overview

This former market building in the Meatpacking District was a popular 1990s nightlife venue for several weekly parties and performances, including Jackie 60, Clit Club, and Martha @ Mother.

In 1996, the space became the nightclub Mother, which continued to provide space for weekly parties that catered to the LGBT crowd and others.

Header Photo

Credit: Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2017.

On the Map

History

Jackie 60 / Martha @ Mother
Jackie 60, an underground, performance-oriented club, was started in 1990 at Nell’s, 246 West 14th Street. It was a reaction to New York’s commercialized and elite celebrity-driven nightlife scene, epitomized by such clubs as Studio 54. The founders were nightlife impresario Chi Chi Valenti, DJ Johnny Dynell, dancer/choreographer Richard Move, and London fashion designer Kitty Boots. They moved in March 1991 to a small bar, Bar Room 432, at 432 West 14th Street in the Meatpacking District, where Clit Club parties were held on Friday nights. Jackie 60, a Tuesday-only club/party with weekly themes, soon became a mecca for a diverse Downtown crowd of pansexuals, “outsider” creative/ artistic types, and others. Its success led to Valenti and Dynell acquiring the space in 1996, which they opened as the nightclub Mother. Jackie 60 and Clit Club continued as weekly parties, joined by other parties and performances such as Click + Drag, Meat, Queen Mother, and Martha @ Mother.

Richard Move began monthly Martha @ Mother performances as a tribute to the legendary “grande dame” of modern dance, Martha Graham. Move, in drag as Graham and dancing “deconstructions” of her choreography, became famous for his gentle and affectionate parodies. Move won a Bessie Award in 1997 from the Dance Theater Workshop. The monthly series also featured the premieres of dance works by well-known and unknown choreographers, with commentary by “Martha.”

Mother closed in June 2000 when the neighborhood experienced extreme gentrification. Valenti reminisced:

“Mother, true to her name, was the venue that spawned generations of club nights and movements. Envisioned as a late-20th-century petri dish for alt-club culture, her traces remain in 2013, with events ranging from Prague’s new Endless Night Vampire Ball to our Night of a Thousand Stevies, now in its 23rd year.”
Bruce Tantum, Time Out, 2010

Clit Club
The 1980s saw the emergence of a new lesbian nightlife genre, the roaming party. Early promoters began hosting weekly or monthly lesbian parties at straight or gay male bars and clubs. While filling a three-story nightclub every night of the week might not have been possible for the lesbian community, large, lavishly designed spaces such as the Paradise Garage or the Saint could be filled with women for occasional special parties. The 1990s and early 2000s saw an explosion of these types of parties, such as Shescape, W.O.W., Her/She Bar, S.O.S., and She-Bang.

Clit Club, the boldly named lesbian party that lasted from 1990 until 2002, had a particularly significant impact on lesbian life in 1990s New York City. It had as much impact, if not more, than many lesbian bars. Although the Clit Club party seems to have moved a few times, it was held for many years on Friday nights at 432 West 14th Street.

While there are few interior photographs that show much of the space itself, there are a fair number of photographs of the party-goers. These show a diversity in age, race, costume, gender presentations. There was also a sense of sexual freedom that was a radical departure from the more conservative and political bars of previous decades. The diversity, though more common in this era than at previous lesbian bars, was also likely encouraged by the two founders of Clit Club, Jocelyn Taylor (aka Jaguar Mary) and Julie Tolentino, a performance artist and AIDS activist, both women of color.

In the 1990s, lesbian sexuality seemed to be increasingly radical. This was reflected in the more explicitly sexual names of the parties and clubs, the types of parties offered (there were some parties explicitly advertised as sex or S/M parties), and in the overtly sexual advertising that many of these places, including Clit Club, employed. The 1991/92 listing in Gaia’s Guide noted, “Jocelyn & Julie’s Alternate Friday Night’s at 8pm – ‘Go Go Girls & Lesbo Erotica Videos’ … so says their ad.” What was seen by many lesbians in the 1970s and 1980s (and still some in the 1990s onward) as exploitative, many lesbians in the 1990s embraced as part of their power, a trend also reflected in the broader culture with pop icons embracing their sexuality as powerful and feminist.

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