Saturday, March 19, 2005

Photos: Pyramid Club, Michael Roman, NYC 1984

Pyramid Club, NYC
The Pyramid club was located in the lower East Side between A & B (Alphabet City) - a fairly nasty area in terms of crime, but a literal magnet for artistic and talented people. The Pyramid was sister club to a place I used to frequent in Montreal called "Poodles". Poodles consisted of an eclectic mix of club kids, gays, straights, punks and trannies. Like the Pyramid. The only fault I ever found with Poodles was the music- I HATE DISCO. Always did, still do. My roommate Denise and I occasionally went on the Poodle dance floor and thrashed to it! Amazing no-one ever kicked us out.
Pyramid Club

Visiting the Pyramid in 80s NYC usually became a Montreal reunion. Many of us flitted back and forth between the 2 cities, as it was only a 9 hour drive away. I remember the first time I went for an Aids test in Montreal, circa 1985. I was pregnant and had to literally force the Doctor to do it. He couldn't understand why I thought I needed it. He said, as I was a woman and it was primarily a gay man's disease, and furthermore, mostly centered in places like New York, NOT Montreal, then why was I worried? I couldn't believe that I had to explain to the one institution in Montreal which was testing HIV at the time that New York was only a short drive away- most of the Montreal gays I knew actually travelled to New York on occasion, and some probably even had SEX while there! I told him that if he thought the virus would remain incubated, he was dreaming. I finally convinced him that my own extra curricular activities warranted the test, and at that his nurse looked at me skeptically and put on the rubber gloves to take my blood. The paranoia surrounding the disease was disconcerting. I was so relieved when it came back negative.
Pyramid Club
I became friends with an amazing graffiti artist in '84- Michael Roman, whose work covered the walls of the Pyramid as well as the streets of NYC- you can see his signature skeletons scaling buildings and flying angel cats in the backgrounds of these portraits. I met him on the street somewhere in the village or Soho. I was wearing what appears now a ridiculous looking outfit but was cutting edge then- a spray painted crinoline, Docs, topped off with my spiky red hair. I looked like an out of control fairy. Michael had a Mohawk and New York street sense- something I was lacking. He took me on an incredible odyssey through the lower East Side, on a white night I will never forget. It was like an ominous yet compelling dream. I felt safe with him, as if in a protective bubble, as we travelled street by street through different worlds- all dangerous and so beautiful it hurt inside. I kept my camera for once hidden and only have my memories. One street was like a scene out of Weegee, filled with homeless people crisscrossing our path, their gaze elsewhere and no-where. We kept to the center of the road, and the air seemed filled with vapours. Another street, and we were suddenly alone. White sheeted motorbikes emerged like precious ghosts on the sidewalks, and the street was illuminated with amber light. Michael told me it was the safest street in NY, owned by the Hell's Angels, who patrolled the rooftops. No-one would dare touch those bikes, or cause any disturbances. A headless body had been found on one of those rooftops a couple of months ago. We finally went back to his room, where we exchanged art and ideas until dawn. I only saw him once again, but some people remain etched in your heart forever, while others invest more time but are forgotten. Michael Roman was "discovered", if you will, by Santana, who spirited him away to SF where he apparently now lives and continues to paint and engage in community activism. Michael did the cover artwork on one of the DOUGHBOYS albums as well as one for SANTANA.
Pyramid Club

Pyramid Club

The photo below predates my Three Part Bodyseries, but the germ of the idea was already there. In that series, (1989-1994) I took the same people who were part of my milieu and seen in this documentary work, and brought them into my studio to be photographed. It consists of over 50 portraits, some of which can be seen on my
Three Part Bodyseries site.

Pyramid Club

I went back to NYC in Aug. 2007 and visited the lower east side after a 19 year absence- I was amazed to discover the Pyramid was still open, and has 80s nights!! Wish I lived in New York...
Photos at Pyramid Club August 2007


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About Me

My photo
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Linda Dawn Hammond,MFA, AKA Dawn One, is a photographer and journalist. As a teenager in 1976, she began covering music events for various magazines. During the late 70s she became involved in punk, documenting an insider's perspective of the music, political and social scenes in Montreal, Toronto, NYC, the UK and Europe, included in this blog as photographs and commentary. Linda Dawn Hammond continues to work as a photojournalist, specializing in music, cinema, art and politics. As a fine arts photographer, she has exhibited in galleries in North America and the UK, and published widely.