Access Thursdays Brings Back the NYC All-Gay Party
To tell you the truth (which is something I always try to do), I have never heard of Access, a club located on 8th Avenue between 29th and 30th Streets. They tell me it’s been there for about a year, and was previously called Elevate. Total blankness. Somehow, these joints have slipped under my radar. They even call the area Chelsea, and I checked that out, and it is true. That area south of 34th where the post office/Madison Square Garden/Penn Station crowd throw up on each other while peeing in corners and shopping for porn and cheap goods is part of fabulous, sexy, trendy Chelsea. Who knew? Lets not quibble. I don’t like quibblers, never have. But I just might name my next dog quibble. I like the sound of it.
There is going to be a new gay Thursday night over at Access. I am told that, except for a Peter Rauhofer stint over at the defunct Stereo, there really hasn’t been a gay weekly party since. This seems untrue, but I’m determined not to quibble about the info. After all, they got that Chelsea thing right. If I were to quibble, I might ponder about Asseteria, and maybe Suzanne Bartsh and Kenny Kenny’s Vandam parties, and then those Wednesdays over at Bowlmor with Amanda Lapore, and then there’s all those other “gay” weekly parties that I get facebooked about. So I asked, and was told not “those gays,” these gays. It’s all so simple when you decide not to quibble. Access is in Chelsea and the Chelsea boys haven’t, I am told, had a real weekly party, except for the Stereo thing, since the Roxy closed. I’d ask lots of questions about how Splash, that iconic club which has been serving this community since 1991, Isn’t considered relevant. But I won’t ask, as I will not quibble! Anyway, there’s this new weekly gay party in a club that is in Chelsea for the Chelsea boys, and it is going to be all that.
Before I ask my pal Christine Jennings about Access, I would like to speak briefly about the Roxy. The Roxy is a mammoth club that sits dormant on 18th Street and 10th Avenue. It was the Mecca of “Chelsea Queen” nightlife for decades. Before the gay weekly thing, it was known as the Studio 54 of roller rinks, as skating was the lure a couple nights a week. It was also the home of parties by Jon Baker and Ruza Blue, who offered us Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash and MC battles. It may be the spot where street hip-hop was embraced by trendy clubland. Quibblers can discuss this for days. In the mid 80’s, it was Lee Chappell and David Lee and mylar-decorated Saturdays with drag queens galore and a mixed bag of Chelsea boys, fag hags, and downtown curious straights. John Blair took it to another level with DJs like Junior Vasquez, Hex Hector, Victor Calderone, Frankie Knuckles, and Merritt. Madonna, Cher, Chaka Kahn, Yoko Ono, Beyonce, and Bette Midler played the room. It was undeniable. Before all this, back in the way back day, the place was called 1018 and was all things to all freestyle people. Vito Bruno ran it and Roman Ricardo played.
The Roxy closed as the condo boom grabbed real estate. The subsequent real estate bust left it undeveloped and empty, a sleeping giant of a club with bars and bathrooms and lights, just needing a guiding light, an experienced hand to revitalize it. The Community Board wasn’t that opposed if it was done right. Recent attempts to re-open the Roxy have failed mostly due to greedy quibbling amongst the players. A few thousand dollars a week separated the men and the boys from the night. Now a liquor license seems unlikely and it sits dormant, a colossal waste. A colossal reminder that quibbling over a few dollars means nobody gets any. Access, despite the grand promises, cannot fill the Roxy’s shoes, or Splash’s for that matter. But it comes with great energy and experienced players and should be fun. Christine Jennings is one of those glue-type nightclub players that makes it all stick. I asked her to tell me about Access. She is a female working this all-male event, but I promise I wont quibble.
What is your role at Access Thursdays? I will be at the door for this new party, and am helping my friends, DJs Alex DeSantos & Midnight Society, promote
Why is there a need for this party? NYC needs a new gay party. Since the closing of the Roxy, there hasn’t been a weekly gay party, outside of Peter Rauhofer’s stint at Stereo, that has stuck. And being that it’s on a Thursday night, the boys will have a good party to hit up before they run off to Fire Island for the weekend. With former members of Peter Gatien’s team at the helm, this is going back to basics: great vocal-house DJs, dance-drive, with go-go boys and a lot of energy
Tell me about your club history. I started clubbing in the early 90’s while attending college at SUNY Purchase, a half-hour upstate. Danceteria was the very first club I attended, shortly before it closed. My friends from school brought me to Limelight’s infamous Wednesday party, when the Club Kid Era was in its full swing. Kenny Kenny was at the door, and I walked up with trepidation, fake ID in hand. I met Tom Buckley early on, and I was hooked. We were there every Wednesday, then would head to Colors or Future or whatever after-hours was open. I moved to NYC at the end of 1995, and hit the Tunnel for Junior every Saturday, then Save the Robots. After working some corporate jobs, I went to the Roxy for its infamous gay Saturday night, met a bartender who told me they needed a receptionist at their sister venue, the hot supper club Eugene. At the time, Noah Tepperberg and Jason Strauss were doing Friday nights, catering to the uber-fabulous crowd. Though I preferred the draw of the larger, house-music driven clubs, I loved working at Eugene and even grew close to its quirky owner, Gene DiNino.
My role expanded there to helping with corporate events, and when half of the space was re-done and opened as Gypsy Tea (which was spearheaded in part by a certain Mr. Steve Lewis), Gene put me at the door with doorman Aalex Julian to track the promoters. Upon Julian’s departure, Eugene’s James Savage took over and we were at the door together for over a year. During that time, promoters hired me independently to do their doors at Temple Bar, Rock Candy, Home, Rebel and others.
After 5 years at Eugene/Gypsy Tea, I left for an opportunity at Pacha, which had just celebrated its first year open. I worked in the marketing office during the day and did the guest list at night. I learned a lot working for Eddie Dean and Rob Fernandez. At this point, I took my first job as a manager at The Whiskey in the W Hotel Times Square. The Whiskey, a franchise owned by the successful Gerber Group, was the opposite of what all of my other jobs had been. It was very corporate, down to the color of hair ties the girls could wear while working. I was in charge of an entire staff as well as a security team, and it was a huge learning experience. With an all hip-hop repertoire, very strict rules and long hours, it was very trying most of the time, but in the end, prepared me well for future opportunities. After a year at The Whiskey, I was lucky to get a management position at Cielo, which had always been one of my favorite places in the city. Cielo features the best DJs in the world, in an intimate space. I call it ‘clubbing for grown-ups,’ and have been there for nearly two years.
What is different to today in clubs? Today’s clubbing is far different than when I first walked up to the doors of Limelight. It is more about bottle service and smaller, more ‘exclusive’ spots where people care more about seeing a cast member from a reality show than they do about the music. The whole mess of 27th Street certainly didn’t help, but at what point are all of the club owners to blame when there happens to be a lot of stupid choices made by their patrons? I was young and clubbing, too, but didn’t decide to walk home at night. I miss the days of the big club. Losing The Roxy was so, so sad. That had been my home away from home for years. I also miss the ‘freak’ element of the crazy cast of characters, some of whom have done well for themselves, like Richie Rich and Astro Erle. There was a great energy back then, and as dark as some would like to paint it, I had a blast. I don’t feel it’s the same at all now, except for some of the parties in the house scene and the more underground feel of places like Mr. Black.
Tell me about Cielo and your relationship there. Coming from my perspective now, Cielo is exactly where I should be. Owner and renowned DJ Nicolas Matar is passionate about keeping the space alive with new talent, as well as featuring long-running parties like Monday’s Deep Space with Francois K, and Roots Wednesdays with Louie Vega. Having been open for 7 years as of this January is a feat in itself, and Cielo won ‘Best Club’ at this year’s IDMA awards at the Winter Music Conference. Outside of my management duties, I work closely with the marketing office to implement strategies to reach out to different demographics. The young kids that listen to house music today are not going to wait in line at Tenjune.
What’s a nice girl like you doing working at gay clubs and such? Whoever said I was nice, besides my mother? I have always had the best times at gay clubs, starting from my early years at Limelight, and especially during my time working at Eugene & Gypsy Tea. I’d get done at the door, and head straight over to the Roxy to catch the end of Rauhofer. The gay scene embraced me from very early on, and still feels like home to me. If people don’t get it, I really don’t care. I never go out to “meet” someone. It is all about the music and the people I am with, period.
What is this space? The space is a fully-renovated club with 2 levels, a new sound system, an amazing dance floor with high ceilings, and a dark, underground feel. This is a fully back-to-basics party, with a big room, dance-driven DJs, hot bartenders, go-go boys, and an old school team that believes a good DJ and dance space will keep the boys happy. There is no VIP room, there is no bottle service. We are going back to 1994 with this party. Access is set to become the next fully-gay club in New York City. Both Monday and Friday night parties by Louis Loca (Mondays are “Papi,” Fridays are “Uncut,”) both of which appeal to the “Blatino” crowd, have been very successful. The appeal of Access Thursdays is to bring back the NYC all-gay party similar to the vibe of a Roxy Saturday night. DJ Alex Tech (aka Alex De Santos) will be spinning the main floor with Midnight Society (Curtis Atchinson & Erik Elias). I will see you there.