EXHIBITION: SAT 15TH JUL – SAT 5TH AUG, WED – SAT, 12 – 6PM
PRIVATE VIEW: FRI 14TH JUL, 7PM
PLEASE NOTE THAT THE GALLERY WILL CLOSE AT 3PM ON SATURDAY 15TH JULY FOR AN EVENT.
The Horse Hospital is proud to present an installation of rare photographs, brochures and related documents from the notorious Club 82, an outrageous drag club that operated exclusively in New York East Village from 1953 until the mid 1970s. The basement club was home to a host of famous female impersonators and gained a reputation for vivid and extravagant live shows, celebrity clientele and raucous soirees.
Before the Stonewall riots of 1969, openly gay bars and clubs were illegal. Club 82, like many other “gay” establishments of the time who sought impunity from the authorities, was reportedly owned and operated by the mafia. Slipping through the grasp of the law, the club’s popularity grew with both heterosexual and gay clientele.
As Club 82 flourished, the USA’s top female impersonators flocked to the club in search of employment, some holding jobs there for decades. The Revue - the clubs in-house stage show - was directed by Kitt Russell, a US Navy veteran revered as “America’s top femme mimic”. Their live-shows were complex and labour intensive productions combining innovative stagecraft, scored music, and complex choreographies. They were known for their dazzling costume design and high production values - one theatre programme stating: “The skillful design of our underwater scenes is the work of Terry Lane. They are all quite beautiful, but actually it would have been much less expensive to flood the club.”
However the burgeoning LGBT rights movement of the 1970’s would see laws and public opinion change, consequently elicit drag clubs like Club 82 either closed their doors or adapted into more conventional venues. By 1974 the New York Dolls, and other Punk bands had played there in an effort to keep its doors open, but sadly it remained a relic of a different time, and in the end nothing could save it. This exhibition uncovers an important and little known chapter of queer culture and history in New York at that time.
As part of the exhibition a programme of screenings and events will run concurrently with exhibition throughout July and August, details TBA.
Many thanks to JD Doyle for permission to use images from Queer Music Heritage archive.