Sensorial Seduction

November 1, 2023
5 mins read
photo provided by Max Michaels

Nightlife legend Bruce Chambers & co. celebrated in new Max Michaels book

 Words by Shelton Hull

The 5 Points neighborhood has been the epicenter of alternative culture in Northeast Florida for decades, long before that term gained global prominence in the early 1990s. The strip and its surrounding streets were very different back then, a virtual oasis of record stores, hip boutiques and all the usual accoutrements that one would expect of that area and countless more in pretty much every city in America. At its core, in that era, was Club 5, which began life as a movie theater in March 1927. It stayed that way until 1982, when the building entered an extended period of stasis, a decade of distress and disrepair prior to its rebirth as Club 5. 

 

From 1991 through 2004, Club 5 was the site of countless magic moments in the life of the community, as well as in my own life and many, many others. One of the most important aspects of that scene back then was Saturday Night Seduction, which reigned as the place to be for several years, a movable feast, featuring a number of people who would go on to play significant roles in local culture well into the 21st century. Out of all those legends, the one person who never got to be part of all this was arguably the most important of them all: the late Bruce Chambers, impresario of Seduction, whose death remains one of the most infamous crimes this city has ever seen. Now, over 20 years later, this period is being revisited now in a new book of photos and text by one of its creators Max Michaels. 

 

“Seduction: A 25th Anniversary Tribute to the Landmark Event at the Center of the Golden Age of Jacksonville Nightlife” is a brisk and stimulating read, about 32 pages with about 159 photos of the crowds, the personalities and some of what went on there, although the pictures included are still fairly tame — in comparison to real life. (Some of the other photos are provided by Leo D. Franklin, Jessica Kallio, John Shippee and Nathan Thorin.) The reproductions of old flyers and press clippings are an extra treat; the whole thing is like a little time capsule, a curiosity to new readers and essential reading for those of us who were there, sometimes.

 

Reading through the book (which is only $15 online) brings forth a rapid rush of memories in the minds of those of us who were there. And it will likely stoke the flames of curiosity for the average reader to whom all this was long before their time. You may have heard a mix of myth and legend about those nights, laced with no shortage of rumor. Much of what you’ve heard was true, but the most interesting stuff was probably the stuff you have never heard of at all. Had Seduction existed in the age of social media, it’s highly unlikely that it would’ve lasted as long as it did, frankly. 

 

Michaels, a co-founder of Seduction, is also the editor and publisher of the seminal Movement Magazine, which was a major independent music publication that covered the area from Atlanta through Tampa, but was rooted firmly in Jacksonville. (It was also the first place I ever published, back in the summer of 1995.) The magazine and the event ran on basically parallel tracks in their heyday, making him and Chambers and their broader circles some of Northeast Florida’s original influencers. He also runs Hall of Heroes, which produces events like Ancient City, and he presents SANCTUARY Goth Night at Myth nightclub. He recently spoke with Folio Weekly.

How many Seduction events did you have there?

The show ran every Saturday night from 1998-2000 at the original Club 5. We then moved to 618/DV8 (former Milk Bar owners) every Friday, doing similar shows. Shortly after, we stopped doing the larger weekly events and did a Valentine reunion party back at Club 5 in early 2001, just before Bruce Chambers sold the club and Tim Hall and his partners reopened it as The Marquee Theatre, where we continued to do the annual Valentine and Black & Blue reunion parties, along with other events in other venues whenever possible and a venue was available through our 10 year anniversary party in 2008, when the original main cast retired and those that remained formed FACTOR-X and continued to perform at the Goth night FACTORY until around 2015, and finally our Club 5 reunion party in 2018 celebrating the 20th anniversary of SEDUCTION.  

 

What was a typical crowd like? 

Our crowds were diverse, from hard-core fetish lifestyle to everyday people. As the ‘Times-Union’ noted, our crowds were the “young, hip and trendy” who were looking for a spectacle and experience, which we gave week after week from the stage of Club 5. On the week nights, I believe attendance was often around the 2,000 mark throughout the night.

 

Which crowd was your biggest ever?

I think it would have been the first PASSION reunion after we had left Club 5. It was our first time back to that stage and the crowds had really missed the shows. It was one of the most packed nights I’d seen at Club 5 over all my years with that venue.

 

Did you ever have any celebrities, local or otherwise, make appearances there?

We had a VIP area to the side of the stage that had some form of celebrity in it every weekend. Be it local radio personalities from our sponsor Planet Radio, football players from the Jags or actors or rock stars in town for a show, like Andy Dick, they could be seen nightly.

 

How and where did Bruce Chambers die? Why has that always been such a subject of speculation?

That case is still unsolved, but from my understanding from talking to friends and family close to the situation, he was involved in a random altercation with some drunk guys over a cab somewhere at the beach. It led to Bruce getting punched by one of the guys which knocked him out. As he fell to the ground unconscious, his head hit the sidewalk and caused a lot of damage. Though quickly hospitalized, he did not recover. The drunks who assaulted him had the cab driver flee the scene and drop them off at some random spot. Though there was an investigation, no one was ever charged with his murder.

 

In today’s environment, with social media and the internet such a big deal, how do you think Bruce and Seduction, in general, would have done in the modern era?

Bruce was the definition of a maverick. He knew how to walk into a situation and shake it up in all the right ways to make it as exciting and enticing as it could be, and he empowered the right people to make it all happen. Given the greater ease of communication and promotion these days, I have no doubt if he were still with us, that he would be making a seismic impact on the entertainment community. SEDUCTION, if produced on the large scale that we did back then, with the technology we have today, would be a destination spot just like it was in its heyday.

 

If Bruce were still alive, where do you think he would be, and what would he be doing?

I’d like to think he’d still be at the helm of the largest venue in the city, bringing in the biggest and best talent, and giving the masses world class entertainment on a grand scale that we haven’t seen since that golden era of nightlife in Jax when he was owner of Club 5.

 

Shelton Hull has been writing for Folio Weekly since 1997, but his resume goes back even further. He has written for almost every newspaper, magazine and zine in Northeast Florida, as well as publications like Orlando Weekly, Narrow GNV, Creative Loafing Tampa, Charleston City Paper, Ink19 and The Atlantic.

He currently writes the "Folio Weed" column, which he created in 2018; he remains one of the widest-read and most influential cannabis writers in the world today. He also compiles material for "Weird Wild Stuff" column, and he previously wrote the legendary "Money Jungle" column for Folio Weekly from 1999 to 2009.

He is a regular contributor to "First Coast Connect" on WJCT, as well as the Jacksonville Music Experience. He is a co-host of "The Contrast Project" and the "Bold City Civics" podcast. He is also a co-founder of the record label Bold City Music Productions. He can be reached at sheltonhull@gmail.com.

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