Best of all, you didn't have to dance. Any master of the Junior High Shuffle (step left, clap, step right, clap, and repeat) who could squeeze his Girbaud-clad body onto the dance floor felt like every eye in the club was watching him. And they were--every inch of the wall and ceiling gleamed with mirrors, so you and all your friends, shrouded in a subtle veil of fire-engine-red neon, could always be on stage.
Of all the dance clubs in town, none could make you feel more conspicuous as Narcissus did.
When Boston University booted Narcissus from Kenmore Square, it clearly didn't understand what havoc the callous decision would wreak on the city's natural order. The many faces of Boston's twentysomething crowd, usually hidden from one another among the hundreds of neighborhoods in the metropolitan area, have started to meet in the strangest places.
Unthinkable images become reality: bathrooms at Axis filled with the scent of Bold Hold. Bartenders at Daisy Buchanan's filling orders for seven Sexes on the Beach every hour. Stiletto heels denting the earthy floor of Pamplona. Narcissus, with its huge, silver, upside-down awning jutting out into Kenmore, closed last month after B.U. decided to convert the building, which they rented to the club, for university use.
Narcissus had power over Boston--the real Boston. More of the city's essence brewed within these sleek, air-conditioned walls than at any monument or shopping district in town. And it will be sorely missed.
They played "Push It." They spun a fully functional, non-ironic disco ball. The dance floor, smaller than a New-bury Street cafe, collected tank-topped citizens of every neighborhood in Eastern Massachusetts. You could warm up here for an evening spent strolling along Revere Beach, hunting for your perfect Kelly's-roast-beef-eating, IROC-Z driving soul mate.
There wasn't an ounce of pretense or pretentiousness at Narcissus. The tables by the bar were aimed at the dance floor, raised above the club so anyone not dancing could get a clear shot of who was. There was even a balcony over the dancers so you could watch whoever you wanted.
But somehow, Narcissus wasn't a meat market like Revere Beach or Axis--or, for that matter, Pamplona. You could relax at Narcissus.
Dancers were nervous; they didn't practice at home in front of the mirror until their swaggers were perfect, like the alternative crowd did. Even though the DJ sounded like he did nothing but switch the dial from ZOU to KISS all night, and even though women and men dressed to the height of the Tello's aesthetic, no one was looking to make a scene.
So what now? Boston's real twentysomething scene--the crowd of kids who have lived here all their lives, who went to school here, and who are starting to find jobs here--where's their hangout now? The only things left in Kenmore are the Lansdowne Street clubs, which cater exclusively to the "alternatively" hip. "Jeremy," not "That's What Love Can Do." There's no alternative to the alternative anymore.
A night at Narcissus should have been required of all Harvard students, followed maybe by a midnight stroll on Nantasket Beach. First-years could have even written about it in Expos.
Narcissus was a humbling experience, and could instantly knock haughty Harvard kids down to size.
Those expecting an anthropological expedition, a funny evening spent among Townies, were brought down to size. Harvard-I.D. flashers often got a withering look from one of the bouncers, or, worse yet, they'd get no look at all.
No doubt there are plenty of other clubs, plenty of other dance floors for Boston's full-time residents to crowd. But Kenmore, which depended on Narcissus as a bastion against the inevitable march of Harvard squareization, just lost another battle.
Michael K. Mayo is associate editorial chair of The Crimson and grew up dancing to "Push It."
A night at Narcissus should have been required of all Harvard students. First-years could even have written about it in Expos.