It Was the Hottest Club in Town

Photos from Area: 1983–1987, by Eric Goode and Jennifer Goode, to be published on November 12, 2013, by Abrams Books.

Influenced equally by sixties-era happenings and the gonzo childhoods of its proprietors, Area opened its doors in 1983. The club, unlike any that came before it, underwent a painstaking transformation roughly every six weeks, with themes like Confinement, Suburbia, and Science Fiction that incorporated elaborate art installations with taxidermied bears, live monitor lizards, and enemas. The dramatics spilled out onto Hudson Street, where desperate crowds surged behind a velvet rope. Inside, bonked-out celebrities mingled, Bianca Jagger watched Ed Koch work out, and Sting partied with Donny Osmond. Grace Jones refused to use the coatroom—someone followed her, coat in hand, instead. Eventually times changed, and competition from other venues thinned Area’s dance floor. “People always measure the success of a thing by its longevity,” says Eric Goode, Area’s co-owner, “but the entire point of Area was its impermanence.” Just four years after it opened, Area closed. To celebrate that brief moment in the city’s nightlife, Eric and his sister, Jennifer Goode, compiled photos, letters, and other memorabilia into a new book, Area: 1983–1987, excerpted here.

Dolph Lundgren and Grace Jones at Area’s confinement-themed party. Photo: Volker Hinz

Eric Goode: “The criteria for entry was not based on wealth. If there was a limo, it was a bad thing.” Photo: Ben Buchanan

John F. Kennedy Jr. waiting to get inside the club. Photo: Richard Pandiscio

Author Luc Sante (left), author Maurizio Torrealta, and artist Peter Stack eating seafood off artist Magdalen Pierrakos for the Fellini party. Pierrakos: “I picked these guys because they had receding hairlines.” Photo: Volker Hinz

A human fountain at the Gardens party. Jennifer Goode: “That’s not actual pee. It’s water. See the tube?” Photo: Volker Hinz

Andy Warhol standing alongside his piece Invisible Sculpture for the Art party. Photo: Peter Serling

Alannah Currie with Boy George. Photo: Danuta Otfinowski

Eric Goode: “Malcolm Forbes was there constantly.” Photo: Patrick McMullan

The club’s swimming pool. Photo: Volker Hinz

Bernard-Zette, who worked at Area for two years and played approximately 70 characters, including Jackie Kennedy for the Fashion party. Photo: Ron Galella/Getty Images

The bathroom, which became unisex over time. Serge Becker, Area’s art director: “We beat out a door at some point between the men’s and women’s room and ended up just leaving it.” Photo: Volker Hinz

Keith Haring at work. Photo: Ben Buchanan

A list of potential investors, none of whom ended up contributing. Photo: Darius Azari

Madonna with Eric Goode: “A year after this photograph, I saw her play at Radio City Music Hall. We went to the dressing room and she had all these vitamins. I’ll never forget those vitamins.” Photo: Ben Buchanan

Pictures of models, artists, and their friends taken in the photo booth in the bathroom. Center strip: Jennifer Goode with Jean-Michel Basquiat: “Being Jean-Michel’s girlfriend wasn’t easy. We lived together in his house on Great Jones, which was also his studio. I was away during the day, but I would see him at the club. I don’t remember this particular moment, but I remember he gave me the shirt I was wearing.”

It Was the Hottest Club in Town