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Clubland: The Fabulous Rise and Murderous Fall of Club Culture

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Outrageous parties. Brazen drug use. Fantastical costumes. Celebrities. Wannabes. Gender-bending club kids. Pulse-pounding beats. Sinful orgies. Botched police raids. Depraved criminals. Murder. Welcome to the decadent nineties club scene.   In 1995, journalist Frank Owen began researching a story on Special K, a designer drug that fueled the after-midnight club scene.  He w Outrageous parties. Brazen drug use. Fantastical costumes. Celebrities. Wannabes. Gender-bending club kids. Pulse-pounding beats. Sinful orgies. Botched police raids. Depraved criminals. Murder. Welcome to the decadent nineties club scene.   In 1995, journalist Frank Owen began researching a story on Special K, a designer drug that fueled the after-midnight club scene.  He went to buy and sample the drug at the internationally notorious Limelight, a crumbling church converted into a Manhattan disco, where mesmerizing music, ecstatic dancers, and uninhibited sideshows attracted long lines of hopeful onlookers.  Owen discovered a world where reckless hedonism was elevated to an art form, and where the ever-accelerating party finally spun out of control in the hands of notorious club owner Peter Gatien and his minions. In Clubland, Owen reveals how a lethal drug ring operated in a lawless, black-lit realm of fantasy, and how, when the lights came up, their excesses left countless victims in their wake.  Praised for his risk-taking and exhilarating writing style, Frank Owen has spawned a hybrid of literary nonfiction and true crime, capturing the zeitgeist of a world that emerged in the spirit of “peace, love, unity and respect,” and ended in tragedy. 


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Outrageous parties. Brazen drug use. Fantastical costumes. Celebrities. Wannabes. Gender-bending club kids. Pulse-pounding beats. Sinful orgies. Botched police raids. Depraved criminals. Murder. Welcome to the decadent nineties club scene.   In 1995, journalist Frank Owen began researching a story on Special K, a designer drug that fueled the after-midnight club scene.  He w Outrageous parties. Brazen drug use. Fantastical costumes. Celebrities. Wannabes. Gender-bending club kids. Pulse-pounding beats. Sinful orgies. Botched police raids. Depraved criminals. Murder. Welcome to the decadent nineties club scene.   In 1995, journalist Frank Owen began researching a story on Special K, a designer drug that fueled the after-midnight club scene.  He went to buy and sample the drug at the internationally notorious Limelight, a crumbling church converted into a Manhattan disco, where mesmerizing music, ecstatic dancers, and uninhibited sideshows attracted long lines of hopeful onlookers.  Owen discovered a world where reckless hedonism was elevated to an art form, and where the ever-accelerating party finally spun out of control in the hands of notorious club owner Peter Gatien and his minions. In Clubland, Owen reveals how a lethal drug ring operated in a lawless, black-lit realm of fantasy, and how, when the lights came up, their excesses left countless victims in their wake.  Praised for his risk-taking and exhilarating writing style, Frank Owen has spawned a hybrid of literary nonfiction and true crime, capturing the zeitgeist of a world that emerged in the spirit of “peace, love, unity and respect,” and ended in tragedy. 

30 review for Clubland: The Fabulous Rise and Murderous Fall of Club Culture

  1. 4 out of 5

    Greta is Erikasbuddy

    I'm very interested in the life and times of Michael Alig. He's almost like a hobby to me. Since he got out of jail last year I have been following his career. He hosts a Youtube talkshow called the "PEW-EW" with Ernie Glam. Has had an art opening. And we're still anxiously awaiting his memoirs to be penned (which he has been doing for nearly 2 decades). This book is not only about Michael Alig, Freeze, Angel and the gang but also the rise and fall of Peter Gatian. Who I can't believe never served I'm very interested in the life and times of Michael Alig. He's almost like a hobby to me. Since he got out of jail last year I have been following his career. He hosts a Youtube talkshow called the "PEW-EW" with Ernie Glam. Has had an art opening. And we're still anxiously awaiting his memoirs to be penned (which he has been doing for nearly 2 decades). This book is not only about Michael Alig, Freeze, Angel and the gang but also the rise and fall of Peter Gatian. Who I can't believe never served any time for the drug trafficking that were going on in his club. While you might be thinking you could just read "Party Monster" and get the whole story... if you have listened to the episode of "The PEW-EW" that tells the differences between what is fact and fiction in that book, this book might open your eyes up to other things that happened. I did not really have any access to the NEWS when these trials were going on. But I do remember the Club Kids on Phil Donahue, Joan Rivers, and Geraldo. They were fascinating. How did they come up with those costumes? How did they have that lifestyle? This book is written by a field reporter for the Village Voice who was doing a piece on Special K and also on Peter Gatian. A lot of Club Kids have been interviewed. Also, a lot of 'mafia' members were too. It amazed me the ties to the mafia these clubs had that were owned by Gatian. Gatian was not involved... but he sure did have employees who were. I was also amused to the ties Madonna had in the Miami nightclub owned by a previous employee of Gatians. And the mention of Sophia Vergara. The Beastie Boys were also mentioned. They got their start in one of Gatian's clubs. What was left out of "Party Monster" is the trial of Alig and Freeze. This interested me. And now I am curious to know whether Freeze is out or not. I have not looked into this. There is a movie called "The Limelight" out that is about Peter Gatian that I plan on watching soon. The pictures taken of the club are just amazing. It really is a church on the outside! I do know that right now it is a gym. Someday I hope to see it. All in all... this is a very informative book. I believe everything on Alig was what kept my attention.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    Frank Owen's Clubland: The Fabulous Rise and Murderous Fall of Club Culture offers a far more objective version of the same events in James St. James' Party Monster. Though St. James had the benefit of having intimate involvement with Alig and company, Owen takes a more measured, journalistic tone. Beginning with an investigation into the drug Special K, Owen moves through the subculture to offer a broader context of the 1990s New York nightlife scene, with corruption and criminality evident at Frank Owen's Clubland: The Fabulous Rise and Murderous Fall of Club Culture offers a far more objective version of the same events in James St. James' Party Monster. Though St. James had the benefit of having intimate involvement with Alig and company, Owen takes a more measured, journalistic tone. Beginning with an investigation into the drug Special K, Owen moves through the subculture to offer a broader context of the 1990s New York nightlife scene, with corruption and criminality evident at all levels of management of the clubs and entertainment, as personified by the four spotlighted here: Michael Alig, Peter Gatien, Lord Michael Caruso and Chris Paciello. All four were key figures in the nightclub scene, and each in their own unique way, deeply involved with the more criminal aspects that would eventually destroy the utopian club kids ideals. From drug dealing and taking, to mob connections, to robbery and ultimately murder, it's all here, albeit set against a colourful and glittering nocturnal backdrop. Despite the journalistic approach Clubland is, mostly thanks to the behaviour of the people involved and those within their orbit, far from boring. It is more than a look at a particular subculture, instead delving into institutional corruption and wider cultural issues. But the main heartbreak, the crux of the drama is the descent from the possibility offered by such an open, accepting, creative and proud community to becoming one riddled by drug addiction and serious crimes. It's more than mainstream co-option of subcultural ideals, which is often disheartening enough, but here it is like the subculture is unable to handle what it offers and devours itself in the pursuit of these self-created ideals. This was a really fascinating book, and one that works well read in tandem with James St. James' memoir of the same era. One minor quibble? For an exploration of a scene that was so garish, bright and visually interesting, Clubland could have benefited greatly from a photo insert.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    Sex, drugs, and rock n' roll. Few things epitomized these cliched ideals like the mid-90s club culture. Especially Peter Gatien's Limelight and Tunnel nightclubs in New York City. They were a place for people to be whoever they wanted to be and anyone they never thought they ever could be, meet new people who will never judge them, and just have fun. But, you can't forget about the drugs. Ecstasy, roofies, Liquid G, Special K, you name it and it could be found at these clubs. Owen is a writer fo Sex, drugs, and rock n' roll. Few things epitomized these cliched ideals like the mid-90s club culture. Especially Peter Gatien's Limelight and Tunnel nightclubs in New York City. They were a place for people to be whoever they wanted to be and anyone they never thought they ever could be, meet new people who will never judge them, and just have fun. But, you can't forget about the drugs. Ecstasy, roofies, Liquid G, Special K, you name it and it could be found at these clubs. Owen is a writer for the Village Voice who, while trying to investigate the ease by which drugs could be purchased at clubs, got sucked into the subculture of the people who inhabit them and probed further to find out their motivations. The focus of the book is on Gatien and many of his higher up managers, party planners, and competitors including characters like Michael Alig (the man portrayed by Macauley Culkin in the 2003 movie Party Monster), "Lord" Michael Caruso, and Chris Paciello, among a few others. The result is a compelling true story of love, hate, drugs, and murder among people who just want to escape the norms that bind society.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Leo Robertson

    A lot better than I expected. The best journalism, at least that I've read, appears to come from the desire to exorcise something, to finally put it to rest- a lot of the time I questioned why certain sections were important and judged myself for my own prurient desire to savour salacious details, but in the end it's as I noticed de Botton tweeting recently, of all things: "Authors write things down in the hope, thereafter, to have to think about them a bit less", and that apparent drive is what A lot better than I expected. The best journalism, at least that I've read, appears to come from the desire to exorcise something, to finally put it to rest- a lot of the time I questioned why certain sections were important and judged myself for my own prurient desire to savour salacious details, but in the end it's as I noticed de Botton tweeting recently, of all things: "Authors write things down in the hope, thereafter, to have to think about them a bit less", and that apparent drive is what makes this book great.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    Great look at the major players in an era that produced the most unlistenable music of all time.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    Fascinating read, though I could do without Owen's moments of moralizing and self-aggrandizing. This book wonderfully complements "Disco Bloodbath" in the sense that both (inadvertently) illuminate the policing and hierarchy that (inevitably?) arise in initially radical, subversive subcultures (of many kinds, though "club kid" subculture in particular here). I recommend reading the two texts together. You end up feeling like an expert on the subject - and you might just get the urge to interview Fascinating read, though I could do without Owen's moments of moralizing and self-aggrandizing. This book wonderfully complements "Disco Bloodbath" in the sense that both (inadvertently) illuminate the policing and hierarchy that (inevitably?) arise in initially radical, subversive subcultures (of many kinds, though "club kid" subculture in particular here). I recommend reading the two texts together. You end up feeling like an expert on the subject - and you might just get the urge to interview your favorite NYC drag queen about her experiences with these communities in the 80's and 90's. (Maybe that's just me?)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Penny Dreadful

    I enjoyed it as I have an interest in Alig. However at times I found myself having to double check who was who. It was confusing to keep all the names straight. It was an interesting read to understand more of what the scene was like. I also found it filled in the gaps in my knowledge from documentaries on Alig, nightlife and the Limelight.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jernelly

    A well researched interesting drama on drugs, drag queens, murder and crime. I found myself nodding off at different sub plots that didn't seem to connect at first. I felt it could've been a little less long winded and a little more fabulous. Opening chapters had colorful scenes that held my attention, court proceedings not so much. A well researched interesting drama on drugs, drag queens, murder and crime. I found myself nodding off at different sub plots that didn't seem to connect at first. I felt it could've been a little less long winded and a little more fabulous. Opening chapters had colorful scenes that held my attention, court proceedings not so much.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Laura Nine

    I can’t believe this stuff really happened.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Candice

    In the author’s bid to be thorough, this book reads as tedious, desultory, and unfocused.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Ok, skipped some parts to get through it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mandy Cochran

    I enjoyed hearing a different side to this story. Read along with "Disco Bloodbath" and formulate your own opinion. I enjoyed hearing a different side to this story. Read along with "Disco Bloodbath" and formulate your own opinion.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jay Pal

    Third time i've read it. I love this book. Third time i've read it. I love this book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tlingit

    This is a true crime book. It's not as entertaining as James St. James' "Party Monster: A Fabulous But True Tale of Murder in Clubland" but is more comprehensive. I found it a challenge to finish mainly because it didn't convey the spirit of the scene but what it lacked in "fabulousness" it made up in with names, background and details. Unfortunately it seemed like it was written like the more words that were included the more the author would get paid. Sometimes phrases were repeated and facts This is a true crime book. It's not as entertaining as James St. James' "Party Monster: A Fabulous But True Tale of Murder in Clubland" but is more comprehensive. I found it a challenge to finish mainly because it didn't convey the spirit of the scene but what it lacked in "fabulousness" it made up in with names, background and details. Unfortunately it seemed like it was written like the more words that were included the more the author would get paid. Sometimes phrases were repeated and facts reiterated; the book could have used a better editor. Don't expect a personal account all the way through. It's like a newscast rather than a slice of life piece. Saying I liked it by way of stars it not really expressing my opinion of this book. The author did a great job at gather facts and relating them but I found myself slogging through many parts of the book wondering when he'd get to the point. The index in the back was a solid addition to this news account. It REALLY could have used pictures.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    I sincerely wanted to love this as I've had a quiet obsession with the Club Kid phenomenon since I saw Party Monster when I was way too young to be watching it. (I recently tried to re-watch it and I forgot how god-awful the acting is). So this should have been a blockbuster book for me--drugs! murder! drag queens!--but Owen is fairly straight-laced in his journalism. I also realized I'm stupidly picky with nonfiction, because I hated the memoir aspects of "Witches in America" but would have LOV I sincerely wanted to love this as I've had a quiet obsession with the Club Kid phenomenon since I saw Party Monster when I was way too young to be watching it. (I recently tried to re-watch it and I forgot how god-awful the acting is). So this should have been a blockbuster book for me--drugs! murder! drag queens!--but Owen is fairly straight-laced in his journalism. I also realized I'm stupidly picky with nonfiction, because I hated the memoir aspects of "Witches in America" but would have LOVED more on Owen's personal experience in the club scene. Instead, there's a lot of phone transcriptions, court drama, and a few too many cameos by PRESIDENT ELECT DONALD TRUMP which was honestly the most disturbing part. Not so much about drugs as it is about the thugs who sell them.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    After having read this book I wondered what compelled me to read it. Who cares about these people? And unlikable cast of liars, thieves, snitches, crooked cops, mobsters, murderers, drugs and drugs and more drugs. Sounds interesting, but it's not. It's a sad commentary about people who do nothing but create havoc and take up space on the planet. The club culture scene may have appeared fabulous on the outside, but not too far underneath the glitz was nothing but ugliness. I didnt need to know, After having read this book I wondered what compelled me to read it. Who cares about these people? And unlikable cast of liars, thieves, snitches, crooked cops, mobsters, murderers, drugs and drugs and more drugs. Sounds interesting, but it's not. It's a sad commentary about people who do nothing but create havoc and take up space on the planet. The club culture scene may have appeared fabulous on the outside, but not too far underneath the glitz was nothing but ugliness. I didnt need to know, but now I do. meh.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Fishface

    The same story you read about in James St. James 's DISCO BLOODBATH, but completely different. This author was an insider in the club kids scene, but he was a journalist, not drowning in the lifestyle the way St. James obviously was. Offers a lot more background on the situation and gives a much clearer picture of how it all went down. On the downside, not nearly as hilarious as DB was...It would be well worth your time to read both. The same story you read about in James St. James 's DISCO BLOODBATH, but completely different. This author was an insider in the club kids scene, but he was a journalist, not drowning in the lifestyle the way St. James obviously was. Offers a lot more background on the situation and gives a much clearer picture of how it all went down. On the downside, not nearly as hilarious as DB was...It would be well worth your time to read both.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Frank Mitchell

    Frank Owen went into the Limelight like many of us. To listen to a new new sound of Techno music. What he uncovered was an underworld of drugs, kidnappings and death all dancing around the same groove. As an eyewitness to his account, there is no fabricated nonsense in this book. it is matter of fact, exact and precise to the timeline, making it a fascinating book to read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jessi Sawyer

    Enjoyed it, but it did go off into other characters involved in Limelight and the club scene in general that I wasn't expecting. This wasn't a bad thing, and it gave it more of a bigger picture feel, but I thought I'd be reading more about the club kids. Still a very interesting and weird little piece of history. Enjoyed it, but it did go off into other characters involved in Limelight and the club scene in general that I wasn't expecting. This wasn't a bad thing, and it gave it more of a bigger picture feel, but I thought I'd be reading more about the club kids. Still a very interesting and weird little piece of history.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Van

    Having visited the three clubs in the book myself, I observed some of what was written about but never knew the real story behind the scenes. Owen documentation of both the NYC and Miami club scenes are well delivered and seems to report from a distance, not taking the spotlight (or Limelight) from the characters directly involved.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jacqui

    it was far more cohesive than st James, but where that was disjointed and almost manic, this was dry... more detailed, but drones on a bit too much and it felt a bit judgemental vs telling the facts. the lifestyle still fascinates but like everything else that looks shiny and pretty, underneath it all is pretty dark and in this club scene pretty grisly and greedy

  22. 4 out of 5

    John Treanor

    This is a page turner. Not what I expected at all (oh, those goofy clubland kids, so cute), but more like a true crime novel about the drugs and violence behind the hood-infested club scene. An easy read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    This was pretty good. Found out some things I didn't know about the whole ecstasy movement but it got a little drawn out towards the end with the court proceedings and a little confusing as to who's side who was on This was pretty good. Found out some things I didn't know about the whole ecstasy movement but it got a little drawn out towards the end with the court proceedings and a little confusing as to who's side who was on

  24. 4 out of 5

    James Cobo

    a fascinating, extraordinarily fast read Not just the most interesting and best-written book about the 90s club scene that I've ever read, but also one of the better books about the music industry full-stop. Highly, highly, highly recommended. a fascinating, extraordinarily fast read Not just the most interesting and best-written book about the 90s club scene that I've ever read, but also one of the better books about the music industry full-stop. Highly, highly, highly recommended.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    great book that really gets into the details of how nyc stunts are really are pulled off.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Closetcase

    who knew it was all so shady and connected....

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lexie

    Overall, I liked it. The author had some petty biases he aimed to get across--it made the story feel a bit less professional, and some of the language felt contrived, but it was pretty interesting.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lana

    Interesting peek into a wild and decadent lifestyle in 1990s New York...too bad it all turned ugly and grotesque!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    Informative and interesting. Dry patches but the description of the more sordid bits was enough to keep me going.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Starts out very well, but suffers from too much detail and drags towards the end. It might have been better if Owen hadn't tried to document everything and focused one storyline. Starts out very well, but suffers from too much detail and drags towards the end. It might have been better if Owen hadn't tried to document everything and focused one storyline.

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