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The site previously held a restaurant called Simeone's Restaurant, until in 1983 the location was turned into a gay club called Campus. In 1985, a second part of the location was opened as Manray. Eventually the two places merged into the modern-day Manray space. The club billed itself as an "art bar", and often featured gallery shows by local artists in its lounge area. Manray gained national attention when it was featured in Life Magazine, and in a televised segment by talk show host Geraldo Rivera.
Manray catered to a variety of alternative lifestyles. Its longest-running night was Campus, a night "for gay men and their friends". Wednesday was designated gothic event “Crypt”. Also popular was New Wave Night, held every Saturday, which featured DJs Chris Ewen and Gary Conzo playing new wave and disco anthems, respectively. Manray also hosted many live music acts, including Nirvana.
Manray gained a reputation as a hotbed of strangeness in the early 1990s, when it became home to the goth and fetish/BDSM scenes in the Boston area. Alternating Friday night events would be geared to one, the other, or both subcultures, resulting in a local scene that was unique in its cross-pollination. Events with names such as Hell, Xmortis, Fantasy Factory and Ooze earned Manray a place in local lore as a destination not for the timid or squeamish. Strict dress codes and a tight-knit community that looked out for its own helped bolster its image as an otherworldly locale, full of dark secrets.
On July 30, 2005, after more than 20 years, Manray was forced to close its doors. The owner of the building decided to take advantage of the high property values, and to demolish the building in order to construct apartments. This followed a long process in which a building near Manray was declared historical, and the developer sought and eventually got permission to move that building to a new lot. In 2003, MIT alum Matt DeBergalis ran for Cambridge City Council and urged saving Manray as part of his platform.
The final week at the club was an intense series of farewell events, one each night for the different subcultures to which it catered.
As of August 2021, ManRay is in the process of reopening in the former ImprovBoston space at 40 Prospect Street in Cambridge after securing a liquor license and construction permits.
Oral history book
In January 2022, an oral history of the nightclub was released. The book, We Are But Your Children – An Oral History of the Nightclub ManRay, presents the history of the club and its importance to the communities that attended ManRay.
- Kuo, Ryan J. (August 1, 2003). "Alternative Nightclub May Close Soon". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved May 26, 2021.
- Usmani, Basim (June 4, 2015). "Long Live Goth: Manray Celebrates its 10 Year Reunion at the Paradise". DigBoston. Retrieved May 26, 2021.
- "ManRay nightclub's return preserves Central Square's alternative roots". The Boston Globe. February 19, 2013. Retrieved May 26, 2021.
- Zhang, Dian; Levy, Marc. "ManRay owner vows fast sale of license after despairing of ever reopening club". Cambridge Day. Retrieved May 26, 2021.
- Levy, Marc (2021-08-18). "With new licensing and construction underway, ManRay club anticipates an October reopening". Cambridge Day. Retrieved 2021-08-22.
- Official website
- Globe Article on Manray's closing
- Boston Phoenix Article on Manray's Goth Culture - 1997