If you’ve been around Dallas for any length of time, you’ve heard of the Starck Club. The 1980s temple of Lone Star hedonism is the stuff of legend. Grace Jones played its opening night. Rock stars like Jimmy Page hung out at the bar when they were in town. The interiors—designed by up-and-coming French designer Philippe Starck—spared no expense: polished black terrazzo floors, shimmering gauze drapes, and a grand staircase that led to a sunken dance floor. Club managers say the crystal champagne glasses were chosen for the way they sounded when they shattered on the floor.
But what made the place legendary, and not just for Dallasites, was that in the early days the club was synonymous with a new legal drug called Methylenedioxymethamphetamine—better known as MDMA, ecstasy, molly, or, in the early early days, Adam. The euphoria-inducing drug flowed through the Starck Club’s veins, upending Dallas society and culture and helped to turn it into the ground zero of rave culture.
If you are intrigued by this fantastic episode in Dallas folklore, you can now check out filmmaker Joseph F. Alexandre’s documentary Sex, Drugs, Design: Warriors of the Discotheque on a variety of streaming platforms. The film has been picked up byAmazon, Vimeo on Demand, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, UDU digital, and a few other platforms.
Alexandre’s film has been floating around for a while; it was first screened at the USA Film Festival way back in 2011. And it is by no means the only effort by local filmmakers to capture the Starck’s wild story on screen. I’ve written about filmmaker Michael Cain—of Dallas International Film Festival, and now EarthXFilm, fame–and his seemingly never-ending quest to complete a Starck Club doc. In 2015, Steve Nash became attached as a producer to a feature film inspired by the experiences of Wade Randolph Hampton—aka DJ WISH FM—at the Starck.
The Starck has meant a lot of things to a lot of people. To the Dallas kids who grew up on its dance floors, the club changed their lives. For the DJs who spun there, many say it remains the ultimate club. For the Drug Enforcement Agency, Starck was the place where recreational use of an under-the-radar legal drug got completely out of hand, forcing the government to take swift—some argue draconian—action.
Here’s how Alexandre spins the tale in his film:
Sex, Drugs, Design: Warriors of the Discotheque is a documentary about the notorious Starck Club (so called because it was the first major project by legendary designer Philippe Starck in the US.) The Starck Club opened in Dallas in 1984, and not long after hosted the 1984 national Republican National Convention. Ironically, it was actually legal to buy MDMA aka ecstasy there, people would put it on their credit cards. The DEA stepped in and made it a category 1 drug on July 1, 1985. This, despite NOT really understanding much of anything about MDMA… It wouldn’t be an understatement to say The Starck Club was not only ground zero for the popularization of ecstasy, the whole rave scene, but even lit the fuse for the entire Billion dollar, DJ driven, EDM (Electronic Dance Music) scene. In addition, the design aspect really unlike any for a Club of it’s time, not to mention, and maybe most importantly, introducing LGBT culture into the heart of Texas. (Essentially, all the doormen were gay, Edwidge one of Andy Warhol’s protege’s was lesbian, as well as Vaal the cigarette person who was trans long before that was acknowledged. Given the climate of the times, introducing LGBTQ culture into the heart of Trump/GOP country is a welcome reminder of the spirit of tolerance.)
For more about the film, go here.