Hercules And Love Affair

Hercules And Love Affair

(DFA; 2008)

By Danny Roca | 8 April 2008

I had heard rumor of a brand new disco that had opened on the outskirts of town. Supposedly it was built on the memories of Studio 54 and Paradise Garage. There were tales of mirrorballs the size of rhinos and 12 naked Bianca Jaggers on roller-skating platinum steeds. The name was so enticing: Hercules And Love Affair. The doorbell rang. My taxi had arrived.

We raced through town, the radio pumping Patrice Rushen’s piano driven classic “Haven’t You Heard.” This was going to be a fantastic night. I could feel it. We drove through the arty east side past a crowd of aesthetes chain-smoking outside the glass façade of Junior Boys. Next door a sweat-drenched couple were rowing drunkenly outside Von Sudenfed. We turned a corner into the designer shopping district, speeding past the queue of fashionistas outside Róisín Murphy and the effortlessly cool ravers caught in stasis by the strobe in Simian Mobile Disco. Surely, Hercules And Love Affair would be around here. I craned my head out of the window looking for a red-carpeted Roman-fronted mansion. I asked the driver where we were going but he remained silent and switched off the radio. I settled back in my seat, a little worried.

5 minutes later we were in the meat packing district. The industrial warehouses loomed over us as we slowed. I spotted a pink neon sign of a crested galmea helmet flickering above an unassuming black metal door. The taxi came to a halt. “Is this where Hercules and Love Affair is?” I asked the driver. “That’ll be $30 please.” I passed him the money through the window and he sped off into the night. The street was deserted. Was this it? I pressed my ear to the door and I could hear an octave jumping dumDUMdumDUMdumDUMdumDUM disco bass line.

I rang the doorbell and was met by a transvestite who took me to the ticket booth. He was pale with jet black hair and a strange mid-Atlantic accent. It looked like he had been crying. “Hi, I’m Antony. Welcome to Hercules & Love Affair.” He handed me a towel. “You can get changed in there” he said, signaling a changing room behind a beaded curtain. At the far end there was a glass door and through it were muscled men with towels around their waists. Every one had hairy chests and sported handle bar moustaches like in Tom of Finland. The voice of Sheryl Crow inexplicably entered my mind. This ain’t no disco. This was a bath house. Well, as the saying goes: “When in Rome…”

I stepped through the glass door and caught my reflection in the mirrored corridor. I seemed to have shed 20 pounds and had grown a moustache. What the fuck? The sound of splashing led me to the pool side bar. There was an orgy in the pool. I ordered a vodka and tonic from the barman. It was Antony again. “Hey, what’s going on?”, I asked him. “It’s 1980, honey. It’s always 1980 in here. Enjoy yourself; let yourself go.” Suddenly a woman with razor sharp cheekbones descended over the pool on a swing. That bassline I had heard through the door set the tempo to the groans from the pool. A clone put his hand on my leg: “That’s Nomi. Isn’t he fabulous?”

The transsexual was throwing out fistfuls of glitter as she swung through the air, purring, “He put up a fight, showed us his might, little boy Hercules.” It must be the club’s theme. Trumpeters appeared from behind the pillars lining the room. The horns squawked the same refrain and woozy strings filled the air. The mood had changed. I felt nauseous. Was my drink spiked?

I staggered out of the pool bar and walked in to the main room to see a woman with a quiff standing at a podium singing about “Athene” dryly whilst the clones fucked about her feet. She looked bored while the hi-hats rattled with that insistent dumDUMdumDUM bassline. I looked at the people fucking. Eveyone looked bored. The synths echoed coldly against the tiled walls. And then it dawned on me. These guys were fucking because they were frozen. I looked for a sauna to warm up.

The sauna was packed with gyrating men. The sweat condensed against the wood paneled walls and the air was thick with musk. At the far end a russet haired man was directing the crowd at a mixing desk. Crouching in front of the desk were a line of Antonys in blindfolds openly sobbing. His voice was wavering; he didn’t look like he belonged here. This felt uncomfortable. That fucking bass line was beginning to drive me mad. It was like disco paint-by-numbers.

I headed back passing what looked like an emergency room. Antony was crouched over the ear of a pale corpse whispering “We must go, easy.” Taps were dripping and the a dull thump was coming from one of the cabinets. I needed to get out and fast. I started to run back but suddenly found myself surrounded by muscles and towels cooing, “you must stay; easy; we’ve recreated the early ’80s just for you.” Here were 500 clones confusing art with queer and sex with music and lazy renovations with inspired revival. I ducked under limbs and moustaches and, grabbing my clothes, I burst out the front door still naked.

I touched my lip. The moustache had gone. I looked at my watch. Not even an hour had passed. What I needed was some warmth and some plain old fashioned love. I stumbled back home humming “My Forbidden Lover” to myself in a daze.