As more and more luxury buildings move into the Lower East Side and bars close and rent goes up people are increasingly talking about the death of New York nightlife. More of my friends are moving to LA and nothing seems fun anymore. I am sure a lot of that is just me getting old, but New York nightlife took a huge hit last night with the death of DJ Jess Marquis.
I took some really fun photos at this Empire Records party last night but those shots are going to have to wait while I deal with the death of one of my first friends in NYC and a true champion of the old New York.
I have had a bunch of friends die in my life, and too many recently. I think about Ease Da Man all the time and Dust La Rock’s passing was a gut punch but as much as I miss those dudes neither could come close to the impact that Jess had on my life.
Jess’ legendary party Trash was my favorite party in New York of all time. It was one of the first parties I went to and when it was at Rififi it was as good as any weekly party could ever get. Jess also threw Rated X which was probably the most insanely fun and debaucherous party outside of Motherfucker which of course Jess also DJd. His Thursday night party “in the seedy basement of Lit”, NC-17, was one of the best places to get people naked.
Honestly, now that I think about it Jess’ parties are responsible for a massive amount of my sex life. I mean I met all the Burning Angel’s at his parties and they formed my dating pool for years. I met my first girlfriend in NYC at Trash and Jess even through a party for the 10th anniversary of me losing my virginity!
Jess threw every birthday party I had in NYC including my 27th birthday party which was easily the most insane night of my life and my 30th birthday party which was also the last birthday party I ever had. He threw Driven By Boredom anniversary parties and was one of the reasons I went to the AVN Awards for the first time. He just had such a big impact on my life.
I wouldn’t be doing anything I am doing today if it weren’t for him. I started nightlife photography to take photos at his parties. He might have been the first person ever to pay me to do it, even if it was just in drink tickets or something. I wouldn’t know porn people if it weren’t for that AVN trip. I started shooting for the Village Voice because they loved all the nudity I got at crazy parties. Nearly every one of those parties Jess threw.
I always told Jess how corny I thought he was. He was this drama kid turned nightlife icon who was so over the top about everything. I am so apathetic and Jess was the exact opposite and his love for burlesque and Morrissey made me roll my eyes. I blame him for the fact that I know all the lyrics to a dozen fucking Smiths songs. He was just so fucking silly and would make me take photo after photo of him and wouldn’t tell anyone he was probably 5 years older than they all thought he was. I gave him shit for all of it, but I would kill to care about anything as much as he did all of this shit.
I can still remember all the lines he delivered night after night at his many many parties. “What’s up you sexy motherfuckers?!” and “Two for one drinks at the bar! If you buy one you get one free!” are the first two that pop in my mind right now but I know I will never have to worry about forgetting his voice. And I will never forget his face because he never aged and I have more photos of him than probably any other person I have ever photographed.
Speaking of, Jess was a great nightlife photographer and I used to look at his work every day when I was first shooting party photos. He just put down the camera at some point to focus on music but for my money he was as good as anyone capturing the downtown scene in New York. I am not sure what’s going to happen to his stuff, but I would kill to get a copy of his hard drive so I could do a book of his nightlife photos.
In recent years I haven’t spent a lot of time with Jess. He stopped doing Trash to focus on doing his own music. He wanted to tour and stop playing the same new wave songs every single night. He was still throwing tons of parties but I can’t stand going into the city anymore so I never saw him. I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time we hung out but I was following all the shit he was doing and I know he was on top of my shit too.
Jess was the defender of nightlife. He was responsible for giving wave after wave of young kids coming to New York a sense of what NYC was like back in the 70s and 80s and making us understand that it was our responsibility to carry on that tradition and make sure to get as weird and as fucked up as humanly possible.
Jess I fucking love you man and it fucking kills me that I am never going to get to take your picture again.
Today I spent an hour pulling tons of photos I took of Jess. There are a lot of these that aren’t great photos and there are so many great ones I couldn’t find. At some point I just couldn’t look at photos of Jess anymore. That being said I pulled nearly 80 photos of him and I hope everyone who loved him, and I know there are a lot of you, gets a chance to check out this gallery.