If you’re from Chicago you know; if you’re not, you’re probably wondering why everyone is repeatedly posting news stories about another shooting at another club, another tragedy that’s become all too common in recent years both in the city and in the places that used to provide refuge.
Dolphin was once the longest tenured home for Boom Boom Room – at one time and by some reckoning the longest continuously running nightclub residency in the world and a party that made Monday nights in Chicago feel like Saturday nights anywhere else.
That should have given people an ample supply of goodwill for what was once Chicago’s premiere party. It didn’t. People have, at best, mixed emotions about Dolphin. Few alumni or ex-employees have anything good to say about it. Most of the people mentioned here probably wish their names weren’t associated with it at all.
The doorway where bodies in polystyrene bags are being rolled by on gurneys was once the spot where a half dozen club kids (Jojo, Sal E, Jay Jay, Byrd and others) greeted you beneath layers of pancake make-up and phantasmagoria. I’m not sure there’s a more striking contrast than that to put this whole thing in perspective.
Green Dolphin changed and everyone knew it changed, and by the time they dropped the adjective from the name and it became merely “Dolphin,” it was just another place you used to go. Crowd shots of Green Dolphin used to be fun to look at for all of the freaks and weirdos and other people I loved that made Monday nights at Green Dolphin their home. Recent crowd shots look like stock photos titled “PEOPLE_AT_A_CLUB.JPG”. Could be Miami or Dubai. Could be anywhere.
The hosts and promoters and resident DJs (too many to name, but among them: Gene Farris, Diz, Michael Serafini, Chez Damier, Lego, Just Joey, Milty Evans and many more) brought a vibe to the party that the club probably didn’t deserve. The most vivid memory I have of the place now isn’t dancing, but shadowing a manager/promoter/owner like an aggressive panhandler while trying to get paid. Along the way you’d pick up a couple of DJs, a couple of other promoters and other riff raff plebs like us, also trying to get paid for services rendered. We’d just wander around like that, collapsing our shoulders and sliding to the left and the right to snake through the crowd, following around a man who knew he was being followed and was trying his best not to notice.
It seemed like the more involved you were in the scene, the less you liked Green Dolphin. It was frustrating to see a party that by all rights should have been a touchstone for a generation continually – chronically – undermined.
Of course there were good times (there was a reason we were there besides money, or rather in spite of the lack of it), and that’s probably why Boom Boom Room itself tried to escape from the suffocating embrace of Dolphin so often. Going to Dolphin was like shopping at Wal*Mart: you feel no warmth for the place but it has what you want so you go in spite of yourself. You could have the best night or the worst night of your life there and it had everything to do with the dancers and the DJs and the layer of people that separated management from the dancefloor and in the best circumstances provided a buffer to protect one from the other.
I was looking over photos to use for this piece and what was most amazing was how many names blew through those doors over the years, even during the club’s long decline. It was Frankie Knuckles and D/E Productions’ preferred spot for Frankie’s parties for several years, as well as 5 Magazine’s anniversary blasts. Most of the beloved hosts now patrol the door at SmartBar’s Queen! on Sundays, with ex-Boom Boom Room resident Michael Serafini DJing. Others have dropped out of the industry altogether. There are still some good people on staff at Dolphin that are going to be put out of work, and that really blows. But everybody, sadly, has pretty good practice at this by now.