Great Clubs You Wish You’d Been To Part One: Xenon NYC

Douglas Trumbull designed the space ship that featured in the main area, Studio 54 acolytes derogatorily referred to it as ‘Xerox’ and it was constructed in what was an old porn theatre, but when Xenon opened on a Wednesday in June 1978, it was filled by the consegnetti of the era including Peter Frampton, Tony Curtis, Paul Simon, Mariel Hemingway, Bob Evans, Liv Ullman, Polly Bergen, Tony Roberts, Ahmet Ertegun and Bob McAdoo.  It likely would have featured more celebrities at its opening if the owners hadn’t tipped off the press and had photographers waiting outside the door for their arrival.

Mariel Hemmingway on Opening Night June 1978 – Photo Stolen From Web

Located at 123rd West 43rd Street in Midtown, it was named for the word ‘Stranger’ in Greek, and was opened by Swiss / Italian restaurateur Peppo Vanini and concert promoter Howard Stein who had met at Studio 54 and realised that disco would be lucrative hustle for a further year or two at least.

Howard Stein Circa Late 1970sPhoto Stolen From Web

With silver walls, it’s mothership and a giant ‘X’ floating above the dance floor, the club also featured a mezzanine with “… seven ‘playpen’ areas, featuring electronic games and huge couches for lounging and watching the dancers and the various visual effects that descend from the ceiling, including a neon shooting gallery, three gigantic pinball machines and several Maypoles” as noted in a contemporary New York Times article.

Inside The ClubPhotos Stolen From Web

While its patrons popped ‘ludes or sniffed poppers and coke, tunes like Dancing in Outer Space by Atmosfear, Free Man by South Shore or I Don’t Want To Lose It by Bambu inflamed their senses. Future 1980s club hero Jellybean Benitez (who went on to be the main DJ for famed 1980s venue The Funhouse, was Madonna’s boyfriend and produced her break-out single Holiday), did his DJ apprenticeship here under the tutelage of Tony Smith.

Madonna & JellybeanPhoto Stolen From Web

Tony SmithPhoto Stolen From Web

According to famed night club photographer Bill Berstein, “They had these moving sets, backdrops that would [change] during the night,” he says. “Every half an hour, 45 minutes, you would look up and see a different room.” The club generally catered for a more upwardly mobile, straighter and whiter crowd than Studio 54, without being as white and working class as Bay Ridge’s 2001 Disco, made famous by 1977’s Saturday Night Fever.

BouncersPhotos Stolen From Web

Satisfied PatronPhotos Stolen From Web

Elton John, Andy Warhol, Jerry Hall, Unknown & Ahmet Ertgun Circa 1978 – Photo Stolen From Web

Divine and Grace JonesPhotos Stolen From Web

Various Good TimesPhotos Stolen From Web

Current Day Façade Circa 2015 – Screenshot By Author

During its time as a night club, it was featured in the surprisingly good 1981 Sylvester Stallone movie Nighthawks…

And in much the same way that Italian movies of the late 1970s and early 1980s tried to rip off all films emanating from Hollywood, they also tried to rip off New York nightclubs, creating their own version of Xenon in the early 1980s with demonstrably poor results.

 

When disco finally died an ignoble death in 1984, sadly so did Xenon. Howard Stein passed away in October 2007 at the age of 62, while Vanini died in 2012 after complications of Parkinsons disease. John F. Kennedy Jr., who wa a frequent visitor to Xenon in the early 1980s was noted in Jerry Oppenhemer’s book RFK Jr, as being “…truly saddened when he heard [Vanini], his ‘disco daddy’ had passed…

As undoubtedly many others were too. Were you there? Any recollections would be most welcome.

Written and posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and The Eastern Terraces with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Robert Palmer: The Genesis & Downfall of Music Videos

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Like all arm chair pundits, I have a theory. And that theory is that Robert Palmer is both the genesis and downfall of music videos. His late 1980s double punch of Addicted To Love and Simply Irresistible signposted the fact that even if the song was kind of shit, if you made the video entertaining enough eventually people will enjoy it by osmosis.

By one of the models from the former video’s admission, Addicted To Love had originally been released without a video and had “bombed”, so the record company were “…taking a big financial risk by re-releasing it”.

record-label-structure

In my mind, I imagine the publicity guys and artist development monkeys sitting around a large oval table listening to Addicted to Love on a Technics tape deck and half-heartedly bobbing their heads in effort to show they’re hip, or at the very least have a semblance of rhythm. Half way through the song an older gentleman abruptly turns it off, turns to the assembled gathering of coked up executives and reasonably asks, “So, how are we going to baste this turkey”?

After much hyperbole, shrugging of shoulders and exasperated denials of ever having been the one to sign him, one magnificently cynical bastard who had remained silently slumped in the back of his Eames chair throughout the meeting speaks up, “I know how to fix this”.

“How”? The remainder of the meeting eagerly reply in unison.

“One word. Titty”.

And the modern music video was born.

https://vimeo.com/123349432

Addicted To Love

The video for Addicted to Love features a bunch of girls that looked like they walked straight out of a Helmut Newton photo shoot, masquerading as Robert Palmer’s Band. All online resources state they were based on artwork done by Patrick Nagel who was an American artist who principally drew pictures for Playboy, designed the cover for Duran Duran’s Rio album and in an ironic twist of fate, would later die from a heart attack after appearing in a celebrity aerobathon to benefit the American Heart Foundation. However personally, I feel the look of the women in the video is almost completely and utterly based on Helmut Newton’s much copied fashion photography of the time.

Newton 1 Newton 2

According to an interview done by Marc Nobleman, the models were paid between £250 – £500 each and the clip was shot in a day in a studio in London. In case you think Mr Palmer got his mack on though, apparently his wife was on set the whole time and he was somewhat in awe of the statuesque models and rarely made conversation with them.

Both clips were directed by famed 1960s fashion photographer Terrance Donovan who was a contemporary of David Bailey and supplied the models with both wine (for mood) and a musician (in an attempt to teach them rudimentary music playing techniques). According to one of the girls featured in the video, the brief from Terence Donovan was to look like shop window mannequins.

12. 11. 10. 09. 08. 07. 06. 05. 04. 14.

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The marketing department at EMI Records was not the first to make use of window dressing in such a fashion. Oh wait, yes they were… for EMI Records was also responsible for Duran Duran’s groundbreaking video for Girl’s on Film.

https://vimeo.com/97471561

GoF1 GoF2 GoF3 GoF4 GoF5 GoF6 GoF7

Girls on Film featured actual titty and various exaggerated fetishes and fantasies, but unlike Addicted To Love and Simply Irresistible was not meant to play to middle America via MTV (having been made several weeks before that station’s launch) and is much better for that fact.

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Untimately, what these Robert Palmer videos demonstrated was the song’s quality did not matter. If you put soft core porn in it, people… well guys anyway, will watch it nonetheless and the tune will gain traction via stealth.

As the song itself says, “The methods are inscrutable. The proof is irrefutable”.

The real legacy of Simply Irresistible and Addicted to Love is to tone the Girls on Film concept down and make it acceptable enough to get airplay anywhere in the world and thus create a hit tune in the process. It would soon inspire both parody and plagiarism in almost equal measure.

Indeed, within a year, emerging Delicious Vinyl talent Tone Loc unleashed Wild Thing with the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=387ZDGSKVSg

Tone Loc - Wild Thing4 Tone Loc - Wild Thing3 Tone Loc - Wild Thing2 Tone Loc - Wild Thing

And Madonna, who always knew sex sold, put out Justify My Love

Justify My Love3 Justify My Love

Before you knew what was happening, artists like Sir Mix A Lot were embracing the trend with tracks like Baby Got Back

Baby Got Back3 Baby Got Back2 Baby Got Back

And the East Coast Versus West Rivalry was only so much smoke blown up the asses of the models in Ma$e’s Feel So Good video.

Ma$e_1

Ma$e_2

By the late 1990s music executives realised the only way to make any one listen to someone as untalented as Britney Spears was to dress her up as a slutty school girl and make videos like Baby One More Time

Baby1MoreTime_2

Baby1MoreTime_3 Baby1MoreTime_1

And Christina Aguilera possibly sought to reverse that trend with her video for Dirty – but likely did the opposite.

Christina Agulera – Dirty

The fact that this strategy works is borne out in the fact that women don’t seem to give a shit if they’re objectified to get sales. So we get stuff like Single Ladies by Beyonce which on the surface is some oblique tale of female empowerment (albeit dictated by getting married) which is demonstrated by a video showing her gyrating around with two other women while they slap their own asses.

Beyonce I Beyonce 2

Beyonce 4 Beyonce 3

And inevitably, the scale slides back towards baser instincts and we start getting videos such as Ludacis’ Pussy Poppin’.

Ludacris - Pussy Poppin2 Ludacris - Pussy Poppin

And Nelly’s Tip Drill

Nelly Tip Drill

And Eric Pryce’s Call On Me

ERIC PYRZE – Call On Me2 x

ERIC PYRZE – Call On Me

ERIC PYRZE – Call On Me3

Until finally, indeed inevitably we reach what all music videos will ultimately become given half a chance…

Doggy Style

Written and posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and The Eastern Terraces with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.