Clubland is coming back!
Estate (formerly Limelight) reopens as Avalon, with a Bruce Willis VIP room and Manny manning the steel wheels on Sunday.
by Matt Kalkhoff

Good news kids. The first of what will I hope be many nightclub openings is set to take place on Sunday, September 14, when our beloved house of worship, Limelight, reopens its doors as the newly christened Avalon.

Ever since its original disco makeover some 20 years ago, the de-consecrated church has endured a scandalous saga. When savvy entrepreneur (and longtime Roxy promoter) John Blair acquired the embattled venue last year with his Flatiron Group partners, it seemed that the legendary dance emporium had finally been rescued from its disgraced reputation.

But after extensive renovations and much hype, the hotspot’s last incarnation as Estate proved short-lived. Earlier this year, Blair put the property up for sale and began looking for new partners who shared his vision for revitalizing New York’s increasingly precarious nightlife scene.

Enter John Lyons and Steven Adelman, proprietors of Boston’s famed Avalon nightclub (among other related ventures), actor Bruce Willis, and entertainment conglomerate Clear Channel. Suddenly the infamous temple of temptation is on a fast track for a mid-September revival. Hallelujah!

Lyons, the mastermind behind his other clubs’ impeccable audio and lighting installations (and those used on Pink Floyd’s tours), is making the appropriate modifications at Avalon to ensure a transcendent sensory experience.

Adelman’s impressive resume, which includes opening Roxy in 1990 as director, moving on to Limelight in 1992 in the same capacity, and similar subsequent stints at Palladium, Club USA and Tunnel, suggests the man knows his way around N.Y.C.’s nightlife.

The Clear Channel alliance will generate a steady stream of early evening concert bookings, while Willis transforms the former Giger Room into the ultra-exclusive Spider Club. Inspired by LA’s infamous Viper Room, entry into this VIP glamour retreat will require membership, except on Sundays when the gay boys (and their admirers) will enjoy free reign of the joint. The private lounge will be unveiled in late October.

Avalon’s newly ordained Sunday night resident DJ will be a circuit veteran, Los Angeles-based Manny Lehman. He’ll rotate weekly ministerial duties with local DJs Chad Jack, Alex Lauterstein and Gomi.

Just a few days prior to Avalon’s rite of passage, Lehman will make his off-Broadway debut at DJ Connection: Boys’ Night on Wednesday, September 10, at De La Guarda. Lehman follows in the footsteps of fellow luminaries like Peter Rauhofer, John Creamer, Josh Wink and Satoshi Tomiie to DJ a special edition of the frenetic show at the Daryl Roth Theater.

With Lehman at the helm and gay boys in the audience, this is one show you won’t want to miss. Just be sure to wear comfortable shoes (you’ll be standing) and be prepared to get wet. For tickets, call 212-239-6200 or on the Web, go to

Junior’s Experiment in Cryogenics

Admittedly, I felt guilty as I entered Roxy this past Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m., foolishly abandoning the gorgeous summer weather that’s been far too scarce this year. But it was Junior Vasquez’s birthday, and if friends could travel from Boston and Miami for the occasion, then I could certainly join them in the darkness.

Cleverly marketed as “The Ice Age” (an obvious attempt to quash any fears that Roxy would become the disco inferno that broke the spirit of so many revelers during Pride), the party held great promise. And for the most part, it delivered. While shows are often the weakest links at Junior’s parties, things were thankfully different this time.

During my 10-hour Roxy occupation, I enjoyed Joi Cardwell’s spectacular vocal talents, RKM’s surreal onstage antics and arctic décor — it was quite refreshing to see Roxy properly decorated; the penguins were a nice touch. Guy Smith’s lighting effects were mesmerizing.

But I was most impressed by L.A. performance artist Flava’s intense energy and flawless choreography during Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love.” Totally reminiscent of Miami’s Power, both in execution and appearance. Bravo!

Raphaella’s highly anticipated rendition of Madonna’s “Frozen” unfortunately fell a little flat (not to mention extremely late — 11 p.m.). But perhaps subtlety and simplicity were the objectives for this ethereal, thematically appropriate selection. The requisite cake presentation, sing-along, and other birthday frivolity was carried out by the lovely Candis Cayne (on roller-skates) and Amanda Lepore (channeling Marilyn Monroe).

The party was not, however, free of faults. The music had more dropouts than a juvenile boot camp. This may not necessarily bother everyone, but I just don’t see the point of starting and stopping the music so frequently, sometimes even several times within a single song.

When it was actually playing, I thought the selection of music was great. I particularly enjoyed classics like Mary J. Blige’s “Your Child” and “Who Do You Love” by Deborah Cox. I’m just sorry I had to wait until almost midnight to hear them, because I was far too tired by that point to carry on. Word on the street is that the party officially ended around 2:30 a.m. Whew!

Until next time — Be Smart. Be Safe. Be Yourself.

© 2003 Matt Kalkhoff

These articles appeared in NY Blade on August 29, 2003