9/11/09

RUFF NITES

I just found out that tonight is the final night of the Ruff Club at the Annex. Apparently the Annex is closing, and Ruff Club is leaving with it.

Just yesterday I was talking with my friend Dan about how I never go out anymore, how it doesn't feel as exciting to be n nightclubs right now, not so urgent. But I take it back! I haven't been to Ruff Club in about a year or so, but this news makes me kind of sad.

Ruff Club started in April 2006. I remember my glamorous and genius artist friend Isabelle Rancier told me about it when I moved to NYC full time that May. (She always knows the coolest things to do, way before anyone else). When it started, it was fun in an almost low-key way. The biggest game in town, to my mind, was the Misshapes party. At the Annex, there wasn't as much of a scene, people didn't necessarily wear their best clothes, cause they'd get sweaty at Ruff Club. Someone might spill a drink on you. Kids were getting wasted and there was lots of dancing and the basement of the Annex was wood-paneled, it looked like a suburban rec room from the 1970s. After midnight, they let people smoke cigarettes down there. It was sweaty and exciting.

Shortly before Misshapes ended in 2007, Ruff Club started to get bigger and bigger. Ruff Club always had really good DJs and live acts. It was no longer just a party for NYU hipsters and their admirers, it was a bona fide Place To Be. After Misshapes ended, I guess the Ruff Club ascended as the coolest spot. As the party's co-host and photographer, the legendary Brad Walsh noted around this time, people would come to the Annex just to hang out on the stoops that lined the street. They wouldn't even bother (or be able to?) get inside the club. They'd put on their fanciest clothes, call a car and have themselves dropped off on Orchard Street, and sit on the stairs of the boutiques on the block, wearing tight white jeans and smoking cigarettes.

I was never really a regular there, or anywhere. But going out to nightclubs used to be a lot more important, urgent, for me. Ruff Club was, for a time, a sure bet. You always knew you would have a wild and wonderful time there. Almost without fail. There aren't many parties in New York that you could say that about. Ruff Club won much more often than it failed. I never got to perform there, try as I might, but I always had an amazing time. It was really the first nightclub I started going to when I graduated from college (the summer of 2005, Isabelle and I religiously went to the Rated X Panty Party at the now-closed Opaline in the East Village, another story for another day). I identified with it. I made some good friends there. I regularly met lovers there, and often went to second and third base at the club. My first night, in the smoky basement, among rainbow-plaid throngs of hipster superstars, I got a blowjob (well, most of one) while dancing to the Talking Heads. That was really awesome. I knew who I would see if I went there. Sometimes we were on the list, usually, and got to cut to the head of the line. Sometimes we'd be waved in my Ian Cogneato, who worked the door. And then we'd apologize to our friends who weren't on the list and had to pay the ridiculous cover.

Sometimes they'd give us the stamp for the club, and the special blacklight-only additional stamp that would get us into the upstairs "V.I.P." lounge, where there would be all manner of NYC downtown luminaries, celebrities real and imagined, movie stars, DJs, rock stars, supermodels and glamorous folk. Ruff Club was where I met the inimitable Sophia Lamar.

Here are some photos taken at Ruff Club, all by Brad Walsh.



T-shirt party.



I was really into this outfit at the time, with my hair all big.



With Sister Pico, drunk.



My former back-up dancers Miriam and Alex, upstairs at the Annex for Brad's birthday party. I just found this photo after like two years. I really love it.

As I said, I haven't been back in a while. I'd thought about it a lot in the last few months, dropping by to check it out, but never got it together. It feels sort of like the end of an era. Another nightclub closes, another nod to the Disappearing Downtown. I'm 25. It's also a recession. Things changing endlessly. There are tons of new and fun and exciting clubs, but tonight being the last night of Ruff Club feels like a closing chapter. I won't make it to the Annex tonight, but I will be going out dancing somewhere else. Somewhere downtown, secret, where you'd have to be on the list to get in, so I can't talk about it.

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