The Limelight, NYC

“Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll is all my brain & body needs.”

Ian Dury and The Blockheads.

New York City is full of history and interesting stories. This small gothic church and rectory is nestled next to Bed Bath and Beyond, across from Trader Joe’s on 6th Avenue at 20th street in Chelsea. It dates back to the 1800’s, as a church it has a boring story. After the church was sold it began its storied and sordid life. It spent some time as a drug rehab that went out of business and then was bought by Peter Gaeten where it became The Limelight Club, lit in neon green light at night, notorious for sex and drugs and rock and murder. Peter Gaiten owned the night They made a movie about it.

After it was closed by police, several times under DA Rudy Guiliani’s scorched earth policy – and Peter Gaeten died, it became a food court. Grimaldi’s which is a famous NY Pizzeria opened an outpost in the rectory, which is still there. Currently the space (which is HUGE) was taken over by a Gym – called the Limelight Gym. My trainer and I worked out there several times.

I was so excited to be back inside and reminisce about all the nooks, crannies and catwalks that were used for unspeakable acts. There were several “VIP Rooms”, access to which money could not buy. Money and looks got you in the front door, the VIP rooms took drugs, friends or “talent”.

The disco ball is still there as are the church fittings that hold the little candles. I remember the lines of goths and nave people lined up around the block hoping the doorman would choose them to be allowed to go in. The list of performers from those days reads like a who’s who of the 80’s and 90’s Alternative music scene. There’s a partial list at the end of the wiki entry

To my surprise the management of Limelight Fitness do not like to talk about the space’s past – even from firsthand witnesses. I think they’d do much better business if they embraced the history and of the club and featured it! It was the most popular venue in NYC, and The Trendsetter for the world for over a decade.

It’s a huge gym, and quiet as a church, not very crowded. A stark distinction to the frenetic energy packed with crazy young people dancing that it once was. The only echos of the past you can hear are artifacts like the disco balls in the safe.

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