NYC Club Kids Member Ernie Glam Parties On
Eduardo Gion Espejo-Saavedra,
Ernie Glam was a founding member of the NYC Club Kids movement in the 90’s. A free flowing group of young creative people from different walks of life that energized legendary and fabulous parties of that era. As they searched for an artistic community to call there own they ended up creating one themsleves. One with its own uniquely celebratory style that has become a reference for today’s pop artists.
A version of this exclusive interview first appeared in the pages of the 12th issue of ODDA Magazine.
Q: You were one of the pioneers of the mythical “Club Kids”movement that sprung up in New York in the 90’s, what exactly was the movement?
A: Club kids were a large, unorganized group of young people who were college students, art students, fashion students, music enthusiasts or lost souls trying to find a community in New York City. The common denominator was that we loved dancing and nightclubs, and we aspired to artistry, even if we weren’t that artistic or talented.
Q: How did the movement begin?
A: Essentially began in the basement of the nightclub Tunnel around 1987. There were club kids before 1987, but we didn’t call ourselves that. We didn’t have a name for what we did. Before then, I simply knew that I loved dressing outlandishly. That year, the club promoter Michael Alig realized that he could promote the club kids as a scene for the benefit of the clubs where he worked, so he offered all of us free drinks and free admission to the clubs where he worked. Of course we all went to Alig’s parties because many of us didn’t have any money, so if it was free we would go.
Q: Club Kids started as an underground movement?
A: Wouldn’t say it was ever mainstream. What happened is that mainstream media in New York City began to notice all the crazy, looking-young people running around nightclubs, hosting parties and generally making spectacles of themselves. It was impossible to not notice. Therefore,New York City-based magazines and newspapers began writing about the Club Kids, which caused television talk shows based in New York to notice and invite them on the shows. So, Club Kids onlybecame mainstream in the sense that mainstream media paid attention to them, but they could never really be mainstream by the standard of most people in the United States because they were too extreme in their lifestyle, appearance and recreational drug use.
Q: Could anyone be a Club Kid?
A: If you wanted to dress crazy and be foolish, the Club Kid would accept you. In general it was very young, college-age people, so if you were a 40-year-old housewife you might not have fitted in. However, there were many people in their 50’s and 60’s who came to the Club Kids’ parties because they loved hanging out with young people, and the club accepted these people.
Q: The parties were scheduled in unusual and unexpected places and also announced hours before, can you tell us about what those parties were like?
A: Referring to the outlaw parties, most of the Club Kids’ parties were planned two to three weeks in advance in New York City’s mega-clubs like Red Zone, Palace de Beauté, Roxy, Limelight, Palladium and Tunnel. Even the impromptu parties held in parks or parking lots at midnight had to be planned at least a few days in advance. In the 90’s, before the Internet, you needed several days of planning to print invitations and then hand distribute the invitations to people. It wasn’t as easy as pressing send on an email blast! The parties were held in McDonalds, at late night restaurants underneath bridges and other isolated locations. They usually didn’t last longer than one hour because either the vodka ran out or the police arrived to break up the crowd. They werebasically flash mobs in the pre-Internet age. Sometimes, it was dangerous going to these places because you’d have to climb over fences and risk hurting yourself or damaging your outfit. They weren’t always safe places, but that’s what made some of them, like the party on the pre-renovated Highline, so fun.
Q: You were fundamental player in the movement and your wardrobe was one of the most elaborate in my opinion, did you have any reference?
A: Thanks! I had lots of inspiration sources, including science fiction, horror, the circus, cartoons, superheroes, Leigh Bowery, fetish, punk rock… Those are the sources I used to design clothes for myself and for the party promoter Michael Alig.
Q: What was the Underground scene like at that time in NYC? Warhol had just died; do you think you were the generational relay of the artists and movement of The Factory?
A: One can relieve or replace Andy Warhol or his Factory scene. The scene at the time Andy Warhol died was fun despite the economic collapse that occurred in New York in 1987 when the stock market crashed. Some of the luxurious mega-club closed that year, so there was a cultural shift to smaller clubs and more austerity. That change opened new opportunities in nightclubs for the club kids because they did not require big budgets and lavish parties at first. The emergence of the club kids and their energy came at the very time that there was a collapse in the economy, and that new vigour was welcomed by many clubbers who saw it as something new and refreshing. More established lub people from the early and mid-80s didn’t necessarily like the club kids because they took attention away from the old guard.
Q: The Club Kids scene was documented by artists such as Alexis Di Biasio. Tell us about him and his photographic work.
A: Were many aspiring photographers in the clubs in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, just as there are many aspiring photographers in the New York City nightclubs today. Alexis was an accountant by day and his hobby was photography, so he would bring his camera to the clubs to photograph people he loved. Those people that Alexis loved happened to be drag queens, the club kids and lots of hot gay guys. Alexis moved to New York City in the late 1970s and he went to Studio 54 and many of the nightclubs that came after Studio 54. So by the time the club kids came along, he recognized that they were different and worth documenting, and that’s what he did.
Q: He has written a book called 69 Hangovers. Tell us about this book.
A: The book is a photo-documentary of the nightclub parties I attended in 2016. There are constant reports in the media that New York City nightlife is dead or dying because of the increasingly high cost of living, but I was determined to demonstrate that fun, outrageous scenes similar to the club kid scene from the early 1990’s still exist. That’s what my book documents: some of the crazy, young party people of today.
Q: What differences do you see between the 90’s parties and those of now? Could a new Club Kid generation be born?
A: Kids will always exist. They existed before the word “club kid.” The difference between 2016 and 1991 is that there are no longer large mega-club with huge budgets that can hire lots of club kids to dance or host parties that have open bars. The clubs today in New York City are very small and they do not give away free liquor, so people don’t get so crazy any more. Also, we live in a more controlled time because of social media. Cell phone photographs have really caused young people to restrain themselves because someone might take a picture and post it on Instagram… a pervasive self-censorship that’s going on, which makes 2016 less crazy than 1991, when very few people had cameras in clubs. Today’s club kids are just as outrageous in their appearance and style as the club kids of the early 90’s, but they are not as crazy in their behaviour. That what I see as the big difference.
Q: Your successful YouTube channel FlouncyTV already has 200 episodes. Can you tell us a bit more about it and the artist that participated with you on the show.
A: It’s a joke show that was designed to have today’s drag queens, club kids and party people tell jokes in 15 to 60 seconds. I wouldn’t say it was a big success, but I’m pleased that we managed to persuade about 75 people to tell jokes, some more than others. Club people are the funniest people, so I wanted to capture their humor in short episodes. Flouncy is over and now I’m working with Michael Alig to get our old talk show The Pee-ew re-launched. We just filmed new episodes of it last night.
Q: You also edit and produce music and you recently launched two very danceable songs. Will you continue composing songs? What music do you listen to?
A: Listen to lots of music styles. My favorites are electronic dance, goth, industrial, electronic body music, alternative rock, indie rock, punk rock, house and techno. I only record music for fun and I will continue recording new songs. I’m not trying to be a recording artist. It’s just something fun that I share with my friends and fans. It’s so easy to publish books and music today. You don’t need a record label or publisher, so that’s why I’m publishing music and books with no one demanding that my creations have to be profitable. It’s just creative expression without the burden of making money. It’s a good thing I have a day job!
Q: Do you think current artists copy or look for references in your Club Kids movement?
A: Of course, I was inspired by artists and musicians who came before me. Many young people who are not educated about counter-cultures might look at Lady Gaga and think she’s completely original and that no one like her has ever existed before. It’s important to remember that many of the people who were in the New York City club kid scene of the early 1990’s went on to careers in fashion, beauty and media. So if in 2016 you saw a fashion spread in Vogue or some other fashion magazine that reminds you of the Club Kids, the photographer, stylist, make-up artist or designer might have been a club kid in the 1990’s. That’s the main reason you are seeing these references in our popular culture.
Q: What do you think the future holds for Ernie Glam?
A: I’m not sure. I expect to work on The Pee-ew with Michael Alig. I’m also looking for new collaborators. I would like to finish my novel that I started last year, which will require that I stay home out of the nightclubs. I’m not sure I can stay home!
Filmmaker, Journalist and documentary.
For several years working as an assistant director of short films and feature films in 35mm. His documentaries have been shown at festivals Festival de Cinema de Sitges, New York Film Festival, Portland Underground Film Festival, San Francisco Film Festival, and others.
Worked at events “080” in Barcelona, collaborating with photographers Miguel Villalobos for the production of the tribute to Thierry Mugler.
Writes and produces reports for magazines “Candy Magazine” to Luis Venegas, Also works for the magazine “Paraiso Magazine”, and Features Editor at ODDA Magazine.
Eduardo Gion Espejo-Saavedra
Filmmaker, Journalist and documentary. For several years working as an assistant director of short films and feature films in 35mm. His documentaries have been shown at festivals Festival de Cinema de Sitges, New York Film Festival, Portland Underground Film Festival, San Francisco Film Festival, and others. Worked at events “080” in Barcelona, collaborating with photographers Miguel Villalobos for the production of the tribute to Thierry Mugler. Writes and produces reports for magazines “Candy Magazine” to Luis Venegas, Also works for the magazine “Paraiso Magazine”, and Features Editor at ODDA Magazine.
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