From its opening in 1978 to the 1983 day it shut its doors, The Mudd Club was coolest club in New York.
But beyond some mentions in cultural histories and personal recollections, the influential anything-goes-here club remains little known.
“As Chris Stein from Blondie says, ‘(At) The Mudd Club, there were no T-shirts,’” said Mudd Club doorman Richard Boch. “I could add there were no cocktail napkins with MCL, Mudd Club Lounge, on them. There were no matchbooks back when clubs would give those way. It remained underground. But we’re talking about it nearly 40 years later.”
We’re talking about it because Boch spent the last 7½ years putting together “The Mudd Club,” his memoir of his two years as the doorman that also serves as a history of the club and a look at its influence.
He’ll be at Hi-Fi House Thursday in Omaha, where he’ll read from the book, then be interviewed by Scott Severin, a Mudd Club denizen who now lives in Lincoln, before concluding with a question-and-answer session and book signing.
Located in an abandoned area in downtown Manhattan, "some called it industrial Chinatown," The Mudd Club had The B-52’s on its opening night and hosted performances by No Wave bands, soul legends, Marianne Faithfull and touring groups, like X.
But it wasn’t a music venue per se, opening late and not really getting going until 1 or 2 a.m.
“I was very happy to be able to go to CBGB’s and Max’s (in Kansas City),” Boch said. “The Mudd Club you went to to go to The Mudd Club. What happened during the course of the evening was part of the night.”
That night, which likely included dancing, drinking and, in many cases, drugging brought together a mix of celebrities, artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jeff Koon, musicians, scene makers and regular “kids,” as Boch refers to the teens and 20-somethings that packed the 250-person venue most nights and every weekend.
In “The Mudd Club,” Boch talks more about the club staff and regulars than he does about the celebrities who turned up at the chain across the door.
“It shows two things,” he said. “First, we weren’t sort of an elitist club and it shows that whether you’re David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Anita Pallenberg, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg (or) Debbie Harry, when you stepped inside, you were on the same footing with the neighborhood kids, the rock ‘n’ roll kids from CBGBs. It was the great equalizer. It was a democratic society.”
Working the door, Boch was charged with creating that mix, selecting entrants from those who queued up outside. Some got in, some did not.
“A few people have been wagging their fingers at me since the book came out,” Boch said. “But everybody’s been really cool, saying the same thing — ‘Thank you for letting me in.’ If you were patient and you were cool, everybody wound up getting in. If you were aggressive, chances are, it wouldn’t end up very well.”
Across the book, Boch details his life — his drug use, relationships, travels and art making, taking some of the material from the journals he kept in the '70s and '80s and some from more than 200 interviews he did for the book.
“I feel grateful to have survived all of it,” Boch said. “Did I decide to leave The Mudd Club for reasons of survival as well as a need to move on? Yes. Was New York City something we survived in those years? Yes.”
The Mudd Club didn’t survive. It’s now an apartment building in the fashionable district known as Tribeca. Boch now lives in upstate New York, working as an artist and, for now, supporting his book on a tour.