Ecstasy & Agony at the Starck Club

In the slammin’, trippin’, electrofunk, chem-crazed, wild-eyed world of the New Wave Society, Dino was the prince of the night.

Dino, Dino, where’s Dino? There he is, next to the girl in the cargo-cult makeup, the nice-looking, tall, thin guy in the black dolman-sleeved shirt and torn-knee tourniquet blue jeans. Very conservative outfit for Dino, but come to think of it, that’s been his style lately. Very few beats-per-minute these days. What’s the deal? Only four hours of Starck Club life left on planet Earth, and Dino, one of our most slammin’, wildin’ night-trippers, is standing around stalled in his skin like some wild-eyed vegetative sucka from the suburbs on his first visit.

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Click for more about this remarkable story.
The revved, festive borealis of Starckdom’s sights and sounds swirled around Dino as he hugged friends and sipped his wine. Lights gyrated and rubberbanded all over the room in sync with the repetitive rhythms and NewWaveelectrofunk urps and hissings and pings and swooshings and beeps sounding like push-button phones, all backed up by the boom boom boom boom macho arrogant hard-on bass line. Then a black Betty Boop voice sounding raspy and cocky, loose and lewd, flicked iguana-tongued insinuations up the aural canals: “Hey, big boy, are you gonna make me feel the bass on this record?” Then it screamed, “Ohhh, work my body down to the floor!”

And below Dino, on Starckdom’s own sunken cherry-wood dance floor, Starck-sters pounded boom boom boom boom with their Doc Martens, Zodiacs, and Timberlands, in steel-toed engineer boots with a piece of leather cut out so the steel showed, or bitchin’-looking ankle-high fake cowboy boots. As the chemical molecules of 3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine that make up the designer drug Ecstasy kicked in their jolt of HI-NRG, metabolisms heated up, and some of the dancers tied wet napkins around their necks. Hands hoisting glasses of Perrier to mouths moved so swiftly it appeared they were in a rowing contest, legs moved only slightly slower than Carl Lewis’ in the Tokyo hundred-meter finals, and sweat flew off the mob clutching the Dan Rizzie-painted columns like pondwater off puppies. Everybody’s Freakin’! Everybody’s Peakin”! Doin’ the Starck Club Stomp!

But Dino, known all over clubland as a very def dancer, wasn’t stomping; he wasn’t even X-ing. Oh, every now and again he’d slide out on the floor and expertly make hip movements that suggested a doomed, no-hands attempt to scratch his groin against an invisible tree. But halfheartedly, and soon he’d leave in his dangling way of walking, as if he were hung from a clothes hanger. No HI-NRG. No XTC.

Slowly I was creating a person that everyone seemed to like. He didn’t have any of the faults that Rodney did. He was popular, Rodney wasn’t … He had confidence, Rodney didn’t. The music, the people, the dance, the drugs, the money, the club = “DINO.”

Rodney Kitchens
Ahh, sad but true. Dino’s dream world romance with the late-night club scene became a dangerous masquerade that landed him in heartbreak hotel. You see, Starck-dom is like a coin tossed in the air; it presents two different sides of its nature, yet both are very similar. The good side of that hoary Utopian dream is that if you give people the license to be as outrageous as they want in any fashion they can dream up, they’ll be creative about it and maybe even do something good; maybe they’ll realize their own potentialities and finally start doing what they really should.

The ill side is that the clubs, clothes, drugs, music, sex, and most of all the comradeship fostered by this gesture of faith in mass and individual unrealized possibilities can envelop you like the solar wind. It becomes your whole life. Not only do you quit your job, school, old friends, and Mom, Dad, Sis, and Buddy, you quit yourself. The real you outside Starckdom is a geek in weenie jeans and a DeMolay sport coat with a Kids-For-Christ haircut. So you reinvent yourself to be hip enough to participate. Never forget: cool is fear turned to fashion.

Dino? That’s actually Rodney Glenn Kitchens, 23, from Waxahachie, “suffering the wound for the sake of the blessing,” as the preacher man says. And in about six hours from right now, “Dino” will be forgotten, and Rodney Kitchens will be sitting outside Judge Joe Kendall’s courtroom with his parents and attorney awaiting trial on charges of possession with intent to deliver 3,000 hits of XTC. That prospect will take the HI-NRG out of anyone.

The Starck Club and Rodney Kitchens met during the spring of 1985 and instantly fit together like lost pieces of a puzzle. Fortunately for him, Starck by that time was no longer a pampered playpen for the owner’s wealthy friends. Now it was Nell’s-Paradise-Garage-Pyramid-on-the-Trinity celebrating New York attitude! A chic clubhouse; sensational new music played loud enough to make your eyeballs thyroid; that old crypt Studio 54’s idea of exclusivity so that acceptance and fashion were used to mock contemporaries, as if contempt elevated the Chosen One to a swan among geese; narcissistic flair and flamboyant trappings; all for the simple desire to get into a club; and, aren’t we lucky, an eternal supply of Ecstasy, the perfect party drug, and legal!

Flash that New York attitude! Show up in something that resembles an intense alliance between Claude Montana and a junkyard; act like you’re doing the noxious sludge at the door a favor by just being there and presto! Ankle right past the mobile vulgus crocodiled down the street behind the velvet rope, don’t even think of paying the $10 cover, and you’re in Starckdom. Thanks to his friend, Lynnie, a Starck regular, Rodney Kitchens did just that on his first visit and joined the post-punk, liberated, anarchic terror of middle-American insomniacs inside.

Rodney lost track of Lynnie and discovered the unisex restrooms, the semi-private seating areas divided by the translucent curtains, the dance floor enclosed by two walls of metal grating bathed in colored lights. He met Vaal, the androgynous cigarette girl, and the breathtaking J’Mel, but who was that young guy walking around with a bag taped to his chin, and why?

Somebody was orchestrating the coolest music he’d ever heard: Yaz, Yello, Depeche Mode’s “Master & Servant,” all these vicious beats, all this electro-distort stuff, wild sounds you wouldn’t hear on the radio until the next century. And look at the haircuts from hell! Reddisimo mohawks, Grace Jones square cuts, funky dreds, triple technicolor skiffles, lightning stripes and rainbows shaved into hair like brands, and some guy with a gravity-defying, towering cockscomb floating above his skull, thanks to a whole can of Final Net hair spray. Hey Sony, meet Rodney!

All these incredibly hip people who must be artists, dressed in their pre-Columbian, last of the Mohicans, first of the Martians mega-weirdness. Cross-dressing glam-rockers, death-rockers with their Ivory Foundation powdered faces, red lips, and the twin miracles of mascara, the eyes looking like the corpses of two small crows that had crashed into a chalk cliff, bustiers and other under outerwear, spandex, bike shorts, spikes, chains, black leather, and every other kind of come-on-little-honey-swallow-this-and-you’ll-see-things-differently outfit and get-up. But not a plain red leather junior miss school shoe from Thom McAn in the whole freaking place!

And the ribbon that wrapped up this incredible Christmas gift for Rodney Kitchens and hundreds of other wannabes was that Starckdom represented every hellish Jack Kerouac-Lenny Bruce-James Dean-Little Richard-Iggy Pop-Johnny Rotten-Megadeth aspect of American life that Mom and Dad despised. What The Folks, with their constipated cerebral cortexes, tried to conceal, Starckdom flaunted; what they tried to ignore, refine away, otherwise purge from human experience, Starckdom explored openly, delightedly, tauntingly: noise, sex, speed, drugs, flamboyance. My gawd, where would they draw the line—cannibalism?

Drugs come in two dosages: too much and not enough. The latter wasn’t the problem at the Starck Club in the summer of 1985. You want to score some X at Starck? Find Lee, the guy walking around with a bag taped to his chin full of XTC. So that’s who that is. Give him $15, and here you go, babe, a 125-milligram yellow tablet of “Vitamin E.” Within an hour you’ll feel warm nerve sparklers sputtering in your brain, maybe a little queasiness creeping up your throat, but ignore it, it’ll disappear. You’ll heat up like a p!ugged-in hot plate, your organs will beat like a Sousa drum corps, then suddenly, peace…connectedness…goodbye defenses, so long inhibitions. Join the universal heartbeat of humanity, Rodney, as the Me Generation gets in touch with its us-ness.

So true, Lee! Ectasy made him feel wise and special, as if dropped from an advanced, more tolerant universe. All these impossibly hip cosmic groovers suddenly liked him, and he fell in love with them like nuns love God. You didn’t lose it like with LSD. You danced, hugged everyone, and rapped as if you had swallowed truth serum. You stayed in control and went with the warm, fraternal flow spilling over the room like sugared tea. Danger? Rodney felt the only danger would be loving the rest of the human race so much you’d end up in bed with a human turnip.