News & Politics

From Tupac to Sean Taylor: Wild Nights in DC’s Clubs

E. Taylor’s new book puts you right there.

From Tupac to Sean Taylor: Wild Nights in DC’s Clubs
Clubgoers at H20 Nightclub in 2005.

E. Taylor’s new book, Back Then When, collects lots of photos from the decades he’s spent as a key player in the city’s nightclubs. He got his start as a promoter in the 1980s during an internship with local impresario Marc Barnes, then became a major force during what he calls the “golden age of DC nightlife”—the dawn of the Obama era, when celebrities and money poured into the city and party people gathered at megaclubs like Love and Fur. He built an important email list that grew to 450,000 names over the years—meaning he could be counted on to draw a crowd to his events.

Taylor spent endless nights in local hot spots, and he realized early on that people enjoyed seeing evidence of their nights out posted online, so he began to pack an Olympus digital camera and uploaded photos on his website, (That site is no more; today he operates Even in the iPhone era, his party pics remained popular, and he amassed a huge trove. During the pandemic, he had time to go through and catalog them, which was the origin of the book. Back Then When features a lot of famous faces, but while the celebrity photos are fun, there’s also a lot of joy to be found in Taylor’s vibrant shots of regular club-goers at defunct spots like Zanzibar, the K Street Lounge, and the VIP Club.

We asked Taylor, who now lives in Brandywine, Maryland, to walk us through some of the images in the book. He says he no longer goes out five nights a week, but that gigantic email list is still at work—used to promote events for his various clients. Taylor decided to end the book with a photo of himself with DC mayor Muriel Bowser. “I wanted to show people that the evolution of nightlife started with people such as [now-incarcerated drug kingpin] Rayful Edmond and this is where it is now,” he says. “It went from the streets to the suites.”

Chapter III nightclub, 1988

The preppy look was hot in the late ’80s, and Chapter III–which used to be near where the Navy Yard Whole Foods stands now–was a prime place to show it off. Basics included Fila or Sergio Tacchini sweatsuits, Taylor says, and of course, in DC, New Balances were “the tennis shoe of choice.”

Outside H20 nightclub in Southwest, 2005

H20 occupied the former site of Hogate’s seafood restaurant, approximately where the InterContinental hotel at the Wharf is now. It was the kind of place where, as the Washington Post once noted, rapper Slick Rick and Sex and the City star Jason Lewis could be spotted on consecutive nights.

Platinum Nightclub, 2002

This old bank on F Street, Northwest, has seen a lot of lives, including as the ’80s/’90s club Fifth Column and, today, the restaurant Succotash. Taylor says he often just took pics of people he recognized, but on this night he was inspired to capture the whole scene from the balcony.

The Black Hole, 1984

This Georgia Avenue spot was a famed go-go venue, both as the Black Hole and later as Celebrity Hall, where, among many other things, Rare Essence recorded a famous live album. Taylor recalls the interior as being nothing special, but when things got cranking, the place’s vibe was legendary.

Chapter III Nightclub, 1988

That’s former drug kingpin Rayful Edmond III in the center, along with the late DC rapper Fat Rodney at top left. As the drug wars got bloody, Taylor says, club-goers who’d started in the go-go scene began going to venues where they didn’t have to worry quite as much about violence.


Home Nightclub, 2004

This space on F Street, Northwest, has been occupied by various clubs over the years–the Vault, the Babylon, and now Ultrabar.


Love, 2009

Jay-Z was in town to promote his American Gangster album. Love, a megaclub with swanky marble floors and rich wood paneling, was the perfect backdrop. All those bottles of Champagne? They were on Jay-Z’s rider, Taylor says.

Home Nightclub, 2002

Michael Jordan with friend and fellow Wizards player Charles Oakley. “In 2002, Michael Jordan was just freshly off a divorce,” Taylor says. “So he was a single man in the city, and he would come out.”

H20 Nightclub, 2005

“That’s just some girls having a good time, partying,” Taylor says. “People would get table service to mark special occasions–a job promotion, a birthday, an engagement, a divorce.”


Panorama Room, 1985

This venue, owned by a church, was a popular spot for go-gos. The young women in this photo, Taylor says, observed a local fashion for how to pose for pictures: “DC people just looked off to the yonder and never looked directly into the camera.”

Ritz Nightclub, 1994

Tupac Shakur (center) and his group the Outlawz performed at this long-gone venue on E Street, Northwest, across from the FBI building.


Love Nightclub, 2008

NBA star Kevin Durant, Kal Ross, and NFL star Vernon Davis. Durant grew up in Prince George’s County, while Davis grew up in Petworth and went to the University of Maryland.

Platinum Nightclub, 2002

Ron Deberry, late music producer Chucky Thompson (Mary J. Blige, Notorious B.I.G.), DJ Trini, and Rich Harrison, who produced Beyoncé’s go-go influenced “Crazy in Love.”

K Street Lounge, 2007

Washington NFL stars Santana Moss, Sean Taylor, and Clinton Portis. “Sean Taylor didn’t go out a lot, but he did go out,” says Taylor. “Clinton Portis and Santana Moss went out a lot. They were all from Miami, where going out is just part of the DNA.”

This article appears in the April 2024 issue of Washingtonian.

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.