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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Limelight Marketplace, that used to be a Disco, that used to be a Church!

I left the beautiful Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show with my sister Toni and our good friend Rich.  We strolled over to 20th Street and 6th Avenue to The Limelight Marketplace. A shopping Mall that resides in the old Limelight Disco that used to be "star studded" (as   Rich would always say) and before that was an Episcopal Church.  This beautiful Gothic Revival Brownstone built in 1844-1845. 
A photo of the inside which later became the dance Floor.












My sister Toni and Rich worked there at the Limelight when it first opened as the new nightclub, way, way back in 1983s.  They got jobs  through a friend of ours, Jimmy.  His boyfriend at the time was the General Manager.  Rich was 19 years old, Toni was 18 and I was 17.  I didn't work there until about 2 years later when I was 19 and even then, I only worked part time on weekends because of my regular day job on East 46th Street at a Hotel Reservation Center.  

The Limelight was one of the clubs where we wore our vintage finds and thought we were glamorous.  Hearing about the old club turning Shopping Mall was Sac Religious. oh my,,,how can that be?  I guess it shouldn't be a shock since Manhattan is very "Disney Like" now and not what it used to be and miss.  Could you imagine how the churchy people felt knowing that this place of prayer would become a Fabulous Disco?  I assume they felt the same way but probably worse....funny,,,isn't it?   


We always had these Matchbooks back then.
What the Limelight Looks Like now as a Shopping Mall.

We had some great times there and saw many celebs and better yet, just the people.  The implants from other states or countries that were mostly super Punk with Huge Mohawks, Transvestites, Drag Queens, old eccentric Manhattan people or the locals that the employees would call ' Bridge and Tunnels".  They could spot them a mile away and didn't like them too much. It was they way they dressed (sneakers or just underdressed) and they felt they were trouble makers (Ironic, since the club was closed because of the owner's troubles).  They were the people that had to travel by Bridge or Tunnel to get into Manhattan.  I guess I was a Tunnel because we lived just on the other side of the Hudson River in Weehawken and the Lincoln Tunnel entrance was about 1000 feet from my front door.  Actually, the tunnel must have ran under our house, but anyway, the point was that everybody was there, it seemed to work and you could be whatever you wanted to be!  
Toni was the manager of the Coat Room and if you think you didn't need a manager, well think again.  It was a big operation for a coat room and she hired most of our friends.  

Rich in the Center with Bruce and Chazz, working the door - 
1984 or 1985 perhaps, not sure.
That is Toni, my older sister (by only 1 year) on the left and that is me on the right behind the counter at the Limelight. The eatery now resides in it's place.  This picture was around 1985.  p.s. I still have that dress in my closet.  

They charged a $1.00 per item.  Party people would check their coats, backpacks, umbrellas, rollerskates,,,you name it.  So, there was staff, money, tickets and many items that all had to be organized.  On a busy night there would be about 12 of use working.  I believe the club would move about 2000 people on a good night.  

A picture of Toni, Hank, Hippo and me at the bar upstairs on a night off.
 I know  this is a bad photo.. Taken about 1986 or 1987
Toni hired Hippo, which I always had a great time with, but working with him was just annoying. I would fight with him because he was always in my way......

Upon arrival, there was a small coat check area to hand over your stuff.  We would then send the items down stairs to through cutout in the floor in the coat check room via a mechanical peg board that would rotate on a track.  You would then place the coat or whatever on the peg.  The others down stairs would take it off the pegs and place the item on a Dry Cleaner's mechanical rack.  Once, Toni slipped down the shaft and some how caught herself on a peg and she was dangling upside down. She had no idea what just happened and didn't know where she was.   Luckily, the peg caught her and she didn't smash her head. 

Rich and Toni Stopping to get a photo in front of the old Entrance that  turned  dinning area...
where you  once couldn't get passed the velvet ropes so easy, especially if you were a "Bridge and Tunnel".
 At the end of the night, the drunken party people would tip very well..we made great tips but it was well deserved.  Some others would loose their ticket and demand their stuff.

If that happened, they had to fill out a form and give ID and a detailed discription of the 
item.  Sometimes, when people had too much fun, and were whacked out of their minds, they would refuse and get loud and nasty.   They would spit on us, but would miss, try to lunge over the counter or just curse.  The worst had to be when people on their way out would just pewk right there at the exit door....lovely! 





Rich Taking a Peek at the new Dinning area/ Old Entrance with Toni looking on
and me,,ah, I don't know what I was doing.

We weren't afraid at all, since the club had the best security and we had radios.  We would just tell them to come down, and they did.  They would toss these characters right onto 6th Avenue.   Once I got harassed outside of the club by some "Bridge and Tunnel" dudes and Security wasn't around.  The club just closed and I was buying a prezel from the prezel guy.  They wanted to know why I was with my "faggot" friends and not with "Real Men" like them.  Ok, great way to pick up a girl, but these homophobic assholes wouldn't let up.  The situation escalated and long story short, I almost got killed and Rich saved my life that night.   That Story I can save for another post!     



Toni and Rich, checking out the New Limelight Market Place

The best was after they closed at 4AM. We would have our shift drinks around the Chapel Bar, but this was after we had to find the owners of items left behind.  These were usually people that were up in the V.I.P. room.  After we would find the VIP's, we would go to the Chelsea Dinner for Breakfast, or some crazy after hours club.  Then regret it because the sun was out and the birds were chirping while rising out of a dark dungeon like club.  I really felt like a Vampire those mornings...the Sun was the last thing I wanted to see. 

We basically all moved on about 1987-1988 and that is when the Ecstasy and Special K drugs started popping up along with the already popular drug Cocaine.  Which ultimately brought the club owner, Peter Gatien and the club down. I am not saying there weren't drugs while we worked there but I do remember there wasn't a high tolerance of it.  But I guess that all changed after we left. 


How the stain glass loos now from the Cat Walk.


Now, the Limelight is just a fantastic memory where a Shopping Center Resides.  It was a bit strange to see how the entrance was turned into a seating area for the Deli / Pizzeria that used to be the lobby area and paid your $20. and entered the night time playground.  That was 1980s money,,which I thought was way expensive, but, people paid it or they had comp tickets.  
Stained Glass in the stair well up to the Cat Walk.   
This is what the dance floor looks like now  


The courtyard on 20th Street.
We all agreed the restaurant CrossBar was the nicest part and we liked it.  This is at the side entrance on 20th Street.  That area once was the employee entrance where you clocked in and the offices where housed in that area too.  The new restaurant had a nice bar, some exposed brick and best part was the Unisex Bathroom, which we used by the way.  

At least we can rest assured knowing that at the Limelight Marketplace you can still be whatever you wanted to be!  Yeah, in the Unisex Bathroom only.  

Thanks for reading and have a Fab Day!!!!   ~ Gina

Photos (the first four) are Courtesy of the Limelight Facebook page.  The others, are mine, crappy, I know,,,taken with my phone. 

Also, if you are interested a Documentary Film about the former owner, Peter Gatien and the Limelight, Check it out:  Limelight 

and check out the Limelight Market Place's Facebook page.