The Saint-At-Large Mystique
by Matt Kalkhoff
 

Twenty-one years ago, Bruce Mailman opened a 50,000 square foot entertainment complex on the lower east side of Manhattan that effectively changed the course of dance music and gay culture. The mainstream disco revolution may have been coming to an end, but gay nightlife was just heating up.

The legendary Saint featured a massive 76-foot high dome surrounding a 4,800 square foot dance floor which made it look more like a giant spaceship than a private dance club. The innovative dome was illuminated by more than 1,500 light fixtures and a planetarium-style star projector, all housed on a hydraulic lift situated in the center of the dance floor. An unparalleled sound system encompassing nearly 500 strategically placed speakers provided the cutting-edge soundtrack for the weekly celestial escapades of the Saint’s members and their privileged guests.

Miraculously enduring the conservative Reagan years, the Saint eventually caved in to the ravages of the AIDS epidemic. In true Saint fashion, the closing party on May 2, 1988 lasted almost 48 hours and poignantly marked the end of a truly infamous era. The club reopened the following year sans the legendary dome, but closed permanently after a brief four-month stint. Those of us who never had the opportunity to witness first-hand what many of its patrons consider to be the ultimate nightclub experience, still have an opportunity to celebrate the splendor and eternal spirit of the Saint.

Honoring its memory through roving parties, the Saint-At-Large has diligently carried on the grand tradition of the Saint over the past 13 years. Although Halloween and New Year’s Eve parties were also held in the early years, the Saint-At-Large now focuses its efforts entirely on the renowned White and Black Parties. The Roseland Ballroom has hosted both of these monstrous events for the past several years, and will do so again this year despite persistent (yet unconfirmed) rumors that the venue will soon be demolished to make way for a high-rise development.

The White Party

The White Party, held on President’s Day Weekend each year, will take place on Saturday, February 17, 2001. Peter Rauhofer will spin from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. with Susan Morabito taking the helm afterwards to play until 3:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon. Lighting wizards Guy Smith and Ross Berger will create an exquisite array of visual stimuli to accompany the music. Dress for the 17-hour event is (surprise, surprise) white. The lighter and fluffier of the two, White Party is traditionally a more localized gathering of guests from the tri-state area. This year’s unique, yet powerful, line-up, however, has piqued the interest of many out-of-towners, and will likely draw one of the largest and most diverse crowds the White Party has ever seen.

Like any major gay event, though, the White Party has attracted its share of controversy this year over its selection of musical talent. To better appreciate the reasons behind these selections, it is important to understand the Saint-At-Large itself. Quietly existing under a certain air of mystery and attracting little media attention over the years, the organization is comprised of four passionate individuals who are each dedicated to preserving the memory of the Saint.

Behind the Music

Steve Pevner, Steve Casko, Joel Teitelbaum and Jason McCarthy are the visionaries to thank for the outrageously entertaining Saint-At-Large events. Although Pevner now owns the franchise, the four work in concert to produce the White and Black Parties. Casko, who was in charge of the original Saint’s construction, now focuses his energy on the venture’s business aspects, while Teitelbaum and McCarthy, both general managers at the Saint, concentrate on the actual production of the events. Through their combined efforts and proficient management, the Saint-At-Large has become a highly efficient and lucrative business.

"We have to look at the mass audience and say, ‘What is best to make this party come across well, to keep it interesting and alive?,’" explains Joel Teitelbaum in response to detractors’ comments about this year’s White Party’s DJ line-up. The idea is to present two distinct voices that represent a wide range of musical tastes in hopes of satisfying as many people as possible. The tradition of the Saint and its associated music will be purposefully represented, while at the same time listeners will be introduced to new styles of music with which they may not be familiar. This formula has proven quite successful in the past, and they’re hoping to repeat it again at White Party.

"Last year at the Black Party, everyone was like, ‘Oh God, Victor Calderone is playing. It’s going to be horrible; he’s going to play like he does at the Roxy,’" recalls Teitelbaum. "Well, he didn’t. He played very differently than ever before and was extremely well received. In fact, he blew everyone away. People have to be willing to give Peter a chance, too."

Of course, with a party that spans so many hours, guests arriving in different stages will be able to choose a schedule that best suits their own personal musical tastes. As the party’s atmosphere changes throughout the night, morning and day, different moods are created that should help most revelers find familiar comfort zones for their dancing pleasure.

The Black Party

The leather-infused Black Party will take place on Saturday, March 24, 2001. Now a full-fledged circuit party, it has grown so large in recent years that tickets sell out well before the doors even open. (So make sure you buy one when they go on sale in early March.) As of press time, the Saint-At-Large was still negotiating one of the coveted DJ slots, but did confirm the return of veteran Saint DJ Warren Gluck. Dress and attitude are heavier and more intense at this party, with erotic stage shows and dance floor antics that keep the sexual energy at a fever pitch. The organizers may not entirely appreciate the party’s relatively new circuit status, but they are certainly pleased with its immense popularity.

The Saint-At-Large has constantly evolved over the years by identifying, embracing and ultimately catering to its clientele’s ever-changing tastes, lifestyles and attitudes. This commitment to modernize and invigorate its signature events will surely help the Saint-At-Large to preserve the original spirit of the Saint for many future generations to enjoy.

Advance tickets for White Party are $65 until February 9, $75 afterwards, and $85 at the door. Tickets for Black Party go on sale March 2. Please visit www.saintatlarge.com and www.thesaint.com for more information.


© 2001 Matt Kalkhoff

This article was originally featured at GayWired.com in February 2001.