Wow! When a friend emailed me to say that Splash was closing I was shocked. Although the place has been a tourist attraction for the past ten years or so, it had started to seem like an institution–and the place to bring your out-of-country friends when they’d come to visit.
I have a lot of memories of that place, which had almost as my re-inventions as Madonna. There was the opening night party with my friend Mark, who died of AIDS just a few years later. The ACT-UP “swim team,” as they were nicknamed, who were the first big-time frequenters, and the precursors to the Chelsea Boys who would soon take over. (A couple years later, Bridge & Tunnel crowds pitched their tents.) Running into a “straight” work friend and canoodling in a corner booth until they kicked us out at four a.m. And, most recently, having a Splash reunion of sorts with my college roommate Qarlos, who wanted to go their on a recent New York trip, and who was as frustrated as I was that the gorgeous bartender in his trademark underwear was… straight. Yep, times have changed.
Here’s the “Next” Magazine article about the closing of Splash. Rest in Piece, Go-Go Boys!
The popular Chelsea gay bar Splash announced today that it is planning on closing its doors on August 10 after 22 years in operation. The venue posted the message below to its Facebook page:
One of the biggest gay clubs in New York, and the most famous in the world, the 10,000 square foot venue has gone through a lot of changes since opening in 1991, including an extensive renovation last year.
Over the last two decades, iconic performers including Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue, Grace Jones, Cyndi Lauper, Gloria Estefan, Jennifer Holiday and more have performed on the venue’s full stage (with working shower).
“When I opened in 1991, everything was a lot on the sly. I had lost a male spouse to HIV and I wanted to provide a place that was on the up and up, that was clean and legal where you could go in after work or after dinner and have a chat or have a drink or dance, maybe fall in love with the next person in your life,” Brian Landeche says exclusively to The Nexus. “Now maybe we don’t need gay bars the way we needed them then, but we needed places that were a refuge, where when you walked in you knew you were safe and that the other people there were gay. I’d like to think that I provided that.”
Landeche cited a number of factors that resulted in the legendary gay bar closing including a changing center of gay culture in New York, the different ways that gay men socialize today, a changing neighborhood and the current culture of nightlife in New York.
“New York is silly if it thinks that it can be a fabulous, wonderful world-class destination and not have viable nightlife. And out nightlife right now sucks. Not just gay, but gay and straight,” he laments. “If you go to Beijing or Shanghai or London or Sao Paulo you would just say New York sucks. There are tremendous ways to engineer places with the technology that exists so that you can be next door to a residential building—and luxury residential building—and have fabulous nightlife.”
Age, he adds, was also a factor.
“I’m 56. 56-year-old men should not be running queer bars.”
Over the next few weeks, Splash is planning on bringing back many of the big DJs who have played there over the years, and nostalgic touches like a memory board, memento giveaways and on-site photography.
Looking back, Landeche says his biggest hope is that he was able to serve a specific purpose with Splash in the world of gay nightlife.
“I like to think that we bridged a gap. It was a safe place for gay guys to meet, party and dance.”
Courtesy of Next