April 29, 2010


N.Y. Nightlife Impresario Marc Berkley Dead at 56 by Steve Weinstein

Marc Berkley in a familiar position - surrounded by hot men.

There was a time when, if you were a gay man and you went out to a nightclub to dance, you were probably at a Marc Berkley event. A shy, insecure guy from Queens had so successfully reinvented himself that, for a bright, shining, moment (closer to the better part of a decade), he reigned as the king of the gay dance parties - as the New York media dubbed him.

When Berkley arrived on the scene, the city had already emerged successfully from the 1970s bankruptcy into the ’80s "Masters of the Universe" glitz of clubs like Area, the Palladium and even a renovated Studio 54. Above all was the Saint, the gay-only megaclub that had the best sound and light systems, a specially hydraulic dance floor and just about everything else that made the it finest dance space in the world.

Berkley became friends with Bruce Mailman and learned the basics of Nightclub 101 at the foot of the master impresario. Although his stint at the Saint was brief, he was able to take those lessons and apply them to other clubs. In the process, he would bring his own ideas, which flew off in every direction but often-enough landed to make a splash with clubgoers and the media.

Before the Saint, however, he had made his first contact with a man who would have a deep influence on Berkley’s career, Peter Gatien. The mysterious, one-eyed Canadian club owner hired Berkley to work as a publicist.

It was a heady rise for a kid self-described as fat, unattractive and deeply insecure. Berkley was born in the Bronx but spent most of his youth in Queens, N.Y.. He attended Central Michigan University, where he majored in social work. According to a 2001 profile in New York Magazine, he had planned on teaching emotionally disturbed children.

"Now," he said, in typically wisecracking Marc Berkley style, "I just throw them parties." In fact, after the Saint closed in 1988, he worked briefly as a child welfare investigator for the City of New York.