By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
"I wanted a big nightclub, a big scene," recounts Woodall, 51, who now operates Vent-A-Hood, a manufacturer of residential range hoods. "We wanted to enlighten Dallas to what was going on around the world." Woodall introduced Starck to Dallas with bracing stylish awe, luring Nicks and Grace Jones on the same stage together for the club's opening party. From that point on long lines scaled up the slick black staircase of the West End club. The doors were rigidly guarded, governed by a permanent guest list and a culling process that sifted dweebs from the fashionable, awarding preference to drag queens and beehive hairdos.
"The Starck Club really made a statement in town," says Michael Morris, who operates Seven, One and Martini and Margarita Ranches. "I mean, prior to that you had promotions like drink and drown, ladies' night; you had all of those terrible, cheesy, corny promotional vehicles to try and get people in the door. And the Starck Club said, 'We're cool. We're opening, and if we think you're cool enough, you'll get in...That made people want it all the more."
But under the slick lights, the smart threads and the Depeche Mode, Boy George and Flock of Sea Gulls hum, Starck was a den of delicious iniquity. "It's probably the number-one open drug bar in Dallas," Dallas police vice division Captain G.G. Parker said in a Dallas Morning News report after an August 1986 raid on the club. Spurred by complaints that drugs were being sold and used openly at Starck, the sweep netted 36 arrests and Ecstasy, Dilaudid, LSD, cocaine and marijuana with a total street value at the time of $9,200.
"It was the most hysterical thing," says a prominent Dallas female executive who was an avid clubber in the '80s and present at Starck when it was raided 16 years ago. "People were just emptying their pockets. All these drugs were just falling to the floor." Police lamented that a good part of their potential take disappeared down the Starck's toilets.
Those loungey rest rooms decked with sinks and mirrors were scenes not only of drug ingestion. The stalls served as nooky nooks where boys and girls gathered for sex.
But the Starck raid seemed an ominous omen, not only for the Starck but for the decadent club scene in general. Woodall snuffed out Starck less than three years after the famous raid, just as a tanking real estate market and the savings and loan collapse were drying up the Cristal and the Dom Perignon. Subsequent attempts to revive it by other operators failed or were short-lived. Dallas was sobering up.
"I believe that the '80s era was an era where many of us figured that what we were living was probably not the best lifestyle," Woodall admits. "There was lots of drugs, lots of alcohol, lots of sexuality and sensuality, and a lot of people got hurt. And I think by the time we got to the '90s, people had matured. In some respects, it was a waste of eight or 10 years of people's lives."
Nightlife ebbed in the '90s, which club owner Russell Hobbs, who created the Deep Ellum haunts Theatre Gallery, Prophet Bar and The Door, characterizes as the era of 12 steps, condoms and "think when you drink."
"When you think about a night going from Nostromo to Starck to the Rio Room in the 1980s, that was a pretty hip night," Mabel says. "There were a lot of big clubs. A lot of them. In all shapes and sizes. From smart to dumb. So it was exciting."
Yet after a few trolls, the redhead seems mildly frustrated. "They're more interested in me than they are in them," she admits to Corcoran, pointing at her husband and his companions.
On a Saturday night a scant seven months later Corcoran is sitting in the same seat in the same red corner. His club is desolate, save for a handful of clubbers in the main bar area. He seems to take the anemia in stride, admitting the recent openings of Sense, Dragonfly in Hotel ZaZa and Drálion in the Centrum building have bled The Sellar dry. Amazingly, it doesn't seem to faze him. Corcoran says such slumps simply prompt him to pull back and surreptitiously plumb market crevices for new opportunity like some nightlife vole.