“We opened Area never expecting it to last,” writes Eric Goode in the preface to the new book Area: 1983 – 1987 ($75, abrams.com), an exquisite oral and pictorial history of the legendary—though short-lived—New York nightclub. “Change was the only constant.” Over its four-year run, the warehouse space was made over anew approximately every six weeks: from its opening theme of “Night,” during which a masked welder lit up a dark dance floor with showers of sparks to a later incarnation called “Gnarly,” with a platoon of drag racers and nude bikers screeching across the 13,000 square foot space. With three bars, a shark tank, and a swimming pool the downtown imaginarium welcomed all manner of wildlife, from Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat to Madonna and Grace Jones to Marc Jacobs and Calvin Klein to the chameleonic Bernard Zette, a man who might arrive on any given night as a mermaid or, say, Anne Frank. And the bathroom was its own special club within the club, an orgy of anonymous sex and a wildly eclectic marketplace (condoms, chicken sandwiches, or Comme des Garcons jackets could all be had at cost), the whole scene powdered faintly in white. It was, after all, the ’80s.
“Area” is available from Abrams Books. An exhibition will be at The Hole at 312 Bowery in New York. Through November 10, 2013.
Photos: Area: 1983 – 1987
Joe Bernard as Zette, the mermaphrodite, sitting atop Area’s waterfall.
For Food, Mark Garbarino turned the pool into alphabet soup. Kenny Baird served cocktails.
Calvin Klein and Tommy Street with an owl.
Michael Musto and Albert Crudo.
Bernard-Zette as Doris Farnsworth and Andy Warhol.
Jean-Michel Basquiat and Francesco Clemente.
Albert Crudo and Michael Musto.
Patti Hansen and Keith Richards.
Ludovik (Body Painted by Keith Haring), Haring and Jon Sex.