From Mike Peyton's 2003 film project 'Salvation' | Photo: Robert Bennet
An integral and cherished member of the New York gay nightlife community, Michael E. Peyton passed away on the morning of September 16 after a long and valiant battle fighting cancer. He was 49. Born on June 1, 1966 in Carmichael, Calif., Peyton spent his formative years in Fontana, Calif., before graduating from Eastern Michigan University and heading to New York City to continue his education at NYU where he received an MFA in cinema studies.
Considered by his closest friends and observers as a true renaissance man, Peyton dedicated much of his adult life to injecting New York City with his own brand of subversive art in an attempt to revive the city's queer underground nightlife. Early in his career, he produced an acclaimed monthly party called NEWD at The Eagle, the city's only leather bar, that combined provocative performance art with sexually-charged antics. In a 2007 article in Edge magazine, Peyton said: "I've been wanting to bring a real live show back to nightlife. People want more than just a bar to open its doors, turn on the lights and play some music. People want a show. They want to be entertained." His promotional endeavor, M8, offered a weekly email listing of gay events that encouraged a more punk sensibility to counter the mainstream gay party culture prominent at the time.
Since 2006, he served as producer at The Saint At Large, one of New York City's longest running and most storied nightlife production companies, conceptualizing, coordinating and managing the massive annual gay bacchanal, The Black Party, among other annual events. He assembled a coterie of local artists and promoters to continually reinvent the annual party running since 1980. He was revered throughout the nightlife community for his meticulous attention to detail, humility, and perseverance amidst the most arduous of production challenges.
Mike Peyton was instrumental in transitioning the organization into a full media company, expanding The Saint At Large brand into art zines, vendor expositions, documentary web series, art films, gallery exhibitions, trunk shows and live concerts. In 2013, the company purchased Montreal's leading leather fetish brand, Chez Priape, for which he acted as a creative consultant and took the lead in launching BlackPartyCollection.com, an e-commerce site for original fashion and gear inspired by the annual fetish event. Upon his death, he was near completion on a website dedicated to the history of The Saint, the legendary East Village nightclub and namesake of The Saint At Large.
Mike Peyton at his desk at The Saint at Large office | Photo: Robert Zash
Throughout his life, Peyton held a deep appreciation for film, especially documentaries, and worked for several years at New Fest, New York's LGBT Film Festival. His five-part web series, Stories of the Saint, is a testament to the significant impact and influence of gay nightclubbing in the late 1970s and early '80s.
His compassion for artists and deep connection to the intricate workings of nightlife made him a mentor and inspiration to many and he will remain a powerful source of light for all who swim in his wake.
He is survived by a sister, Kimberly Eileen Peyton of Oklahoma City, a brother, Christopher Edward Peyton of Denver, former partner, Rich Shurtliff, dedicated friends, and a nightlife community that mourns his passing. Suggested donations can be made in his name to one of his favorite charitable organizations, New York's LGBT Community Center.
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