May 10, 2010


As many of you know, legendary NYC nightlife promoter Marc Berkley passed away from a heart attack a couple of weeks ago. I attended his funeral and was completely blown away by the love at that gathering. Since Marc had hired nearly every gay in the city during his long reign as the premier club gay impresario, the crowd was an eclectic mix of djs, drag queens, former business partners and even security guards. Now when a straight security guard is at your f#ckin’ funeral and you haven’t even thrown a party in a decade, that’s quite a character reference for a true character the likes of whom we won’t see again.

Many of the attendees I’d never seen in the daylight. I also hadn’t attended a jewish memorial service before and when the rabbi sang a dreadful accapella psalm in Hebrew, I was tempted to tap Junior Vasquez’s shoulder and whisper that this rabbi was the new Ofra Haza and he simply MUST remix this psalm before Offer Nissim got ahold of it. Instead, I horrified/delighted guests by asking where the bar was and if drink tickets from the Tunnel were still valid. I met one of Marc’s brothers who was completely bald but managed to control my urge to mention sarcastically that I had no idea male pattern baldness ran in the Berkley family. (Marc wore a notoriously bad rug in his later years.) Marc would have been tickled pink that there was a line around the door for his very last party. And unlike his other events, the snot pouring out of my nose was actually from sobbing--not from "powdering my nose", as you might call it.

Speakers included Candida Scott Piel, Gil “Bambie Sue” Neary and Marc’s long-term business partner at HX magazine, Matthew Bank. I’ve never laughed so hard at a funeral in my life! I’m certainly no prude, but was a little shocked when Matthew retold one of Marc’s fav college tales. Because his own dorm was a mess, Marc borrowed a friend’s room to take a trick to. After they’d finished, the bed was covered in bodily fluids of white, brown and red. So when the dorm’s occupant came home, he saw the mess on his sheets and asked what the hell had happened. Without missing a beat, Marc replied “Your cat had kittens.” And of course, who could forget Marc's queenius invention of the Jack-Off-In-The-Box? At the Limelight, he placed a go-go boy in a see-through cage with gloves which reached inside, enabling you to manhandle the encased stud. Or tran-handle, as the case may have been.

I knew Marc was a funny, twisted queen, but I didn’t realize how civic-minded he was. He regularly stood on Christopher Street selling buttons to raise money for the first NYC pride parades. (Have you ever done anything like that? Regularly? I know I haven't.) During ACT UP’s infancy, Marc offered to throw a fund-raiser. In his typical way of thinking big, Marc proposed a Grace Jones concert at the Palladium. ACT UP attendees had no clue of how to put this together but Marc secured the Palladium, convinced Grace to do her first AIDS-related benefit ever and sold 5,000 tickets at $20 a pop. It was the organization’s biggest fundraiser to date. Since I often scoff at the politically correct, one story particularly amused me. While he was on the board of the Gay Community Center, the bisexuals met with the head honchos to argue for their inclusion under the gay and lesbian umbrella. For two hours, intricate PC arguments were heard while Marc sat silent. Finally he proclaimed “We don’t have the money to change the letterhead to include the word bisexual. Case closed.”

For his heart, his humor and his unselfish dedication to our community, Marc Berkley will be missed and I feel very lucky to have known him.