Rest in Pieces

The shattered dreams and blurred memories of Washington Square

One of my most vivid and fondest Washington Square memories is a Genitorturers show, Halloween 1992. I witnessed most of the piercing, poking, and stroking with a mixture of curiosity and revulsion, which peaked during the segment where the bisexual dominatrixes groped each other while urinating on the young male volunteer who was masturbating frantically beneath them. I don't know, call me old-fashioned, but that was a classic.

Among other personal highlights flooding back in the final days of the the club's life: Square co-owner Kevin Cornish, a man roughly the size of Grizzly Adams and the bear combined, with a full pitcher of daiquiris in his hand, giving a slick-looking dude $200 for a Rolex so the grateful idiot could afford one more drink. Of course the Rolex was a fake, but it was a damn good fake, worth at least double what Cornish paid. And the time co-owner Bill True played bass with Scraping Teeth, the Worst Band in America, and got so caught up in the emotion of the moment that he almost burned the place down with a Hendrix stunt gone awry -- dousing the guitar with lighter fluid and setting it afire. The club reeked of Eau d'Zippo for hours.

I arrived a few minutes too late to catch Paul Rodgers's impromptu acoustic set on Sarah Jacob's borrowed guitar one open-mike Monday. But I was there the night the Krishna band Shelter performed. Hundreds of Krishnas and skinheads packed the club and milled about on the sidewalk, a jarring sight even by South Beach standards.

I could go on and on, but it's more fun to share. Here's nearly four years crammed into a few Square regulars' snapshot memories (which are all that'll be left after this weekend's farewell blowout):

Sturgis Nikides (Square doorman): "It was the day before Madonna's big release party for Sex. They had her publicity stuff plastered all over the bookstore next door. I went into the bodega on the corner to buy some cigarettes and when I came out this chick who had been peering in the bookstore window turned and stared at me. She was with a group of people; they were all kind of staring. I shouted, 'What the fuck are you lookin' at?' Of course it was Madonna. Needless to say she didn't come into the Square.

"I can't believe they're going to put a pizza place on my spot [Spo-dee-o-dee, the upscale dance club that will replace the Square, will include a walk-up pizzeria]. It's depressing. The New York scene died in '85-'86. I thought I'd never see those days again, but the Square came close. Essentially they've been paying me to sit on my ass and relive my youth."

Zac (musician): "Seven Brushes: -- Hairpiece." [A performance artist named Seven dipped his head into buckets of paint, splashed a canvas in an abstract artwork, and then had Diane Ward shear his locks.]

Laren (Square doorman): "There was always weirdness going on outside. One night this couple got out of a cab, arm-in-arm, very expensively dressed and very wasted. They stumble up. He walks right in through the open door, but she slams into the glass door next to it, which is shut. Boom! She falls to the ground, out cold. He keeps walking, completely oblivious, into the club.

"Another time a guy's car overheated in front. He unscrewed the radiator cap and it blew up in his face. Everybody got sprayed with boiling water, and it covered the entrance in anti-freeze.

"But the scariest thing was this guy who looked like a street bum. He came running over, all freaked out, saying, 'Man, what should I do? I just ran out of the hospital. They want to cut off my arm.' There was an IV tube still hanging from his right arm with blood dripping down it and everything. His left arm was swollen huge with gangrene. There was a gaping hole in the elbow, the bone was sticking out and everything, but not a drop of blood. Nastiest thing I ever saw in my life. I told him, yeah, I thought he oughta go back to the hospital. He disappeared. I still have nightmares about that big sore."

Jeff (bartender): "Have we ever thrown anyone out for having sex in the bathrooms? Hell, no. But there have been some amazing ones. One night we had a guy in there so drunk and sick he had his head practically in the small hole in the toilet, drowning. We pulled him out by the belt loops. His girlfriend helped him up. He threw up all over her, all over himself, it was disgusting. Then he just sort of sat there on the couch in the back room. About a half hour later they're making out, she takes him into the ladies' room, locks the door, and does him there."

Diane Ward (musician): "Nobody who was there will ever forget Shelly Novack [infamous local drag queen] singing 'Brass in Pocket' with Rat and Zac backing her up on guitar."

Doc Wiley (Square music director): "I've had to throw Yngwie Malmsteen out a couple times. Jeff came up to me one night and said, 'Do you know somebody named Iggly Walmspeed?' I said, 'Yeah.' Jeff says, 'I served him a beer but when I asked him for the money, he said, "Do you know who I am? I'm Iggly Walmspeed."' So I go to the bar and Yngwie says, 'Would you tell this man who I am?' I say, 'Jeff, this is Yngwie Malmsteen. Yngwie, that'll be three bucks for the beer.' He was outraged and refused to pay. I think he called it a 'travesty.'

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