Not Your Uncle’s Black Party: Rites XXXII Resurrection
Resurrection is the symbolically loaded theme of this year’s Black Party, the annual springtime ritual that takes place this year at New York City’s Roseland Ballroom from Saturday night, March 19, into mid-afternoon of the next day. The creative team at The Saint-at-Large is planning an explosive blend of light, décor and music to create an 18-hour journey that encapsulates the Spring Equinox’s cosmic triumph of renewal. Tickets on sale at Être/2B, 1613 Amherst, 9am-5pm Mon-Friday.
“A sense of danger is an essential part of the party,” says young Adam Koch, 26, a theater designer whose creative vision will transform Roseland a second year in a row. Koch compares his work to Montréal’s own Black & Blue, which he attended last October: “There, it’s about the music and lights. The mystique and magic of the Black Party is making someone feel transported. As he walks into Roseland, it should be like walking into a movie.”
The party traces its roots to the Saint, the legendary gay disco that thrived in New York’s East Village in the 1980s. Impresario Bruce Mailman grandly conceived of the Black Party as a recreation of a mystical cult ritual in which pagan men spent the night of the Equinox wearing animal skins and dancing ecstatically to drumbeats to guarantee a good planting season. Hence the Black Party’s “Rites XXXII” tag name.
The Black Party has responded to the sophisticated taste of its patrons moving from a generic leather-themed event to one that allows more of a sense of play and the escapism of fetishes. “We made a conscious decision to give it some context, because the leather scene was important in its time but doesn’t relate to a new generation,” he says. “Fetishes can be sexy. Fetishes evolve. It’s not your uncle’s Black Party.”
That carries over into the party’s most notorious aspect, its “strange live acts.” On a side stage, partygoers have witnessed everything from a live adult circumcision to an erotic coupling with a boa constrictor. Pool balls, firecrackers, food, hot wax and body fluids are only some of the props that performers have used to act out all manner of role playing. Mike Peyton, a well-known advocate for New York’s fetish scene, also sees the party moving away from simple leather — although many, if not most, of the attendees adhere to dress (or undress) in leather gear. “We’re returning to stranger live acts,” asserts Saint-at-Large director Stephen Pevner, “not go-go boys, no costumed nuns. We’re getting a major porn producer to coordinate it.”
For the crucial hours from 10 a.m. until the lights go up around 6 p.m., the Saint-at-Large has managed to snag Danny Tenaglia. Tenaglia’s set will encompass the Morning Music, prettier, more tuneful songs that bring the crowd gently down after the explosive energy earlier. The party traditionally closes with a “Sleaze” set, when the music gets slow and sensual.
Understandably, the production costs have gone up a lot, but the Saint-at-Large has managed to keep the price down. This year, it is offering a reduced price after 9 a.m. for those who want to experience the Morning Music (and get a good night’s sleep). For those traveling from out of town, there is also a partnership with the Hudson, New York’s chicest boutique hotel, only a 10-minute walk to Roseland.
Black Party Expo
The Black Party has always stood alone as a one-night-only event — no corporate sponsorship, no party passes, no tea dance. The underground vibe is part of what makes it so special. But for the second year, the Black Party Expo extends the concept into Saturday afternoon — and, new this year, Friday evening as well.
“Besides Pride, this is New York’s biggest weekend,” Peyton says. “It’s not an official holiday weekend, but it has taken that shape in the gay community. The Expo reinforces that weekend and makes it even bigger.” Exhibitors include purveyors of lubricants, sex toys and clothes; porn producers; book publishers; erotic art and jewelry makers; and relevant organizations. The event benefits New York’s LGBT Center.
Black Party Expo producer Matt Humphrey promises even more porn stars, continuous live acts, more giveaways and raffles, and more general craziness. Rentboy.com, for example, will be setting up a bed populated by some of its most prized commodities, the rent boys themselves.
New this year will be the addition of the Hookies. Traditionally held on the Friday night before this Black Party, this year it is being held at the Expo. Produced by Rentboy.com, it’s a perfect marriage of themes, with the Expo providing the perfect backdrop for the male escorts who will be awarded prizes in categories like Best Ass, Best Daddy 40+ and Best Fetish Escort. The top prize will be awarded to one of the winners of regional contests from around the world who are being flown to New York for the occasion.
The Black Party’s unparalleled celebration of sexuality, music, and freedom will be shaking the walls at the Roseland Ballroom, 239 West 52nd Street, NYC, from March 18-20. For more information on the Party and the Expo:
Group bookings: 800-606-6090