By Tom Dare
THE EXPERIENCES of a university professor who swapped academics for a life full of pop stars, drag queens and convicted murderers have been revealed in a new book about New York’s infamous nightlife.
Night Class: A Downtown Memoir chronicles the journey of Victor P. Corona, a sociology professor at New York University who in 2011 decided to take an in-depth look at New York City nightlife, fully immersing himself in the clubs, pubs and bars of downtown New York.
Photos from the book show Lady GaGa and Snoop Dogg enjoying nights out in the city, while others show various drag queens from the scene during their performances.
Another chilling image shows party animal and convicted murderer Michael Alig laughing maniacally as he walks around brandishing a knife.
And Corona fully admits that he was never prepared for the life that awaited him when he first attended Ladyland, “a sparkly mix of twirling models, queer art kids and glam rock devotees.”
“I did not belong there,” Corona says in the book.
“Three years of dissertation research with the US Army, plus a year of working in Washington, DC, produced a dowdy cubicle rat version of me.
“I wore wire-frame eyeglasses on a face dotted with acne and shaved my whole head down to shiny skin. My way too bony body was dressed in clothes plucked right out of the Gap’s sale racks
“Picture Gandhi in baggy khakis walking around the Pentagon.”
In the book, Corona investigates the glamour of New York nightlife. In interviews and outings with clubland revellers and influencers, Night Class exposes downtown’s perilous trappings of drugs, ambition, and power.
But, the author admits, the experience taught him as much about himself as it did any of the people he spoke to.
“Downtown is a petri dish for growing identities,” he said.
“Queer, trans, straight, glam, goth, punk, fetish, radical, butch, femme, preppy, spiritual, fairy, ambiguous, clown, absurd and so on. They all mix and mesh downtown. It’s a classic New York idea – sung by countless crooners from Frank Sinatra to Alicia Keys – that you can find yourself here.
“Downtown is where I sought a new education, where night classes held in clubs, bars, galleries, apartments, stoops and all-night diners taught me about love, loss, and the real, living possibilities of identity.
“It’s where a sociology professor managed to understand himself a little better and enjoy life a little more.
“As Petula Clark put it, the lights were much brighter there.”
Night Class: A Downtown Memoir by Victor P. Corona is published by Soft Skull, New York, and can be purchased on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Night-Class-Downtown-Victor-Corona/dp/1619029391