After Night Falls: Remembering The Nursery

There was a time when I would get home at 7pm after a boring day of work, which mostly consisted of trying to stay awake. I maybe caught a quick bite and some very small talk with the suits with heads that had cubicles near mine. At home, I would crash fast, exhausted from the day spent surrounded by dweebs and the fluorescent and bad carpet environment I had trapped myself in.

My alarm would wake me around midnight and I’d scoff at the Armani and wingtips tossed on the chair, and don my ripped jeans, pointy Manic Panic, cockroach killer shoes, Ramones T-shirt, leather jacket, and head out into the nightlife jungle. I’d grab my sunglasses, I was sure to need them later. This was a time before AIDS, and before anybody knew my name.

Sure, I had juice and I was connected everywhere. I weighed a buck thirty five, had some cash, and was friends with the Ramones. I knew how to take care of a doorman. I knew who to know. Even then, I was aware of the secret spots that were hiding in the cracks. There were lots of cracks back then. The streets were dangerous. There were neighborhoods filled with prostitutes and those that swarm them. There were junkies mugging for their slice of heaven. Quiet streets required vigilance.

I’d hit a “regular “ club like Danceteria or The Mudd Club. At 4am when the lights went up, I most likely had scored with an imperfect stranger. If this hadn’t happened by 2 or 3, I became part of a sexual frenzy with everyone looking to hook up. Everyone was going to be successful. I wasn’t looking for a girl of my dreams, just a girl of my cream. Sex was 7 of the top 10 reasons to be there. It was easy to find a willing partner. At last call, a glance and a nod at a tipsy punkette did the trick. My number one rule was to never, ever go home with a girl who’s hair could hurt me, but these were times where rules were broken without regrets. It was a time of no regrets. It was usually too fast to catch a name and I wasn’t thinking about catching a disease. No one thought about it.

Even if I scored, I always wanted more, so I’d go after hours. Places like Crisco Disco or AM/PM were full blown clubs, not holes in the wall. There were moving lights and DJ booths, and working bathrooms and bars. Drugs were as common as alcohol and spiked hair. If you had a gram of coke to offer a wayward woman, there was always one to relieve you of it in exchange for relief of your itch. I rarely did drugs, but I did have itches and was usually prepared to barter. The term ‘coke whore’ wasn’t as demeaning then as it is now. It just saved time and needless chatter. Dark corners, hidden rooms, parking lots and roofs, or a nearby cheap hotel or apartment of a friend got you to 6am, and maybe a little less desperate for… affection.

Unless she was stupendous, I was still game and I’d head to the Nursery for trouble and whatever came my way. It was an amazing joint, all blurry and warmly fuzzy now, and probably then. It was a place of fun, but I always knew if I got out of line I could get hurt. Not Queens hurt, but Manhattan hurt. It was common to see bouncers at every club mangle drunkards and petty brawlers. There must have been lawyers and police and courts then, but you never heard about them. The scene had its own laws and its own way of “policing” itself. It was a time in NYC of mass corruption and influences from interested third parties. It was a time when going out meant anything can happen, as opposed to nowadays, when “the usual” is the excepted norm.

If The Nursery wasn’t topping me off, then it was off to Brownies where there was this girl that was always, um, there. Her and I had an understanding, while almost everyone around us in this East Village dive were too wrecked to understand anything. Now it was 8am, and if I had to go to work, I’d gather the clothes I had stashed in a locker or friendly restaurant. I’d change at Dave’s or Kiev for the work day, and stash my leather and gear under my desk. The sunglasses would stop the sun from seeing what I had done in its absence. If it was a weekend, I’d take a girl home or first head to the Staten Island ferry with a magic envelope and a flask. I more than likely forgot the gals name ten seconds after it was offered. She forgot me 10 minutes after we split. Rinse and repeat.

There isn’t a way to describe it all. The music now often seems like muzac. The images or movies make it seem cute or quaint. But hanging out late at places like Stickball or Save the Robots or Berlin or Nursery, was the sexiest most powerful candle I ever wanted to fly around. There were moments at later places, in later eras like Palladium or Limelight or Jackie 60, but nothing really filled my hole like those brilliantly dark nights. When all the clubs were illegal in some form, and mayhem was on every ones agenda, and sex had little downside and was all around in every form without labels and judgments, you could really soar. Every night was a search for the light at the end of the tunnel or the pot of gold under the rainbow. You always found it. We all had ruby slippers to take us home, but we never clicked them. We always were aware we were not in Kansas and didn’t want to go there. Those that were there understand the freedom we were tasting, a freedom outlawed today. We were addicted to it all at a deeper level than words can convey or memory can serve.

Some of these folks will be getting together at a reunion of The Nursery this coming Saturday. Many of us didn’t make it this far and it can be argued that time and disease and drugs and luck of the draw took the best of us. We will talk about them and look at each other with eyes that have seen a lot. I wonder if my Brownies gal will be there and if our understanding still applies?

I caught up with Joey Kelly who told me about the Nursery.

What was the Nursery? What years did it run? What did it look like and feel like? The Nursery was a notorious after-hours club in the late 70s and early 80s, located in New York City. The third and last location of the club was at 98 Third Avenue, where the first reunion will be held. The club had an unfinished feel, somewhat seedy but also felt like home at the same time.

Why were there so many after hours clubs then and so few now? I think there were so many after hour clubs then, because we were all part of the punk/post punk culture that had something to say. We needed to release and be part of something. I don’t think we quite understood then. What’s wrong with the NYC scene today is, there is no scene.

What hours did it operate and when was peak time? The Nursery operated from 12 midnight until 9am every day except Monday. The Peak time was about 3am until 8am.

Who were the clientele? Clientele varied from Bowie, Belushi, Bill Murray, David Johansen, David Lee Roth, Steve Marriot, Richard Dryfuss, John Cale, Brian Eno, Keith Richards, MicK Jagger, I could go on forever. The Nursery was not only an after hours club. It was a meeting place after bands did their shows and the clubs were closed. Everyone still wanted to hang out.

What is happening at this reunion? The reunion will bring together many musicians, old employees and patrons that haven’t seen each other in many years.

First Annual Nursery Reunion this Saturday May 15, 2011 98 3rd Avenue The Nursery a/k/a Bar None Live Music Aall Night Long, Food & Booze.

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