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.