When a drably dressed ex-military researcher set out to understand New York City’s nightlife in 2011, NYU sociologist Victor Corona had no idea just how dramatic a transformation he would undergo. In order to discover what lay behind the city’s velvet ropes, Victor needed to trade ill-fitting khakis and military IDs for glitter eye shadow and bright highlights in his hair. As his five-year reinvention let him access a gritty world of artists and performers hungry for fame and glamour, Night Class: A Downtown Memoir took shape.
Just as Wednesday Martin gave anthropological voice to the elite Upper East Side in her bestselling Primates of Park Avenue, Corona immerses himself among downtown’s most dazzling tribes. He intersperses his own personal history (his transformation from a young, undocumented queer boy to Yale student, military researcher,Ph.D. sociologist, and “Night Professor”) with the history of the club scene in New York, focusing primarily on the link between Andy Warhol’s Factory (1960s), Michael Alig’s Club Kids (late ’80s and early ’90s) to Lady Gaga and her Little Monsters (2000s).
This is a tale of transformation: of Victor, the New York legends he met, and the downtown world itself. Although many point to creative industries as key parts of any big city, no scholar has had the sustained access to downtown figures that Victor offers. In addition to extended conversations with over eighty key players in these scenes and never-before-seen photographs, Victor’s intense five-year immersion illuminates the thrill and tragedy brewed in the downtown night.
Readers interested in the glamorous and dangerous world of downtown New York will appreciate Corona’s rich descriptions and deep research.