Nine of Clubs

in Bars, Clubs, and Discos

The Nine of Clubs, a gay-friendly alternative dance club, opened at 1273 West 9th Street in 1986. Nine of Clubs was a pioneering force in Cleveland’s early alternative and underground nightclub scenes. Nine of Clubs co-owners Donna Gallo, Bruce Madorsky, and Jon Cole purchased the former Traxx building to open a unique club “catering to people who love to drink, dance, and party.” The small club was decorated in a gray and purple color scheme, with gray brick walls and dark floors located throughout. Past the front doors and down a short flight of stairs, the subterranean Nine of Clubs sported a bar, as DJ booth, and a relatively small 22′ by 36′ dancefloor. The dance floor, surrounded by two “large mirrored walls,” featured disco balls, neon lights, and a series of multicolor pre-programmed light shows. Aside from the multicolor overhead show lights overhead, the dancefloor area itself was generally dimly lit. For many clubgoers, the club’s darkness was an essential part of its appeal. Gallo noted that “if the lights were too bright, the club wouldn’t work. People would feel uncomfortable. But by the rooms being dimly lit, everyone can blend in and enjoy being in a melting pot.

Early on, the Nine of Clubs featured a mix of “Progressive and high-energy Eurobeat music” that drew crowds of LGBT+ and straight clubgoers alike. Unlike the majority of mainstream mid-1980s Cleveland nightclubs, however, the Nine of Clubs regularly platformed an array of non-mainstream alternative music by artists seldom given playtime elsewhere. The Nine of Clubs also hosted a revolving array of popular local club DJs, including Rob Sherwood and Allyssa Allison. Much of the club’s popularity stemmed from the alternative music and welcoming atmosphere curated by DJs like Sherwood, a gay DJ who first rose to prominence in Cleveland’s LGBT+ nightclub scene (including at Traxx and U4ia). Into the late 1980s, alternative nightclubs like the Ritz and Nine of Clubs continued to unite Cleveland’s formerly-disparate LGBT+ and straight underground and alternative nightclub scenes together. The Nine of Clubs closed in 1991. The club subsequently reopened as the Alter House, a straight alternative nightclub.


Though the Nine of Clubs is long gone, former Nine of Clubbers kept the club’s memory alive through online content and in-person reunions. Nine of Clubs reunion events have been held at various Cleveland nightclubs and have provided opportunities for former clubgoers to reunite, share memories, and enjoy the music for which the club was known. An array of Nine of Clubs-centric memoirs, blog posts, webpages, community groups, and reunion events by former clubgoers can be found within the Resources listed below.

A playlist “made for the 2011 Nine of Clubs reunion party in Cleveland, Ohio” by Rob Sherwood, a former DJ at the Nine of Clubs.

A playlist “made for the 2011 Nine of Clubs reunion party in Cleveland, Ohio” by Allyssa Allison, a former DJ at the Nine of Clubs.


Additional information coming soon.

Resources

  • “’80s Cleveland Dance Club Regulars Celebrate The Reunion”.” Cool Cleveland. November 27, 2013. [Note – A 2013 Nine of Clubs reunion event.]
  • “Allyssa Allison.” Plain Dealer. September 21, 1990.
  • Barresi, Dorothy. “Nine of Clubs, Cleveland, Ohio.” Poetry 153, no.6 (March 1989): 337-339. Poetry Foundation. [Note – A poem about the Nine of Clubs.]
  • Brown, Richard. “The Nine of Clubs Night Club and the Cleveland Alternative Scene.” Nine of Clubbers. (Archived webpage, ca. 2007). [Note – A website for Nine of Clubs fans; now defunct.]
  • Brunstedt, Mike. TheClevelandFlats. [Note – A visual archive of Cleveland’s mid-to-late 1980s/early 1990s Flats District nightclubs, including the Nine of Clubs.]
  • Chakerian, Peter. “Thanksgiving Eve has Gone to the Goths with Lestat, Nine of Clubs Reunion.” Cleveland.com. November 22, 2023. [Note – A 2023 Nine of Clubs reunion event.]
  • Cheeks, Dwayne. “Eurobeat Tops Nine of Clubs.” Plain Dealer. December 19, 1986.
  • Hansen, David. “Nine of Clubs.” Cleveland Centennial. November 22, 2011. [Note – A blog post about the Nine of Clubs.]
  • Hill, Edward. “From Hank’s to Club Coconuts: The Good, Bad, and Boring.” Plain Dealer. August 11, 1989.
  • Hughes, John C. “Lost in Cleveland – The Nine of Clubs.” PopDose. September 19, 2006. [Note – A blog post about the Nine of Clubs.]
  • “Mike Brunstedt Interview, 12 July 2023.” Cleveland Voices.
  • Nine of Clubs. Facebook. [Note – A Nine of Clubs community group.]
  • “Nine of Clubs Reunion – A Benefit for the Be The Match Foundation.” Nine of Clubs Reunion. (Archived webpage, ca. 2011.) [Note – A 2011 Nine of Clubs reunion event.]
  • O’Brien, Rosemary. “Nine of Clubs: “Expect the Unexpected.”” Scene. September 1986.
  • “Party Profiles.” Plain Dealer. June 19, 1987.
  • Petkovic, John. “Gay Cleveland Through the Decades: The Clubs, Queens, and Music that Brought Gay Culture Into the Mainstream.” Cleveland.com. June 25, 2014.
  • Petkovic, John. “Rob Sherwood, A Pioneering DJ and Dance Club Impresario, Has Passed Away.” Cleveland.com. February 21, 2018.
  • “Relive the Techno/Industrial Heyday of the Nine of Clubs at the Phantasy Concert Club.” Cool Cleveland. December 4, 2015. [Note – A 2015 Nine of Clubs reunion event.]
  • Sherwood, Rob. “Nine of Clubs Reunion – Allyssa Allison.” Mixcloud. November 15, 2017. [Note – A 2011 Nine of Clubs reunion playlist.]
  • Sherwood, Rob. “Nine of Clubs Reunion – Rob Sherwood.” Mixcloud. November 15, 2017. [Note – A 2011 Nine of Clubs reunion playlist.]
  • Teitelbaum, James A. “The Nine of Clubs: A Memoir.” Tikibars. January 2005. (Archived webpage, ca. 2007). [Note – A memoir about the Nine of Clubs.]
  • The 9. Facebook. [Note – A Nine of Clubs community group.]
1273 W. 9th St., Cleveland, OH 44113 (Nine of Clubs).

Tell us about Nine of Clubs

Many of the locations documented on Queer Cleveland are not well-documented in the historical record. If you have additional information about Nine of Clubs, please let us know by sharing a memory, correction, or suggestion using the comment form below.

Or send an email to info@queerclevelandhistories.org.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *