Ernie Glam on the Fabulosity of Club Kids

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Walt Paper
Walt PaperPhotography by Alexis Dibiasio

As his new book is published, we speak to Club Kid Ernie Glam about the wildly flamboyant club scene that ruled New York nightlife in the late 80s and early 90s

By definition, a Club Kid is: “a group of eccentric, wildly flamboyant young clubgoers who more or less defined New York nightlife in the late 1980s and early 1990s.” Amongst these, Leigh Bowery, Michael Alig and James St James led the subculture, which redefined disco through their wild pranks and outlandish costumes. Dressed in bodysuits and unitards, they emerged at clubs such as Savage and The Tunnel, before moving onto The Roxy, Love Machine and eventually The Limelight, which remains a symbolic beacon of the time. “S&M, clowns or cyberpunk with some kind of lunchbox or kooky backpack and platform shoes,” remembers club kid Ernie Glam, “The club kids reinvented the do-it-yourself spirit of punk rock and incorporated sci-fi and the circus to create a scene that seemed new and exciting.” Fabulousity: A Night You’ll Never Forget…or Remember! is a new book which features photographs by Alexis Dibasio which capture the resonating essence of the time. Here, curator Ernie Glam speaks to AnOther about his Club Kid memories.

What inspired the exhibition?
The exhibition is a result of Steve's and my interest in nightclubs, dance music, nightclub culture, vintage nightclub invitations and old photos of nightclub scenes. Steve and I actually met through the website when I was auctioning off my excess club kid card collection about two years ago. The club kid cards were a series of club invites printed around 1991 by the Limelight nightclub in NYC featuring nightlife celebutantes on the front and a party invite on the back. Once Steve and I began corresponding we discovered that we both had invite collections and eventually I invited Steve to my home in the Bronx to look through the 1000s of photos of clubbers in my collection. When Steve proposed an exhibit I immediately began cooperating with him as my collection had just sat for almost two decades in my closets unseen by anybody. So essentially this event is debutante party for the part of the exhibit that features my photos and ephemera.

What are some of your favourite fashion memories from the time?
My favourite fashion memories include the so-called "heroin chic" and grunge looks, as well as the body revealing clothes that had cut outs over the breasts and ass cheeks. I also loved the freaky facial piercings that accompanied the cyberpunk looks, which included metallic tape, hardware accessories, helmets and lights or tubes strapped to clubbers' bodies. My personal favorite was the slut clown look, a look I often channelled on the dance floor. That was often an infantile or circus-like costume that revealed nipples and ass cheeks.

“The club kids reinvented the do-it-yourself spirit of punk rock and incorporated sci-fi and the circus to create a new and exciting scene”

What messages came through from the club kid era?
The main message was, and still is, that if you feel like an outcast in your small town you can move to a big city like NYC and become a designer, a stylist, a nightclub promoter or a junkie. It all depends on your initiative, creativity and focus.

What style of music did they play, do you have favourite songs from the time?
The main styles heard in the clubs attended by the club kids in the late 1980s and 1990s was house music in the Chicago style, acid house, techno, tribal house and trance. Some of my favorite songs were: James Brown Is Dead by L.A. Style, O Fortuna by Apotheosis, Bango by Todd Terry, The Power by Snap, Rock to the Beat by 101, Spice by Eon.

Fabulousity: A Night You’ll Never Forget…or Remember! is published by Wild Life Press and is available now.

Text by Mhairi Graham