Limelight

I have been waiting for this documentary to get a release here in Ireland ever since it was released in the US in September. Limelight chronicles the rise and fall of the Limelight nightclub in New York City owned by Peter Gatien. Limelight was famous for being situated in a converted church and it quickly became the pinnacle of the Manhattan rave scene in the 80s and 90s. Gatien added to his nightclub empire with Tunnel, Club USA and Palladium. If you went clubbing in New York in the early 90s chances are you went to one of Gatien’s clubs.

Limelight was a hedonist’s paradise where drugs were openly dealt and consumed. Central to the atmosphere were the club kids, outrageously costumed and made-up, nightworld celebrities that included Amanda Lepore, Richie Rich and James St. James. Michael Alig was the self proclaimed leader of the club kids and a party promoter who ensured that Gatien’s clubs were packed night after night. I went to Limelight in 1995 and it was a whole lot more decadent than anything Dublin had to offer at the time.

Gatien’s empire started to crumble when Alig was arrested and imprisoned for murder, the story of which is explored in more detail in the documentary and film Party Monster (the documentary is much better than the movie and provides a stomach churning look at a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah). Gatien and his clubs became the subject of a federal investigation into drug dealing and tax evasion leaving him with huge legal fees and a 60 day prison sentence. After serving his time he was deported back to his native Canada where he has been living quietly ever since.

The documentary Limelight was produced by Gatien’s daughter and includes interviews with many key figures from the scene including a prison interview with Michael Alig. Given my particular interest in this niche area of New York history (and if it’s of any interest to you I can recommend Disco Bloodbath by James St. James and The Last Party by Anthony Haden Guest) it’s definitely on my one to watch list.

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