This Is It!

This Is ItBeing avänt-ɡärd went hand in glove with 80’s clubbing. Looking cool or even strange practically guaranteed you entry to clubs with selective door policies. Spending hours in the mirror, applying Paul Mitchell hair foam, followed by hairdryers set on scorching and finished up with wax and copious amounts of hairspray with the hopes of having something resembling a John Taylor of Duran Duran fame hairstyle. Dressing hip in black suits pegged legs and combats matched to cashmere trenchcoats. Having the latest twelve inch singles on the car audio for the drive to the club with the mates. All of this was prerequisite for the 80’s club scene. We were androgyny personified. And we didn’t have a care in the world. I’m not ashamed to say I was a club kid, as we become known in New York. Clubbies in Salt Lake City. Mostly we were just posers. Imitating what we saw on the Mtv or in Interview magazine. Fashion and music were in sync. And the altars we lay our style on. If you had it. You were in. And I was in. Purely by happenstance mind you. 

I always thought I ought preserve a list of the clubs I frequented before they were effervesced from my memory. I searched high and low on the internet for proof of these palaces of decadence. Frustratingly, I found little info nor interest in the decade of decadence. So. This is it. My small corner of the world, 1985-1988.

The Palace (Star Palace): 1985. Surprisingly managed to remain open until 1995.

Maxim 1985

Palladium (Sugarhouse): 1986

Xenon: 1986

The Ivy Tower (Sil’s Ivy Tower): Summer 1986

Plastique: 1986-1988

Limelight: 1987

The Tunnel: 1987

The Saint: 1987

Nuts & Bolts: 1987

The Collector (12 Oaks) 1987-1988

The Shelter (St. Andrews Hall) 1988

“The Palace” in Provo, Utah was my earliest experience with a dance club. In the first half of 1985 it was still called “The Star Palace”. A left over from the by-gone disco days of the 1970’s. By ’86 the “Star” had gone. Actually, by ’86 the crowds had gone as well. But the all of ’85 and the first six months of ’86 it was the place to go on Wednesday nights. Ladies night. Beginning in the summer of ’85 I was there every Wednesday night. ‘Shout’ by Tears for Fears. Later it was ‘Kiss’ by Stephen Duffy and ‘19’ by Paul Hardcastle. I’m pretty sure the first time I heard ‘Red, Red Wine’ by UB40 was in the Star Palace.

There is some mention of the Star Palace on the internet, mostly related to the disco era when it first opened. Apparently it had the biggest disco lit dance floor in the western US and was profiled by national news services CBS, ABC and NBC.

Other clubs appeared on the scene. Trendier. Cooler crowds. Clubs where it was easier to get in (and out) or trouble. 

I started to venture north on the 15 Freeway from Utah Valley to the club scene in Salt Lake City. Shockingly, the music scene was brilliant. At first the Palladium in Sugarhouse in January of 1986 with my tenacious brigade…Jon Betherta, Marc Fossil, Tookey. Karly Podgeman came once with us. We lived it full hilt there. Didn’t matter if there was a blinding snowstorm on, we had to be there for the scene. Smuggled in alcohol and clove cigarettes.  Making out on the dance floor with girls whom’s names we never knew and never saw again after the night was over.

Thankfully there is a Palladium fb page with quite a lot of information about this legendary club.

The back room at Xenon was also a favourite. This room was known as “The Back Lot” and created by Rob Strong – aka DJ Birdman – who almost single handily brought New Wave to the in crowd in Utah Valley. 

I found this brilliant albeit brief article on Xenon. It strikes a note in so many ways. Sadly it’s the only mention on the internet for the club, aside from a late 70’s television news story. It’s not the Xenon I knew.

“Sil’s Ivy Tower” was happening in the summer or 1986 in Provo. It quickly became known simply  as “The Ivy Tower”. In the summer of ’86 I was at BYU spring term – April to the end of June. The weather was hot, I was a  member of the Sundance Institute and spent many days up in the mountains doing plays and workshops at Robert Redford’s ski resort/institute for the arts. It was a busy summer. Classes in the morning, spring skiing, lunch on the mountain. Late afternoon poolside at The Enclave. Wednesday and Saturday night dancing at the Ivy Tower. 

When the bIvy Tower first opened the lines to get in were hours long. The first time I went was with my friend Tookey in June of ’86. You could go early in the evening, at 7 and buy tickets and then go off to dinner and come back at 10 for VIP entry. It was a total scene outside. Of course this crazy funny kid from Chile named Memo was outside drunk as a monkey. But that is for another story. 

The Ivy Tower was the former 3rd Ward Chapel LDS church, the main dance floor in the former chapel. It was huge and reminded me of the Limelight in NYC. Also in a former church. The music at the Ivy Tower was solid New Wave. No Top 40 junk. Latest from UK. John Taylor ‘I Do What I Do’ and ‘Opportunities’ by Pet Shop Boys. In that summer of ’86 it was all about being tan and dressing in Calvin Klein white.

Again, not much on the internet about the crazy scene that went on there, but for an article about the owners being shut down by the city of Provo for noise and anti-social behaviour from 1991. After my time there.

By autumn of ’86 there was a new club in the Union Block and West Center Street in Provo called Plastique. An entire culture emerged from the renovated turn of the century buildings on the corner of Center Street and University Avenue named Provo Town Square. I spent most of my free time there. Von Curtis hair salon and academy. The Underground restaurant. Woody’s clothing store from L.A. The Backstage…a hip lounge with a good menu and bar. And a very high end sandwich shop. It was so cool kids from SLC would make the pilgrimage down to ho-hum Provo. Although it mostly catered to the BYU club crowd it was amazing to see these super original looking kids from SLC.

There is a Plastique fb page with some great memories of the club’s brief existence:  Plastique Dance Club

In the late autumn of ’86 and into winter and spring of 1987 I would travel to Park City for a small upstairs dance spot simply known as “The Club” with my dear friend Memo from Chile and Stacey Flynn.  I got up to spectacular amounts of fun here. 

I’ve not found anything related to The Club at Park City on the internet.

In the summer of 1987 I was between terms hanging about New York City with a bunch of friends from uni who had gone to The City to be nannies. Mostly I ran between Soho and Brooklyn Heights. I got to know this quite bizarre and rather original club promoter named Michael Alig from his parties at the Tunnel and Limelight. I moved on shortly thereafter to one of the first super clubs called The Saint. I hung out one night with Pete Burns from Dead or Alive and Bronski Beat on another. For me The Saint symbolised everything decadent about New York in the 80’s. 

In the summer of ’87 I also visited Toronto for the first time, clubbing at the legendary Nuts & Bolts. It was here I first heard Cabaret Voltaire and Front 242. Fortunately there is an entire web page dedicated to Toronto nightlife of the 80’s including Nuts & Bolts

When I returned to uni in Provo, in the autumn of 1987 my friend Memo took me to a hip club in SLC. It had a very decadent vibe to it. Alternately known as 12 Oaks or The Collector they played the latest New Wave music in a multi-levelled club where the bathrooms overflowed with blow. Saturday nights were 12 Oaks nights. Dinner at the Oyster Bar across the street (another great hang but not a dance club) followed by dancing and drugs at 12 Oaks. I usually ended up in someone’s bed. I didn’t always remember who’s.

There is virtually nothing on the web to remind us of the existence of this once great club in an old bank. It’s now an office complex in the existent building.

By 1988 I began visiting this insane little dance club in Detroit called The Shelter. It was beneath St. Andrews Hall where I saw Duran Duran play on their first tour of the US in 1981. It was here I first heard Detroit and Chicago house music and fell in love with it. I loved the scene at the Shelter. Mod/Goth was really a small circle in Motortown and we all seemed to know each other. Problems only arose when there was some metal act playing upstairs and fights ensued in the parking lot. I had a gun pointed at me for the first time here. 

By 1989 being a club kid was all over. The scene was changing into something that didn’t move me. A lot of hip hop and gangsta rap. For me, that was it. I moved to LA, bought a BMW motorbike, and hung out at the Roxbury and more intimate lounges like Smalls on Melrose instead of dance clubs. 

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