Club 82’s Eclectic Atmosphere

Club 82’s Eclectic Atmosphere

Looking to bring in new customers, the management inverted its name from the 82 Club to Club 82 and began booking underground rock bands like the New York Dolls, the Stilettoes, Wayne County, and Television. David Bowie, Lou Reed, and Bryan Ferry would also drop by when it was operating as an after-hours club (County recalled that Club 82 was where Reed met Rachel Humphries, the transgender woman who was his live-in lover for three or four years in the 1970s). “It was basically geared to look like a scene from Liza Minnelli’s Cabaret,” Paul Zone said, describing its elongated stacked stage, glittery curtains, and fake palm trees. “It was for drag shows—so the stage was elongated—but it was basically a basement.” Blondie’s Chris Stein added, “The most impressive thing it had was a photo wall in back. There was a photo of Abbott and Costello with a bunch of drag queens, which I thought was utterly amazing.” The butch lesbian bouncer rocked a classic 1950s DA haircut and wore a white T‑shirt with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve, which added to the venue’s eclectic atmosphere. Club 82’s mix of theatricality and gender-bending made sense, given that it was located next to La MaMa. Off-Off-Broadway and underground rock audiences often overlapped during the first half of the 1970s, especially when local bands such as the New York Dolls or Wayne County and the Backstreet Boys began playing at Club 82. Aside from a few bands that played there, by this point it had evolved into a shoddy underground disco. “It was a basement club, and this was the age of disco,” recalled the Cockettes’ Pam Tent. “Lights and glitter everywhere. Alice Cooper was there, Jobriath was there, Lou Reed was there. Everybody who was anybody in New York would turn up the 82 Club, and we all would do cocaine and dance all night.”’

From Chapter 30 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


Club 82
82 E 4th St, New York, NY 10003