Ryan Murphy’s new FX TV series, Pose, centers on a trans-and-drag-filled world of voguing balls in New York City in the 1980s. The show has gotten early raves. Meanwhile, three decades after that era, it’s miraculous to find that certain NYC hot spots are still open and going strong. Here are some of the ’80s places that continue to rock—including a former nightclub now providing a different kind of workout.
I once had a funny conversation with Moby at Indochine about his distinct lack of hair.
A Polish beer hall turned downtown performance space/hangout, the Pyramid opened in 1979 and became a centerpiece for a burgeoning community of artists, playwrights, drag queens, and other creative types working out their stuff. Performers and promoters like Linda Simpson, Lypsinka, RuPaul, and John Kelly did a variety of events there, ranging from campy to crazy to artsy, and it was always worth a drop-by to see what was going on, making the Pyramid an East Village must-attend. Today, it’s a casual bar with some live bands and lots of nostalgia parties. They even have ’80s bashes! 101 Avenue A
With a shiny exterior and the words “Cafeteria The Odeon” in neon, this became a hot French-American bistro when it opened in the fall of 1980, back when Tribeca was a relatively underpopulated discovery. Eventually, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Robert De Niro were among the crowd of celebrities, up-and-comers, bohemians, and neighborhood types that frequented the place. You could cut the attitude and creativity in the air with a carving knife. It may not still be as sizzling as all that, but it serves a purpose, acting as a reliable spot for esoteric yet accessible chic. 145 West Broadway
This atmospheric restaurant for French-Vietnamese food has been a lush-looking destination for celebs and other fabulous people since it opened in 1984, to coincide with a growing boom in downtown nightlife. Enjoying its spring rolls, spicy soup, and sticky rice has been an array of fashionable types, who often work the room, making this more party than restaurant. It’s been such a scene staple that it inspired a 25th-anniversary coffee-table book in 2009, Indochine: Stories, Shaken and Stirred, authored by no less than Salman Rushdie, Moby, Julianne Moore, and Bob Colacello. Kate Moss, Madonna, and Anna Wintour are among the many notables who’ve helped dress this place up. And I once had a funny conversation with Moby there about his distinct lack of hair. 43 Lafayette Street
In 1989, when the indie-movie genre was gaining wider visibility and acceptance, this downtown cineplex opened to serve people craving a taste of independent and foreign films. If there was a Hollywood blockbuster drawing crowds to the uptown cineplex, it wouldn’t be playing here. The Angelika was instantly established as the home of the weird, esoteric, and intriguing. While the indie-film world has mellowed since the late ’80s, the Angelika still takes wild chances on contemporary, micro-budget movies like The Rider. 18 West Houston Street
Pretension is absent from the menu at this hoedown of a place, where the tablecloths are checkered, Texas cuisine is king, and you’re welcome to get down and have a honky-tonk good time. Opened in 1989, Cowgirl quickly became a neighborhood staple, as well as the best place for miles to get chicken-fried steak and collard greens. Oh, and I judged the Patsy Cline look-alike contest at Cowgirl for years! 519 Hudson Street
In 1983, the owner of the West Bank Café opened the Beechman downstairs from that restaurant, and it became a cool, intimate showplace for a variety of offbeat acts, including comics Lewis Black and Joan Rivers, who often tried out new material and, in fact, gave her last performance there in 2014. Today, the place’s calendar is hugely studded with RuPaul’s Drag Race stars engaging in their naughty, bawdy, and very fun cabaret acts. 407 West 42nd Street
The onetime church became best known as a dance club filled with revelers, celebrities, and club kids, and it was extra interesting that the churchlike decor—including stained-glass windows—remained a backdrop for all the debauchery. At the club over the years, I talked to Grace Jones and Dolph Lundgren, and later on saw Tom Jones perform to squeals and gave I Dream of Jeannie star Barbara Eden some made-up nightlife honor. Well, the place isn’t a club anymore, but it’s still there and still surprising. After it closed, it became an upscale mall for a while, but now it happens to be, of all things, a fitness center! Get on your knees and…do some calisthenics. 656 Sixth Avenue