Florida is the Sunshine State, but its southern tip has continually proven to be a hive for the dark and morbid. Despite all of the palm trees, shimmering sands, and omnipresent heat of the sun, goth culture has long pervaded Miami in a manner more befitting a depressed English seaside town in the '80s.
There are plenty of theories as to why this is the case. Maybe it’s a reaction to the decadence that so often defines Miami. But Nassie Shahoulian, better known as the weird local fixture the Notorious Nastie, has a more straightforward idea.
“Miami is an incubator for counterculture like no other city in the world,” Nastie says. “Other cities ignore the strange and unusual; our city is strange and usual. I stole that line from Beetlejuice because, like him, I am the host with the most.”
As Miami’s most depraved master of ceremonies, Nastie has spent much of the past five years hosting monthly iterations of the Kitchen Club at Churchill’s Pub. Like Nastie himself, the Kitchen Club has been an indispensable part of Miami nightlife for nearly three decades, lending Miamians an opportunity to solemnly shuffle to the likes of Ministry, the Sisters of Mercy, and other goth-adjacent acts. This month’s Kitchen Club marks the 29th anniversary of Miami’s most unlikely after-hours staple, and as is customary, Kitchen Club leader Aldo Luca will man the decks under his DJ 16bit moniker, joined by Nastie and other musical guests.
“The Kitchen Club got its start at South Beach Hotel in 1988,” Nastie recounts. “By the early '90s, the hotel was sold, and the Kitchen Club was destined to slip away into obscurity. Luckily for us, Kitchen Club staff members Aldo Luca and Peter V. hired 95 percent of the original staff, and the Kitchen Club found a new life at the old Rocky Horror venue in Coconut Grove.”
After that venue shuttered its doors in 1999, the Kitchen Club began life anew as a roaming party throughout South Florida. As a longtime attendee, Nastie feels privileged to play an active role in an event that shaped his adolescence.
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“In high school, I was a weird drama kid who really didn't fit in anywhere,” Nastie says. “The Kitchen Club was my escape from the norm. For the last five years, it has been my honor to help Aldo keep its torch lit and burning bright. He has been a wonderful partner and a valued friend. He's like my Bela Lugosi, and I'm sort of his Ed Wood.”
Besides the visceral thrills of gloriously gaudy makeup and the satisfaction of being able to rock an all-black look without the threat of heat exhaustion — not to mention high-profile guests like Iggy Pop, Marilyn Manson, and most recently Andy Rourke of the Smiths — Nastie attributes the Kitchen’s continued success to nostalgia for the well-remembered '80s, as well as the potency and emotional resonance of the decade’s music and culture.
“You just have to stand in back of the club and watch the crowd swaying from side to side in a New Wave and '80s-fueled synchronicity; if you are like me, you will be hypnotized and transported to a time before you had two kids and a mortgage. The Kitchen gives me, and so many others, the chance to relive the best years of our lives once a month.”
The Kitchen Club Presents Anniversary Party. With DJ 16bit, Danny Bled, Sinsek, the Notorious Nastie, and others. 9 p.m. Saturday, August 19, at Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-757-1807; churchillspub.com. Admission is $10 at the door.