The Clit Club Crew, from left: Xandra Ibarra, Tara Hart, Vivian Crockett, Lori E. Seid, Michele Hill, Pamela Sneed. Photo: Ollín Rodriguez Lopez

For the 6th Annual Last Address Tribute Walk, Visual AIDS Programs Director Alex Fialho led a tribute walk to the Lost Addresses of six sites marked by cultural and activist HIV and AIDS histories in the West Village: Florent, The Mineshaft, The Clit Club, the Piers, The Neutral Zone, and St Vincent’s Hospital. Visiting former sites of nightlife, housing, creativity and care, the 6 th Annual Last Address Tribute Walk shifted from previous iterations highlighting home addresses to locate community and social life in the midst of the AIDS crisis.

In tribute to the Clit Club, Julie Tolentino wrote these words to be read by Vivian Crockett, Tara Hart, Michele Hill and Lori E. Seid.

Lori: Here we are at 432 W 14th Street – which was once called Bar Room 432.

We want to begin by passing around a small bag of mugwort –> a circulatory, settling, and warming herb as another way to come together. Take a little to hold in your hand & pass it along…

28 years ago, in 1990, artists Julie Tolentino, Jocelyn Taylor and a crew of dykes opened these doors as CLIT CLUB. In the earliest days, our club was a mixed party & ultimately, as we look back at this time, it was a space that offered an

—until-then— & —never-to-be-repeated—

legacy that is also called a convergence

a party an identity a homebase

a performance a club gathering – a lifeblood.

Our grassroots intersectional efforts emerged inside these two floors. Two rooms in 1990 grew into four as the club expanded its footprint, over the ten years.

If you peer in through the windows, you see that the dance floor is hollowed out - releasing the ghosts of clit club => drawing our attention back to the dark spaces that we lived, partied, and had sex in. The original wood floor has been taken up but if you look at the concrete floor, you will see it reveals tiny hints - the imprint of the original wall (separating the street from the dance floor), the shape of the bar, the space called the dance floor.

clit club was

- young and old men and women 

- gay and lesbian - trans - transsexual - transvestite - tranny - bisexual - queer - PWAs 
(People With AIDS)
- polite / impolite / neurotic / unfamiliar / familiar / fetish-y / political / in the closet / out 

- black, brown, white and other, mixed, Asian, off-white, pink, shades of black and other brown – POCs

People named themselves: kinky / curious / fancy / invisible / drag-imposters / posers / players / upper class / middle class / underclassed / no classed / nerdy / arty / educated / street-smart / simple / prude-ish / rejected / misunderstood … the list goes on.

Our sounds reverberated and spanned house, Millie’s Latin house & DM’s hard house / punk & pansy / disco / rnb / the bump and grind / Nona Hendryx / Toni C anthems/ Crystal Waters / Salt N Pepa & Dany Johnson’s No Requests

we were & there was

-our youth -those times, the spill of 80s into the 90s

&

-the wide open space where we lived and lost -with our community, alongside AIDS and HIV.

Viv:

This was a physical space where we dealt with, shook out, grasped, and lived with how we lost our people and some parts of ourselves. The Clit Club was political for what it held together – & that it did not try to “produce” an object or a kind of homo-for-sale, but instead created an expanded space for divergent bodies, messy desire, & working our shit out. The AIDS crisis flared in, through and around each person who entered this room. Everyone brought their people with them.

Clit Club was a party borne from affinity groups, artists, collaborations, collectives, friends, friends who fucked, couples who partied, solo wallflowers, activists, students, warriors – and those who loved them – up close and unafraid (or a little afraid and here anyway).

Behind the bar were the club’s first bartenders: photographer Lola Flash, contemporary dancer Robin Zeimer (ZEE-MER), and the beloved, androgynous and luminous Kim Ray and Pamela Sneed.

what was the liveness of clit club – lit, shimmering, hot, sweaty

cuz:

-both cruel and unrelenting & defiant and righteous. Loud and packed. Lines down the block.

DJ aldo hernandez, who is Lola & Julie’s closest friend & originator of MEAT---a men’s party with hard techno-house replete with its own legendary dark room in the basement, also held in this space on Saturday nights for a few years--- ruled - the - booth.

Everyone carried so much with them - not only their youth but also their desire. their strategies for hacking the system. for dismantling power. for carving their own histories, making sense of the present.

Michele:

On the bar, butch women danced for the crowd, femmes took the stage.

There was sex on the basement pooltable. There was women-produced porn (anything we could rent at Kims Video). All of this was on the TV screens and the tapes were put through VHS players and rewinder decks. Julie and Cynthia Madansky (MUH-densky) co-wrote the first “Guide to Safer Sex for Lesbians” that was produced by the Lesbian AIDS Project of (GMHC) Gay Men’s Health Crisis. These safer sex handbooks and sex-positive info packets with gloves and condoms that were tucked into backpockets (here -and across the city).

Early in the night, during, & in our after hours,

stories, experiences, and names were exchanged:

david
david
robert
charles
warren
robert
miguel
tom
ray
anthony
jose
robert
robert
mark
keith
leigh
curtis
essex
katrina
damien
andrea
andre
arthur
vito
tina
marlon
derek
pedro
freddie…

Tara:

-Friends came out to each other – as lesbians, as trans, as positive, as dykes and fags… all sleeping together

-Health statuses were updated

(because in 1992, AIDS was the number one cause of death for men ages 25-44 - & statistics for women, trans- and folks of color were incomplete. & we were worried about each other --- & there was a kind of shock that would take hold that would last for the rest of our lives – especially now as we’ve passed the thresholds of being 25 & 44, & now 50, 55+…))

-Support schedules were made and memorials were planned

The night Ray Navarro died, the Clit Club, this space that held all that Ray had encouraged in all of us, carried our grief. Aldo tore up the decks. Hunter brought Patricia here. The room held us together - offering space for all of the Need. Immediacy. Impotency. The Never-forgetting. The Temporary Forgetting.

The Clit Club let our ghosts back IN.

Viv:

The streets, and our lives were sticky - muddy with fat and blood and gristle and guts.

The low glow from staggered street lights and cruising headlights offered generous shadows and just enough light to navigate folks to this very alive corner. On the sidewalk, the usual dykes with motorbikes parked - all cocky on the sidewalk. At the door with Michele & Pam, you could find Dez or Lori, or Shigi or Jet or (the late) Madge or Alistair. In rotation in the early days, thre was Billy or Aner.

But – every Friday - from the night he started to a few months before he transitioned, tattoo artist and ever-beloved gentle giant, Don Boyle stood at the Clit Club door.

Tara:

So here we share this re-created drawing of Don Boyle’s legendary Clit Club image from the mid-90s (thanks to young artist, Win Mixter in SF). This image was a poster, a sticker, t-shirt, club invite, a tattoo, and tribute – both Don’s tribute to the Clit Club, and now the our tribute to Don.

As we walk over to the piers, we offer the circulation of bloodroot. __viv?___ + __tara?___ will walk around offering two drops of bloodroot – an herb to support intergenerational harmony, a kind of ease for anxiety, sadness and the underbelly of raging fury, loss, and wildness.

Viv:

What is this place? Who can actually say now?

Borrowing from CA Conrad’s, Somatics for the Future Wilderness:

The poem says:

Lori:

(quote) “please understand, a crater in my dream is none of your business” (unquote)

Tara: Especially now - since only we can see what is there in the hole in the dancefloor, etched into the grounds.

Michele:

(quote) “you knew it was over when we gathered with fists” (unquote)

Viv: like the way this space is carved with lifetime connections and life-line ties.

Lori: Did I mention how we showed up wearing each other’s clothes as anchors & in exchange, into the river, ashes were thrown? (small pause)

Viv: Thank you for inviting us here, Alex and Esther and VISUAL AIDS.

To end, we thank you for

holding tight your (mugwort) leaves.

With the poet again, we utter:

(quote) “ hold the anchor in such a way you won’t fall” (unquote)

Tara: As we move past this torn-open dance floor:

-Crumble, rub, and disperse this history, Weary Travellers.

-Rub this herb dust into your skin like a tattoo.

-Sip the communal bloodroot drops.

Scent and taste as evidence that

Michele &/or Lori:

YOU

&

WE -à WERE HERE.

x


Vivian Crockett is a New York–based independent researcher, scholar, and curator and a PhD candidate in art history at Columbia University. Her scholarly and cultural work seeks to assert a radically political analysis of modern and contemporary art and to foster the remembrance and visioning of cultural spaces and practices that merge a commitment to artistic and cultural production with sociopolitical justice and collective liberation. She was the co-curator of Visual AIDS' 28th annual Day With(out) Art, ALTERNATE ENDINGS, RADICAL BEGINNINGS. Although she never attended the Clit Club, she has felt a strong alliance to the political, artistic and sexual encounters made possible by its existence. Since 2015, she has been part of an evolving group of intergenerational kin reactivating the histories and legacies of the Clit Club.

Tara Hart currently works as an archivist in the Meatpacking District. She has lived in Brooklyn since 2005 and has performed archival work for a number of artists and arts organizations throughout New York City. Her work is concerned with the complexities of how legacy can be reconstructed and negotiated in the present, and how dialogues surrounding embodied archives and speculative histories can disrupt traditional archival practice privileging tangible remains. She is indebted to the labor of those who organized and sustained the Clit Club, and how they worked to transform the conditions of their existence.

Michele Hill works in home health care. She was and she remains a Clit Club icon.

Lori E. Seid has worked in theatres, clubs and art spaces all over the world as a producer, stage manager, lighting designer and DJ since 1984. Seid has worked extensively with Charles Atlas, DANCENOISE, Diamanda Galas, Anohni, John Kelly, Julie Atlas Muz, Meredith Monk, Jackie Factory, Boy George, Split Britches, Rosie O’Donnell, Cyndi Lauper and Julie Tolentino. Seid worked at The Clit Club for many years as a door-dyke, dj, co-manager. She is very proud to have been a part of this society-changing, legendary party for women and to this day considers the women she worked with her family.

Julie Tolentino is an artist. She ran Clit Club, along with a dedicated crew, through its 12-year history.