Please forgive me “daddy” and “mother,” for I know not what I do. This appeal goes to mother Chi Chi vValenti and daddy Johnny Dynell who I shamelessly omited from my bestest clubs of all time list. My biological mother would yell at me if I left my schoolbooks on the kitchen table — “you might as well leave your head home” — and that is the problem, I was always out of my mind at Jackie 60 and Mother trying to get some sort of head at home, and the only excuse that I can make is that I had such an amazing experience that I naturally forgot about it. Jackie 60/Mother represented the last incarnation of what was right and smart and truly downtown in this town. Maybe the last place where artists came out and mixed with the rock stars, writers, and celebutantes. It was the handful of Hassids the door queen let in groping the shoes while a drag queen recited and proved she was more than a pretty face — it was dirty and fun and super sexy, a place where if you didn’t push all the right buttons, someone would gladly lend you a hand or some other body part to help.
Signs hung from the ceiling demanding “no models” just as the silly world outside was beginning to believe that the vacuous were relevant. It was Kittyboots on a stool by the door. You had to endure that incredible stare to get by her, and sometimes it didn’t matter if you ducked away, and it rarely mattered that you could buy and sell the place. Jackie 60 was in the Meatpacking District before it was sanitized, on that corner of 14th Street that the Alexander McQueen shoppers pass on their way to Diane von Furstenberg. Always ahead of the curve. Jackie 60/Mother were top-tier clubs. It is obvious to all that matter, and they don’t need me to say so. They are so badly missed. I beg forgiveness from Johnny and Chi Chi — those who showed me the way.
Also absent from my list was the Mudd Club, Steve Mass’ incredible joint on White Street just east of Broadway. From 1978-1983, Mudd was the alternative to the Studio 54 mentality. It was here that I spent two hours in a bathroom with a distraught John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten) talking about the most personal things … I was hanging with the Ramones back then. Arturo Vega (my dog’s namesake and godfather) was the art director and lighting guy for the most important New York band of that time. Arturo designed all those t-shirts that everyone wears, and he would bring me in past that impossible door. When they played nearby, I gave everybody in the place tickets to the show even if I had to buy them myself. The place only held maybe 300 people. It was Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, who eventually curated the art on the fourth floor. It was Maripol and Lauren Hutton, Tina L’Hotsky and Michael Musto, Bowie and Sting and David Byrne and Amos Poe, and Rene Ricard, and Diana Ross and Joey Arias, Klaus Naomi, Anna Sui, Lydia Lunch, Lou Reed and Andy Warhol. It was the artists and rockers and movers and shakers.
I met the most beautiful girl I had ever seen there, and I won her and wooed her for a couple of good years. Turned out she grew up only a couple of miles from my Jackson Heights roots. David Johansson, lead singer of the New York Dolls, hung on to a column while standing on my shoulders to witness Maryanne Faithful perform. Her voice was lost from a bad cold, but the show went on a raspy, sexy lesson on how beauty can come from adversity. It was underground music, all that sexy 80s rock stuff, played endlessly now but heard for the first time then. Then Steve Mass would put Clarence Carter on that too-small stage. and we would be blown away by “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” live and unexpected.
That’s the difference between now and then. Now everything seems to be expected, while back then you could walk into your familiar club and it would be transformed into a pimp’s playhouse or undersea garden. We were kept on our toes while seeking someone to get on their knees. AIDS was all around, but we didn’t know it. The clubs were an orgy waiting to happen. Dark corners were never missed opportunities. Coke was everywhere, and an eightball guaranteed success with people way out of your league. The end had been written, but it hadn’t been read yet, I don’t know how I survived. In a story I’ve told before, I tried and I tried to get into the super-duper, uber-exclusive second floor but could not get past the eagle eye of Chi Chi Valenti. I watched those who she deemed worthy and tried to learn. I came one night, all 135 pounds of me in ripped jeans, Ramones t-shirt, black impossibly pointy boots, and my motorcycle jacket with a perfect rose in hand. I lowered my head slightly with respect and silently presented the perfection. Chi Chi paused and smiled and lifted the velvet barrier, and I passed into my future just like that.