Last year was the 40th anniversary of New York City’s iconic Black Party. And while it should have been cause for celebration, stamping the “father of all large circuit events” as a party with staying power, there was quite a bit of sadness as organizers announced it could be the last; Rising rents in New York City, increased bureaucracy, the lack of a profit, and an ongoing lawsuit seemed to indicate an impending end. So, the event took on the theme of “Caligula, The Last Party,” and an old, groaning school bus that posed as a shuttle, running sometimes almost an hour late to pick up attendees who needed transportation to The Bronx, seemed like a death knell. But the Black Party is back, back, back again and this time they are bringing the punks with them.
“Last year was all about whether the crowd would travel to a venue in the Bronx knowing that it was a maiden effort and that things would undoubtedly improve,” Stephen Pevner, longtime organizer of The Black Party tells Out of the return in an email interview. “It took 24 years at Roseland to get things close(r) to perfection. Based on the post-party response, it seems that the crowd will return to the New York Expo Center where [new] amenities such as permanent bathrooms are already in the works.” Roseland was the last venue at which the event turned a profit. According to Pevner, the 2019 event did not lose money and resulted in “a number of significant donations.”
This year’s return comes with the “PUNK RIOT: Dancing To Freedom”-titled theme. As such, the official poster features a man with a pink mohawk standing in front of a graffiti-ed Berlin Wall, prior to its fall. “For Black Party 2020, the guests entering the New York Expo Center will be transported into the bowels of an abandoned theater converted into a punk nightclub,” a release reads. “Retro in look, contemporary in emotion, Black Party 2020 promises to be an electrifying immersive experience, a night of punk pageantry, arresting artwork by respected New York City painters Scooter LaForge and Brian Kenny, and, of course, the party’s eagerly anticipated, shocking, and infamous ‘Strange Live Acts.’” The Black Party has historically been more than just a party; it is essentially a stage production that you dance at — this year there will also be a zine, shot by Slava Mogutin, released prior to the event. Dancers and porn performers put on choreographed displays in five acts on various displays while attendees dance on the dance floor or busy themselves in the maze (or a room of slings). Scheduled for April 4, the event typically brings in well-over 3,500 mostly gay men (reports indicates that attendance has reached 5,000 in the party’s prime).
OK, but what about the lawsuit that could have ended it all? If you’re not familiar: the trademark for the Black Party was initially owned by Bruce Mailman and his longtime partner Dr. John Sugg. As this was before marriage quality passed, Mailman married the couple’s friend Lucienne Reed to protect their assets. When Mailman died, Reed married Sugg and then when Sugg died in 2016, Reed was now in control of the $37 million estate alone. It is the estate’s assertion that the Black Party trademark is still its property, while Pevner says that prior to death, Sugg signed it over to him.
“Those trademarks were legally assigned to The Saint At Large, Inc. in 2003,” Pevner wrote in a statement. He owns The Saint At Large, Inc. and says the exchange is in the public record. “[My] motion to dismiss the case in response to their nuisance claim is in a holding pattern at the Surrogate Court which is widely known to be backed up with pending cases.”
And more importantly, what about that shuttle?
“There’s now a nominal $10 roundtrip ticket for the shuttle bus which will help underwrite the cost of chaperones on each bus to better ensure drivers stick with the schedule,” he said. The change will come alongside others to work out the event’s “logistical kinks.”
Tickets are currently on sale starting at $75 for those 27 and under, but going up to $140. The party runs from 10:30 p.m on Saturday, April 4 to 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 5.