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The Sanctuary (1969 - 1972)
Related: disco nightclubs - disco - New York music - Francis Grasso - Klute - (1971)
Era: 1969 - 1970 - 1971 - 1972
"...this discotheque opened up in a converted German Baptist church in the Hell's Kitchen area of New York in 1969 and was probably the first nightclub. The altar was the deejay box."
ProfileThe Sanctuary was a New York city nightclub which existed from 1969 untill 1972. Its most important DJ was Francis Grasso.
Francis Grasso, Steve D'Aquisto and Michael Capello played their part. This was before the arrival of the 12inch record.
Nicky Siano knew Francis Grasso although Nicky was only 14 when the Sanctuary opened.
Peter Braunstein in the Village Voice:
Some say the first gay disco was the Ice Palace on Fire Island; others insist it was the Manhattan restaurant-discotheque Aux Puces, or a place that towers over all others in sheer notoriety: the Sanctuary.
"It was supposed to be a secret," recalls Leigh Lee, a Mapplethorpe model who visited the Sanctuary when it first opened in 1969, "but I don't know how secret it could have been when faggots and lesbians can come out of a church from midnight till sunrise." Located on West 43rd Street in a former German Baptist church, the Sanctuary evolved from a straight disco for white celebrities to a bacchanalian palace populated almost entirely by gay men. From his booth at the altar, DJ Francis Grasso administered a thumping sacrament to legions of adoring parishioners, who celebrated his mastery of slip-cueing by showering him with Quaaludes while dancing the original, gay version of the Bump.
The Sanctuary epitomized the post-Stonewall era, when gay men had won the right to dance intimately together without worrying about the police. But the early gay discos were not only pleasure palaces, they were also sites of liberation free from the prying eyes of the suspect straight world. Steve Sukman, who ran the club Private Eyes in the '80s, remarked that "pleasure and being around your own people was the gay metaphor for disco; simple pleasure was its straight application."
The gay club owners of the underground disco years soon faced the dilemma of all new cultural movements: whether to exclude the masses or attempt to convert them. A major issue in early gay disco was whether to allow straights to enter the sanctuary. Ultimately, most owners proved ecumenical, if only because any straight incursion into the disco scene occurred on terms set by its gay founders. And for its part, the straight party world seemed to acknowledge gays as the indispensable ingredient of disco. The most valuable commodity for a start-up club in the '70s was a gay mailing list.
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