"A ladder to the sky, each step a perfect dream”. The Saint, NYC, opened in September 1980, the brainchild of Bruce Mailman, owner of the then famous St Mark's Baths. He bought the old Loew's Commodore Theatre at Second Avenue and East South Street, an enormous building; and he went on to create in it the perfect club, aiming to give gay men, who had been consigned to accept overcrowded, crummy conditions, the very best in a dance club.
The main area of the club was the infamous and huge circular dance floor, covered in a dome, with a lighting system on which no expense had been spared. An estimated $500,000 a year was spent updating and refurbishing the interior. At a moment's notice and usually at the climax of a particular song, the dome could be transformed magically into a warm, crystal clear sky, sparkling with thousands of stars and planets, spacing off into infinity. A dance floor that exploded with energy, The Saint was a perfect visual feast. On a party night and in its early days, thousands of men would flow through the club, its enormous size offering ample space to every individual. The main lounge area was surrounded by carpeted banquettes, affording casualness and comfort, accomodating, tribes of men from all walks of life; the majority in very altered states. Everyone watched each other, moving with caution, relaxed but almost afraid to upset the creation of beautiful men, music and theflowof all minds. A magnificent illusion which The Saint had the power to turn, for the night into reality.
At its start, membership was difficult to obtain.There were the "A” class clones, thousands of them, who lived each weekday for the weekend, this a very serious business. Notable were the black and vested ones, bodies sculptured to perfection, incredible arms and tits, dancing, roaming endlessly. The leather boys, all black and shining, exchanging recipes and discussing opera were also on duty, along with the fashion victims, carefully exposed under just the right amount of light. The tourists shared and stared and stared, enraptured, exhausted, drugged; swaying with each other, loving each other, becoming one, driven to the ultimate looking for the fulfilment of The Saint's provocative promise.
Dripping in sweat, we'd look to rest for a few minutes. The balcony overlooked the dome and, although designed as an observation post, with boys being boys it became a place for sweet and casual sex, where many of us lost ourselves in a blissful and outrageous liberation. The private members locker rooms were the places of ecstatic seclusion. Located as they were on six floors behind the dome, the serious dancer could wash, refresh and resume his way onto the floor and into the night.
Goodbye my love, goodbye. Like the death of a close friend, you take with you many hearts. Another casualty of the Aids epidemic, your death began many years ago. With falling attendances, except for the theme nights, the management decided to close the doors for the last time on May 2nd.
The Saint was so special. Gay people created its unique atmosphere and we will never see its like again. Lifestyles have changed, many dear friends have gone and with our new outlook on life, those bewitching moments are only recreated to linger in our memories.
The Last Party. Hours rolled by and we all paid homage to a ritual that is indisputably gay. The music and men were intertwined together building to that peak of perfection. An illusion created for old time's sake. We explored the very souls of our imaginations, sharing a freedom within The Saint's walls that locked us in the time capsule of our own making.
I stood on the banquette, surrounding the dance floor, feeling comfortable, my friends around me. Marlena Shaw, a classic artist of our time, sang Touch Me In The Morning. Thousands of us shared it. Allowing our emotions to overflow we watched as a lightening bolt and a red heart swept across the dome. Below, the air swamped and thick with an affectionate nostalgia tinged with the rosy glow of sadness. The double-tiered mirror ball had gone into the dome forever.
We said goodbye. An unforgettable masterpiece.
This article originally appeared in The Pink Paper (London)>