Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-1983
Tim Lawrence is Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of East London and the author of Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970–1979 and Hold On to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973–1992, both also published by Duke University Press.
1982: Dance Culture Seizes the City
The live music scene fractured as smaller venues complained that they were being bullied by larger spots such as the Ritz and the Peppermint Lounge. An air of decline hung over the Mudd Club while Club 57 slipped into a somewhat darker, more chaotic rhythm. These developments were overshadowed by the reopening of Danceteria on 21st Street. The venue retained its multifloor entertainment trajectory but within months Rudolf Piper and manager John Argento forced out Jim Fouratt, claiming he was too difficult to work with. A legal dispute ensued while Ruth Polsky took on the role of hiring live bands.
Fired by Jim Fouratt during the attempt to open Danceteria, Bobby Bradley and Alan Mace took over down-and-out bar the Pyramid Cocktail Lounge, relaunching the Avenue A spot on 10 December. The opening-night party blended Western movies, drag queen performances, and DJ-ing in the back room. Demand soon surpassed all expectations and by the spring the spot matched Danceteria’s seven-nights-a-week parade. As it became clear that Pyramid was part of a broader East Village reaction against West Village gay culture, Bradley and Mace hired the Mudd Club’s Ivan Baker as their principal DJ. Over at the Fun Gallery, meanwhile, Patti Astor and Bill Stelling mixed shows by downtown artists Arch Connelly and Jane Dickson with the graffiti brigade, with Basquiat putting on a show in November. Also making strides, Keith Haring staged an exhibition at Tony Shafrazi’s new SoHo gallery.