With exception to NYC, most of my nightlife experiences in the 1980s took place in Center City Philadelphia. Sure, there were the trips to Upper Darby to the MSA Club at 69th Street, located above the CR Bar - - both pretty sad spots for someone used to center city glitter - - and of course the trips to beach points like Rehoboth Beach DE and Atlantic City NJ [I have a seperate post about Atlantic City coming soon - some bizarre stories from that place!].
But most of my nightlife was spent in Philly ... except for those times when we piled in the car and drove over the river and through the woods to Cherry Hill, New Jersey to an oasis amidst the marshes known as Gatsby's.
Gatsby's was a disco that catered to the straight crowd when it first opened - it shifted to the gay market around 1980 or so and became THE bar that all of queer South Jersey considered their 'coming out' bar.
To me, it was fascinating to see a bar/disco have a parking lot! Between all the spots in Philly and NYC, this was never needed and I remember that being so odd to me. I first went as a representative of PGN and quickly became friends with several folk, including Wilma - the doll behind the bar. He was already an icon in the gay community and wound up working in clubs in Philly later in his career. VERY FRIENDLY! Also friendly to me was the manager - Richard McPeake ... who currently is the owner of 12th Air Command in Philly.
Once Au Courant opened, I was there often - both as their ad rep and also to party and dance as much as possible. The space was a bit of an escape for me, since there were so many faces I didn't know (unlike any club in Philly by this time). One of the sweetest people I have ever met, I first met at Gatsby's. Debbie Spadafora. She was just the warmest person out there and I always looked forward to heading over the bridge to see her again.
This rare image is probably from 1983 ... that's a 20 year old version of me, in front is Chino (who I posted about a while back). Jason, the then-assistant manager, is next to me and there's Debbie!!
Those of you in the scene today know Debbie. She's been involved in the nightlife for decades - currently assistant manager at Pure (the old DCA). She also created and is the webmaster of http://www.phillygayborhood.com. Some used to call her 'Big Debbie' cause of her size at the time ... to me she is always Big Debbie, because of the size of her heart and her spirit.
She's good folk - say hi to her the next time you see her out and about!