The Roxy was located on West 18th Street in Chelsea. It started off as a skating rink, and then evolved into a dance club with designated roller skating nights. DJs included Grandmaster Flash (“White Lines” was his big hit) and Afrika Bambaataa. Hip hop was big, and people would do break dancing and draw graffiti on the walls. I attended a launch party for the then-brand new Bomb magazine, a quarterly about art and writing, at the Roxy in 1981. There was both dancing and roller skating, which was lucky because I stunk at skating. The bathrooms were basically unisex because of all the people snorting and cavorting. I decided to leave around midnight; my friends were staying, so I went outside and got into the taxi line. When I got into a cab, a guy whom I’d spoken to briefly jumped in on the other side, and I had to get the driver to make him get out. (I included a scene based on that incident in my novel.)
Yoko Ono, Chaka Khan, Madonna, Donna Summer, Cyndi Lauper, Grace Jones (“Pull Up to the Bumper”), and many other artists performed here over the years. Keith Richards had his 36th birthday party at the Roxy in December 1979, and the club was included in the movie Beat Street in 1984. It went on to several other incarnations and eventually closed after a 29-year run.
Leslie Wells has edited forty-nine New York Times bestsellers in her thirty-year publishing career. She is the author of Come Dancing, a novel about publishing and rock and roll set in New York City in the 1980s. Visit her at www.lesliewellsbooks.com
Photo: Red Bull Music Academy