Since Mayor Giuliani famously “cleaned up” New York City, the club scene just hasn’t been the same. The clubs are closed, the drugs don’t work and the club kids got old, had kids and moved to the suburbs. While the parties may have gone, like all dogs to heaven – or should that be hell? – their spirit lives on in James St James and Party Girl
Downtown nightlife in the 1990s was the stuff of legends. Nowadays, drug-induced brain-cell loss, egos, lingering clique politics and the passage of time make it nearly impossible to fully capture what that era was like, even for those who were there, but know this: whatever the reality was, it doubtlessly exceeded the wildest fantasies of aspiring Club Kids all over the world. The NYC Club Kids’ antics and gloriously bizarre fashion statements even caught the attention of the mainstream media, as notorious celebutantes like James St James made appearances on national talk shows and in the pages of the New York Post, brazenly flaunting their nocturnal lifestyle of excess. St James became the unofficial spokesman for the Kids and wrote a bestselling book, Party Monster, about that time and the gruesome, drug-fuelled murder committed by his partner in crime, Michael Alig.
And then there’s Mary: indie queen Parker Posey’s character in the 1995 movie Party Girl. Okay, so she may not be a real girl per se, but she was the epitome of the Club Kids’ Manic Pixie Dream Girl – a fabulous, fashion-obsessed train wreck who never saw a line she didn’t have to wait in. If anybody were to know the true meaning of “party” it would be these two, which is why they sat down to reminisce and bitch about days gone by. Well, what they remember of them anyway.
MARY: So James, have you seen Breaking Bad?
JAMES ST JAMES: Yes.
MARY: Because I kind of feel like Walter was modelled on you. Not the cancer part. The cooking part. I think you might be the only person in New York who regularly used their oven for something other than storage.
JAMES ST JAMES: I did.
MARY: And you had the most amazing recipe, too. What was it?
JAMES ST JAMES: Well, it was really very simple. I’d usually set the oven to 250. Then recite the “Once more unto the breach, dear friends” scene from Henry V, followed by four minutes of bun-tightening exercises. Then I’d sing a little medley of show tunes I had cleverly clipped together to while away the gestation period. I would always start with Rose’s Turn from Gypsy. Then a little Brigadoon, a bit of South Pacific. I also recommend Some Enchanted Evening. During the Flower Drum Song interlude, I’d check the oven and tap one foot impatiently, keeping beat to the horn section that builds up to a show-stopping Bless Your Beautiful Hide from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
MARY: Imagine if they’d called that Seven Brides for Seven Sisters? And made it into a full-blown Sapphic gangbang…
JAMES ST JAMES: They did remake it, though. In Brazil. But no lesbians, so yawn. Apart from that one scene where they go ram a load of geese. They should have renamed it Seven Geese for Seven Brothers.
MARY: How do you talk dirty to a goose?
JAMES ST JAMES: How do you understand what they’re saying without subtitles?
MARY: It isn’t in English? But I like to know what they’re saying. I love dirty talk.
JAMES ST JAMES: No. Portuguese… Anyway, don’t interrupt me. Your baked goods should most likely be ready now. Scrape the Pyrex, grind it into powder and then up and away.
MARY: Well, aren’t you a regular Martha Stewart? I bet you cleaned up after yourself, too. Nobody likes snorting off a dirty surface. I don’t. I always thought you could have been the next Martha. The illegal substance Martha. Because all Martha does really is make, like, stuff, feed people and throw parties. And that’s basically what you do. Except you feed them substances. But you make the substances. And not brownies. You’re like a regular homemaker. I can see you in an apron in front of a live studio audience
JAMES ST JAMES: Well, I am sort of in front of a live audience at all times. I mean, what would you call a line of people clamouring for you if not a live audience?
MARY: Don’t you hate people mauling at you as they try to get in? Ugh. Don’t touch the Gaultier. I don’t know where your hands have been and I don’t want to know.
JAMES ST JAMES: Only the badly dressed ones. If you’re cute, grope away. I’ll take anything I can get. Are you still seeing the Lebanese Delight?
MARY: No, he fucked off back to Lebanon. And now I can’t get any decent falafel. Apparently he liked the librarian me more than the party-host me.
JAMES ST JAMES: Honey, you were never a host. Party girl, yes. Party host, no.
MARY: I threw great parties.
JAMES ST JAMES: And you always invited the police.
MARY: So they got broken up a few times. So what? That’s what makes a good party. If they were that bad, why would they bother to come?
JAMES ST JAMES: Police and substances do not a good party make. You’re talking to the Queen here. I am to parties what the British were to public execution – unexpected and surprising.
MARY: Oh really?
JAMES ST JAMES: Remember when I was strapped to a gurney, covered in raw liver and slabs of beef that turned rancid under the spotlights, being wheeled around a dance floor by two orderlies, retching from the meat and desperate for a bathroom big enough for me to be wheeled into so I could do a bump?
MARY: That’s disgusting.
JAMES ST JAMES: Yes. But it’s also unexpected and the party was great. And my outfit was ripped off by Gaga. So at the very least it was memorable. Who can say that about yours?
MARY: No need to be a bitch about it. At least they made a film about me.
JAMES ST JAMES: You know what, I was just thinking, I can remember every outfit I wore to every party going back to 1983.
MARY: Really? Do you have some sort of notebook where you write down everything you’ve ever worn?
JAMES ST JAMES: No. I just have an excellent visual memory.
MARY: What was your favourite?
JAMES ST JAMES: I don’t know if I have a favourite, but remember – was it 2004? – when the tiger mauled Roy of Siegfried & Roy? I think I was in Dallas with Richie Rich, wearing his wig. And I had a stuffed white tiger because it was the actual day the tiger attacked Roy. I think I was attacking club goers with it. I thought that was absolutely hysterical. I still do.
JAMES ST JAMES: It would make a great party theme – when animals pounce. I mean, I would obviously go as Roy…
MARY: Or Fabio. Remember when Fabio was attacked by a seagull? Remember Fabio? He had great hair. I made out with him once. I think it was at one of my parties.
JAMES ST JAMES: “Fabio” and “party” in the same sentence? Coming out of your mouth? I wouldn’t brag about that if I were you.
MARY: Oh okay, then, so tell me, oh holy grail of everything party, what does make a good party?
JAMES ST JAMES: Well, firstly you need the right venue. Followed by the right theme. And plenty of substances. And booze to wash them down with. It’s a delicate balance of the three. Substances on their own do not a party make. It’s like sitting in your kitchen, staring at a wall, out of your mind. Dull, dull, dull. No one will come. A theme creates excitement. Next comes the music. Superstar DJs might be all the rage, but costs must be kept down, as there are better things to spend your money on than a chimp who can press play. You can be the DJ. And now, thanks to iPods, or whatever it is the kids use these days, you just have to press play once and not worry.
MARY: Oh please.
JAMES ST JAMES: Anyway, to be a superstar DJ there are three simple rules that you need to remember. Firstly, you can always rely on a Studio 54 compilation set. They’re premixed. And they last for four hours. Secondly, Madonna. Always works. Who doesn’t want to get into the groove? And when all else fails, play techno. It’s nondescript, non recognisable, and everyone will think you’re so cutting edge.
MARY: I have edge.
JAMES ST JAMES: Dear girl, a bindi does not give edge.
MARY: It was for a themed party.
JAMES ST JAMES: A tired themed party.
MARY: Oh please. The party was good. Everything available was excellent. My future unborn children will emerge from my womb fully formed with gills. They’ll be able to live under water. They will be a marvel of evolution, because when we all live underwater in the future, which we will, because of the icecaps, we will all die and they will be the rulers of Atlantis! And it will all be thanks to Mother’s fabulous party-throwing skills.
JAMES ST JAMES: What the hell are you on?
MARY: Ritalin. And a little Xanax. To take the edge off. Want some? By the way, when did it become unacceptable for ageing queens to take illegal substances? When did we become resigned to prescriptives?
JAMES ST JAMES: When you started ageing. As Dolly always says, if you see something sagging, pull it back and hack off the excess.
MARY: Well, at least that explains why you talk out of your arse.
JAMES ST JAMES: Tease hair, not homos.
JAMES ST JAMES: Freak-show
Party Girl the movie
Words by Natalie Dembinska
Illustrations by Mark Hardy