THE ORIGINAL CLUB KIDS
Ecstasy and lipstick creates party celebrities
by Maria Raposo
Club Kids burst onto New York and London's night-life circuit in the late 1980’s, creating a hedonistic community for the gay, transgender and disenfranchised to be authentically celebrated. They may not have been household names, but in the 80’s Leigh Bowery, Ernie Glam and Susanne Bartsch fueled a pioneering party scene. Extravagant parties mixed with British eccentricity and downtown New York chic, bought out the best club freaks, united by a love of sex, drugs and drag.
However there was more to clubbing than dressing up and popping pills for this youth underground scene; it was a genuine community, coming together to express their artistic flair in a way that was purposefully alienated from the main stream. “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,” claimed founding member Ernie Glam.
Unlike so many of today’s nightclub promoters who know little about the relationship between music and art, this movement nurtured artistic promoters, most notably Lee Chappell, who was at the heart the community. Lee co-hosted impromptu exotic Saturday night parties with infamous clubbers like Amanda Lepore, and Sophia Lamar at New York’s Roxy club that are amongst the most talked about and emulated events of all time.
The legacy of the Club Kids lives on around the world. London based actor, pop star and drag queen Leigh Bowery optimized the British side of this cultural movement until his excessive life ended tragically early as he died from AIDS at the young age of 33. Leigh Bowery was not just a clubber, his creations influenced haute couture collections and musicians like Bjork and in the international art world he became known as Lucien Freud’s muse.
With the rise of Lady Gaga and Club Kid RuPaul’s transition onto mainstream media, the fashion, art and music world is revisiting the highs of the Club Kids Scene. A new generation continue to seize the night with creative force, dressed to the nines with their crown make-up and platform shoes. This unique community seems to be making a come back, as the scene lives on.