My family is arguably a very "New York" family. My father was born and raised in Brooklyn, my mother was born in Manhattan and raised in Queens, my sister was born in Brooklyn and lived there and in Manhattan for most of her childhood, and I was born in Manhattan and have lived there or in Brooklyn for most of my adulthood. Although I'm the only one actually living here now, we all feel an indelible connection to this city and have traits that give away where we're from. If my dad didn't say his own name in his voicemail greeting, you'd think you've reached Tony Danza.
Unlike the rest of my immediate family, however, I didn't spend my childhood here. Shortly after I was born, we all moved into a new house in South Plainfield, New Jersey. It's a small town—OK, technically it's a "borough," which is apparently the most common type of municipal government in NJ—of about 20,000 people, located approximately 30 miles southwest of Manhattan and fewer than 20 minutes from Woodbridge Center, Menlo Park and Bridgewater Commons malls, which was extremely important to me in the years leading up to when I moved away at age 15.
In the decade-and-a-half that I lived in South Plainfield, I became deeply attached to it and considered it a huge part of my identity. I was a proud little tween when one of my best friends' father was elected mayor, even though my parents didn't vote for him because he was a Republican. My years as both a middle-school and Pop Warner cheerleader will forever force me to associate the color combination of green and white with good ol' SP. And to this day, if I tell someone I grew up in South Plainfield and they say, "Oh, I've been to Plainfield," or "Oh, I've been to North Plainfield," my face goes stony and I flatly retort, "Those are different towns." (Actually, North Plainfield is also a borough, and Plainfield is a city. Whatever.)
Even though I was born and currently live in NYC and went to high school and college in Florida, when someone asks me where I'm from, the answer is South Plainfield, New Jersey. It's where I made my oldest, dearest friends; its name makes my ears perk up when it's mentioned on the news (which is almost never); it's even the setting for a huge percentage of my dreams. It's my hometown.
While I was living there, South Plainfield wasn't really known beyond its borders for anything in particular—maybe its Labor Day parade? Any notoriety it has garnered has occurred since my 1994 departure, like its most recognizable daughter, Michelle Visage, rising to fame as a radio personality and RuPaul sidekick, and the widely celebrated (mocked) post-9/11 music video "America, We Stand as One" by South Plainfield High School graduate and Star Trek: The Next Generation stunt coordinator Dennis "Danger" Madalone.
However, what really put my beloved South Plainfield on the map (seriously, it's so small that it doesn't always appear on maps) is a strip club that opened in 1998, Liquid Assets.
And no, Liquid Assets didn't become famous because it has one of the most creative pro-breast-implant strip-club names on the east coast. Liquid Assets became famous because it's haunted.
Legend has it that there's a spirit that has been flitting about inside Liquid Assets since it opened—a spirit that wasn't there when the building was a fully-clothed Italian restaurant for the preceding decades. According to owner John Colasanti, bartenders, dancers, and patrons, there have been unexplained swooshes of light, objects knocked over, and even disembodied sexual harassment.
Several TV segments have been dedicated to investigating Liquid Assets, and this one does a pretty good, cheesy job of summarizing the haunting:
Although the psychic featured in the video believes the shirt-opening specter is a dead stripper and the skeptic (sorry, sceptic) believes it's a leprechaun (what?), Colasanti reportedly believes the poltergeist is hitman and friend of his grandma, Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll, who was killed with a submachine gun like a proper gangster in 1932.
I like to imagine that Colasanti reached this conclusion after he heard an otherworldly voice saying, "The bubs on that dame are the bee's knees."
Despite such terror, the call of beer and boobs (and lunch?) was strong enough to keep Liquid Assets regularly visited by local "gentlemen" looking for a club of their very own. And not a single Yelp reviewer claims to have actually seen a ghost.
Friendly local Bikini Bar. Dancers on stage. Table dances available. Many local D's. Full Kitchen above bar food. You don't have to spend a bundle to have a good time. 2 Parking lots. A Nice bunch of dancers, Friendly, cute, & arousing. Women are welcome. — Leonard
This club is the worst!!!!! It has the potential to be decent but right now it is a hot mess. I hadn't even taken my seat at the bar before two dancers asked me if I was tipping! I'm thinking like damn are you dancing? ... The icing on the cake came at about midnight when 3 dudes stormed the stage and started raping. I couldn't believe it! The girls just sat down on the stage or at the bar while the guys did their thing. When I heard "700 Block" I knew what time it was and immediately got up to leave. — Christina
Oh, thank god, she meant rapping.
Sticky floors horrid smell reminds me of a strip joint out a horror movie — John
That guy might be onto something.
Actually, that last review was Liquid Assets' very last review. It was left on Yelp on April 14, 2014, and the business closed 16 days later. Local government had fought for two years to shut it down, and the last straw came in early 2014 when a 24-year-old man was non-fatally shot at the club.
I'm kind of bummed, because I've secretly always wanted to check it out on one of my visits back to South Plainfield, dressed in an orange sweater and burgundy skirt like Velma, and attempt to pull the ghost's face off like a mask to reveal Colasanti underneath. I mean, you saw the marquee—he was clearly trying to profit from the haunting.
The marquee isn't quite as smug today.