The other day I drove past my old haunt, the Roseland Ballroom. I’d heard rumors that it had closed down…shutting its doors for good, to make way for yet another “much needed” luxury high-rise condominium (sarcasm).
Lately I’ve been so busy that I never gave it much thought, until I happened to take 53rd Street to get across town, and spotted the scaffolding surrounding the once-cherished New York City landmark. So I pulled my car over and got out to pay my respects and say goodbye.
I got as close to the demolition site as I could without getting in the way of the hustling construction workers, and I just stood there staring at what was once one of my favorite places to hang out. I allowed myself a moment to get lost in thought and reminisce. I washed the sound of jackhammers breaking concrete out of my mind and welcomed a wave of dance music in its place. I pictured myself back in the day, on that humongous parquet dance floor with my dance partner, Jimmy Blaze (may he R.I.P.), battling these two dancers from The Bronx that we always competed against.
I recalled how my friends and I couldn’t wait for the weekends, so we could go out dancing; how we would make sure to get to Roseland before 10 p.m., so we could avoid paying the $15 admission fee and instead, get in for only five bucks. I remembered how we used to get a kick out of watching the elegant ballroom dancers as they held each other ever so close, before the club turned into a “dance party.” How wonderful those older couples looked in their gowns and tuxedos, and how much fun it was when they’d stick around so they could cut the rug with us young’uns.
Then I remembered the night we barely made it into the club before the security staff slammed the doors shut behind us, because a riot was just about to break out. Run-D.M.C. was performing that night, and I don’t think the bookers had anticipated how popular they had become. The street outside Roseland was teeming with what seemed like thousands of people who were trying to get into the show. I remember being pinned against the entrance doors, with my nose pressed up against the glass, watching mounted police officers spin their horses around in circles to clear the streets. That night, Roseland was a mess outside; but inside, the night was magical. I got to see Run-D.M.C. sing “Hard Times,” “It’s Like That,” “Rock Box,” and my favorite song of all time, “Sucker MC’s” — in person.
For all the fun we had at Roseland, I had at least one scary night there, as well. Like the time that every member of my dance crew decided to wear black and red beads around our necks, which I guess was our way of sporting “colors.” Turns out our beads were similar to those worn by the Zulu Nation — a much larger crew/gang, with a reputation for fighting and violence. This bead blunder almost got us into a fight with those guys; thank God we were all really fast runners back then.
Back in the day, my friends and I used to go out to nightclubs every weekend. One our favorite places to go was the Roseland Ballroom. Roseland was different from the other nightclubs. It was was like something out of a Roaring Twenties movie, with a never-ending shiny parquet dance floor, overlook, bathroom attendants in bow ties, and a stage that had seen many great performers over the years. My crew and I knew the history of the place, and we respected it.
I’m sad to see the Roseland Ballroom go. It’s a shame that New York keeps losing its rich entertainment landmarks. On behalf of the Nasty Four Crew, thanks for the memories, Roseland.