On Wednesday, a "suspicious package" prompted a brief evacuation in the Flatiron after what looked to be a vintage missile was spotted. Turns out, that missile was a time capsule, and it most likely belonged to the now shuttered Danceteria.
"I told everybody that this was going to happen!" John Argento exclaimed when we informed him about the bomb scare, which occurred at the address of the legendary club. "People always asked me what happened to the time capsule. I'd say it's in the alley next to the back of Danceteria."
"They weren't supposed to open it for 10,000 years!" he added.
Argento, who owned the famous club until it closed in 1986, was amazed that the time capsule—the brainchild of Danceteria's promoter and "creative genius" Rudolph Pieper—was unearthed.
"We threw so many ridiculous parties," he said, explaining that they were always looking for themes. He and Pieper were looking at some mid-century, "Googie design", and then, "We saw that Westinghouse had put time capsules at the World's Fairgrounds in 1939 and 1964 and thought that was a great idea."
"We bought it at the Army-Navy store on 14th Street and 6th Avenue" sometime around 1984 or 1985, he told us. "It was hanging from the ceiling," he recalled. "We set it up on the third floor, by the big curved wall" that you can see the Desperately Seeking Susan, which helped immortalize the club, thanks to regular Madonna.
The missile wasn't a real bomb, "It was a green, empty practice bomb. It had thinner metal... About three feet high and 16 inches in diameter," Argento told us, explaining, "We kept it up for people to make contributions, write letters, and then three weeks later we buried it. The bomb had a little trap door on it. People could send messages to the future."
The missile-turned-time capsule's burial place was in what Argento described as a very narrow alley. "Two barbacks dug a trench and buried it in the dirt... we had a sign, 'To all you Futurists, 10 feet opposite this sign is a time capsule. Please open it in 10,000 years.'
"We buried it and forgot about it," Argento said. "It was one of a thousand parties..."
30 West 21st Street and the empty lot next to it (Google Maps, November 2016)
Argento, who is now the Managing Director of Surf City Bar and Zeppelin Hall and Biergarten, both in Jersey City, said that people would ask about the time capsule at Danceteria Reunion Parties, so he eventually asked the building's super about it. "Apparently the business that moved in used an air conditioner, so they had to pour a concrete pad for the air-conditioning unit." Argento assumed he'd never see it again.
The NYPD confirmed that the object found was in a shape that resembled a bomb. Inside the object were "documents and papers," a police spokesman said.
The notes inside the bomb are "probably all rotted away," Argento guessed.
As for the neighborhood, Argento said it was never called Flatiron back in the 1970s or 1980s—it was referred to as "FoHo," for all the photographers and modeling agencies in the area. "It was mostly printing and manufacturing. After 5 p.m., it was completely dead. It was a time before co-ops and condos." Of course, there are currently fancy lofts at 30 West 21st Street.