Steve Lewis Adds to Michael Musto’s List of Nightlife Icons

Over at Paper Magazine, Michael Musto names the larger than life icons that defined the golden era of NYC nightlife. The list consists of owners, promoters and impresarios and is loads of fun. In the comments section Michael explains he didn’t put some “obvious” people on these lists and that helps to ease the pain of not being listed. Some people noted that I shoulda, coulda, woulda been named but alas Michael and I often don’t see eye to eye. It’s been like 20 plus years of that. I’m not here to correct Michael as he has done a wonderful job of curating a list that is chock full of movers and shares that are often neglected. I feel I’m in good company not being mentioned and will attempt to name some of those obvious people and others who have been left out. I am sure I will forget some names, some genius’ some legend and hope that I am severely chastised and corrected. Here are some of the folks that in my opinion were crucial to making the nights right back in the day. I am only listing owners, promoters and operators. DJ’s and door people etc can have another list There isn’t an order just wheeling and dealing. 

Lest we forget…

Susanne Bartsch: The energizer bunny of nightlife. She was around before my time and is as strong as ever now embracing , defining, entertaining, breaking new ground…  breaking new people. In a league of her own. She is then and she is now. In my memory her parties at the Copacabana were incomparable

Nell Campbell:  The face,  lifeblood, the persona and often the breasts of Nells one of the top clubs in nightlife history. A recent reunion packed the space which is still operating as Up & Down.

Maurice Brahms:    Infinity, Redzone, Bonds, The Underground and so much more. This extremely hands on owner/operator was one of the truly great people to work with. Infinity was the first club I ever attended and it was jaw dropping. 

Claire O’connor: Claire over saw the transition of Limelight from the tourist trap gimmic to the relevant nightclub. Her last years were spent throwing an ocassional event and as a brilliant publicist. Claire always got it. She left us loved.

Michael Alig: The notorious bad boy promoter was the king of the club kids a movement that can still be seen wherever young people gather. Infamous for the murder he committed and served 17 years for, it cannot be forgotten that he could fill any space he was paid to fill with a colorful crowd. His outlaw parties drew thousands. He was also an advocate of new music which was always an important force in the clubs he helped succeed and of course eventually caused to fail.

Dean Johnson: His “Rock and Roll Fag Bar” parties were among my favorites. He filled lots of rooms with a mixed crowd. He was larger than life in heels that took him over 7 feet tall. 

Vito Bruno: Primarily known as a music producer Vito ran the brilliant after hours haunt AM/PM and of course was the driving force behind the long running 1018. He introduced us to the Beastie Boys at one of the great parties in my memory and took a busboy named  Noel to a better life. Still throwing Freestyle Events.

Peter Gatien: Not one of my favorite people but undeniably one of the greatest cowboys in nightlife history. The great Arthur Weinstein always referred to Peter as a cowboy because of his  gambling, gun slinger approach to nightllfe. He owned the Limelight, Palladium, Tunnel and USA at the same time. He was never afraid to spend money to make a place great or spend money on an event if it would turn a profit. In the end he left disgraced but he absolutely left his mark.

John Argento: The man behind the larger than life Rudolf at Danceteria . Rudolf gets all the credit but without John the place wouldn’t have held together and Danceteria was undeniably one of the most important places ever, ever, ever.

Tom Sisk: What Tom did at Centro-fly needs to be noted. A mixed , cool crowd grounded in music is hard to pull off. He made it look easy.

Ian Schrager: It was always Ian and Steve(Rubell). Studio 54 and Palladium were Ian and Steve joints. Ian needs to be mentioned. He basically invented the Boutique hotel game and nightlife in hotels

Bruce Mailman: He converted the Filmore East into the Saint. To many of my friends the Saint was the greatest club that ever existed. It was the gay mega club long before and better than those that followed.

Denis and Alexandria Provost: Save The Robots was an after hours club with saw dust on the floor and vodka in apple juice bottles. It was home to those who worked in clubs and those looking for just a little more. More could always be found.

Tommy Gunn: He was the face, and other body parts, of the Cat Club. He could intro you to any rock star and make you jealous with the crowds that surrounded him He was magic… no really. He toured as a magician with Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel. 

Jessica Rosenblum: She filled “off nights” with hip hop parties and  often made more money on those “off” nights than all  the other nights. She flew in the face of a zillion negatives and made it work on every level.  She took the genre, the movement from small to gianormous.

Scotto and DB: It’s kind of uncool to mention these guys in the same sentence as no one in the know needs to ask “where’s the beef”… but back in the day they pulled of NASA and that brilliant, underground, all hours club for 14 year olds to geezers needs to be noted. Music broke here.

Timmy Regisford and Merlin Bobb: The Shelter parties, deep house, for a dedicated crowd have always been there or over there or over there.  It’s always been on the hush, hush and the scene always needs these hush, hush places.

Eugene (Gene) Dinino: Gene owned and operated the Roxy the roller disco/nightclub on west 18th street. He was a tireless worker who was dedicated to a large, Saturday night  gay dance party. He also operated the long running Eugenes and short running Gypsy Tea.

Randy and Scott Gerber: The hotel bar/club concept as we know it starts here with the Whiskey.They defined South Beach nightlfe and then took it here. The models attracting the A crowd didn’t start here but they took it to another level

John Giuliani and his son Steven: The Copacabana, The Underground , Bentlys and Shadow as well catered to different crowds and must be mentioned in any writing about important clubs in the day. They weren’t trendy but they made money and were loved by those who loved them.

David Macuso: His joint The Loft began before back in the day and during and beyond. it is the underground heart of everything dance. Mancuso is a legend among legends and no conversation about icons of nightlife can exclude him.

Others that need to be mentioned John Blair, Mark Berkely, Desmond Cadogan, Maripol, Edwige, Michael Tee and Howard Schaefer. I’m sure I left off many. 

I dont know exactly where “back in the day” or the “Golden Era” ends but it is often said to end with the advent of bottle service. The players who made that leap include Michael Ault, Jeffrey Jah, Mark Baker, David Sarner, Noah Tepperberg, Jason Strauss,  and a bunch more… but that’s another article.

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