Ever on the prowl for outrageous novelty, New York's fly-by-night crowd of punks, posers and the ultra hip has discovered new turf on which to flaunt its manic chic. It is the Mudd Club, a dingy disco lost among the warehouses of lower Manhattan. By day the winos skid by without a second glance. But come midnight (the opening time), the decked-out decadents amass 13 deep. For sheer kinkiness, there has been nothing like it since the cabaret scene in 1920s Berlin.

In just six months the Mudd has made its uptown precursor, Studio 54, seem almost passé and has had to post a sentry on the sidewalk. The difference is that the Mudd doesn't have a velvet rope but a steel chain. Such recognizable fun-lovers as David Bowie, Mariel Hemingway, Diane von Furstenburg and Dan Aykroyd are automatically waved inside. For the rest, the club picks its own like some sort of perverse trash compactor. The kind of simple solution employed by U.S. gas stations is out of the question: At the Mudd, every night is odd. Proprietor Steve Mass, 35, admits that "making a fashion statement" is the criterion. That means a depraved version of the audience of Let's Make a Deal. One man gained entrance simply by flashing the stump of his amputated arm.

The action inside varies from irreverent to raunch. Andy Warhol is happy to have found a place, he says, "where people will go to bed with anyone—man, woman or child." Some patrons couldn't wait for bedtime, and the management has tried to curtail sex in the bathrooms.

Mass—a Georgia-reared, Northwestern-educated former ambulance operator—likes to program what he calls "motif parties" in addition to the club's more spontaneous activity, like Mace squirting. Many considered the celebration of Mother's Day as the Mudd's finest, sickest conception. That night half the revelers masqueraded as Joan Crawford while the other half wore pinafores and Band-Aids as Mommie's battered dearests. Whether the club is a leading indicator of America's decline and fall is another matter. One wildly painted girl arrived for a D-Day party (honoring both World War II and "D for Decadence") outfitted in a kamikaze shirt, SS boots and a helmet, shouting, "I am a Nazi dyke!" Her boyfriend knew better: "She's just a nice Jewish girl from Queens."