As a bona fide clubber throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s who frequented every cool club in Glasgow and London with the hipper-than-hip kids and who can actually call herself a Blitz kid, disco, though the enemy of New Wave & New Romantics at the time, was always deep down in my soul.
And really good disco, too. From Jean Carne, The Jones Girls and Evelyn Champagne King to Chemise and Stephanie Mills. Couple that with meeting older friends who became life-long influencers, who had actually attended Ian Schrager’s ‘Studio 54’, at its height. This blew my mind. It was the only club I ever really wanted to get into as an adult when it had already long been defunct. I envied those who had taken part in that disco bacchanalia.
Then imagine my thrill when receiving an email inviting me to the gallery launch of images from the forthcoming release of ‘Disco’ Bill Bernstein’s photographs of regular club scenesters in New York in the 1970s. Not only is there images from Studio 54 but also Paradise Garage, Mudd Club, Hurrah and GG’s Barnum Room. It’s a social history of wild youth pushing the boundaries in a hedonistic lifestyle at every point. Bear in mind, it may have been the images of Warhol and Bianca Jagger that are known the globe over, but hundreds of stylish regulars and creatives worked the scene and were caught on film, inspiring fashion designers from Halston to Tom Ford, ever since.
Disco royalty and former Labelle singer, Nona Hendryx, had written the introduction for the book says, “Every artist or friend coming into town wanted to go to 54. It didn’t matter if they were straight or gay, young or old, black or white – they all wanted in.” “Who were these people of the night…? It was the Posers. The Watchers. The Posers watching other Posers watching the Watchers, watching the Dancers, watching themselves.” Bernstein’s eye was drawn to the characters that lived for the night, rather than the celebrities, the unknown men and women who were transformed by the nightclub haze.
Launch night on Wednesday, 2nd December sees the quite brilliant, lauded DJ team ‘Horsemeat Disco’ play the launch party as well as contribute to the forward for the book.
Horse Meat Disco’s James Hillard writes, “These shots capture the very essence of what going out was, is, and should be, all about. They showed the true democracy of the dance floor where anyone could be a star, as long as they had the right attitude and flair … The pictures in this book are a document of an incredibly exciting and creative time, not only in music, but also in social, political and fashion history too.” During this time of gay liberation, women’s rights and racial equality, the dance floor transcended sex, age and status. As the Disco Bats glided across the ceiling at Barnum’s, Wall Street suits partied beneath with transgender party people. Manhattan was the epicentre of disco, and Bill Bernstein.
Disco. That’s Where the Happy People Go. See you there.
Disco: The Bill Bernstein Photographs will be accompanied by a London exhibition, featuring photography from the book and a number of signed, limited edition artworks. The exhibition will open to the public from 3rd December 2015- 24th Jan 2016 at the Serena Morton Gallery in Ladbroke Grove, West London. www.serenamorton.com . Disco: The Bill Bernstein Photographs RRP £40 is published 16 November 2015 by Reel Art Press. www.reelartpress.com
Credits: DISCO THE BILL BERNSTEIN PHOTOGRAPHS © Bill Bernstein / Reel Art Press