As historic building comes down, fans remember Skoochies

SEATTLE -- If the crumbling walls at Taylor Avenue and John Street could talk, they might actually sing: lyrics by Depeche Mode, a hit song by the Cure, a whisper of Aqua Net in the air.

"Everything happened here. We grew up here. We fell in love," said Laura Gleason Miles, as she sat and watched a backhoe take down a pile of rubble. "We broke up, we fought, we made friends."

"(It's) just watching our youth being peeled away," she said.

Miles is one of a handful of people ("kids who are now in their mid-40s and have midlife crises like we are," joked one of them) who have spent the past two weeks sitting, watching, and documenting a building crumbling to the ground near South Lake Union. But to Miles - and to more than 3,000 other people - the building at 131 Taylor Avenue North is more than just a building; it's home to Skoochies, a dance club that flourished in the spot in the 1980s.

It is also home to memories, first loves, and a bygone era.

"You could come here and you could dance and it didn't mean everything because the music would just join everyone in fun," said Paula Johnson of Seattle.

"Inside these walls you were safe," added Miles, who remembers hearing some mainstream music (Depeche Mode) and some lesser-known artists (Trans-X) in the club. "Nobody cared about your gender identity. Nobody cared about your sexuality. Are you here? Are you in a good mood? Do you want to dance? Great. We love you."

Miles and Johnson have been collecting bricks from the building, which they plan to send to "Children of Skoochies" across the globe. Requests have come to the group's Facebook fan page from as far away as Germany, they said, as kids from Seattle in the 80's have scattered across the world.

Before the space was Skoochies, it was originally a bowling alley and later a dinner theater. It had various incarnations once the dance club closed down and, in recent years, had become a vacant building, often sheltering some of the city's homeless in its doorways.

To Kim Roller of Renton, the building's doorway - which came down this week - has a different meaning.
She met her husband Steve in the club in 1985, when the two were teenagers. He was a DJ back then, and the two reconnected at one of the Skoochies reunions in 2009.

"Last October we came back we got married on the front steps, on the entryway," Roller recalled. "That was a hard one to watch get ripped out."

Once the demolition is done, the land is slated to become a 10-story, mixed-use building.

"We're almost, like, in a hospice situation here," added Miles, as she watched one of the final walls come down. "This is a loved one that we're watching slowly die away."