Adam Goldstone: Jun 3 1969 - Aug 29, 2006
In fierceness and absurdity.
When Adam discovered Burning Man with me last year he said it felt like home. As we bounced around the desert on dubby party-buses, a life-size pirate ship and a flood of Shulgin-approved number drugs, those five days were the most surreal of our lives, climaxing after the man burned by going nuts to a neon-headed guitar murderer playing hell-thrash disco on a flame-thrower. And while 35,000 resourceful weirdos paraded across the dust flats wearing Mad Max rave gear or an interesting coat of paint, Adam watched the madness unfold in a sharp-pressed safari suit, brogues and the obligatory cravat.
Burning Man made such an impact on him because it is more or less the last refuge of the great American freak. In this sun-blasted festival of subversive humour, creativity and generosity, Adam saw, in full flower, the downtown wit he’d rejoiced in all his adult life. ‘You’ve got to see this’, he squealed just after we arrived, dragging me to BARBIE DEATH CAMP – a display of a thousand Barbie dolls being force-marched into a microwave. ‘And it’s not just Barbie Death Camp,’ he grinned, pointing at the bar behind, ‘It’s Barbie Death Camp... AND WINE BISTRO.’
So when his heart gave way at the start of his second Burning Man, though he was a continent away from his beloved Lower East Side, he couldn't have been in a more fitting place. It was just so out of character for him to check out before the fun started.
As a child Adam had two open-heart operations, leaving him a foot-long scar in his chest and the secret knowledge that his imperfect ticker could claim him at any moment. To those who saw how he approached life, this explains a lot. Tragically, given the strain of making camp in the Nevada desert, and an overdose of pure excitement, on 29th August it finally happened. He had fainted twice earlier in the day and laughed it off. When he fell a third time, while having a shower, he didn’t get up. In minutes the medics electro-shocked him back to consciousness and prepared to helicopter him out. As they dressed him in surgical clothes he slipped away again, this time leaving the party for good. His last words were pure Goldstone: ‘I’m not feeling these ugly pants.’
In his mod finery, Adam was a relentless wise-cracker. He would dissect the object to hand – a bad record, a bizarre news story, your unfortunate new haircut – until he’d wrung it dry and bent himself double in glee. Nothing made him happier than a shop name with an accidental double-entendre, a Britishism that summed up the essential grimness of life here, an old lady who’d picked an outfit that would better suit a drag queen. He spent his life applauding fierceness and absurdity.
Born in Boston and raised in San Francisco, Adam washed up in New York in the latter eighties for a brief period at film school. When I first knew him he was a reporter for DMR (Dance Music Report), then a publicist at Francois Kevorkian’s Wave label, and a keen Sound Factory compatriot. Bill Brewster signed his group to Stress, and later I passed him the baton of Clubs Editor for Time Out New York. As far as I know, these were the only real jobs he stooped to.
It’s as a music-maker that Adam made his mark. His inspiration was his passion for the glittering gutters of New York. His productions – mostly sardonic drug-dub house – were clear reflections of his character. ‘Lower East Side stories’, his album on Nuphonic, was a hymn to the neighbourhood that nurtured him, ranging from diva soul to Latin merengue. His other moments of greatness include ‘Docking In Outer Space’ as Cultural Mambo – afro-funk on ketamine – and Tiny Trendies’ mournfully pretty ‘The Sky Is Not Crying’. Play Superstars of Rock’s ‘Orange Sunshine’ in your living room and you’ll feel an immediate pang for nights of deep, dislocated wrongness.
For his DJing there was only one word – uncompromising. Though a whole generation of New York DJs were inspired by Larry Levan, Adam embodied his friend Levan’s wonderful stubbornness like no other. When the crowd was right he was happy to whisk them up and away, but if the dancers fell short of his strict standards of commitment, he preferred to clear the floor with purist selections or wilful strangeness, and as he did so you couldn’t help but listen transfixed. ‘The best sets are where you really care about every choice you make, but you also don’t give a fuck,’ he insisted. He wanted to be buried with his records, not for sentimental reasons, but because he could never trust anyone else to take good enough care of them.
I remember partying with him on my last night as a New Yorker, topped off with Danny Tenaglia at Twilo, who ended on some 30-minute prog-rock album track. The song finished, the lights came up and Danny waved. Adam shouted up, ‘The other side’s better.’
There was the time he threw everyone out of his own house party for smoking, or the clone moustache he grew just to annoy his girlfriend. His ever-opulent neckwear. His impeccable Ross Allen impressions. Those slacks from the secret mod shop that were an inch too short and an inch too tight – no doubt on purpose. The Goldstone pose hardwired into my memory is his hunched Cheshire Cat snickering – probably over some phrase he’d just picked up from the Viz Profanisaurus, chewed over in scowling comedy Cockney.
As New York’s soul was scrubbed clean I worried about Adam: a polar bear watching the ice caps melt. What would he do when the East Village was finally sucked into America, when there was a flag on every house and all the dirty dive bars had been interior-designed into characterless lounges for rich-kids? On Bush’s election he made a real effort to move to London. When this didn’t work out he devoted himself to bringing back some much-needed sleaze to Gotham City.
And somehow, Adam walked the walk longer than almost anybody. When it seemed Manhattan had been pretty much sterilised, he still knew dark speakeasies where the waitress would bring cocaine to your table on a tray. Long after most people had written the obituary for the city’s underground, Adam took us to the Warehouse in the Bronx, a glorious black gay club whose location well over the tracks meant it still rang with the classic spirit of NYC clubland in a way museum pieces like Body & Soul could only emulate.
For nights like these I thought of Adam as my guide to a vanishing world. His fascination with New York’s dank undergrowth made him a nightlife David Attenborough. But gradually I realised that he’d become more than a fellow observer; he had lived that life so long he’d become an essential East Village ingredient. On the corner of 9th and C, in his trademark trousers, with his squinty gaze, his paisley cravats, and his hilarious rambling anecdotes, he was the real thing – someone who personified the colour and the freedoms of that great city’s last quarter-century.
No-one ever knew Adam Goldstone to turn down a new thrill, an untried experience or the sniff of a rumour of a great after-hours. However late it was, he always knew somewhere you could move on to, some hidden corner where you’d find darkness and music and friendly faces. A cab ride in the cold morning air, a few steps into a most unpromising location, then just as you’re really doubting his optimism, a squeal of recognition from the drag queen on the door: ‘Aaadam! How are you?’
So tonight, in his honour, turn the TV to face the wall, play some music you love that no-one else gets – loud enough to annoy the neighbours – take a drug you’ve always been scared of, get a cab to somewhere unfamiliar and do something new and dark and mad and dirty.
© Frank Broughton, 2006
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