The Death of Club Zadar

New Hope, Bucks County

The last residency I ever held as a club DJ was at Club Zadar in New Hope, Pennsylvania… Here is my story.

I was a club DJ before I got into private events. Nightclubs were my gig for almost a decade, and although I wouldn’t call it my glory days, it was fun while it lasted, lasting just long enough for the memories to be fond, with little regret. I was the Friday night DJ at Zadar for close to four years, and I fought the good fight (or so I thought), but in the end, they tore down the club and put up a parking lot. No pun intended Joni.

Zadar, for me, was the trophy club.  As far as I was concerned, all the clubs of the day were pretty much the same, droll, with all the freestyle and club redundancy that Zadar wasn’t.  Zadar was punk, meets gay, meets tourist, meets goth with a sprinkle of preppy and  yuppie interspersed in the crowd.  It was cavernous and dark, trendy yet industrial and bare in parts.  A great window ran the length of the club facing the Delaware River, but nobody cared, they weren’t there for the scenery they were there for the scene.

It was music by groups like Nitzer Ebb, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails and of course, Talk Talk that drove the throngs of Zadar-goers to the dance floor.  It was hip, it was different, and if you asked the DJ to play something on the Top 40 charts they’d likely tell you where to go, and how to get there.  Zadar was different, but they weren’t going to let me keep it that way… not for long at least.

The great DJ Chas Paris was a resident DJ at the time I went in for my interview, and he was one of the few Philadelphia area club jocks I was eager to work beside.  He was – and is – a great DJ, particularly in the genre that was so Zadar. Punk, industrial, new wave, alternative, post modern… too many classifications. If you ask me, it was just Zadar music.  To my surprise and dismay I wasn’t to coexist with him, I was to be his replacement.

In my interview, they (Jack and Kevin, the managers) were explicitly clear.  “We want you to play music like The Fizz” (another Bucks County nightclub), but I just yessed them and told them I could do whatever they wanted.  At least that’s what I told them in the interview.

My first night at Zadar – the Friday following my Tuesday interview – I spun with my DJ partner Joe Quinn.  I must say we rocked the house.  We didn’t really give a damn what the managers said, and that probably has a lot to do with why I don’t work in clubs anymore.  I’m convinced that club managers know less about music than I do about quantum physics, with the only difference being that I don’t pretend to know about quantum physics.  We played New Order, Front 242, Lords of Acid, Erasure and Stereo MCs, and the crowd raved.

But the managers didn’t.

So the next week we dropped a few poppy tracks, and I got told by one of the regulars – a young woman with green hair known to all the employees as “Ms. Zadar” – that I sucked as a DJ.  This became a fairly regular occurrence.  Manager Kevin would make regular visits to the DJ booth to yell at me, saying I’d been playing too much of that “Zadar sh*t” (he had a colorful vocabulary), and that I’d better start “Fizzing it up” right away or else.  I’d typically acquiesce until Joe or I saw him become preoccupied with other “managerial matters” (hitting on girls), and then I’d slip back into something less mainstream, but not before Ms. Zadar would drop by to remind Joe and I of our shortcomings as DJs.  It was a cycle we became quite accustomed to.

So yeah, I was sick of the commercial fare of freestyle and club music. I longed for the alternative scene of Zadar, but the writing was on the wall, literally, as the management began hanging neon beer signs around the club trying to “change the image”.  Personally, I couldn’t understand why they were taking such a cool thing and making it uber lame.  The first two and a half years were a struggle, but for the most part Kevin let me do what I wanted, and Jack (the other manager) really didn’t know anything about music, so he never really got in the way.

They were good times.  Big Mike and Gary at the door, Derek at the back bar, Lisa and Mark (who eventually married), Frank, and even Ms. Zadar (along with many others) became my Friday night family (well, maybe not Frank).  We would pack the place wall to wall, and I tried my best to stay true to the patrons who came to Zadar to drink and party, and hear the tunes.

Then Chas came back.  Not as a DJ, but as a manager!  Salvation never seemed so close, but it was fleeting.  With the change of management they also brought in a new GM.  The Irish guy (real Irish, accent and all), who would only advance the demise and eventual doom of the joint.  Unlike Kevin, this guy was a “professional”, or so he thought.  I personally thought he was a tool, and I’m sure the feeling was mutual.  This guy – in all his managerial wisdom – didn’t give a hoot what the customers wanted to hear, and he certainly didn’t just let Chas run the club as I had so desperately hoped.  He knew enough about music to dictate what I played with an iron fist.  Eight months of that and Joe and I handed him our letter of resignation.  He liked Joe a lot more than he liked me, and was quite happy to tell me so as I packed up my gear that last night and walked out the door.

I think Zadar lasted another two years, under the brilliant leadership of that Irish guy.  DJ Moe Green was our replacement, and I’m fairly certain he was happy to “Fizz it up”. Moe’s affable that way.  When it finally closed it’s doors, Zadar had an auction to sell off it’s relics, of which I acquired quite a few.

Since then I was the DJ at Mark and Lisa’s wedding, and Derek’s as well (Derek and I actually predate Zadar, first meeting in college), so I guess I wasn’t as bad as Ms. Zadar professed.  I caught up with Chas a few nights ago on the phone just to catch up, and he shared some of his Zadar stories with me, which surprisingly weren’t much different than my own.  To all the Zadar DJs who came before me, I fought the good fight, and I went out swinging.  Thanks for letting me fill your shoes for a bit, it was fun.

There will never be another Club Zadar, which in my mind will forever be to alternative music what Studio 54 was to disco and The Savoy was to swing.  All moments in history which have long past.

I understand there’s a Zadar reunion in the works, which I have no intention of attending.

Craig Sumsky
Club Zadar DJ

P.S.  Gary, if you read this, look me up sometime bro, let’s have a beer.

Click here for more of my pre and post Zadar adventures

9 Responses

  1. Lisa Kurtz

    If there is a reunion you better be there, I am sure there are many people that are going that are worth going for… me and Mark.

  2. Gary Haines

    Craig, the trash was a burning in the both bro. To think we got paid to be there is a joke. The talent was endless!! the biggest joke of all was when the new manager told staff we couldnt touch clients while escorting them out of the club. Can anyone tell me how that works? Want to say hi to all you zadar people out there!! we will miss u jb and bs rip.

  3. alex

    Oooh. My sister and I spent so many Friday/Saturday nights at Zadar’s. I’m wondering if you can help with a project I am working on. For my sister’s upcoming b’day I am trying to put together a Zadar’s playlist for her. So far I have:

    Bigmouth Strikes Again The Smiths
    Bizarre Love Triangle New Order
    Black and White INXS
    Blue Monday New Order
    Cuts You Up Peter Murphy
    Drama! Erasure
    Every Day Is Halloween Ministry
    I Beg Your Pardon Kon Kan
    Join in the Chant Nitzer Ebb
    Just Like Heaven The Cure
    Love Is the Drug Grace Jones
    Personal Jesus Depeche Mode
    This Corrosion The Sisters Of Mercy

    Can you throw me a couple more Zadar’s classics to round this list out?? I would be so happy. Thank YOU!

  4. Great list you put together!

    Here are a few more…

    She Sells Sanctuary – The Cult
    It’s My Life – Talk Talk
    Headhunter (V1.0 cut) – Front 242
    Jesus Built My Hotrod – Ministry
    I Sit On Acid – Lords of Acid
    Doctorin’ The Tardis – The Timelords
    Strangelove – Depeche Mode
    Sex on Wheelz – My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult

    Let me know if you need more. What years were you hanging at Zadar? That might help me a bit.

  5. alex

    Thank you! I would say 1988-1993 somewhere in there. I can’t remember the name of the DJ at that time but a friend of a friend, DJ GAL, used to fill in at the time. Off to Itunes to buy. Thank you again.

  6. C.B. McDuff

    Wow- what a GREAT read! My hubby and I went to Zadar while on our Honeymoon – it was a night I’ll never forget! People were buying us drinks – we were buying folks drinks – I almost got stomped by a HUGE lady on the dance floor that I mistakenly ran into in haste to get onto the floor for Personal Jesus. She asked me if I was planning on dying that night – I said Nope – just wanna dance with my new hubby – with that – she cut me some slack and told me to be more careful next time!

    We got hammered that night – BEST. NIGHT. EVER!

    We even used Zadars as our email address, for years until we moved out of the area.
    You just brought me back to that magical night almost 21 years ago – we are still married and we still listen to ZADAR MUSIC!

    THANKS for a great article!

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