Sunday, February 2, 2014

IWalked New York Citys Site Of Former Mudd Club

New York Citys Site Of Former Mudd Club - The building at 77 White Street was constructed in 1888 for a real estate developer at the time by the name of John Dodd. This address is best recognized as the site of a former punk rock haven known as The Mudd Club which operated here between the years 1978-1983.

Mudd Club
Mudd Club
The Mudd Club was an interesting name selection for a musical venue. The club’s name was in reference to Dr. Samuel Alexander Mudd. Samuel was a physician in the mid-late nineteenth century who is best known for allegedly aiding John Wilkes Booth who had injured his leg while fleeing Ford’s Theatre after assassinating President Abraham Lincoln. On the evening of April 15, 1865, Booth and fellow conspirator David Herold arrived at Dr. Mudd’s home around four o’clock in the morning. During the approximate twelve to fifteen hours spent at the Mudd household, Samuel reset and created a splint for Booth’s leg. This splint has been famously labeled by history as “Mudd’s Club.” It is unknown if Mudd was aware of the President’s murder during the tenure of Booth’s stay.

What is clear is that when Samuel did finally notify authorities the following day he was arrested for aiding and abetting in Booth’s escape. Mudd was tried and convicted for his involvement and narrowly escaped the death penalty by only one vote. Due to speculation of whether Samuel really did or did not have knowledge of Booth’s activity the evening he appeared on his front step, Samuel was eventually pardoned by President Andrew Johnson and released in 1869. Mudd has never been fully exonerated of all charges despite multiple attempts by his family to do so. One indirect descendent of Samuel who has helped restore integrity to the Mudd family name is television journalist Roger Mudd who is one of the most revered anchors across multiple news programs and a frequent contributor to the History Channel.

Returning to the former music venue, the Mudd Club was started for the low sum of $15,000 by a trio of players in the local art music scene—Steve Mass, Diego Cortez and Anya Phillips. It opened in October 1978 as a chic underground alternative to the trendy club scene at Studio 54. Similar to Studio 54 though, the venue quickly became a celebrity haven where a strict door policy only allowed the most famous or the most beautiful where anything could happen once inside. A People magazine article date July 16, 1979 described the scene as, “Andy Warhol is happy to have found a place, he says, “where people will go to bed with anyone—man, woman or child.” Some patrons couldn’t wait for bedtime, and the management has tried to curtail sex in the bathrooms.”

In addition to the gender neutral bathrooms, the Mudd Club was probably best known as being a hot bed for new music. Breaking bands like Blondie and Talking Heads were frequent headliners. In fact, the Talking Heads memorialized the club in their 1979 song “Life During Wartime” where we’re reminded, “This ain’t no party. This ain’t no disco.” Similarly the Ramones would draft their own remembrance titled “The Return of Jackie and Judy” about a runt named Judy and a punk named Jackie who just happened to head down to the Mudd Club.

The venue would eventually close its doors in 1983 after the scene was described as having deteriorated to the “hangers-on to the hangers-on.” Wishing to reincarnate his club to its original intended roots, founder Steve Mass, similar to Izzy Young and his famed Folklore Center, relocated his business overseas in 2001. The new Mudd Club continues to operate successfully in Berlin, Germany to this date.

And speaking of the recent past, not surprisingly, the former underground Mudd Club is now the site of converted apartments. One recent market listing in September 2011 listed a one-bedroom unit for the sum of just under $2.4 million. Ironically the real estate listing did not provide details as to the nature of gender neutral restrooms.