Remembrances of the Clit Club

The first time I tried to enter the Clit Club, I didn't even make it inside. A beautiful young lady picked me up right there at the entrance, and took me back to her apartment. A few weeks later when I actually made it all the way inside, I saw that the atmosphere was highly sexualized. Topless dancers shook their stuff on the stage, on top of the bar, and on various elevated platforms. When I ventured downstairs, women were dancing, grinding, making out and making love in dark corners.

Hostesses Julie Tolentino (made famous by the photo montage with her partner Alistair and Madonna in the book Sex) and Jocelyn Taylor (aka Jaguar Mary) gave birth to the infamous party in the Meatpacking District, where celebrities including Debbie Harry and Madonna were often spotted. Photographer Lola Flash was behind the bar, and often displayed slides of her photographs on the walls. There was usually a line of people waiting to get in, and the dancefloor was normally so packed that we could hardly move. THOSE WERE THE DAYS... before the onset of the AIDS epidemic, the resulting restrictions place on bars and clubs by then-mayor Giuliani.

Madonna, Alistair, and Julie, photographed by Steven Meisel


Julie Tolentino would often invite guest artists to perform on the stage. I remember hearing poet Pamela Sneed read from her short stories, and was surprised to see how quiet the crowd became when she began to read. She held them in rapt attention. Her stories were about her travels and experiences, but unfortunately, on that night, had nothing to do with sexuality of erotica. As I had been writing my own erotic short stories - inspired by Anaïs Nin - I decided to ask Julie if she would let me read one of my short stories on stage with the visual assistance of a go-go dancer. She happily agreed, so a few weeks later I was presented on the stage of the Clit Club in a reading of an erotic short story.

Pamela Sneed
When the go-go dancer began her striptease, the crowd grew silent. There was no music playing. All they heard were my words, while their eyes gazed upon the beautiful dancer interpreting my words with graceful body movements. Lori Seid - who later would win an Emmy for her television work - kept the crowd spellbound via her artful lighting design. Lori had asked me before we went on stage what the final words of the piece were, so she could cut the lights at the end. When she did, the crowd screamed at the top of their lungs. I could hear that they were totally silent during the performance. You could have heard a pin drop. The cheering and screaming at the end gave me such an adrenaline rush. Julie came onto the stage and acknowledged us, and the crowd screamed some more. I later learned that the cheering was heard well outside of the building and down the block.

At the end of the evening, when one of the members of the staff handed me an envelope containing four twenty-dollar bills, it was the most gratifying payment I had received for a performance. Before then I had performed on concert stages as piano soloist with symphony orchestras, but that payment of eighty dollars truly warmed my heart. I was sharing my talents with my community, and that was what mattered.

And now, thirty years later, both Pamela Sneed and I are finalists for 2021 Lambda Literary Awards - Pamela for her book of poetry titled Funeral Diva, and I for Practicing for Love: A Memoir. How gratifying it is that both of us are nominated, and will be honored during Lambda Literary's Virtual Awards Ceremony on June 1st.
 

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