interior banner image

Read an Excerpt from Max Steele’s Nightlife-Themed Zine ‘Door Girls’

Read an Excerpt from Max Steele’s Nightlife-Themed Zine ‘Door Girls’

Author: William Johnson

May 22, 2015

This month, writer and performance artist Max Steele is releasing his nightlife-themed lit zine Door Girls.

Steele is a performer and writer living in Brooklyn. He has presented work at Dixon Place, the New Museum, Deitch Projects, BAM, Joe’s Pub, Envoy Enterprises, PPOW Gallery, the Afterglow Festival and the Queens Museum of Art. His writing has been featured in Dossier Journal, Spunk [arts] Magazine, East Village Boys, Birdsong, and Vice. He was an Artist in Residence at BAX/Brooklyn Arts Exchange in 2012.

The following excerpt, written by Steele, is a humorously deadpan snapshot of a New York City nightlife denizen.



I took tomorrow off work. I’m taking tomorrow off.

Rode the train home and ran into Perry. He’s just moved back to town from Europe. Paris.
He left a job there and he left an apartment there. And a boyfriend.
A whole life. And now he’s back.
I’d love to see him too. Maybe even tonight, you know. I’m going to that nightclub. Near the water. Uh, the Beach?

I went to an opening at a museum downtown. Art from the other side of the planet. Foreign perspectives. A very glamorous and global affair. I’m friends with one of the curators’ sister. We all went out to dinner. My friend and her cousin and her parents and the parents’ friend. The curator the sister couldn’t come.
One of the parents was a doctor, and their friend was a retired secret agent. She was tough.
They told stories about emergency rooms. The parents bought spectacular wine and I drank two glasses and felt religious.
There was a younger cousin there at dinner too.
nice young man
On his way to California. He got one
He’s the one
He’s the one moving to San Francisco
Sight unseen to take a job in technology
I said ess eff is a really great city
I’m sure you’ll love it

I came home and I smudged my bedroom
I smoked Luke Skywalker OG, Girl Scout Cookie, Blackberry, Lemon Sour Diesel, Blue Dream, Jack Herrera. I made a salad.
I smudged myself
my lungs face
I wish I could get cleaner.

When, I think, will they FINALLY
will they ever
make a soap that gets you clean ENOUGH. You know?
Like invisible.

I can never decide what to wear. Like
What is the correct answer
As if, like
No it is a problem.

And how to problems get solved. How do you deal with a problem? By force of will. By decision. By choice. So I choose.

I paced my room and burned incense and smoked cigarettes. I have tiny antique ashtrays
Brass elf boots
Hidden among the shelves of house plants
When my Grandmother died, my mom and her sister cleaned out Bubbe’s apartment. They let me come in and take my pick of her possessions. Anything I wanted to keep for sentimental value. Not furniture or something. I chose ashtrays. I was in college. I’ve kept all of those ashtrays and I still use them.

I decided to wear that BCALLA t-shirt with the sparkly smiley faces. And my Comme des Garçons denim short pants. Just comfortable, you know. It’s a nightclub.

Max Steele

Max Steele

Perry sends me a text message. Is the party tonight going to be fun?
I don’t know, I text message back, I’ve never been. I’m going around midnight.
Is it money to get in? He asks.
It is, I say. I’m supposedly on someone’s list but I don’t know
if I get a plus one.
I don’t know if Perry wants to be my plus one tonight anyway.
Perry says that’s too late for him. He’s jet lagged. He’s still on Paris time. We’ll catch up another time.

It really is on the water, you know. Across the street from the river.

I showed up alone.
There was kind of drama at the door. I sort of assumed I could go in but I had to make sure they knew I was on the list.
I’m on Two peoples lists
The guest list twice. Actually.
I double-checked. Accidentally, you understand. I just wanted to make sure I could get in.
I forgot to mention either of them. The lists.
To the girl working the outside.
I didn’t see that she had a clipboard. She didn’t have a clipboard.
How would she check if I was on the list.
I went back outside and said I’m Max I’m on the list.
Who’s list? She said.
I said Gary’s list.
She said, Who ELSE’S list?
I said what do you mean?
She said you’re on TWO PEOPLE’S LISTS. Whose is the other list your on, Max?
Oh, I said, I’m on Gary’s list and I’m also on Claire’s list.
That’s right, said the girl at the door.
She handed me a pink ticket for free entry.

I get inside, the place is huge. Great, great sound.
Cool records
Awesome DJ
I wonder; it’s cavernous in here, if this place, if this nightclub used to be a warehouse. I think maybe it used to be a garage. It’s so big. Maybe they used to keep a boat in here. Maybe it was a bar for sailors. But tonight it’s a gay nightclub.

I’m watching people dance to that young gay rapper from new york’s song you know the one— it’s a hit he’s a hit we’re all so proud of him
we feel good about HIM not like all of the other ones

Y’know I met him when he was 19
Our mutual friend asked if I thought he was cute I said yeah, she asked if I thought he was too young
I said probably, maybe? Do you think so?

Now, he’s too famous to go on a date with me
Whenever I see him we say hello though, he’s very sweet.
He once told me that I’m aging better than any other white person he knows
I blushed, I turned deep beet red but he couldn’t see, we were in another nightclub at the time.

It’s a funny crowd here tonight
Funny to be here alone anywhere
Groups of friends couples
Heterosexual Eurotrash, soaking up local culture
That one go-go boy the one from last Saturday night.
these are REAL go-go boys
They do headstands, shake their anemic milk white asses, displaying bruise-brown wilted rose anuses.
Lillies of the valley. Roses, pansies.
The Soft Machine.
Am I gonna be sick.
Am I gonna have to wait in the bathroom line to puke.

Some lonely older creepy guys
Dancing in my section.
Real hopeful expressions.

A real “don’t leave your drink unattended” vibe
I don’t have that problem
More like accidentally attending to other peoples’ drinks.

Lots of striped tanktops
Precious few tan lines
I have a farmers tan
I haven’t been to the beach
Not once all summer.
I wear t-shirts to work
I work at a nonprofit
I heard there was a smoking lounge at this club.
An illegal one.
I wanna find it.

The host shows up in a cape. It’s a basketball jersey but it’s also a cape though, too. Problem, I think, SOLVED.

I was gonna only stay until 1:30 but it’s 1:45 and now I wanna stay until 2am. Who am I? I never do this, on a Tuesday no less in Man-motherfucking-hattan. I still haven’t found the secret illegal indoor smoking lounge.

I guess you carry the smoking section inside of you. A temporary autonomous zone. There are some people just smoking indoors, wherever, but my heart’s not in it.
I pretend I’m in Berlin. If I was in Berlin there’d be ashtrays everywhere. On any waist-high surface.
But the music would be different.
You know what nevermind who I am who are these PEOPLE.

Smoking outside, white people leave in groups of four. Two girls two guys. “I thought it was MONDAY!” says one of them “Oh my God!”
A line of cabs down the block. Waiting. Very organized. This much at least, seems very German. Sehr Deutsche!

Sitting on the stoop outside the nightclub I see Young Henrietta. She’s new, she’s a new girl. She’s new on the scene, new to the City. How new young thing. She’s like maybe 20.
I read her internet for a while, I fed from her feed. She’s smart and she’s not afraid to speak truth to power. She loves fashion, she loves music, she loves art. But really, she’s an actress.
I keep telling her to call herself a performance artist, to call herself an actress slash writer. Because she IS you know. She thinks I’m being hyperbolic maybe. I’m proud of her, too. Young Henrietta represents the future and it looks bright. It looks pert and smart and deep-down, beneath the plunging necklines and sparkly make-up, hidden in designer handbags, I think Young Henrietta looks

I can see anger there.
I’m excited about her.

I can’t wait to see what she does next. Since this was written, she’s now walked in two count them two New York Fashion Week Runway shows. She’s a star.
We’re sitting on the curb outside the nightclub and Young Henrietta asks me for a cigarette. No, she wants to pee first. Do I have to pee? Sure.
Young Henrietta says we’ll have our cigarettes after.

I follow her inside. She leads me through some dark corridors. The music is thumping.
We cut the bathroom line. The beards in tank tops glare at me, but no one would dare say an untoward thing to Young Henrietta. We go in to the bathroom together and there’s one toilet. “You go first.” She says. I demure.
“Oh, fine.” She sighs. She pees. I turn around to give her some privacy.
“Are you embarrassed or something?” she asks.
“Okay your turn.”
“Oh, Henrietta…”
“What? Are you pee-shy?”
“I am, I have to say.”
“I get stage fright.”
“I don’t believe you.”
But it’s true. So I don’t pee. We leave the bathroom together. The guys are glaring at us. I bet they’re mad because they think we were doing drugs together in the bathroom. I wish. That’s not me. I don’t know if Young Henrietta even does drugs.

On our way out, I lose track of Henrietta. I wander around alone. I buy a drink, a $15 glass of tequila. I pass by the second dance floor. You know, the smaller room off to the side with a separate DJ and separate gaggle of girl-doll hosts. The emptier room. It’s not the smoking lounge I’d hoped for.

Some kids
Fashion students
Drape-y, asymmetrical sportswear,
Are hosting. They come over to me and say “Hey
We’re trying to get people to come to our room.
Will you tell your friends to come?”
“Okay.” I say. I’m by myself.
“Tell them,” the boy says “that we have bottles.”
He hands me a clear plastic thimble full of warm vodka. I down it. I smile and make a little bow
Like thank you
For that free drink
That sip
I turn to go back outside.
“So tell your friends” he calls after me “there’s more where that came from!”

Outside on the curb again.
Orange streetlights making everything look sort of cheery.
I love it here
Don’t get me wrong
But there are some things I really hate about this City
About America
And the streetlights are pretty high up on this short list.
Why do they have to be these

In Germany, there’re drastically fewer streetlights
Maybe a fraction. Maybe one-eighth of the streetlights we have here. Maybe one-tenth.
And the best part is, where there are streetlights, they’re small, dim, and grey.
Like sad old Angelfish.
They’re more comfortable in Europe
With darkness.

I run into Mama Chang. He’s so happy to see me.
He worked as a Stage Manager
In a play I was in a few years ago.
A sort of surrealist, sort of punk-rock, very Downtown production of a Tennessee Williams play. We called him Mama because he was the boss, he knew where and when we were supposed to be. He’s younger than I am, probably. I didn’t know Mama Chang very well but he seemed nice.
We catch up on the sidewalk. He likes my sparkly shirt. He likes my funny pants. What has he been up to. He’s been working at the Opera. No, he’s not a singer. He’s a Supernumerary. It pays well he says. Sometimes it’s fun. Usually it’s pretty boring. A lot, Mama Chang says, of waiting around.

He’s with a friend from out of town
His friend George is in business. He wears unremarkable clothes.
He’s just in town for a meeting tomorrow morning
But Mama Chang dragged him out to the nightclub
He wanted to see what it was like here.
He says: “So you’re an actor? You’re a performer?” I say sort of. Mama Chang says: “He’s AMAZING. I LOVE HIM.”

Mama Chang insists that George take a photo of us together. He says “Aren’t you here with anyone? Come hang out with George and me.” We go back inside. The show hasn’t even thought about starting yet— the drag queen. Tonight’s queen. She’s not even here yet. Who is she.

His friend George asks me what I want to drink. I say you don’t have to do that.
Mama Chang says: “Let him, he has money. He’s here on a business trip.”
I say I want another tequila.
I say thank you George, you don’t have to buy me a drink.
He says it’s ok
Gives me some line about
Y’know, some day If you get famous
I mean
Some day WHEN you get famous
Remember this.
Remember me.
Don’t say no one ever did anything for you.
I smile and say thanks

But I’m thinking now that
My memory isn’t so great, I’ll probably forget.

And I’m thinking now that
I can never repay this
Such, or any


 You can purchase a copy of Door Girls here.
William Johnson photo

About: William Johnson

William Johnson is the former Deputy Director of Lambda Literary.

Subscribe to our newsletter