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Richard Boch Recounts Punk Past in New Book The Mudd Club

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Last Updated: 09/05/2018 1:41 pm
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Reading Boch's book, one gets the sense that, despite his direct connection to the scene literally swirling around him, he often felt disconnected from it. Was the gatekeeper secretly an outsider himself? "I'd mix and mingle with all of these people inside the club," he says. "Other than the people from the Patti Smith Group and [transgender fashion model] Teri Toye, who lived with me for a while, though, I was never really fully all right with anyone. But the people I hung out with the most then were the people I got high with, so some of [the detached feeling] was from the drugs."

The drugs. As expected, Boch's position made him somewhat susceptible to the bribes—often imbibe-able bribes—of interlopers who wanted in. This would ultimately prove to be a problem for the 26-year-old doorman and aspiring painter, who was already partying plenty hard outside of work. "People would turn me on to whatever they had," Boch remembers. "If they were driving, I'd just hop in their car and get high while we drove around the block. It was crazy." After 18 wild months on the job, the lines, so to speak, between work and play were becoming increasingly blurred. When he wasn't on the clock—and often when he was—Boch was hanging out inside the club, drinking for free and dancing up a storm. In November 1980, sensing he'd gone over the edge and for the sake of his well-being should remove himself from the Mudd scene, he left for a better-paying spot as the doorman of the Peppermint Lounge on West 45th Street. But, of course, his demons just followed him there.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mudd Club dance floor 1980. - NICK TAYLOR
  • Nick Taylor
  • Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mudd Club dance floor 1980.

"I thought a change might save my mental and physical health—but I was wrong," says Boch with a laugh. "The decision-making process was all a bit drug-addled." After six months Uptown, he went back Downtown to work at Max's Kansas City owner Mickey Ruksin's later venture, One University Place. It took the 1983 overdose deaths of Ruskin and another close friend, Pretenders bassist Pete Farndon, to get him to at last put the drugs aside; the booze went next, in 1987, and the rise of AIDS, which claimed Klaus Nomi, B-52's' guitarist Ricky Wilson, and so many other Mudd Clubbers, steered Boch toward safer sex. He moved into the restaurant management field, where he worked up until 2004 when he sold his Murray Street loft and bought a small apartment on the Upper West Side. Since then, Boch has focused on painting and writing, splitting his time between Manhattan and Kinderhook.

Packed with photos and images of gig fliers and ads, The Mudd Club collates Boch's short, stand-alone essays into a dreamlike narrative that matches the freewheeling nights of the titular venue. Currently, the 64-year-old is assembling an archive of Mudd memorabilia and formulating his next book, about "sexual misadventure with clubland as the backdrop." Examining the era from this end, does he think there will ever be another place like the Mudd Club?

"Not in Manhattan," he says. "It was all pre-gentrification then, the last stand of New York bohemia and the beginning of DIY. But for people reading the book, I hope that they get a sense of the history and what it was like to survive and create in a New York that doesn't exist anymore. And I hope it inspires them to find their own creative paths and follow them."

Richard Boch will read from The Mudd Club and present a slide show of images from the book at Kingston Artists Collective + Cafe on September 23 at 3pm.

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