Sunday, April 11, 2010

the urban legend of city hall


It seems surreal to even say this, but there was a time when our beloved/hated Caracas had little to envy the biggest metropolis in the world. Especifically, in the 1970's, the oil boom and economic prosperity made Caracas look bigger and better than ever: modern streets, modern buildings, and an even modern nightlife. The hot tropical and dancey spots situated in Sabana Grande and the Libertador avenue were suddenly eclipsed by large venues, where more people could dance and ravish on their south-american expressions of chic.

A young and handsome entrepreneur named Jose Hernandez took notice on the expansion of Venezuelan lifestyle of the late 70's and, with an investment of 1.500 bolivares (a modest figure at the time), arranged a big space inside the Ciudad Tamanaco Mall (or CCCT for the locals) and made his very own miniature version of the madness that was Studio 54 in New York, with the help of architect Miguel Beloso.

With much fanfare, "City Hall" opened its doors in early 1980. In just a few days, it was the most talked about, saught after discoteque in Caracas. Around 2000 people could enter in the lighted space every night but it didn't come easy. Although there were almost 300 ladies and gents waiting in line outside, it was a pretty exclusive club of "select people", as Jose Hernandez sugested in an interview "We don't want tough guys (malandros), or people being too young. We just want over-25 years olds". The prices were also a bit select: a lucrative 100 bolivares per month for the right to get inside the club, a bottle of whiskey costing 350 bolivares.

Certainly "City Hall" provided the goods (music was shipped from New York every week, via Viasa, to get the people dancing all night) and also recieved goods (making daily sales of over 40.000 bolivares, a definitive fortune!), so their owners decided to make the best of it by holding society events like fashion shows for charity, toasts and even the presentation of disco diva Gloria Gaynor (a show which costed 350.000 bolivares).

The Gaynor show must have been the beginning of the end for the short lived City Hall. As expected, a large number of people showed up, not to mention excesive charging of the tickets and complaints from disco-goers, all of which reportedly violated rules of the Municipal Counsil of Sucre. Troubles aside, the parties continued, with a series of unforgettable albums released every year by the now defuncted Beta Records, which included songs played on "City Hall", adding boost to the club itself.

But the end of the good living era, both in Caracas and in whole of Venezuela, was just around the corner, and "City Hall" was no exception. The disco boom slowly faded away, with strong House, Dance and Electronic sounds pushing doors. The feeling wasn't the same as previous years, and all it took was a bang (or lack there of) to make it even more evident. In june 1983, a presumed bomb caused alarm at "City Hall", where the first lady was invited to a cocktail-runway show in benefit of the PTJ Crime Museum. The result was a big scare and front page news. But the damage was done. In few months, "City Hall" was over and was replaced, in the same space, by "Palladium" and "Winners", which suffered similar fate.

Even though several parties tried to celebrate the legacy of "City Hall", they failed to even recreate the original vibe. So what do we have left? Only the memories of a fun filled time, with fun filled music to go along with. Those were the days my friend, we thought they'd never end...
MP3: City Hall 1 (A SIDE / B SIDE)
MP3: City Hall 2 (A SIDE / B SIDE)
MP3: City Hall 3 (A SIDE / B SIDE)
MP3: City Hall 4 (A SIDE / B SIDE)
MP3: City Hall 5 (A SIDE / B SIDE)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jose Hernandez was not the owner of City Hall, this is incorrect