Friday, April 12, 2019

A visit to the Pyramid Club on Avenue A

[Angel working the front door]

Interview and photos by Stacie Joy

Setting up for an evening event at the Pyramid Club, 101 Avenue A between Sixth Street and Seventh Street, is serious business.

The iconic space has two floors, although only the top floor is open at the time I drop by to chat with Maria Narciso, club manager. She’s getting the DJ, sound and lighting techs squared away while providing the door person tickets, and briefing security on the night’s plans.

I ask about her history with the nearly 40-year-old Pyramid, the current state of affairs in nightlife and what she sees for the future of the space, which served as a defining club of the East Village scene in the 1980s. (Find more comprehensive history here and here. As Tricia Romano wrote in 2014: "[The Pyramid] served as a safe haven for freaks, geeks, weirdos, queers, and dreamers to come together and create. Sometimes it was bad; sometimes it was beautiful. But it was never boring.")

[Maria Narciso]

Were you a Pyramid regular before working here? What drew you to the Pyramid Club?

I wish I could say I was a Pyramid regular before working there. Actually, I was born in Manhattan but raised in Texas, and always dreamed of one day returning. I kept up with NYC and, because of my love of 1980s music, I kept in touch with happenings at the club.

Once I returned, I found the Pyramid Club Facebook page and started following it. My connection with the Pyramid is actually a love connection. I met the general manager Quirino Perez (resident DJ TM.8), we went on a date, and then I went to the club. I fell in love! I started to hang out there, as his girlfriend, then I saw a need for a hands-on person to assist him, and I was hired. [Congratulations to Maria and Quirino are in order — they are now engaged and hope to be married at the club.]

[Quirino Perez with Narciso]

You’ve described working here as a labor of love. Why is it important to you to keep the spirit of the Pyramid alive?

I’ve enjoyed many clubs in many cities and countries, but I never encountered something magical like the Pyramid: The foundation set by the original promoters, the community the drag queens and punk rockers created, the values, the inclusiveness — I found it all so intriguing.

I think it’s amazing that our community consists of young, old, gay, straight, rich, goths, and everything in between, yet everyone respects themselves and those around them. We are a community, a family, and that is priceless. When we say, “Come as You Are” we really mean it.

There are many regular evenings here throughout the month, including No Return Post Punk Society, Defcon NYC Industrial and the Rapture Dark Thursday 80s Dance Party. What is consistently the biggest draw for the Pyramid?

In a city with many options, we are blessed to have a regular following who come every weekend, regardless of the event. Each event/promoter has their own following and everyone is able to blend in and enjoy both levels, even when the music genres are different. It's not surprising to see goths dancing at one of our Madonnathons or our Class of 1986 “Pretty in Pink” Prom, and see neon-covered young people dancing to post-punk or industrial music.

It’s an amazing environment where everyone can actually dance like no one is looking/judging, and I believe it’s what has kept us successful. Besides the community factor, consistency is what works for us. Our patrons know what to expect, cover is always the same, drink prices are low compared to other venues in the area, music is always 1980s with a little 1970s and 1990s, everyone is treated equally, and our staff is very friendly.

[Nette Moreno, coat check and bartender]

[Vicky and Russell]

[DJ Mike Stalagmike]

While the Pyramid is well-known name to longtime residents, do you see it resonating with a newer generation?

Believe it or not, there are many longtime residents, some living just blocks away, who are surprised to find out we’re still open! Many find us online, or walking down Avenue A, and share stories of their experiences back in the 1980s. A lot of the newer generation express interest in the nostalgia of the 80s.

The music reminds them of growing up listening to what mom and dad played on the car radio. It’s amazing to see groups of 20-somethings, dancing along with patrons that have been coming over for two or three decades, or entire families coming over to dance! Sometimes we find ourselves educating them on particular artists, songs or genres. For example, someone asked about a picture of a lady on our walls, and it was Boy George.

What’s next for the Pyramid Club? Are you hopeful for a 50th anniversary?

If the owners don’t decide to sell, and we are blessed with good health, then we’ll do this until we can’t anymore. It saddens me to see news about businesses shutting down, and their patrons reminiscing. We’re living in very uncertain times; the neighborhood is in constant change. A 50th anniversary would be EPIC!


The Pyramid Club is open every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 8 p.m. until 4 a.m. and is available for private events at other times.


Anonymous said...

Let's not forget the late and great Taylor Mead performed there. The funniest mind blowing performance I've ever seen.

Anonymous said...

A footnote to the building's history. Nico lived on the second floor in the late '60s when she sang with the Velvet Underground.

noble neolani said...

I use to come here late afternoons to hang out and have a beer. It was place where blue collar guys would come afterwork and have drink before heading home. It transformed in the evenings into the club/performance space it is now famous for. I met my partner there in spring of 1982, we've been together ever since. My roommate at the time is one of those "legends". It all seemed unplanned, spontaneous and a shit load of fun.

marjorie said...

MY YOUTH! One of the few places I hung out as a twentysomething in the early '90s (spent most of my 30s in San Francisco and then returning to NYC, having kids and not going out) that's still thriving. I'm glad.

And thank you, Stacie Joy, for another great interview/photo essay.

Anonymous said...

Where How Soon Is Now will be spun once a night ... forever ...

Anonymous said...

RIP Michael Stewart.