Friday, February 10, 2006

Under The Boardwalk

My new friend Jacob sent me a wonderful essay about the history of gay life in Atlantic City. It's titled "New York Avenue: The Life and Death of Gay Spaces in Atlantic City 1920-1990", and is beautifully written by Bryant Simon who now is a Professor of History at Temple University.

It documented quite an era of gay nightlife in Atlantic City -- of which I caught the tail end from 1981-86. From days on the infamous Gay Beach in front of the Claridge Hotel (according to legend, the location was chosen due to the very phallic cap of the hotel) to nights on Snake Alley, stumblin' from the Brass Rail and the Entertainer's Club to NY Avenue - where I would stay at Chester's Hotel - home of the Chester Disco - across the street was Saratoga, where I got to party into sunrise with The Weather Girls back in 1983 or so.

Anyway - memories overload about Atlantic City. I have pictures somewhere of one Halloween when I went to Saratoga to cover their party for Au Courant (probably '85) and some dude that had gotten tossed out decided to slither his way back into the club through the heat duct - a collapsible circular tube that sadly was a bit too tight for him. He wound up stuck right over the dance floor - and finally pounded his fist through the padding of the duct and knocked out a ceiling tile onto a dancer who looked up to see someone's hand coming through the ceiling!! It really WAS Halloween!! People started screaming and then the next thing I knew there were these dudes dressed up as cops standing around a ladder - oh, wait ... it turns out they ARE cops and they had to take apart the ceiling tiles and literally drag his drunk and embarrassed ass from the ceiling into the police wagon.

The highlight was that while all this was going on - the dance party never stopped or slowed down! People were climbing all over themselves to get a better view and this process of freeing him from the duct took almost 30 minutes, during which the DJ took total control of the situation by spinning "I Will Survive" "Enough is Enough" and as the drunk finally fell out of the ceiling into the arms of the local police - a spotlight was put on him and the opening bars of "It's Raining Men" started to play ... everyone screamed and the party was ON!

So - anyway, this essay on Atlantic City - at the very end he had a closing line that really hit me, especially now that I am writing this memoirs blog ... I want to share it with you:

These memories, however, point to something more than nostalgia for a lostworld. They underline forgotten stories about urban spaces. Cities are complicated, ever-changing places embodying the myriad experiences of diverse peoples. Only complicated, overlapping narratives can possibly capture this ballet of movement and cacophony of voices.


Michael J said...

where may i find a copy of this essay? let me know thanks!

Jacob said...

Available at the Philadelphia Free Library. Call number: 301.3609 J826O V.29 2002/03. The cite is below.

Simon, Bryant. “New York Avenue: the Life and Death of Gay Spaces in Atlantic City, New Jersey, 1920-1990,” Journal of Urban History, Vol. 38, No. 3 (March 2002): 300-327.

Jacob said...

Oops! It is actually Volume 28. Sorry.

Michael J said...