Andy Warhol was the ultimate New York City tastemaker, bringing pop and commercial culture together and blurring the lines between nightlife and the art world. After him, there have only been a few people who’ve managed to make some larger cultural impact—whether in music, art, or fashion—using his or her era’s nightlife scene as a medium. Here are a few legacies Ultragrrrl’s ultimately aspiring to live up to:
As a DJ, he spun a unique blend of soul, gospel, European disco, and rock, redefining dance music at the club Paradise Garage from 1977 to 1987. He helped to create “the garage sound,” winning him a huge following among frequenters like Chaka Khan, Grace Jones, and Keith Haring.
Fab 5 Freddy
Before he was the host of Yo! MTV Raps and getting shout-outs from Debbie Harry, Fab 5 was a graffiti artist from the Bronx. He became a cameraman in 1978 on Glenn O’Brien’s and Blondie mastermind Chris Stein’s freakazoid cable access talk show, TV Party! He also made the rounds at Danceteria and Peppermint Lounge, bringing the then obscure world of hip-hop to downtown’s new-wave circles.
Though best known for her Polaroid photography documenting the post-punk golden era of Manhattan clublife, Maripol also worked as a jewelry designer, styling Madonna (in her signature black rubber bracelets and crucifixes) and doing the merchandising for her “Like a Virgin” tour, convincing a million 13-year-old girls to cut the fingertips off their gloves.
Chi Chi Valenti and Johnny Dynell
The husband-and-wife duo hosted their Tuesday night party, “Jackie 60,” from 1990 to 2000, in the meatpacking district before the meatpacking district existed. The party, which had weekly themes ranging from Stevie Nicks tribute nights to “Lesbians in Latex,” was heavily invested in performance, incorporating plays and poetry readings, and served as an artistic haven that turned gender performance into high-kitsch theater.
DJ Larry Tee swooped in with electroclash at a time when the ecstasy-fueled drum’n’bass and ’90s rave scene had gotten too cheesy, drawing people back to a decade earlier. His Berliniamsburg and Mutants nights put groups like Fischerspooner and A.R.E. Weapons in the new new-wave spotlight, making Williamsburg into a hipster home base and setting the stage for downtown party mavens like the MisShapes.
They’re not there yet, but like it or not, these three might have some sort of a lasting impact down the line. While it seemed like their Eastport backpack ad was a sure sign that the downtown DJ trio had exceeded the 15-minute mark, the heavy-banged omnipresence of Leigh Lezark, Geo Nicol, and Greg K still holds strong. The MisShapes travel with sleek iPods instead of stacks of vinyl to their cross-country DJ gigs—like Ultragrrrl, they embody the idea that anyone with a playlist and the right attitude can command a dancefloor. So any night at MisShapes could include Madonna, Hedi Slimane, or even Hilary Duff in the DJ booth—hell, anyone can do it for 15 songs.