- DISCLAIMER: My intention is not to glorify or condone any of my past behavior. I am not proud of it, nor do I regret it. It simply is what it is. My intention is only to give an honest account.
Confessions Of A Club Kid Part 8: Moving up in Downtown
I was going out every single night, immersing myself in the subculture of downtown. Learning it’s history. Studying it. Who was who and what was what. There was a reverence among us for the hierarchy, the history, for who and what came before. And it had to be TOLD in those days. Many an after hours party was spent listening to the elders giving oral histories of Warhol, and the progression of personalities and clubs. What led to what. Who the players were. I was getting an education. I became friends with(forced myself onto) old timers like Sylvia Miles, Stephen Saban, Patrick McMullan, and Michael Musto.
I was holding on to my day job at Kumagai Gumi by a thread. One of the properties they owned and operated was the swanky new Zeckendorf towers on Union Square. I managed to talk them into giving me a lease for a one bedroom there. David and his extremely strange and fascinating roommate Bradley were getting evicted from their place and so I had the bright idea that we could all move in together. Bradley’s fashion sense was quite unique. One night he would cover himself in tiny action figures. The next night with play dough, etc... He was quiet and weird and was often the recipient of harassment and beatings from street kids. So he, the 6’2” drag David, and I were roomies. I had taken to wearing cut off shorts, combat boots, no shirt, motorcycle jacket, and 50 gold chains and backstage passes. I grew my hair long and wore pale makeup. I don’t know what the hell you call that look.
I took the bedroom and they shared the living room. We had no furniture, no curtains, and no real kitchen implements to speak of. We had futons placed directly on the floor. It was basically a club kid flophouse in a luxury doorman building. It was filthy. One of the first things I did was to get Michael to throw a rooftop party with me there. The uptight doormen and building management were less than amused by the ragtag group of freaks coming and going at all hours, a circus of colorful, psychedelic characters wandering lost and drug addled through the floors of a very expensive, buttoned-up building. It was insane.
I was starting to realize that if I WORKED in the clubs, it would simplify matters. I started handing out flyers for Michael’s parties at the World. I was fearless and would go anywhere and talk to anyone. An art opening, a fancy uptown restaurant, on the street. I was relentless. I had a custom lunchbox made to carry my flyers in. A black flight case with chrome studs. I wanted to be the best at it. And I was. I was meeting more people and using my natural charm to make a name for myself as a colorful, sometimes obnoxious, provocateur and personality.
Now I’m working day and night, and I’m drinking a lot. Every night. It’s taking it’s toll on my energy. One night, I was visibly drunk and exhausted and someone suggested that I do a bump of cocaine. I had been warned over and over to stay away from it. My brother had a friend that had lost everything to it. I knew the stories. By now I was using ecstasy regularly, and it didn’t seem to be such a stretch. And a love affair was born. Cocaine made everything make sense. I could drink all night without getting drunk(and I was drinking for free everywhere I went). I was obsessed. I had to have it at all times. It seemed like every girl i met liked it too. It was the perfect accessory to my burgeoning prowess with women. This magical drug, coupled with my new found stature in the scene, was making it easier and easier to get girls into bed(or into the bathroom stall). I was 18, cute, and already pretty much completely full of shit, and the Cocaine removed a filter which allowed me to say whatever I needed to say to close the deal. There were white girls, black girls, young girls, older girls, rich uptown girls, funky downtown girls, Columbia girls, Barnard girls, goth girls, punk girls, hip-hop girls… I wasn’t a womanizer. I just didn’t know how to have a relationship. And I thought that this was all that I deserved. I had no sense of self. It was all instant gratification, and I couldn’t let someone really get to know me, because I didn’t even know myself. I was making me up as I went along. Because I was around the gay scene, and this was the late 80s, I knew many people who were either dying of Aids, or losing someone close to them. So I was meticulous about using protection. I’m grateful for that. It’s a miracle that I came out of it unscathed. In a sense, my gay friends saved my life.
R. Couri Hay approached me and asked me to work for him. He was a colorful dandy and a real old school socialite, a nephew of Timothy Leary who had once written for People magazine. He was a little older, and having been around in the studio 54 days, knew a whole different strata of social players than the rest of us. I handed out flyers for him and soon started working the door for his little dinner parties at a club called Bolido in the flatiron district. He hosted dinners for Tama Janowitz, Sidney Biddle Barrows, Diane Brill, and the like. It was dizzying. I was meeting all of the legends of this strange Warholian world. People who sometimes might not be at all relevant in the daytime world, but by night they were everything. Sprouse came with Debbie Harry to a few of the parties, and through a process of relentless persistence, I got to know him a bit. He was very quiet and very shy. It was always awkward trying to talk to him in those days. He would be more or less freaked out depending on how high I was on that particular night. But he took a liking to me. We were both from Indiana, and we shared similar tastes.
A new club called Mars had opened on the west side highway. Rudolf, the impresario responsible for the Tunnel, had created a 6 floor masterpiece where the music and themes were different on every floor. The vibe was really special. It was a little “smarter” than the other clubs. Black, white, gay, straight, young and old mixed seamlessly here. To tell the truth, it felt like they almost looked down their noses at us club kids here, but I tried to transcend it because I loved it(and the girls were really smart and hot). The De La Soul album 3 Feet High and Rising had just come out, and seemed to me the soundtrack of this place. The legendendary DJ Larry Levan played on Sunday nights, and we all went religiously to hear him play. I became pals with a young DJ named MOBY who played a mix mash of rock and everything else on one of the upper floors. The staff was rad, and many were Japanese.
My friend Reuben Sandwich was providing most of my cocaine. He was a tall, lanky goth gay whose hair color changed almost nightly. He was one of the all time greatest characters to spend the waning moments of a binge with. Absolutely enthralling and hilarious. I loved him. He even turned the coming down into a work of art. He was a master story teller. He had a friend named Gus. A dapper, Puerto Rican rockabilly guy who was a low level coke distributor. Reuben thought I had a natural talent for dealing. I certainly had a natural talent for vacuuming up every bit of cocaine I could get my nose above. So against what better judgement I had left, I decided to try it. Needless to say, I was a shitty dealer. I was always in debt to Gus, because I was using everything he gave me. But the train was rolling so fast now. No way to slow it down…
Stephen Sprouse and Kelly Cole, 1989 (Photo by Tina Paul).