Party Down

In September 1983, those invited to the opening night of a new club called Area received a velvet ring box in the mail. Inside, they found a single blue capsule with accompanying instructions not to consume the pill, but to dissolve it in hot water, where a cellophane invitation would float to the surface. The invitation to the soon-to-be legendary venue at 157 Hudson Street in Tribeca offered a vision for a new kind of nightlife—one that alchemized installation and performance art into a larger-than-life fantasy space. “None of us really wanted to be club owners, we just wanted to live out our creative fantasies,” recalls co-founder Shawn Hausman in the new book Area: 1983-1987 (Abrams), an oral and photographic history of the club due out this month. Hausman, along with brothers Eric and Christopher Goode and Darius Azari, conceptualized Area around a series of monthly themes, including Suburbia (with a Levittown-esque house façade over the club’s entrance and dioramas of the imagined house’s rooms lining the entrance hall), Gnarly (with nightmarish dioramas of bound figures, a strobe-lit electric chair, and a skateboarding ramp), Natural History, Carnival, and Confinement. Area drew an uptown-meets-downtown crowd that counted of-the-moment visual artists like Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, and Jean-Michael Basquiat amongst early regulars, along with others like John Sex and Diane Brill, whose alter-hours personas were their art, cultivating a scene where hedonism and creativity intermingled with ease. For the book, Eric Goode and his sister, Jennifer Goode, have collected a wealth of images, ephemera, and remembrances from those who worked, performed, and partied during the Area’s notorious four-year-run, vividly documenting a widely mythologized moment in the history of New York nightlife—and the club’s brief, shiny time at the center of it.