No trebly Britney mixes. No go-go boys handing out jello shots in sparkle-Speedos. Los Angeles’ Club FUCK! was a far cry from the manic neon haze of Santa Monica Boulevard, and a more inclusive alternative to the men-only mindset of leather bars at the time.
Kicking off in the summer of ‘89, Silverlake’s Club FUCK found hosts Miguel Beristain, Cliff Diller, James Stone (pictured, right), and Sweet P beguiling crowds with an ear-stabbing onslaught of clambering industrial noise (think Front 242, Coil, and Ministry), and a series of performance art showcases that pushed the boundaries of… well, pretty much everything, really. There was mummification, modern primitivism, and extreme BDSM: piercing, cutting, and blood-play were the order of the day. Drag queen bingo this was not.
This incredible period in gay history came to a crashing end when it was raided by LA vice cops in 1993.
Fortunately, you can still experience the club. Through March 19, Los Angeles’ instrumental ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives presents “FUCK! Loss, desire, pleasure,” curated by Toro Castaño and Lucia Fabio. It’s an exhaustive assemblage of memorabilia related to the club: snapshots, fliers, costumes, court documents and sex toys and it charts the space’s humble beginnings as a sacred meeting ground for “punks, outcasts and the art-damaged” all the way to the highly suspect LAPD raid that effectively shuttered the club in ’93.
Club FUCK! was a direct response to governmental indifference to HIV and AIDS at the time, and, as this exhibit deftly illustrates, the scenes that went down in its hallowed halls were always confrontational: equal parts damaged and damaging, and near-sadistic in its provocation.
As far as nightclubs go, this was the hardest and corest of them all.