When the Customers Wore Nylon Catsuits

James St. James and Richie Rich at Limelight, 1993. Photo: Tina Paul

Mark Frieser, doorman
“In 1985, I manned the door of the VIP room, where all the stars and rich people would have sex, get wired, and hang out. I was 18. I walked in on Grace Jones and Dolph Lundgren having sex once. She threw a shoe at me. I remember one Sunday night—which was usually gay night—I get this phone call from downstairs: ‘Some guy David is asking for you. He has long hair and says he’s in a band called Van Halen?’ Oh my God. That’s David Lee Roth. He comes upstairs going, ‘Dude, why wouldn’t they let me in?’ I’m like, ‘It’s gay night, man. They don’t listen to your music. They don’t know who you are.’ ”

Michael Musto, gossip reporter
“I was part of a variety show called Downtown Dukes & Divas. One night it was all about artistic endeavor; the next, people were literally drinking their own urine onstage. I remember Michael Alig’s Bloodfeast party— a precursor to his killing his roommate Angel Melendez. It was all pretend, but there were people with arms missing and bloody eyeballs popping out. That’s when I stopped going.”

Abbe Diaz, bartender
“The easiest way to get in was to dress outrageously. A girl came in one night wearing nothing but black electrical tape. Angel Melendez wore angel wings. I used to wear this nylon catsuit from Pat Field’s. I’d soak it in the sink, throw it on the radiator, and it’d be dry by the time I had to go to to work.”

Tina Setia, regular, dancer
“I first went when I was 15. I stole my sister’s I.D. I went every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday for five years. I’d dress up—once I wore clear plastic pants with a tube top. I met Johnny Depp in September 1993. I kissed his cheek, put my lipstick on a napkin, and framed it.”

Steve Lewis, club director
“I was obsessed with finding where the graveyard was, but there is no graveyard. There are catacombs under Sixth Avenue though. Once Michael [Alig] pried a door open and roamed around for a little bit, but it smelled bad. I remember Drew Barrymore’s mom left her behind one night in the VIP room. We played Parcheesi with a 10- or 11-year-old Drew.”

Raven O, performer
“I used to perform in drag in the VIP room. I shaved my head totally bald, and I looked like a woman. Straight men would flirt and send me drinks all the time. One night, Matt Dillon came in with his posse. He smiled at me. I turned to my friends and said, ‘Watch this. Matt Dillon is going to send me a drink.’ Sure enough, ten minutes later, he buys me a drink. We never spoke. We just kept looking at each other. He was with another lady—a real one.”

Interviews by Sarah Bernard.

When the Customers Wore Nylon Catsuits