Tales of the City: The Palladium 

Oh, NYU, how do I hate you? Let me count the ways… The thousands of suburban teenagers come to the city to party on their parents nickle... and Mary-Kate and Ashley, who should have stayed on that other coast. But most despicably, you tore down the Palladium and replaced it with the ugliest institutional residence ever wrought by the hand of man. And you had the audacity to name said residence the Palladium, just to rub our noses in it.

In the 1980s the Palladium was the apex of the NYC club scene. Opened by Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager after the demise of Studio 54, it outdid 54 in glamour and excitement, a superstore to 54’s boutique.

When I was 14 years old, we’d dress up in our best Betsy Johnson, lie to our parents, and take the 6 train down to 14th Street, steeling ourselves for the style police who guarded the doors. I was lucky enough to be sort-of friends with a niece of Rubell’s, which guaranteed us super-VIP status (what was Uncle Steve thinking?). If said niece was not with us there was our safety net: a senior at our incredibly uptight school was one of the doorpeople. Only 18 herself, blue haired at a time when blue hair really meant something, especially on the Upper East Side, I think she fancied herself a corruptor, or perhaps educator, of the headed-for-preppy (I modeled myself on her for years, from the blue hair to the pointy-toed multi-buckle boots).

Inside was the equivalent of three or four clubs — pounding dance floor area, strange multicolored basement; the Michael Todd room upstairs was our spot. There we could camp out surrounded by the Jean-Michel Basquiat murals (our favorite painter, bien sur) and quaff sloe gin fizzes until we were queasy or someone offered us something better. Oh look, there’s Andy! And Jean-Michel! Michael Musto! Allen Ginsberg! It was an Uptown girl’s finishing school for Downtown, and the beginning of my adult life, I suppose. The bathrooms were coed, for chrissakes, and me a 9-year veteran of single sex education. I hardly ever danced, but I sure did learn a lot.


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