Monday, November 18, 2013

Crisco Disco to Monarch

Monarch, a new upscale restaurant, has moved into a long-empty warehouse at 408 West 15th, next to the soon-vanishing Prince Lumber.

408 W. 15th (a few years ago)

The owners told The Observer that the warehouse was "unoccupied for 30 years and home to old abandoned cars." The new space, they said, is meant to be “old warehouse meets a 1920s club room... sophisticated and comfortable yet [with] the intrinsic architectural quality of the neighborhood and New York as a whole." (Did it open yet? Zagat has a preview.)

What they don't mention is that Monarch is in the space once occupied by the famous gay club Crisco Disco.

408 W. 15th: Crisco Disco

In his book Turn the Beat Around, Peter Shapiro recalls the club's giant Crisco can DJ booth, the sleaze, the "wanton open sex," and the drugs. Everyone, said music producer Ian Levine, was "drugged out of their mind, completely drug fucked. No one ever got to go home with anyone because they were just out of it."

The website Disco-Disco has a few fascinating tidbits about the place. The owner, Hank, "used to invite attractive people into his VIP room where a huge pile of blow the size of a card table would be waiting." In Blondie's song "Rapture," the line "Flash is fast, Flash is cool" refers to a "well known coke and heroin dealer who hung out in the club." And Crisco Disco also had a bartender "who would only drink the urine of his lover and kept a glass of it on the bar."

Don't miss Disco Music's amazing page of 1980s photos from Crisco Disco, featuring the Crisco can DJ booth ("it's digestible"), and many fabulous-looking people--in tangerine furs and shiny gold pants, with names like Lonny, Tony, Mindy, and Hank.

We can add this one to the list of what's become of this area's raunchy queer havens.

See Also:
Men in Leather


kingofnycabbies said...

Always thought the "Flash" referenced in the song was Grandmaster Flash, the rap pioneer.

Anonymous said...


The "Rapture" lyric goes:

"Fab Five Freddie told me everybody's fly
DJ's spinning I said my, my
Flash is fast, Flash is cool"

Im pretty sure that Debbie Harry is referring to DJ Grandmaster Flash.

Mark said...

I can't vouch for the wanton sex, but I will agree that we were beyond high at this dump! My few visits took place under the influence of little purple capsules that were called THC, but who knows what they actually contained. It was a whole lot of fun, however.

Anonymous said...

The city was once "open" and a lot more fun. Whether you are gay or not, the point is that in those days (everything prior to the mid-late 90's) the city was more liberal. Now, everything is pretty much "sterilized" and totally boring. The clubs in those days had a cast of characters from the NYC of yesteryear. You had all classes of people (working class and blue collar to street types, to affluent) all mixing together for the sake of good times. I feel like when I go to a club it's like nobody is having fun. People seem to be in bad spirits, and hateful. I just don't see the love everyone talks about when they mention clubbing NYC in the 70's. It's very pretentious, hateful, and boring most of all.

This hipster thing going on in Williamsburg isn't any better. The city in my book died and is dead pretty much. It's a whole new thing now which I just don't get.

Ed said...

I agree with Anonymous 8:39. Its hard to imagine circumstances where places like this would be my scene, but I think its important that one or two of them exist. That makes it more likely that there is enough variety so that other places I do like exist.

Also, I have noticed that places where lots of people are gathered in public have increasingly become fairly depressing places with subdued crowds.

Anonymous said...

Ugh. That's all I can say about Monarch. Just ugh.

Anonymous said...

Caleo said...

I agree with Ed said. Although I wouldn't have frequented this place, I was glad to live in a city where it existed. Where any type of "scene" and related sub-scenes could exist simultaneously.
Now, an FLAT blandness. Bars and clubs are filled with twentysomethings who are all texting each other and don't appear to be having much fun.

The End of History said...

They did the same thing when the building that once housed the famous leather gay bar, The Spike, was turned into a condo called The Lifesaver Building. Talk about sugar coating.

The End of History said...

Also check out the new book about the night club "Area". A great place that was an evolving art/performance/disco from 1983 to 1987

Anonymous said...

"Crisco's" (as we called it back then) was one of those wonderful bastions of hedonism provided by "Old New York" (Koch era) where I had visceral experiences of Divine Decadence. I MISS IT in this time of "pseudo-free spirit neo-conservativism" .

Anonymous said...

I never saw anyone have actual sex there but i did see a certan movie star who is now married and whom famously misspronounced a singers name on the oscars making out with his at the time film director ,oh what the fuck it was John Travolta and the director was Sly Stallone and NO i didnt do drugs then LOL

Christopher Duquette said...

I was a dancer at the Gaiety Male Burlesque 1976 - 1978. I hoofed in underground clubs in NYC: Crisco Disco was first introduced to me as a club for sea of sweaty shirtless gay black men dancing to the Original's "Down to Love Town". I will always remember the night Yoko Ono arrived in the VIP room to the sounds of "Walking on Thin Ice". I tell more lurid details about Crisco Disco as well as other clubs: 12 West, the Gallery, the Anvil, Flamingo, Paradise Garage, Studio 54, the World, Sound Factory, the World,....
in my book, Homo GoGo Man
by Christopher Duquette
now available on DonnaInk
& Amazon