Daily photographs by HANS VON RITTERN, with humorous, artistic and social commentary on life in the big city.

Mondays on Memory Lane: THE PALLADIUM DISCO 1986 “EVERY DAY IS GAY PRIDE DAY”

PALLADIUM BUILDING

Mondays on Memory Lane: THE PALLADIUM DISCO “EVERY DAY IS GAY PRIDE DAY” – June is world wide Gay Pride month. One of the last great dance palaces of the disco era was the grand Palladium which every Sunday catered to an almost all gay audience. Owned and operated by the former Studio 54 masterminds Ian Shrager and Steve Rubell. It was one of the last clubs I attended around 1986 before “it just wasn’t fun anymore.”

The Palladium was converted from a movie theater to a music venue and then into a nightclub. The famous duo hired  Danceteria DJ Richard Sweret, who saw the possibility of a much larger audience for a downtown New Wave, Euro and house music-oriented club. From its celebrity-studded opening in May 1985, through the end of the 1980’s, it was one of the major features on a vibrant New York club scene. The club was a mainstay on the New York club scene until it was bought out in 1997 by the voracious appetite of New York University (NYU) and demolished for a sterile campus housing project. They have continued to destroy New York ever since.

Junior Vasquez’s Arena party, held Saturday nights and all day Sundays at Palladium between September 1996 and September 1997, was one of the most popular parties in the New York club scene at the time. Although the promoters billed Arena as “The Gay Man’s Pleasure Dome”, the party drew an eclectic mix of gay and straight from Manhattan and far beyond. 14th Street in those days was still seedy and therefore the attraction to gain entrance into the club as you bypassed the bums in the adjoining urine stenched doorways was ‘chic’ and daring.

1986 Palladium party invitation

1986 Palladium party invitation

The Palladium represented architect Arata Isozaki’s transformation of a vacant and rundown theater, originally built in 1927 as the Academy of Music, into an extraordinary interior that can only be described as a sleek new structure, the equivalent of a seven-story building using more than 200 tons of steel, within the restored grandeur of the original shell. After the conversion from a venue to a club, the main dance floor of the Palladium was a huge space which used to hold the theater and seating. One interesting feature of the club was the large banks of TV monitors in grid formations that were used to display music vidoes. Each monitor could operate separately, or one large picture could be shown across the grid – we had never seen such technology before and it was mesmerizing to us at the time.

PALLADIUM collage

The entire gigantic cavernous club was big enough to hold different areas, the equivalent of three or four clubs! Besides the pounding main dance floor area there was a multicolored basement, and the famous upstairs “VIP room”, The Michael Todd Room. Murals were created for this space by the well known New York artists of the 1980s Jean-Michel Basquit, Francesco Clemente, Kenny Scharf and Keith Haring – these treasures are gone.

The video links below will show you the 1980’s grandeur it once was.

A rare visual tour into the past of The Palladium: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5_NI2MSmp8

MTV music video A. Snap – The Power B. Technotronic – This beat is Technotronic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUdbX4B-74s

2 responses

  1. The only time I have ever been to NYC (August 1987) I ended up at the Palladium. It was an amazing place; I was mesmerized!

    The story I got from an employee was five artists designed five different areas of the downstairs part. One was like walking through a cave with plank floors, little rooms were along the way, some with openings which had bars (like prison bars) running vertical within them. The end of the “cave” emptied into an alley, which totally freaked me out so I ran back through quickly to the center of the club.

    I also found myself in the men’s lounge accidentally. Lol

    The art from the original theatre was absolutely beautiful. I remember standing for quite some time looking at a painting of a cherub on a gorgeous background which was in an oval framed by gold woodwork. And, as you mentioned, the dance floor was fabulous.

    Thanks for sharing!

    June 3, 2013 at 2:37 pm

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