47 West 20th Street @ 6th Avenue
Limelight itself is the titanic heart of the New York City club scene. Built within the shell of a vast stone church, it features a massive stage, video screens, stained glass windows, an outdoor garden, several dancefloors, a DJ booth/party room suspended over the cavernous main dancefloor, numerous futuristic bar stations, and a coat check larger than many other clubs' dancefloors. It is the club which all other clubs are compared to, across the United States and much of the world.
Primary entry to Limelight is provided through a dark and understated entrance, in front of which the wealthy, creative, and young elite of NYC line up around the block every night. Through the dark, one winds up a narrow spiral staircase into the box office area decorated with artwork, dozens of video monitors, and sinister lighting. Beyond is a tunnel-like area with a wall composed of backlit electron micrographs, access to the back areas through a dark tunnel, and a large mouth-like opening to the right leading to where the pews once were the main dancefloor.
Packed with hundreds of flailing bodies and speakers of breathtaking size and power, the main dancefloor of Limelight has given the venue a nickname: "The Church of Thump-Thump-Thump." The ceiling stretches up about four stories tall over the gyrating penitents, permitting a large volume of air to circulate and keep the temperature and air quality fairly comfortable. Two tiers made of black metal circle around the main dancefloor as balconies for the voyeuristically inclined, decorated with countless backlit stained glass windows. Over the stage hangs a huge glitter ball, with two life-sized chrome Christs crucified back-to-back around it. Towards the rear is a large ground-level bar and access to alcoves. Five staircases ring the main chamber and lead to the balconies and DJ booth.
Yet this is just the tip of the iceberg. One goes behind the stage to the left and it leads to a futuristic lounge, and "chapel" area acting as a second dancefloor. Through yet another narrow entrance one procedes to a Roman-styled space with tiles and columns (where Interim is being held) and access to the Limelight lavatory, which contrasting the old days is lavish and features stalls with one-way panels displaying blown up photographs of impressive full-body tattoo artwork.
Above these back areas is a veritable labyrinth of VIP rooms and fantastically styled lounges, including the world-famous H.R.Giger Room. This room was designed by the artist, and has blow-ups of his artwork embedded in the walls, stylized alien designs in the tops of the cafe tables, a textured grid of biomechanoid circuitry supporting the bar, and sleek art-deco inspired gargoyles hanging over the all-too-human revellers.
Only recently has Limelight come back into our scene. Though one of the longest lasting and influential events for Gothic and Industrial in NYC was Communion Tuesdays @ Limelight, the mayor especially targeted this beautiful space in his crackdown on crime (mostly drug-related.) Limelight remained closed for years; and the reopening has been gradual and very cautious, as its international celebrity owner Peter Gatien has attempted to keep the clientele uncontroversial.
This is beginning to change, and our scene is finally beginning to take back the strangest and most monstrous fruit of of American Nightlife The Limelight.
Commentary by Clifford Hartleigh Low, Monday, July 19, 1999.
|Illustration by Kurt Komoda|