In September 1983 four guys from California – brothers Eric and Christopher Goode, Shawn Hausman, and Darius Azari – sent out 5,000 invitations to the first party at AREA, their nightclub set to open in a 13,000-square-foot warehouse at 157 Hudson Street in Manhattan, right at the mouth of the Holland Tunnel. The invitation came in the form of a blue pill inside a black velvet ring box that bore the instructions: “Place capsule in glass of hot water and allow to dissolve.” Weighted with a BB, the pill dropped to the bottom of the glass and diffused, revealing a 1 x 1-inch cellophane invitation that was propelled to the surface by Bromo-Seltzer.
Opening night was so crowded that Andy Warhol barely made it in. When Christopher Walken and Robert De Niro tried to sneak in through the exit, the doorman, Gilbert Stafford, said, “I don’t give a fuck who you are, you better step out,” and threw them off the property. Steve Rubell, founder of Studio 54, was so jealous he acted like Area was his own disco. Basquiat, Francesco Clemente, Keith Haring, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Warhol became regulars to the club, which was part natural history museum, part gallery, part zoo, part fuck fest. Every six weeks Area’s entire interior would be gutted and redesigned for a specific theme, which included “Future,” “Gnarly,” “American Highway,” and “Suburbia.” The mise-en-scène was always outrageous: live sharks in tanks, a trapeze, fresh bones, porno cinema, replicas of Levittown-style suburban houses.
The short-lived club is now extensively documented in Area: 1983–1987, a 368-page oral and pictorial history compiled by Eric and Jennifer Goode that acts as a kind of instructional illustrated guide to New York City nightlife. Included are notes distinguishing between “wealthy people” (Barry Diller, D. Geffen, and Spyros Niarchos) and “people connected” (Larissa, Milan, Warhol); references from established institutions for funding (Ian Schrager: “I found the events created last spring on Hudson Street the most inspiring new development in nightlife for some time.” And Interview magazine: “Shawn Hausman, Darius Azari, Eric Goode, and Chris Goode’s club in New York stood out as THE place to go at night on weekends in May and June.”); and responses to Area’s invitations (Quentin Crisp: “Thank you, dear Sir, for your sinister gift. I’ve not dared to deal with it yet. Perhaps I’ll feel braver and stronger when I return from the Deep South.”).
Area was the beginning of a new form of entertainment in which art, people, and music merged. Yet beyond business and strategy, Area the book embodies a unique story of creative socializing. “None of us wanted to be club owners,” says Eric Goode, who went on the open The Bowery and Jane Hotels in New York. “Our methods were amateurish, absurd, illegal even. None of us wanted to be club owners, we just wanted to live out our creative fantasies.”
032c also appreciates that Eric Goode recently founded an organization dedicated to the conservation of the world’s most endangered turtles and tortoises and their habitats worldwide.
Area 1983–1987 is published by Abrams (New York, 2013)