At one time, a unique ‘80s dance club kept limousines lined up at an unlikely spot: the corner of 91st Street and York Avenue. Still, the infamous hot spot the Surf Club was, for a brief but brilliant moment, arguably one of the hottest clubs in the city.
The Surf Club made waves on Christmas Eve in 1984, during the heyday of New York nightlife (perhaps a testament to the flourishing economy and the plethora of post-collegiates who flooded the city and brought with them a welcoming naïveté toward drugs). Though fondly remembered, today the Surf Club’s legacy may be one of self-destruction; it was a place where people went to have fun—sometimes too much—losing jobs (and credibility) along the way. As most clubs at the time catered to the downtown crowd, many also made their mark on specific demographics (faux-Victorian at Nell’s, gay disco at The Saint and the art elite at Area), the Surf Club was undeniably a palace for preps. Adorned with striped umbrellas and white lattice reminiscent of the private beach clubs of Southampton or Edgartown, it became a home away from home to trust fund-toting blue bloods. The club may have courted a yuppie crowd, alumnus of Andover and Amherst who went on to become investment bankers, but by no means was it buttoned up.
Adding to its popularity, many grew to love the Surf Club’s owners, Toby and Angus Beavers, brothers who were heirs to a fortune traced back to two old New York families: the Beekmans and the Devereauxs. The Beavers grew up in a two-story maisonette on 93rd Street off Fifth Avenue, and “in an effort to avoid a $14 cab ride to Studio 54, only to risk being turned away by its legendary doorman Mark Benecke,” Toby Beavers says he opened his club within walking distance, and quite earnestly admits it was also for “free booze and free women.”
Seven long years after the club closed its doors in 1990, in the wake of the 1987 stock market crash, 200 former regulars attended the Surf Club reunion and Toby Beavers’ 43rd birthday party. Still, Toby Beavers did not immediately lose his penchant to party, and though his days of hosting the likes of Mick Jagger and Rick James were seemingly over, he made some on-again, off-again efforts to capture the Surf Club years with a screenplay called Moonlight Memories or The Rise and Fall of a Party Animal.
In Manhattan, a place where clubs burn bright but burn out quickly, the Surf Club lives on in the hearts of many of its preppy patrons.
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