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Author Topic: The most notorious nightclub in NY (from MDMA to Heroin) Read: 1983~2007  (Read 3244 times)

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1983–2007: The most notorious club in New York

Despite many public proclamations against turning a religious space into a nightclub, Gatien charged ahead in creating the Limelight, which would become one of the most infamous party spaces in New York history. He turned the sisters’ house, right in the front area of the church, into the lobby, the chapel into a private lounge, and the main church into a giant dance floor—the entire renovation was said to have cost well into seven figures. "[Gatien] was looking to make a statement architecturally, and the church was a spectacular building," says Frank Owen, author of Clubland: The Fabulous Rise and Murderous Fall of Club Culture. "In one of his previous clubs, he had a glass dance floor with sharks underneath it."

Limelight during a party in January 1984 AP Photo/Dave Pickoff
The opening night party on November 9, 1983 was hosted by none other than Andy Warhol, and the club went on to host several other noteworthy guests: Cyndi Lauper, Marilyn Manson, 50 Cent, members of Guns N’ Roses, and RuPaul, to name a few. It became one of New York’s hottest nightclubs, and the epicenter for rave culture in New York.

But after initially bringing in a slew of A-list guests, the club became primarily what Owen calls a "drug marketplace," inviting in a lot of gangsters who profited heftily off of selling first ecstasy, then heroin. "I remember being on the balcony with Peter Gatien and saying, ‘This cannot go on anymore, this is going to end really badly,’" says Owen. "This was a place where drag queens were shoving Christmas lights up their butt, people were having sex all over the place, it was like the last days of the Roman Empire."

Limelight’s depravity came to a head when the club’s notorious party promoter Michael Alig murdered and dismembered Angel Melendez, a regular drug dealer at Limelight. When Rudy Giuliani became mayor in 1994, he vowed to crack down on drugs and crime—particularly in light of the murder, which had made the club the subject of much scrutiny from the city government. Gatien was suspected of running a large drug ring in Limelight, leading to a massive investigation by the District Attorney’s office in 1996. After repeated closures by the city followed by several attempts by Gatien at reopening—including a rebrand under the name "The Avalon" in 2003, the legal bills proved insurmountable, and Gatien permanently closed the club in 2007.

"To go from a place of worship to a place of sin—it’s outrageous and creative. It embodies the idea that you can do anything here."

By then, the surrounding neighborhood had greatly gentrified, and its new, more affluent tenants had turned against the club and its noisy inhabitants. As early as 1999, The Village Voice reported about the repeated attempts by the Flatiron Alliance (the area’s community group) to put the club out of business due to noise.

According to Owen, it is, somewhat ironically, thanks to the Limelight that Chelsea became a hip neighborhood once again. Throughout Limelight’s heyday, he says, "Restaurants were starting to open. It was starting to feel like a real neighborhood again. So it was the very success of the Limelight that eventually killed it."

2010–2014: A new shopping destination
A decade into the new century, Chelsea had become one of the trendier places to live, shop, and eat in Manhattan. Boutique owner Jack Menashe, along with designer James Mansour and creative director Melisca Klisanin, sought to transform the then-abandoned building into a three-story marketplace, intended to showcase up-and-coming artisanal brands.

Limelight Marketplace in 2010 Wally Gobetz/Flickr
Angela Jia Kim, whose company, Savor Beauty, was one of Limelight Marketplace’s first tenants, says that while the space was a great initial test spot for her business, the church’s design was ultimately not conducive to a retail concept. "It had a very funky layout, which was a part of its appeal and its downfall," she says, describing a maze-like format that made it very difficult for shoppers to get around.

The building’s landmark status prohibited vendors from placing significant signage outside the space, and many visitors to the marketplace weren’t all that interested in shopping. "We had so many passers-by who were just there to see the novelty of the space, and to tell us ‘I passed out here,’" says Kim. "Changing the concept of this big landmark," which people still strongly associated with the debauchery of the Limelight nightclub, "it takes time," Kim says.

Menashe tried retooling the concept, changing it to a department store simply called, "Limelight," but it finally shuttered in 2014, leaving behind only a tiny outpost of Grimaldi’s (the pizza place’s first Manhattan location), which was seized and closed by the city this past August.

2014–Present: The spiritual workout and "vibe dining"
David Barton Gym, a brand known for its subversive marketing ...
« Last Edit: May 01, 2019, 10:27:49 AM by Chip »
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