As the world’s premiere old-fogey commentator who’s perennially screaming “New York nightlife is dead!” — and who’s regularly been doing so since the mid-1980s — I thought it would be refreshing to hang up my Metamucil, take a step back and try for the opposite approach for a change. Surely not every single little thing in clubs used to be better — just the vast majority of things. So why not take a moment to reflect on the stuff that has actually improved NYC nightlife, despite the crackdowns, uptightness and lack of urgency. (Or maybe because of all that. No, really. Some good may well have come of the oppression, perversely enough. Let’s make lemonade!)
Kindly read my Top 10 Reasons Why Nightlife Is Better Today, then head to the nearest bar and try to prove me right. If I’m wrong, we’ll go out for fiber supplements together.
(1) Clubs are cleaned up, double carded, patrolled, cracked down and boring, but they’re probably safer, too. You’re way less likely to feel like you’re part of some hideous mass headline-in-the-making if you step into an NYC hotspot today. Of course, safety is not one of the top reasons people have ever gone to clubs, but I feel they need to go wild and embrace it. It’s better than standing on a crowded balcony that caves in on all your friends.
(2) It’s harder than ever to get people to leave the house (and their technology) and actually go to a club, so the ones that show up there must really want to be there. Look around the dance floor and you’ll see swarms of folks who have kept their clubbing drive alive through sheer will and passion. It’s an inspiring sight … as long as you ignore the fact that they’re all on their cell phones.
(3) Nightcrawlers have a life these days and generally feel they should get home at a reasonable hour, so their time spent at a club tends to be extra concentrated and fun. People go out knowing full well why they’re there and just how long they’re going to stay. And there isn’t that messy moment when they play the final song (anything from “The Last Dance” to “The Party’s Over”) and everyone wonders where the hell to go. They’re already gone.
(4) Club people are way savvier than in the past, thanks to Facebook and every other online attraction out there. They don’t go “Whaaat?” when you bring up the latest gossip. They even know some politics here and there. They’ve heard of things, and as a result, they actually answer when you try to start a conversation! This is far more appealing than the self-involved stone faces that greeted you in the past.
(5) Everyone knows that they can get laid on various sites and phone apps, so there isn’t that awful wondering that used to pervade clubs and make them like oversized prom nights from hell. You know, “Are they gonna hit on me?” or more likely, “Why aren’t they gonna hit on me?” The lack of sexual sparks in the air has definitely sanitized nightlife, but it’s also made it way less angst inducing. So relax and enjoy the complete absence of hormonal excitement.
(6) There won’t be another Michael Alig. The club kid leader turned club kid killer was very much of his time, the product of an anything-goes environment filled with all sorts of wanton enablers and inducements. In 2016, people have learned their lesson, there are serious restrictions that put a damper on such reckless hedonism, and the mood just won’t foster depravity of that nature. Any new Michael Alig in the making would get fired and have to immediately sober up!
(7) There’s so much more sobriety — or at least awareness of such a thing — than in the alleged golden days that I find it far less likely to run into drunken messes and drugged-out zombies. Clubbies are generally more controlled than in the ’80s, knowing they can’t throw their lives away on open bars, mainly because they have to get up and work the next day; and besides, they can’t even afford the tips. So again, while the sea of people toasting each other with energy drinks and cranberry spritzers might be dullsville, at least it isn’t dangerous.
(8) There are more drag queens than ever, and they’re more polished than ever thanks to “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and the fact that everybody wants to be on it. In the misty, water-colored ’80s, there were a handful of drag performers — all geniuses, mind you — but it was only once a year at the drag fest Wigstock that you saw armies of men in dresses. But now they’re everywhere, filling the city’s many gay bars with wit, sparkle and bitchery. And if it’s messy drag queens you crave, go to Brooklyn, where they’re keeping the ’80s alive with their wacky looks and swatches of facial hair.
(9) DJs have even more past to play with. There are 30 more years to cull from than there were, you know, 30 years ago. DJs love playing old music — a few chords of “La Bamba” and a crowd will invariably go nuts — and in 2016, they have lots more nostalgia to dive into and pander with. I mean, back in the ’80s, we didn’t have ’90s music to look back on yet!
(10) Since clubs are no longer the be-all of human existence in NYC, some people you see there are actually dressed down, unlike the old days, when you had to look like a Christmas tree every night or you didn’t get in. As a result, you can relax in simple slacks and a cardigan and not be hideously ostracized for doing so. And if you want to throw on a headdress, that’s an option too, but it’s no longer mandatory. As long as your face is contoured and doesn’t shine.
BONUS REASON: When staffers evict you from a banquette in favor of people who will order bottle service — as has happened to me, the king of nightlife, many times in the last few humiliating years — at least you will be forced to go to another space in the club, far from the tacky credit-card bunch who live for overpriced booze. Believe me, they’re doing you a favor!