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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Every so often, I wind up scouring the Internet for information on the New York City club people whom I worshiped from afar in the 1970s and 1980s — people like Anya PhillipsSally Randall, Dianne Brill and Dean Johnson of Dean and the Weenies. Recently, I stumbled across the name Haoui “Howie” Montaug.


Polaroid of Haoui Montaug taken by Mark Wigan in 1986. Click to see Wigan’s 1986-1987 club photos.

It’s funny that I instantly remembered that Montaug was the doorman at Danceteria, Studio 54, and Palladium. I never went to Danceteria or Studio 54, though of course I wanted to. I did go to Palladium but I’m sure I didn’t encounter Haoui or I would never have gotten in! (Reportedly, Montaug once made Mick Jagger pay the $6 entrance fee at Studio 54.) Another Palladium doorman took pity on me and my laughable fake ID. He would even give me a few tickets for free drinks. And get this — I wouldn’t use all of them because I wanted to save them as souvenirs. Earlier this year, I found a bunch (probably from 1986 or 1987) safely tucked away in a scrapbook. That’s how excited I was to be at that place! OMG! I want to go back and hug the young and extremely desperate me because I feel a little sorry for her.


Anyway, I knew about Haoui Montaug because I studied Details magazine like I was going to be tested on it. Nowadays, Details is a men’s magazine owned by Conde Nast, but it originally was an independent that covered everything about the downtown scene: art, music, fashion, clubs and so on. Haoui was constantly in Details, and not just because of who he kept out of or let into which hot club. He also wrote for the magazine. I’m not sure if “The Doorman Poem” I found was published in Details or one of the other hip magazines he wrote for. The poem starts:

“Excuse me excuse me
Who is in charge here
I mean who has the guest list
I must be on it
I am personal friends with just about
anybody you ever heard of”

The more clubs change, the more things stay the same at the door, eh? Click here to read the rest.

Haoui was much more than a doorman. One of his other projects was a cabaret revue called “No Entiendes.” The essay collection On Edge: Performance at the End of the Twentieth Century by C. Carr called No Entiendes a “mutant Gong Show” and said, “No Entiendes revels in the bad. All kinds of bad.” But it also hosted now-iconic acts including Madonna and the Beastie Boys at the beginning of their careers. The video of Madonna performing her first-ever single “Everybody” at “No Entiendes” in November 1982 is on YouTube. Check out how blase the audience members are while the performance is being introduced. By the end, they’re going wild.

Here’s another link to the video in case the embedded version above goes bad. You know how things come and go on YouTube. Haoui had other musical ventures included a karaoke show with his “No Entiendes” partner, DJ Anita Sarko (another idol of mine because she worked the Mike Todd room at Palladium). He also was a director of the New Music Seminar‘s panel discussions.

In 1991, it was a spokeswoman for the New Music Seminar who told the New York Times that Haoui had died of AIDS. But a 1997 New York Magazine article says Haoui — who did indeed have AIDS — actually committed suicide after throwing one last event: his own suicide celebration. (This 1992 story from the Courant also says that Montaug killed himself.) According to New York, 20 guests were invited to Haoui’s downtown loft for the occasion. Madonna, who was in Los Angeles, attended by phone. The evening didn’t go as planned, though, because Haoui took five Seconals and fell asleep … but kept breathing. “He awoke late the next morning, furious,” the magazine reported. He then sent his friends home, took 20 more pills and died in 30 minutes.

So many creative people — men, mostly — died so young in those days due to AIDS. The disease wiped out a whole generation of artists. Props once again to Madonna for sticking with and lobbying for the guys who helped her get her start. A lot of people wouldn’t (and didn’t!) have the decency or guts to do that.

If you want to know more about Haoui Montaug, go to this Facebook page for more photos, video clips and remembrances. I’ll be there “liking” everything.

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10 Responses to “New York Style Icon: Nightclub Legend Haoui Montaug”

  1. Alice Olive says:

    Great post. Everybody takes me back!!

  2. Marooned-on-the-farm ’80s me would have been just sick with envy over ’80s you with your scrapbooked Palladium ephemera! What a treasure. Love this post and all the links.

  3. annemarie says:

    This blog is very educational! To me, that era in NYC seems much more rough and dirty and a lot cooler than the high-gloss monotony of today. Was it actually rougher and dirtier? Or is it just that the cameras weren’t as advanced as they are now that everyone looks as though they’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards (in a cool way, of course)?

    • WendyB says:

      It was MUCH rougher and dirtier. There are streets now that are filled with fancy restaurants and shops that you wouldn’t dare walk on alone back then. Just for one example — now there is a fancy hotel named for Gansevoort Street in the meat-packing district of all places (and the original hotel there is surrounded by high-end boutiques and restaurants). In the mid’80s, on that street, there were meat-packing plants, the 24-hour restaurant Florent (popular with the local transvestites after 2 a.m.) and, nearby, the club Tunnel. That’s it. When I used to go to one of those two places during my college days, people would say, “You’re taking a cab, right? You can’t walk around there.” And obviously, in college, we didn’t throw a lot of money away on cabs. That’s how serious it was! I did take a subway downtown once and then had to walk really far west and my friend and I had to dodge a scary gang of young men, and everyone scolded us for being such fools. The cabs never knew where Gansevoort Street was, which made things more complicated too!

  4. Great educational post Wendy. Haoui’s story is funny and really, really sad.

    My days of hanging out in rough and dirty New York City ended in 1976 when I went to college, but we came back as often as possible in the 80s with and without the kids, despite the grime and crime.

    One artist you may not have heard of is Calvin Hampton, famous for his 1974 to 1983 “Fridays at Midnight” organ recital series at Calvary Episcopal Church in Gramercy Park. It apparently achieved cult status and featured outrageous outfits in addition to fantastic music. He died of AIDS in 1984, but in his short life composed some brilliant organ pieces that according to our organist are extremely challenging to play. There are a couple of YouTubes posted of organists playing his stuff — the music is out of this world. Give it a try when you have a chance.

  5. Haoui was always really sweet to us. At Danceteria he was usually found keeping the riffraff from the VIP room. (Oh wait maybe it was keeping us in? heehee!) Dancetria had so many floors, there was always something happening on each, but the main floor was where the bands and events like fashion shows took place.”No Entiendes” was a hoot! I have so many fond memories of that place… don’t get me started on the hideous geeks with their GIANT film equipment trying to block the stage during the New Music Seminar — they learned fast that you don’t block New Yorkers from seeing bands, especially since some had come quite far & those gigs wound up being their only gigs in NY ever! Ah if only you were a few years older you would have gotten to see NY in all its disgusting, dirty, dangerous yet wildly creative glory! XXX PS video wouldn’t load here or the link. No biggie you know how I feel about Mad-doo-doo! (;