so immensely talented at Mudd and Area and even later at MK, but went on to build places that are so soulless and cold these days, though highly sucessful. Area never made a penny - they would just put whatever they made into the next great theme decor. Yet that is the work that he will be remembered for - no one will be talking about Bowery Bar fifteen years later, you can rest assured.
I never knew this person you are talking about, though I do remember the window display. Good luck in your research!
Thanks, your high serene fabulousness, for spinning the legend of Area out for me--I mentioned the Butterfly Ball to my s. o. and he gasped, "ohmigod, that's right, I'd forgotten all about that!" I'm working on an _American Fabulous_ related project, and knowing the right dates and music makes a big difference. As for the music...new wave? freestyle? "dance music" (aka late disco?. The McLaren reference gives me a clue. Now I'm not expecting responses about the music...seems to me that Daddy and the Empress have enough on their hands at the moment...Dada sounds fabulous, I can hardly wait. And Jack Your Body is of course what Johnny was doing immediately post-Area (what was he doing _during_ Area?). Best wishes with Daddy, we've missed y'all sooo much!
I posted this in NYC events already, but I thought it might also be of special interest here since Our subject, Jeffery Strouth, was a denizen of Area.
** RENO DAKOTAï¿½S AMERICAN FABULOUS **
New One Man Show Takes a Look at the Life of a Flamboyant Nomad Play Premieres at Duplex Cabaret Theatre Mondays in April
Reno Dakotaï¿½s American Fabulous, a one man show adapted from Jeffrey Strouth and Reno Dakotaï¿½s 1992 indie film of the same name, will receive its stage premiere Mondays, April 1-22, 9 p.m., at the Duplex Cabaret Theatre, 61 Christopher St. at Seventh Ave. Tickets are $15 each, and there is a two-drink minimum. For reservations, call (212) 255-5438.
New York Actor Troy Carson adapted the play from the film directed by Dakota, which is an autobiographical look at the life of Jeffrey Strouth that was released posthumously after Strouthï¿½s death from AIDS in 1992. In adapting the play from the film, Carson and director Jonathan Warman received the blessing and support of Dakota, who provided them with important insights into the life of the flamboyant Strouth.
ï¿½Strouth was born southern-Ohio ï¿½trailer trash.ï¿½ He crisscrossed the country for decades, whoring, waiting tables, periodically getting devastated and sometimes moving back home to Ohioï¿½ Carson says. Eventually, Strouth ended up being part of early-'80s Manhattan nightlife, including a stint at the legendary club Area. ï¿½All of this is described in very funny detail in the play,ï¿½ adds Carson.
Reno Dakotaï¿½s American Fabulous is directed by Jonathan Warman, best known to New York audiences as director of JEREMY KAREKEN IS EMILY DICKINSON IN MY LIFE AS A WOMAN for Access Theater and assistant director for Richard Schechnerï¿½s production of THE THREE SISTERS at La MaMa ETC.
Warman says he identifies with Strouth and sees qualities in him not unlike those of other gay men he has known. "Jeffery Strouth may have been born white trash, but he more than made the most of his too-short life. His special gift for storytelling makes this show a real treat to work on.ï¿½
memories of Area- I just returned from a month in Brazil and Stephen Saban had just stopped doing the door at Kamikaze to focus on "Details" magazine and told me about this fabulous new club Area walking in around 2am and hearing Johnny spinning "Set it Off" by Straffe
the Keith Haring painted drink tickets that everyone kept and never used
pretentious patrons pronouncing it ARIA
I think the next fun place was Scotty Taylors "Milk Bar" TriggerR
Just picked up the new RADAR MAGAZINE. Stephen Saban's article about AREA (20 years later) is fab. He really gets it right (as well he should because he was a big part of it). Really makes you yearn for 1983!
One of my most prized books is called "Wild Style" from 1984 or 1985. It's all about the avant-garde looks in NYC at the time, and the last chapter is "Nite Only" about Area. The book describes Area as "the hottest club in NYC" and describes the door policy (men with hats are good, girls with rags in their hair are good, Farrah Fawcett hair is not good). There are a few pictures of people at Area, and I remember that I wanted to grow up and be like those people (I was about 12 when I got the book). It's too bad that people don't get dressed up like that anymore. Most people come to NYC and don't try to reinvent themselves I guess. They wear the same A&F-model-wannabe clothes that they wore wherever they're from when they go out. This is a dumb question, but what's the movie about Area that this string was started with? I'd love to see it.
You're too old, you're somebody's mom, that outfit you wearin' is not the bomb.
How can people mention Area and not mention Bernard Zette? I loved him every month in Details in the installations. He performed on stage once in Philly and I went to see him. Zette was so gorgeous! I wonder if he worked at Area long and how he was involved with the installations or was he just a performer? Area was my fav club.
Area's opening-night theme was "Night," and there was a masked welder in the middle of the darkened dance floor showering everyone with sparks. The dancers loved it. At "Surrealism," the anteroom where you paid your admission had been transformed into a restroom complete with toilets and urinals in homage to Duchamp. "Gnarly" featured skulls, monster trucks, a drag racer, a skateboard ramp with live skaters, a strobe-lighted electric chair and a speedboat in the swimming pool with a giant gargoyle driving it. I remember watching Matt Dillon watching a pack of real outlaw bikers swarming around a completely nude biker chick, maybe calculating his odds of moving in. There was a film loop of the exploding-head scenes from "Scanners" that night, too, and in the bathroom a scale model of a bowling alley and a beauty parlor populated by real cockroaches. Then there was the night one of the waitresses, Karen Finley, did this nude act with canned yams.
Area was a nightclub that was like art. Andy Warhol often talked about business art being the next big thing, and this seemed like it, though Area's creators would never say that their elaborate installations had that intent. Yet Area was unprecedented in ambition, invention and fabulosity. It was riotously successful yet insanely oblivious to profit, and then suddenly it was gone "” from a 13,000-square-foot nightclub with three bars, a swimming pool and a tank full of live sharks to a pile of pictures of a lost dream. The club is now history, and so is the world that inspired it.
Clockwise from left: a ˜˜Fashion'' night; Matt Dillon; Area's impresario, Eric Goode,right, with Alan Rish.
New York in the early 1980's was ground zero for art and would-be artists. It was also economically depressed, which meant that kids could live in the city and work miracles with duct tape. Area's founders, Eric and Christopher Goode, Shawn Hausman and Darius Azari, four young friends from California, came here like the rest: to have fun while getting famous. They had thrown theme parties back home, but they wanted to make history. Eric Goode, who now builds hotels and restaurants (Bowery Bar, the Maritime Hotel, the Park), says the clubs back then were driven solely by music "” disco, punk or rock. "Area," he recalls, "was purely visual. It was based on ˜happenings,' on what Allan Kaprow and Jim Dine and Claes Oldenburg did."
Hausman, a designer, adds: "We were going to open this place for two years, and that was going to be it. We didn't want to be club owners."
Area's premiere, in September 1983, was announced by a pharmaceutical-looking capsule that arrived in a jeweler's box with the instructions: "Place capsule in glass of hot water and allow to dissolve." The club's "Disco" night was announced by a phonograph record; "Suburbia," by a slice of Velveeta; "Confinement," by a Chinese finger trap. "Gnarly" beckoned with a corrugated box that, when opened, set off a mousetrap smashing open an ammonium capsule. In turn, the capsule might have revived anyone who fainted at the mousetrap snap, but it did not amuse the United States Postal Service.
"I've never been in a rock band, but I would imagine our way of working was a little like a band," Hausman says. The themes, which changed roughly every six weeks, were generated by marathon brainstorming sessions and then put into play by a frenzied art department of rotating eccentrics that included brilliant and sometimes slightly mad talents like Kenny Baird, Michael Staats, Mark Garbarino (who later designed prosthetic makeup in Hollywood), Serge Becker (now an owner of Joe's Pub and La Esquina) and Reno Dakota (who made the film "American Fabulous").
Clockwise from left: Peter Fraser and Elizabeth Saltzman; members of the Ramones with Christina Downing; from right, Pilar Limosner, Dianne Brill, Rudolf, Carmel Johnson.
"Eric would be doing windows inside a display, doing the whole thing himself," Hausman says. "I'd be managing a crew of 20 people. Maybe Chris would be taking care of the business end, which we weren't prepared for at all. Darius was the mechanical one; he did effects. He was also the cheerleader. If you came by on Wednesday at 3 p.m., we'd be in despair saying, ˜There's no way this one is going to get done,' and he'd be insisting, ˜We can do this!"'
The art department had wild imaginations and the obsessive ability to work three days straight. "I eventually found out half of them were junkies," Goode says. "But I always liked reckless abandon." A quality shared by each and every one of them. "It didn't look fake because it wasn't," Goode says of each theme's castings. "For ˜Gnarly,' we got real bikers; for ˜Sex,' we got real perverts." Other key players included Joe Dolce, now the editor in chief of Star magazine, who wrote crazy press releases and did guerrilla P.R. Eric and Christopher's sister Jennifer was the team researcher and designated shopper. Her list for "Suburbia" included 100 boxes of cereal, Fluffernutter, Goobers, a washer and dryer, plastic pink flamingos, an oak-veneer bedroom set, a toilet, Astroturf, Spic and Span, and Tide.
And then there were the regular performers: Bernard Zette, a man who appeared variously as Marie Antoinette, Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy; Jeffrey Strouth, whose repertory included characters from John Travolta to Lewis Carroll's Caterpillar; the ultravixen costume artist Christina Downing; Michael Anderson, later the midget on "Twin Peaks"; and the almost equally diminutive David Yarritu, who went on to play with the band ABC. The artist Jeff Vaughn created ingenious, otherworldly slide projections. Johnny Dynell, Anita Sarko and DJ Red Alert frequently spun records, but sometimes Jean-Michel Basquiat worked the turntables for fun, playing Miles, Duke and Bird.
Clockwise from top left: Jean-Michel Basquiat; Sally Randall and Ellen Kinnally; the scene.
A few of Area's themes were more curated than constructed. Ironically, Eric Goode recalls, art didn't hold up that well as a theme, but artists had a field day. David Hockney flew in to do the pool. Michael Heizer put his meteorites on the dance floor. Warhol did T-shirts and an invisible sculpture. Keith Haring painted something on the dance floor. Barbara Kruger painted something on a wall. Basquiat, Alex Katz, Jenny Holzer and Tom Wesselmann all did windows. Larry Rivers did a great sculpture of two guys having sex.
Clockwise from left: a ˜˜Fashion'' night; ZoÃ« Lund; Edwige; Malcolm McLaren.
One of the more spectacular themes was (and happened to come) "Ready-Made." Hausman's father had produced the film "Silkwood," and when production shut down, the nuclear-reactor set was going to be tossed out. So Shawn and Eric flew to Texas and drove it back to New York in a 24-foot Ryder truck. Sex, of course, was an ongoing theme at Area. There was talk of something called "gay cancer," but AIDS wasn't yet feared. At either end of the women's bathroom, projectors were set up so that films could be seen in the lounge or on the dance floor. People would sneak in and have sex in the space between the projector and the screen, giving hundreds of people a wild shadow show.
Area was known for its elaborate themes, which changed roughly every six weeks, and for its vitrines, which often displayed live animals and people. The indoor pool on a ˜˜Sports'' night.
No matter what the theme, though, Area's most salient feature was its radical restroom concept. There was a men's and a women's, as usual, but no one enforced proper attendance. These were the "Bright Lights, Big City" years, but there were other strange things going on in the loos. Eric Goode denies that there was a bar in the bathrooms, but acknowledges that it was a club within a club. "They were the first truly coed bathrooms," he says. "Stephan Lupino set up a studio in there, photographing people with their clothes off. And Chuck Close's big penis image was exhibited there."
Clockwise from left: Keith Haring, contributing to an ˜˜Art'' night; Steven Meisel, left, and Teri Toye; Calvin Klein, left, and Tommy Street.
I suppose it was all too crazy to last. And too interesting and too labor-intensive and too ... well, not profitable enough. Two years came and went. The partners wanted to close. The investors wanted to sell, but sell what? The concept? When Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell later opened Palladium, it was clearly inspired by Area but vast in scale. By the time Hausman returned to California, "it had become more about who was throwing the big party," he says. "People didn't care about the themes as much. It was over."
Clockwisfe from left: David Hockney, Andy Warhol, a friend and Haring; Laurie Anderson and Roy Lichtenstein; George Hamilton, Dianne Brill with members of Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
So, after 25 buildups and tear-downs, Area closed in early 1987 with "Childhood," a nice symbolic touch suggesting a life lived backward. For years after, I felt a twinge of nostalgia whenever I passed the site, at 157 Hudson Street in TriBeCa. When something like Area comes along, you think, This is a first! But when you think, This is a first, it's often really a last. Area suggested a brilliant future, where night life and art would merge. And they did, for a moment, with reckless abandon.
Clockwise from top left: a wigged-out Michael Musto, left, and Albert Crudo; Bernard Zette; a ˜˜Science Fiction'' night.
This is why when people (OK, mostly entertainment lawyers and garbage men from New Jersey) go to some lame place like Caine or Marquee and some hideous valley girl at the door charges them $700.00 (plus tip added on) for the two bottle minimum and then (swiping their credit card at the door) charges them $20.00 each to get in... Well it makes me nuts! Are these people's lives really that sad that they will shell out a grand just to possibly be in the same room as Paris & Nicky Hilton?
U know Daddy i think u just hit the nail on the head of what I was thinking... i was just blog venting on my lame ass myspace page about the standard of young women and their aspirations these days... it's all about that Marquee mentality and back in the days (Area days) it was about having to be creative. WHich is so lost these days. I won't ruin this topic with my vent about smth dif. but I just think it's so sad that there isn't this level of intelligent creativity to aspire to.
I think it's just good for kids today to see. I know "the grass is always greener" etc. and I'm really not one of those "back-in-the-day" old fogies either. There is a lot that I think is better now (the internet and digital technology for example). It just good to see what any Tuesday or Wednesday night used to be like in New York City.
Read or re-read Marvin Taylor's essay in The Downtown Book "The Downtown Scene and Cultural Production"...for the socio-economic realities behind the art explosion of the 80s.
There's a reason the "Downtown Collection" at NYU spans 1974-1995. When the loft laws died, when the real estate was given carte-blanche, and landlords could charge whatever they want and the economic underpinnings for young (and old) poor artists disappeared.
How could we have come to New York in the 1970s, or 80s, gotten A Room Of Our Own, worked a few hours a week and spent the rest of the time writing, painting, etc --- without cheap rent?
As poor people we had something to prove.
Rich people have only their couture to 'prove'
Paris (FRANCE) though very expensive still has reasonable laws concerning how much a landlord can charge. Most cities do. So working class people and artists can inhabit the city and enrich it thereby. So much the worse for NYC.
AREA was genius and perfection and fuelled by a staff of creative people who didn't need to be paid a thousand dollars for a night of artistic endeavour. In order to buy groceries and pay rent. You could actually work for free, or a pittance, and get alot more out of it than money.
Well I've written some version of this at least a hundred times on these Boards so I'll shut up now.
Jeffrey lived with me in miami while i was doing pr at the warsaw ballroom - corner of hispanola way and collins. I've got ALOT of stories to tell! He was so manic and crazy but the best ideas ever. I used to work for Brill back in the day. My favorite exhibit with Zette exhibit was when he was in the back, in a small cottage, doing Elizabeth Taylor doing Snow White. On the wall behind him were the pictures of her seven husbands. And BTW "set it off" WAS the song that made the house JUMP!
They were Shawn Hausman, Darius Azari and brothers, Christopher and Eric Goode. Eric of course went on to do MK, The Building, (he also designed Club USA) Bowery Bar, Maritime Hotel, Bowery Hotel etc. (I'm probably forgetting some others as well).
They were from California. We met them at The Mudd Club where they started. (where we ALL started!)
First they opened this really GENIUS little club. I can't remember the name. In fact, I don't think it even had a name. It was pre-AREA and only open for a few months as I recall. It was filled with stuffed animals (stuffed animals as in Museum of Natural History not teddy bears) and basically the the seed that grew into AREA. It may have even been just an afterhours club. (Afterhours clubs... those were the days)
Anyway, Chris got married and has kids I think. Darius I think moved back to Cali. And Shawn is in the movie biz I think (as is his father).
Serge Becker was also involved in Area. Serge also went on to do hundreds of clubs, Joe's Pub, The Box. Too many to mention.
great remembering... cleaning up my office, just found an old Keith Haring invite for the Pyramid Club from 1986...haoui montaug, wendy wild, john sex, kenny scharf, karen finley, the tall lonesome pines,
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