In the late ’70s, “New York was dangerous, dead and dirty,” recalls Fred Schneider, frontman of new-wave band the B-52s.
But places like the Mudd Club, where Schneider was a regular, made it so much fun.
Less famous than CBGB, the Tribeca nightclub has seen its cult grow in the decades since its 1983 demise. Now, co-founder Steve Mass has rallied his old pals for the first-ever official Mudd Club celebration — a charity rummage sale later this week benefiting the Bowery Mission Women’s Project.
“It’s not going to be a Sotheby’s-type deal but more like a church basement sale,” says Mass, 75. A Cindy Sherman photograph could be next to a T-shirt from Sting or a painting by Walter Robinson — 40-plus former habitués and fans are donating items.
For Mass, it’s a bit like “when the Mudd Club started and you could see Anna Sui’s first fashion show or Kathryn Bigelow [future director of ‘The Hurt Locker’] shooting Super-8 movies.”
Many regulars either worked in fashion or went on to make a name in it: Sui and Betsey Johnson are donating dresses; Maripol, who styled Madonna on her first two albums, is donating some of her iconic rubber jewelry as well as vintage Fiorucci T-shirts. Mannequin king Ralph Pucci is bringing a mannequin/sculpture designed by Kenny Scharf.
Fashion was a big part of the Mudd Club from its inception: Another co-founder was Anya Phillips, who designed the pink dress Deborah Harry wears on the cover of Blondie’s 1979 album “Parallel Lines.”
To create buzz in the early days, Mass would go to the Parsons School of Design and invite students to the new multi-level emporium.
“They would tell all their friends because where else could they get in free and be treated like celebrities?” Mass says. “I didn’t know it happened to be Anna Sui.”
Robert Molnar was the Mudd Club’s doorman while working on his own clothing line — he’s now a designer and stylist for the likes of Sting. He would go down the line of people waiting to get in and give poker chips to those who passed muster.
After he turned away some Hell’s Angels, their leader, who went by “John the Baptist,” beat him up. “I was begging for my life,” Molnar says. “It was ridiculous.”
When it came to booking music, the club welcomed everybody from the Cramps to early hip-hop acts like Fab 5 Freddy.
The B-52s were regulars both on stage and off — singer Kate Pierson’s donating a wig and a dress, while Schneider is parting with items like the cowbell he used on the ’89 “Love Shack” tour and the blue jacket he wore on the band’s 2000 CNN appearance.
Schneider actually worked the coat check when the club opened in 1978.
“People felt so bad for me that they kept bringing me drinks,” he says. “I got really tipsy and Robert [Molnar] had to take over. I lasted one night.”
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