No trebly Britney mixes. No go-go boys handing out jello shots in sparkle-Speedos. Los Angeles’ Club FUCK! was a far cry from the manic neon haze of Santa Monica Boulevard, and a more inclusive alternative to the men-only mindset of leather bars at the time.
Kicking off in the summer of ‘89, Silver Lake’s Club FUCK found hosts Miguel Beristain, Cliff Diller, James Stone (pictured, right), and Sweet P beguiling crowds with an ear-stabbing onslaught of clambering industrial noise (think Front 242, Coil, and Ministry), and a series of performance art showcases that pushed the boundaries of… well, pretty much everything, really. There was mummification, modern primitivism, and extreme BDSM: piercing, cutting, and blood-play were the order of the day. Drag queen bingo this was not.
This incredible period in gay history came to a crashing end when it was raided by L.A. vice cops in 1993.
Fortunately, you can still experience the club. Through March 19, Los Angeles’ instrumental ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives presents “FUCK! Loss, desire, pleasure,” curated by Toro Castaño and Lucia Fabio. It’s an exhaustive assemblage of memorabilia related to the club: snapshots, fliers, costumes, court documents and sex toys and it charts the space’s humble beginnings as a sacred meeting ground for “punks, outcasts and the art-damaged” all the way to the highly suspect LAPD raid that effectively shuttered the club in ’93.
Club FUCK! was a direct response to governmental indifference to HIV and AIDS at the time, and, as this exhibit deftly illustrates, the scenes that went down in its hallowed halls were always confrontational: equal parts damaged and damaging, and near-sadistic in its provocation.
As far as nightclubs go, this was the hardest and corest of them all.