shiny disco balls

Marc Berkley Knew What It Was Like to See Nightlife Promoters Pass

For the several days, I’ve been reading a whole bookmark folder’s worth of articles about Marc Berkley, the HX magazine founder and longtime NYC party promoter who died of a heart attack in Fire Island this week at age 56. I certainly didn’t know Marc; he was pushing his Ülträ party while I was popping high school pimples. But his is a legacy that will live on years beyond his death. Sure, HX may be dead, and his Roxy parties an increasingly distant memory, but Berkley epitomized New York nightlife. Moreover, he chronicled it, putting down on paper the comings and goings of scenesters and shakers, many of whom graduated to become business people or city icons (Calvin Klein, Matthew Bank, Andrew Brewer). But this profile, from Derek de Koff in New York magazine in 2001, is the one that has just, well, stuck with me.

Because of foreboding paragraphs like this:

Berkley’s in surprisingly good spirits tonight, especially considering that less than a week ago he was attending the funeral of close friend and fellow promoter Dan Forrester, an attractive, blond, blue-eyed man who died from AIDS at 31. “It was surreal,” Berkley recalls. “All these muscle queens who had partied with him were dressed in little black shirts, being as stoic as possible. Afterwards, we all went to breakfast and one guy said, ‘You know, Dan didn’t look like himself.’ I replied, ‘Um, yeah? He looked dead! Did you think they were going to bring in Kevyn Aucoin?’ “

It’s a bizarre feeling to miss someone you’ve never met. But for so many gay men over the past two or three decades, who migrated to New York to be free and be themselves, Berkley was as much a part of their lives as their morning cup of coffee, a swell paperback, and a telephone call from mom.

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    Roxy, Tunnel, Twilo,(Juniorvers haha), high/low tea on Fire Island- back in the day NYC stuff, and ya didn’t have to be 21- just had to know the right people. It’s odd to hear “Oh, he/she died of an overdose” or “He/she died of AIDS,” and not be phased anymore when asking about old friends back east; some never got their act together. Sad how some wasted their life and it’s even more unusual how some older men are taking steroids, going to White Parties and such, getting hair plugs, and trying to recapture their youth.

  • AxelDC

    Could dying at the young age of 56, 20 years shy of the typical male life expectancy, have anything to do with a lifetime spent in clubs?

  • EdWoody

    @TONYD: Sorry to nitpick under the circumstances, but my OCD would kick in if I didn’t: in that context, the word is “fazed,” not “phased.”

  • I pliss

    I was a go go dancer for him back when they use to have Gay night on Sunday nights at the Palladium called the boiler room!

    Even before that I knew he had a crush on me from the Pink room at the Tunnel! He lived his life to the fullest! He will be missed.

  • alan brickman

    that should be my job….

  • B

    No. 2 · AxelDC wrote, “Could dying at the young age of 56, 20 years shy of the typical male life expectancy, have anything to do with a lifetime spent in clubs?”

    … a more likely cause is a lifetime spent on clubs – all the stress-inducing headaches of managing a business. A lifetime spent in clubs, as long as it is not spent ingesting drugs and copious quantities of alcohol, should at worst cause hearing problems if you don’t use earplugs, at least if you bounce around dancing a lot (the venue aside, cardiovascular exercise reduces the risk of a coronary and it doesn’t matter how you get it).

  • WalkderDC

    @B: The average lifespan is the average lifespan because that is what the lifespans of the nation average out to. You are saying that high stress is somehow something that seventy five percent of the other men in the nation do not have? Spending time in that world you have to be part of the scene, that is who you interact with and who you deal with in business.

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