New York Film Locations

Desperately Seeking Susan - Special Report (Day 6)

11 April 2015

Danceteria was a well-known four-floor nightclub located at 30 West 21st Street in New York City which operated from 1979 until 1986, and served as the location for the disco scene in the film, Desperately Seeking Susan.

(Danceteria in the 1980s)

The first Danceteria was opened on West 37th Street by German expatriate Rudolf Pieper and talent booker Jim Fouratt. It catered to a diverse after-hours crowd coming from the downtown rock clubs Mudd Club, Trax, TR3, Chinese Chance, CBGB and gay discos. The club's DJs were Bill Bahlman, Mark Kamins and Sean Cassette. Bill Bahlman played the first floor Thursdays and Saturdays and the second floor every Friday. Kamins played the second floor on Saturday nights. This facility was closed by the New York police and fire departments in 1980 as it was an illegal unlicensed facility. Kamins credits the first Danceteria with being the first club to play videos and have two separate DJs play for 12 straight hours. The first Danceteria Video Lounge was designed by video artists Emily Armstrong and Pat Ivers, who programmed an eclectic mix of found footage, video art, early music videos and musical performances.

(30 West 21st Street in May 2013)

In 1982, John Argento hired Fouratt and Pieper to promote and book the talent at a new six-floor facility, which became the noted 21st Street Danceteria. The Danceteria Video Lounge was designed by video artists John Sanborn and Kit Fitzgerald, who programmed an eclectic mix of found footage, video art, early music videos and musical performances. The club opened to massive crowds and critical acclaim. The regular DJs on the main floor were Kamins and Jody Kurilla. Former Mudd Club DJ Anita Sarko spun on the first floor, where the bands performed, as well as in the VIP room, Congo Bill, for special events.

(Danceteria line-up in the 1980s)

Three months after opening, Argento and Pieper dismissed Fouratt and hired Ruth Polsky as the club's talent booker. Under Polsky's direction, the club became renowned as one of centers of new wave music in New York and was frequented by many musicians and artists who became famous during the decade, such as Madonna, New Order, Duran Duran, Billy Idol, Sade, Wham!, The Smiths, Squeeze, Cyndi Lauper, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Run-DMC, Depeche Mode, Butthole Surfers, The B-52's, Samhain, Bauhaus, RuPaul, Berlin, Romeo Void, Sonic Youth, Swans, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The Cult, Karen Finley, Violent Femmes, Soft Cell, The Jesus and Mary Chain, the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, and Rob Zombie.

In 1984, Argento and Pieper opened a wildly successful Hamptons outpost of Danceteria in Water Mill. This was the first trendy NYC nightclub to open in the Hamptons.

In Desperately Seeking Susan, Gary Glass meets Susan at Danceteria, and the two of them discuss his wife whilst dancing to Madonna's song, "Into the Groove", which was her first UK number one hit, and ironically, it did not appear on the soundtrack album of the film, nor was it released as a single in the US, however it did make it onto B-side of her song "Angel" which reached the top 5 in America, and it was later released on the 1985 worldwide re-issue of Madonna's second studio album, "Like a Virgin".

(Madonna: "Into the Groove" 12inch Single)

During the writing process at Sigma Sound Studios in New York City, Stephen Bray had trouble with the bridge until Madonna walked into the studio, stepped up to the microphone and sang, "live out your fantasy here with me.”

The song "Into the Groove" begins with a spoken introduction by Madonna, and the sound of drums and synth bassline being heard. This is followed by the chorus, where Madonna's voice is double tracked and the treble is increased by a notch. A synth line counterpoints the main tune, adding a contrast. The bridge, where Madonna sings the line "Live out your fantasy", features her vocals in a lower register alongside the main ones. According to the sheet music the song is set in the time signature of common time with a medium tempo of 116 beats per minute. The song is set in the key of C minor with Madonna's voice spanning from the high-tone of C4 to the low-tone of D5. It has a basic sequence of Cm7–B♭/C–Cm7–A♭ as its chord progression.

(Film: Desperately Seeking Susan at Battery Park)

To celebrate the UK singles chart's 60th birthday in November 2012, the Official Charts Company provided a list of the ten top selling female acts in British chart history. Madonna came top of the list with sales of 17.8 million with "Into the Groove," being her best-selling single.

(Film: Desperately Seeking Susan at Battery Park)

The third Danceteria operated from 1990 to 1993 in a run-down midtown space, the Martha Washington Hotel at 30 East 30th Street. Kamins, Johnny Dynell, Walter V and Danceteria veteran Freddy Bastone were the DJs at this facility. Club Kid Goldy Loxxx DJed on the opening night in the lounge room and for the first few Friday nights (along with Kamins) in the main room, one of the first times a club personality was chosen to spin.

(30 West 21st Street in May 2013)

In 2009, the 21st Street location was sold and converted into luxury condominiums. Much like bizarre anything-goes days of Studio 54, Danceteria is now just a distant memory.

(30 West 21st Street in May 2013)

Special Report (Day 7) and otsoNY reveals the new additional film locations as Desperately Seeking Susan turns 30.


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