86 Photos of What Really Happens at the Black Party
By Advocate Contributors
What is the Black Party? And why will my life be changed forever? (read more below)
Rites XL: The Black Party® “Caligula” happens on April 6 in New York City. Produced by The Saint at Large organization, The Black Party is considered the father of all large gay circuit events and remains unchallenged as the forbearer in an ever-changing NYC nightlife environment. It’s an unapologetically, sexually-propelled LGBTQ phenomenon with a religious-like following. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Black Party® we present 86 stunning images from the last decade along with ten things to know about this legendary event.
Photo: Klaus Enrique, 2010
1. The first Black Party® ...
The first Black Party® was held in1980 at the private gay disco, Flamingo, on the second floor of a building on the SW corner of Broadway & Houston. The following year it moved to the new members-only nightclub, The Saint, at 105 Second Avenue at 6th Street. Constructed within the premises of the famous Sixties rock-n-roll venue Fillmore East (Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, The Doors, etc.), The Saint At Large’s namesake is considered the best discotheque ever built (gay or straight). (Watch the “Stories of The Saint” mini documentary series and see photos here.)
Weekly from 1980-1988, under the club’s domed, circular dancefloor, lit by a planetarium robot and driven by a 500 speaker, 26,000 watt sound system, underground gay DJs took 3000+ men on a 12-hour musical journey commonly referred to as The Saint Trip.
Following the closure of The Saint in 1988, The Black Party® was held at the Red Zone in 1989 and then returned for 2 more years at a stripped down version of the Saint (without the dome) before settling into a 24-year run at Roseland Ballroom. In the aftermath of the razing of Roseland, The Black Party® moved to various warehouse and other venues throughout the boroughs. Black Party 2019 happens April 6, 2019, at newly launched New York Expo Center in The Bronx.
2. A Night at the Opera. (Photo: Klaus Enrique, 2010)
Black Party is the longest running party (40 years) and the longest in duration (18+hours) in North America. Fittingly, The Black Party is structured like a five act opera with a backstory, a director, featured actors, professional theatrical production and lighting design, and state-of-the-art sound system. To enter the world of The Black Party is to enter into an immersive experience, a transporting vortex of rhythm and light, ignited throughout the night by the party’s infamous Strange Live Acts and delightfully subversive multimedia installations. This year’s theme is “Caligula,” with porn star Matthias Von Fistenberg playing the title role.
3. World Class DJs. (Photo: Klaus Enrique, 2010)
Arguably, the best gay DJs on the planet have played The Black Party® and this year is no exception. Each year, The Saint At Large strives to feature a decidedly progressive stable of artists reflective of current musical trends in dance capitals such as Berlin, Montreal, and the New York City underground scene. The 2019 DJs are Byrell the Great (New York), Roi Perez (Berlin), Ryan Smith (New York), Boris (Berlin), Mike Servito (New York), and, making his first appearance at The Black Party, DJ Harvey (London/Los Angeles). More about each and sample DJ set here.
4. The infamous Strange Live Acts. (Photo: Klaus Enrique, 2010)
Did someone say flying fuck? Flesh hook suspension? Hot wax ritual? Japanese rope bondage? Sex with a boa constrictor? Blood ritual with leaches? You get the picture (though cameras are not permitted).
5. Here and queer. (Photo: Klaus Enrique, 2010)
While The Black Party is most known as a leatherman’s fantasy playground, the party is diverse and welcoming to all and has over the years featured numerous cis women, queer and non-binary performers such as The Baroness, Buck Angel, Rose Wood, and the House of Xtravaganza, many of whom are often more extreme than the men. (Cue sound of cracking whip.)
6. Dress: Heavy
Dress: Heavy is code for BDSM leather fetish wear. After WWII, gay men began donning motorcycle gear and started motorcycle clubs to fight the stigma and stereotype of being overtly feminine. Leather became a uniform and sexually fetishized through chaps, armbands, vests, caps, whips, gauntlets, boots, etc. The modern uniform veers towards leather harnesses, jocks, armbands and boots. The Saint At Large through its Design Collective offers a customized line of handmade leather gear that’s theme appropriate. Check out saintatlarge.com/the-saint-shop.
7. Oh, the things you’ll see! (Photo: Klaus Enrique, 2011)
We don’t mean the visuals for which the Black Party is deservedly infamous, but your fellow revelers. At Black Party, it’s really always been the audience that makes the party so spectacular with the patrons often serving fierce dress code, who complete the picture. Check the post party video from last year's Black Party® here.
8. What happens at The Black Party® stays at The Black Party®. (Photo: Klaus Enrique, 2011)
No press, cameras or phones will be admitted to The Black Party®. No one wants to see their ass in a sling — at least on social media — so attendees are asked to respect each other’s privacy and freedom of expression. All guests will pass through security after coat check to ensure that phones and cameras have been checked at the door.
9. Safe, sexy, security! (Photo: Courtesy of The Saint At Large)
A bit skittish about sashaying to the party in high-whore-leather? Not to worry, The Saint At Large has its very our own security team in place, hand-picked and trained to create a safe, fetish-friendly Black Party experience for all attendees.
10. You’ll be legendary. (Photo: BunnyZ, 2013)
Beyond being the most elaborately produced fetish party you will ever attend, you will always remember when you lost your Black Party virginity because it will change your gay identity for a lifetime: The Black Party®.