Resurrecting Madame Satã

Gathering stories from patrons of the 1980s nightclub Madame Satã, we also get the lowdown on its imminent reopening on 29 Februrary

Courtesy of Marcelo Vilela/Zoraide Lopes de Almeida
Outside of the old Madame Satã

Pulling up to the black-walled urban mansion with massive windows and cement blocks obstructing the entrance, the taxi driver announces, ‘Here we are – Madame Satã [‘Satan’]. This place used to scare me half to death.’ He nailed it: this imposing Bixiga building once housed one of the most famous alternative party and concert venues of the 1980s – and the paulistano nightlife entrepreneurs Gé Rodrigues and Igor Calmona are about to revive the legend. The venue’s reopening celebration is scheduled for 29 February, 2012.

Even with builders hammering away under leaking ceilings and wet plastered walls, the mansion still exudes something magisterial, almost supernatural, with the foyer’s high ceilings and the entirely black basement. ‘You can sense something here,’ says the hostess and cultural organiser, Paula Micchi.

Ana Moraes

Outside of Madame during recent renovations

When she was 15, Paula used to run away from her home in Santo André and head straight for Madame Satã. ‘I used to paint my eyes black to look older,’ she reveals. At the time, the place was more than a bar: it served as meeting place for greater São Paulo’s edgy, alternative underworld.

Paula went from being a young rebel to teaching theatre, and is now coordinator of the new venture’s cultural programme, not only responsible for the parties, but also for the plays, exhibitions, shows and courses that will take place at the 873 Rua Conselheiro Ramalho address. ‘We’re going to feature performances in the middle of the parties’, she says, ‘just like they did here in the ’80s.’ Paula is referring to the not-so-spontaneous acts that used to happen afterhours at Madame Satã. ‘I specifically remember Gorda. She sat in a cage eating cabbage all night,’ she recalls. ‘After a while, she became part of the gang.’ Gorda, whose real name is Charô, was a performer who dressed up as a bride, recited poems and, yes, ate cabbage in a cage.

Cristina Judar, now a writer, also enjoyed part of her teen years on the shadowy corner in Bixiga. At the time, she associated herself with the goths – that is, ‘with the “darks”’, she explains. ‘“Goths” is more recent.’ Of all the madness that made the venue famous, Cristina remembers a particular installation that made a big impact on her. ‘At the entrance, they set up a narrow plastic tube-like corridor; we had to push through to get out. It was like a vagina. Getting out of it was a rite of passage.’

Courtesy of Marcelo Vilela/Zoraide Lopes de Almeida

Madame fanzine from the 1980s

‘Madame Satã was not only the nightclub itself. It was the whole street, especially the pub next door,’ clarified Adriana Junqueira, one of three punk girls who called themselves Viatura Punk. ‘We were powerful, we had a car and got in free because they were afraid of us,’ boasts Adriana. But all three encountered some challenges during their days of rejecting the system. Magda Castanha tells us, ‘I slept at Madame all the time. I lived in ABC [suburban São Paulo] and had to wait until seven in the morning to catch the bus home.’ Aside from transportation problems, there were skinheads who waited outside to attack the punks.

Gé Rodrigues, the new owner, has his own memories of the club. By the time he was 12 years old, he was already working for Madame, distributing their fanzine. One day, when the scheduled DJ couldn’t make it, the owners Wilson and William Santos called the boy to man the turntables for the night: ‘I grabbed my records and I was there. After that, they called me again.’ The Santos’s gamble paid off, and to this day, the Bixiga resident plays at the nightclub Nova Nostro and other venues.

Courtesy of Marcelo Vilela/Zoraide Lopes de Almeida

Madame Satã dancefloor during the 1980s

Because of his history with the club, Gé says he doesn’t want the new venture to just be about parties: ‘It’s important that the public knows that we want to do something cultural, you know? It’s more than a crazy nightclub.’ To realise these plans, which have been in progress since the previous owner closed its doors in 2007, the new Madame – which has been exorcised, losing the ‘Satã’ part of its name – plans to reopen on 29 February with Marcelo Marcus Fonseca’s play São Paulo Surreal. ‘It’s a damn good play,’ says Paula. ‘All the art that comes out of here will be damned!’

Once renovations are done, Madame will host burlesque shows on Tuesdays and have parties from Thursday to Sunday, with nights dedicated to indie rock, goth, rockabilly and other retro music. ‘Magal [a DJ who played at the old Madame Satã] and I will spin on Saturdays,’ says Gé. ‘But it’s only going to be records – no computers will be coming through that door.’

Night-by-night schedule

Theatre São Paulo Surrealista The play written and directed by Marcelo Marcus Fonseca premières on 2 March for a three-month season, on Fridays at 9.30pm, and Saturdays at 9pm.

Thursdays - Skull This night unites alternative rock and concerts by bands that made history in Madame. Resident DJs, the legendary Kid Vinil, Rafael Perrota and Cesinha Lopes oversee the decks. Pay close attention to the concert schedule: Mercenárias (1 March), Grinders (8 March), Devotos de Nossa Senhora Aparecida (15 March), Crazy Legs (22 March), 365 (29 March) and punk icons Inocentes (12 April).

Fridays - Bats & Robots The gothic movement, so dear to the club’s ’80s beginnings, re-emerges on Friday nights, with industrial, EBM and, of course, goth. The party is the brainchild of Rodrigo Cyber, who shares the turntables with Rodrigo Nacht.

Saturdays - Transmission Old-school resident DJs Magal and Gé Rodrigues (Madame’s owner) blast out the hits that lifted spirits on the basement dancefloor back in decades past.

Sundays - Vintage Party Forming a DJ tag-team with Erick Von Ziper, Ivan Rocker – a respected São Paulo rockabilly authority – plays the best of the genre starting at 5pm. The early-starting night also hosts live shows, pin-up girls and dancers who’ll teach some steps to willing beginners.

Madame is at Rua Conselheiro Ramalho 873, Bela Vista, 2592 4474. R$20-R$60.

By Anita Porfirio


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