The Saint was an American gay club in East Village NYC that ran from 1980 to 1988. Stumbling round the internet I found this Flickr group (can’t remember who put the link up first – sorry) overseen by Timothy Hartley Smith with some amazing photos. For me the membership cards look especially ‘now’ so we asked Tim if we could run those alongside the introduction and he was more than happy for us to do so. To see the more of the set click the link above and over to Tim…
The Saint was a private men’s dance club in New York City (okay, there were a few female members). To call it simply a dance club seems a horrible disservice. It was probably the greatest disco ever conceived or built and represented one of single greatest investments the gay community has ever seen. I was living in DC the first time I went to The Saint. It was February 6, 1982, in The Saint’s second season. It changed my world overnight. Dancing at The Saint is where I found my soul and it shaped my character and my sense of community and, to a large extent, made me the man I am today. Unless you were there, it’s impossible to know what I’m talking about. For so many of us, still around and not, it was a magical place, unparalleled at the time and never repeated. Everything about The Saint was perfect and I can still hear its sound, feel its heartbeat, sense that unmistakable energy and see those stars in my head, every bit as real and vivid as if it were yesterday. Few experiences in my life have been more powerful or poignant or lasting. And, there, I discovered what love is. It was ecstatic, it was tribal, it was trippy, but it was real and it was fabulous.
Created in what was the Filmore East at Second Avenue and 6th Street (the third largest theater in the City), it was hailed as the “Saint Peter’s” of discos. The heart of the $5 million complex was the Dome, a 38-foot high by 76-foot wide perforated aluminum dome. Larger than the Hayden Planetarium’s dome at the time, it hovered over a 4,800 square foot dance floor. Nearly 2,000 light fixtures and a planetarium star-field projector were joined with a superbly realistic quadraphonic sound system of 336 speakers in 96 groups. At 26,000 watts per channel, it was the most powerful entertainment audio system per square foot in existence. Two-thirds of the lights were focused on the inner skin of the dome, often creating the illusion of infinite space, and with the sound permeating that space, we were enveloped in an environment that transcended physical reality. The star projectors, one for each hemisphere, were 10 times brighter than the standard planetarium so you could see the stars even when other lighting effects were in use. It was designed to reproduce sound as recorded. Despite the 146 decibels of sound at the dome’s center (a live symphony orchestra averages 100), there was never any distortion or discomfort. The heart of the system was an Audionics Space and Image Composer that separated the music signal into the dome’s quadrants, with 14 channels of amplification in each. The three turntables were set on a 1,500-pound concrete slab suspended by pneumatic isolators to prevent vibration from the dance floor. In all my years at The Saint, I never heard a record skip. The dance floor had a legal capacity of 1,200, but the entire club could accommodate 5,000 and many a time it seemed as if all 5,000 were on the dance floor. But that only made it better.
In the end, it was all about dancing and the music and those brilliant DJ’s who made it happen. I’ve got over 2000 12-inch singles locked away in storage with that music just waiting for a time to do it all over again. As for The Saint, it was a once in a lifetime thing, which for me was more than enough for one lifetime.