Most mentions of the Starck Club are slick with a sweaty layer of nostalgia. How Grace Jones opened the place. How you entered through shiny black doors into a countercultural touchstone that blew the minds of New Order and whose curios even attracted a Young Republicans fundraiser attended by George W. Bush and Maureen Reagan. Weekday fundraisers with Ross Perot Sr., weekends with “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” And ecstasy. Lots and lots of ecstasy.
This week’s edition of our 50 greatest stories is “Ecstasy & Agony at the Starck Club,” the writer Richard West’s chronicling of the club’s collapse. Starck opened in 1984 under a Woodall Rodgers overpass, near the West End, and quickly became the epicenter of ecstasy, (also known then as MDMA, and now as molly). It shuttered four years after the Drug Enforcement Agency made MDMA illegal, in July 1985.
West chronicles the end of the club through the story of 23-year-old Rodney Glenn Kitchens, a kid from Waxahachie who moved with his family to Dallas and was reborn as Dino in the Starck Club. He and his co-conspirators flooded the space with MDMA, well past the point in which it was legal to sell.
The story, from October 1989, is not a nostalgia bomb. It’s a portrait of decline, how the party ends even if people aren’t ready to leave the unisex bathrooms. There isn’t a single mention of the club’s namesake, the exacting French architect Philipe Starck, nor any navel-gazing at how the club changed lives as it changed the city 20 years after the assassination of JFK.
Here’s a taste:
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.
And, he still manages to make it sound like fun. For a time. “Ecstasy & Agony at the Starck Club” is one of the 50 greatest stories we’ve published, and you can read it here.