Friday, May 28, 2021

Vintage Articles:
Sean Lawrence's Discaire Column -
Kitchen Disco // Christopher Street - June 1979



Picking up where I left off a while back with some more transcriptions of Sean Lawrence’s short-lived Discaire columns in Christopher Street. The title of this second installment still feels appropriate, even 40 years later. Kitchen Disco - "the way one moves between the sofa and the dishwasher" has basically been the name of the game since the beginning of this pandemic.

Lawrence here has good words for Barry White’s The Message is Love, The Mighty Clouds of Joy and Linda Clifford; pans for Ashford & Simpson, Parlet, and especially the late Patrick Juvet’s Lady Night.

I’m not quite sharing the enthusiasm he has for Roberta Kelly’s gospel-disco album Feelin’ The Spirit (though “To My Father’s Houseis a standout on that one) and unlike Lawrence, I quite enjoyed Parlet’s Invasion of the Booty Snatchers (it’s lead track “Ridin’ High” is still a jam).

That being said, just like his earlier column, I'm enjoying the general position he writes from - in “the space between inspiration and camp,” as he so astutely puts it. His observation about disco and its relationship to nostalgia in the fifth paragraph is also spot on, in my view.

For now, enjoy this little time capsule..

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Discaire: Kitchen Disco

by Sean Lawrence

Barry White makes me feel sorry for the emotionally poverty-stricken of the world. What can someone who has a hard time squeezing just a little feeling out in life do in the face of a man like this—a man whose songs, musically and lyrically, are as understated as the flowers at a Mafia funeral? Barry White doesn’t just sit down at a piano—he arrives at it in a limousine, articulate as an anniversary card, uvula climaxing, hands and heart a-pounding. The news is that his new album on CBS’s Unlimited Gold label (JZ 35763) is surprisingly likeable.

   The Message Is Love (was it ever anything else?) is full of the romanticism of the overbearing. The album’s most successful songs (that is, most likely to touch the feelings of us mere mortals) are the ones in which White is vocally somewhat laid back. For those who see White as instant camp there are Roy Lichtenstein-type moments of self-dramatization and pop sentimentality. A couple of the melodies sound downright experimental for the normally predictable BW, and a couple are danceable even if they don’t qualify as heavy disco.

   Another occasionally danceable album in the gray area of off-disco is Changing Times (Epic JE 35971) by Mighty Clouds of Joy. Ostensibly commercial gospel music, Changing Times is a stirring album of songs sung to God and his/her reps on earth that can be danced to and enjoyed by atheists everywhere. I suspect that nowadays most people listen to gospel songs and think about their lovers (conversely, many of us listen to Barry Manilow singing about lovers and think of God). Changing Times is sometimes-perfect apartment/kitchen disco (one doesn’t really dance at home; the way one moves between the sofa and the dishwasher while listening to albums like Changing Times never works at overheated discos like Studio 54). The pared, unsynthesized gospel ruggedness and ripe voices working up a sweat on this album will be a pleasure to anyone used to disco superproduction. Like Barry White’s album, Changing Times inhabits the space between inspiration and camp where so many of us dance and think these days.

   It’s hard to say what space Patrick Juvet occupies (he sang last summer’s popular “I Love America”). I think Juvet’s producers want us to know he’s French, the way Claudine Longet’s producers wanted us to know she was French. In fact, Juvet even sounds a little like Longet. And Tiny Tim. I must admit, I’m somewhat prejudiced against Juvet. I once caught him on the Merv Griffin show and would easily deem him to be one of the more obnoxious talk-show presences of late. His new album, Lady Night (Casablanca NBLP 7148) is worse, a truly contemptuous (if not cretinous) work of non-art. Produced by Jacques Morali with a monotonous metronome, Lady Night is one of the most tiresome and grating albums you may be forced to listen to at the discos this summer. Even the one song transparently directed at “our” scene (“The ‘Gay Paris’”) is a boring co-optation.


Had Linda Clifford’s new two-record set, Let Me Be Your Woman (RSO RS-2-3902) been a one-record set including only “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “It’s One of Those Songs,” each of which fills a side, the album would still have been a triumph. As head pompon girl in the hyper produced cheerleader arrangement of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Clifford seems almost as excited by life, love and show business as Barry White. Purists may say that discoizing this song is nothing short of sacrilege (in some ways disco treats the past with the same respect Punk Rock does), but I think it points out the schizzy nature of most disco rehashes—that is, the dancer divides his pleasure in two: the part he or she dances to at 120 thumps a minute and the evocation of the past the song reminds the dancer of. Disco is up to its neck in nostalgia; those who say that disco is mindless are simply out of touch with what disco is mindful of.

   And speaking of mindlessness and the past … recent disappointments include Ashford and Simpson’s “Flashback” single (Warner Bros. PRO-A-803), which at this moment is either in the hands of discaires or (as I suspect) in their wastebaskets. Ashford and Simpson have spent enough time in discos to know the beat better and the importance of innovation. “Flashback” is a bore. Equally disappointing is Parlet’s Invasion of the Booty Snatchers (Casablanca NBLP 7146), which sounds downright ugly.

On the brighter side, I am pleased to see the renewed interest in Roberta Kelly’s Gettin’ the Spirit (Casablanca NBLP 7089), which was released last year and somehow got buried commercially. “Oh Happy Day” was one of the five most nutritional songs to dance to at the Pines last August. Like some of the work of Donna Summer, Loleatta Holloway, and Grace Jones, Gettin’ the Spirit is a disco classic and deserves a second chance ■


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PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
vintage articles: sean lawrence’s discaire column: supply without demand // christopher street - may 1979 (sunday february 23, 2014)

LINKS:
wikipedia: barry white - the message is love (album)
discogs: barry white - the message is love lp
discogs: the mighty clouds of joy - changing times lp
discogs: patrick juvet - lady night lp
wikipedia: linda clifford - let me be your woman (album)
discogs: linda clifford - let me be your woman lp
discogs: ashford & simpson - flashback (promo 12” single)
wikipedia: parlet - invasion of the booty snatchers (album)
discogs: parlet - invasion of the booty snatchers lp


CATEGORIES: VINTAGE ARTICLES

Monday, May 24, 2021

Vintage Articles:
Disco Advertisements from The Advocate //
August 13, 1975

As mentioned a couple of posts ago, I thought it would be a good idea to do a post on the advertisements in The Advocate's August 1975 Discos! issue. Wrapping up this series of posts from the Discos! issue, I thought it be a great way to not only display the ads for their visuals, but also for context. Most (but not all) of these are ads for bygone venues, a cursory search for many of them revealing some interesting details not only in terms of disco, but in the many localized queer histories that surround them. Many of these venues survived in spite of the many factors working against them: multiple arson attempts, sustained police harassment and widespread homophobia to name just a few. While some were perhaps more or less welcoming than others, some more above-board in their business practices than others, the sanctuary and celebration they helped provide, often at great personal risk to their proprietors were and are essential in building community, claiming space and the political power needed to sustain it.

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Rows 1 & 2 (Full Page Advertisements):




1. Nickelodeon (141 Mason St., San Francisco, CA): This venue got a brief mention in Bob Kiggins' San Francisco Disco Scene column, as a place "where boys can be girls." Interesting as a document of burgeoning disco DJ culture for an establishment to feature their music and sound above anything else - "ALL SOUL, ALL DISCOTHEQUE," with the names and photos of their DJs - Allan Frost and Don Miley front and centre. Not sure how many other discos would employ Universal StudiosSensurround system (first used on the 1974 film Earthquake) but they made sure to include that in the ad too. Don Miley would go on to have credits as a writer and/or mixer on records coming out of, or connected to the San Francisco scene, like "Tell Everybody" and "Doin' It" by Herbie Hancock, and "Get The Feeling" by the Two Tons O' Fun. Miley also appears to have been one-time DJ and singer Frank Loverde's manager in the early 80s.

2. Bayou Landing
    (2020 Kipling, Houston, TX)
    (2609 North Pearl, Dallas, TX)
    (2110-B Peachtree Road NW, Atlanta, GA)
    (1012 Sumner Avenue, Cleveland, OH): A chain of gay bars and discos in the US south and midwest ran by entrepreneur Dennis Sisk and business partner Tony Caterine that seems to have rose as quickly as it fell. Another half-page ad in the issue (see The Supremes Interview) advertises the opening of their newest Cleveland location. Some of it's branches became independent gay venues, like the one in Houston, which became The Old Plantation (probably not long after this ad was printed). Though one would question the inclusivity of a name like that today, The Old Plantation would spawn a mini-chain of its own. Dallas' D Magazine has a fascinating archived piece from 1979 called Lords of an Underground Empire which in part, details the rise of The Old Plantation(s) in both Dallas and Houston and the decline of Bayou Landing chain, with its founders, Sisk and Caterine ending the decade embroiled in drug and fraud charges.

3. Farmhouse (2710 Albany, Houston, TX): Dubbed "Houston's Number One Super-Bar," it doesn't seem to have been an exaggeration judging from the photo in the ad. Originally an orphanage called the DePelchin Faith Home, it become The Rams Club, a private elite supper club venue before becoming The Farmhouse. Showing just how perilous it could be owning a gay establishment at this time, The Farmhouse seems to have survived an arson the year before. It would be home to many different (and mostly gay) nightspots until 2001. Now a Texas historical landmark, it is currently a condo complex called Villa Serena.

4. Lost and Found (56 L Street S.E., Washington, DC)
    Pier 9 (1824 Half Street S.W., Washington DC): A full-page shared between two Washington D.C. venues, both owned by Bill Bickford and Don Culver. Established in 1970, Pier 9 was one of the first major gay disco venues in DC. It had a certain claim to fame early on for it's telephone service between tables, an innovation designed to skirt certain local liquor laws. Located in a warehouse district right across from a power plant, it's out-of-the-way location perhaps only bolstered its appeal. Most recently, it was the site of Ziegfield's/Secrets which only recently closed, with the site slated for demolition.
Less out of the way, the Lost & Found opened a year after the Pier, however it came under fire shortly after due to controversy around its door policies, said to exclude black, female and drag customers. The Lost & Found lasted until the 1990s and remained a queer venue for some time after. Today the site appears to have become a condo complex.

5. Ball Express (4025 Pacific Coast Highway, San Diego, CA): Housed in a former airplane hangar, the suggestively named Ball Express was apparently the first and biggest gay disco in San Diego and by various online accounts, the place to be in San Diego’s gay scene in the ‘70s. Gloria Gaynor, Eartha Kitt and Sylvester are all said to have played there. Ball Express is one of the establishments mentioned in the documentary about San Diego’s Gay Bar History aired by San Diego’s PBS affiliate, KPBS. The venue appears to have lasted from around 1974-1978, reportedly done-in as a result of “storm damage to the roof and slow weeknights.” See an amusing review from 1976 in the San Diego Reader calling it “a segregated in-spot” worth going to for “loosening screws in one’s perspective.”

6. Ad for The Dynamic Superiors' Pure Pleasure (1975, Motown): Led by the openly gay singer Tony Washington, they were undoubtedly one of the most progressive acts on Motown at the time. Much of their material (including the advertised album) was written and produced by Ashford & Simpson. Queer Music History has scans of some of their press from the time, including an interview With Washington from a later issue of The Advocate. Sadly, Washington is said to have succumbed to AIDS in the late 1980s, though there's little official confirmation or details, including from the current lineup's website.


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Row 3 :




1. Catch One (4067 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA): One of the first black, gay discos in the US and one of the longest running, it is also the only venue advertised here to spawn its own finished documentary. Established in 1973 by Jewel Thais-Williams who saw an underserved market for gay women and queer people of colour like her who often faced discrimination in the larger West Hollywood gay venues. Directed by C. Fitz, the documentary Jewel's Catch One is not only about the disco, but Thais-Williams' work as community activist and healer and how integral "The Catch" was in her efforts. In 2015, Thais-Williams sold Catch One in order to focus on her non-profit, the Village Health Foundation, established next-door to the disco. Catch One is still open today under new management.

2. Man's Country (5015 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL): Established in 1973 by Chuck Renslow, a leading figure in Chicago's gay community and his partner, the artist Dom Orejudos, Man's Country was something of a legendary institution in Chicago. In business for 44 years, like many older bathhouses, its profitability and upkeep had noticeably suffered in its waning years. At it's peak, Man's Country was in the same league as other megaplex bathhouses of its time, which envisioned themselves as all-around entertainment venues. It's Music Hall, featured in this ad, was described in a Windy City Times article as it's "crowning achievement." In an interview with The Advocate, Renslow's surivivng partner, Ron Ehemann said "[i]f you were an entertainer trying to break into one of the bigger rooms downtown and they weren’t paying attention to you, you could play Man’s Country and the Tribune and Sun-Times would come here and review you.” Acts like The Village People, Grace Jones, Divine, Boy George and countless others would grace its stage. Attempts to sell the business in recent years were unsuccesful, eventually the property was sold and demolished. A condo development bearing Renslow's name was planned, however it appears those plans have since fell through.


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Rows 4 & 5:




1. The Record Depot (1604 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood, CA): A Record store that, judging from its ads and mentions elsewhere, was perhaps LA's premier record retailer, specializing in disco. A column in the February 12, 1977 issue of Billboard notes that Record Depot was even given an award from the Southern California Disco DJ Association. Interesting to note the popular disco acts which they list as well as the artwork, taken from The Pointer Sisters' Steppin’ LP. The site was home to recording and rehearsal studios until a recent re-development.

2. Our Den AKA Den One (1355 N. Wells, Chicago, IL): Located in Chicago's Old Town neighbourhood, which had at one time been Chicago's "gay ghetto," this is perhaps one of the most notable venues listed here. A gay venue catering to a mixed black and white clientele; for that alone, Den One appears to have been something of an anomaly in the Chicago scene. In 1977, 19 year-old House pioneer and legend Ron Hardy would establish his first DJ residency at Den One (see Jacob Arnold's excellent article about Ron Hardy's Den One residency at RBMA). At the time of this ad however, its DJ was Artie Feldman, a regular Chicago contributor to Vince Aletti's Disco File columns in Record World. By 1978, it would become Carol's Speakeasy, named after its owner Richard Farnham AKA Mother Carol. Its closure in 1991 appears to have been precipitated by its unfortunate connection to serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, when it was found that Dahmer picked up one of his victims, 23 year-old Jeremiah Weinberger there. Even as the neighbourhood gentrified around it, 1355 N. Wells would remain abandoned until around 2016 or so, the last time the building appears on Google Street View. By 2017, the building appears to have been demolished.

3. Studio One (652 N. La Peer, West Hollywood, CA): Wrote much more about Studio One and its decidedly mixed legacy in my preamble to the Disco Scenes columns from this issue. What I find most intriguing about this ad however is the advertisement for Johnnie Ray's appearance there, likely at its popular cabaret venue, The Backlot. Someone I hadn't known of until I saw this ad, Johnnie Ray is an interesting figure in queer pop cultural history. Hearing impaired from a young age, Ray was something of a Rock & Roll pioneer, having come up playing black establishments like Detroit's Flame Show Bar, where he was known for his emotive, theatrical style. Though never 'out' in the quasi-official way we think of today, his queerness remains widely acknowledged. If nothing else, signature songs like "Cry" and "Hernando's Hideaway" certainly speak to decidedly queer themes and audiences. Battling alcoholism throughout much of his adult life, Johnnie Ray died of liver failure in 1990 at the age of 63.

4. Warehouse VIII (3604 S.W. 8th St., Miami, FL): According to an article from The South Florida Gay News, this was the centre of the action in Miami's gay bar scene in the mid 70s. True to its name, the venue was a former warehouse, which according to one description "boasted a huge dance floor, a Levi-leather bar in the back, a cruise bar upstairs, and a rooftop where anything could happen." When Miami-Dade County was the centre of Anita Bryant's anti-gay Save Our Children campaign, The Warehouse 8 became a major meeting place for activists (and target of homophobes). Owned by Bob Stickney, who also owned another, smaller gay venue in Miami called The Candlelight Club.

5. Marlin Beach Hotel (17 S. Atlantic Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL): Built in 1952 and showcased in the Connie Francis vehicle Where The Boys Are, that early association would be nothing if not prescient. After a period of decline, by 1972 the hotel was revamped into America's "first explicitly gay resort hotel.” Surviving political backlash, not least from conservative mayors and power brokers, The Marlin Beach hotel remained a popular gay destination into the 1980s. It's Poop Deck disco was a major local venue, where DJs Bobby Viteritti and Robbie Leslie would preside. After failing to revamp the hotel into a "spring break" destination, the hotel was demolished in 1992, making way for what is now a shopping centre called The Gallery at Beach Place.

6. The Sun (400 West & South Temple, Salt Lake City, UT): Established in 1973 by former radio DJ, Joe Redburn, The Sun Tavern is said to have been the first disco in Utah and the premier gay bar in Salt Lake City for years. Reportedly inspired by a San Francisco venue called The Midnight Sun, Redburn would sell the venue in the 1990s and would open a gay country/western venue called The Trapp. Despite being lauded as the father of Utah's LGBT community, sadly Redburn died last year in a homeless shelter at the age of 82. A current Salt Lake City venue called The Sun Trapp exists in tribute to the venues he established.

7. Aristocrat Discotheques (7224 Hillside, Hollywood, CA): Jane Brinton's mobile discotheque business, possibly based out of her apartment at the time, judging from the address. See Christopher Stone's Hollywood Column for more on Brinton.

8. Club Casablanca (241 Madison Ave. at 38th St., New York, NY) On the ground floor of a hotel building, which is currently the Madison Avenue NH Collection Hotel. Not much is known about this venue, however, prior to a recent redevelopment the address was home to the Golden Food variety store.


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Row 6:




1. Broadway Disco (7507 New Utrecht Ave., Brooklyn, NY): Not much known about this particular venue, though it is curious to see a bar in Brooklyn, far outside the gay ghetto, advertised in The Advocate. Currently, an establishment called The El Toro Bar exists at this address today.

2. D.O.K. West (12889 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove, CA): Touted in this ad as "Orange County's NOW Disco," DOK West was part of a hopping gay scene in Garden Grove City which dated back to 1964. For a brief period, gay bars in Garden Grove were said to have outnumbered even those in West Hollywood. Evidently its name was either a reference to DOK (De Odeon Kelder), a major gay venue in Amsterdam or The Wizard of Oz (Dorothy Of Kansas). According to the ONE Archives, DOK West appears to have lasted for 20 or so years, from approximately 1965, closing in either 1986 or 1989. Not surprisingly, DOK West and other venues in the area were frequent targets of police harassment.

3. Our Side (836 N. Highland, Hollywood, CA): Mostly cutting and pasting here from what I wrote in the previous post (Christopher Stone's interview with its DJ, A.J. Miller) - Formerly The Paradise Ballroom and before that, Dude City, both venues reportedly owned by notorious LA underworld figure Eddie Nash. No word on what was the case with it’s brief turn as Our Side, but apparently it was only known as such for a brief period, changing its name back to The Paradise Ballroom after its competition across the street, named The Other Side mysteriously burned down. The venue would also be known as 836 North for a period, eventually becoming Probe in 1978. Probe would last for a good 21 years before closing in 1999.


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PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
vintage articles: “get dancing” - aj: west coast’s gold-plated dj - by christopher stone // the advocate - august 13, 1975 (tuesday may 11, 2021)
vintage articles: cheap thrills, entertainment and escapism - by christopher stone // the advocate - august 13, 1975 (wednesday may 5, 2021)
vintage articles: wanna dance? get wrecked to the ass! - by vito russo // the advocate - august 13, 1975 (wednesday april 28, 2021)
vintage articles: exclusive supremes interview - by christopher stone // the advocate - august 13, 1975 (sunday march 21, 2021)


CATEGORIES: VINTAGE ARTICLES

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Vintage Articles:
“Get Dancing” - AJ: West Coast’s Gold-Plated DJ -
by Christopher Stone // The Advocate -
August 13, 1975

 

Concluding this series of articles from The Advocate’s August 1975 Discos! issue, is an interview with A.J. Miller AKA A.J. the D.J., by Christopher Stone.

Other than a spot on the Legends of Vinyl DJ Hall of Fame, there isn’t much trace of A.J. Miller these days, or whatever became of him. When this was printed, Miller appears to have been quite a heavy hitter in the LA disco scene at the time, later presiding over at least a couple of disco record pools (for which he was quoted in Billboard a couple times). Miller also appears to have been a close associate of producer/songwriter Bob Crewe, whom I’ve covered here a couple of times in the past. Miller is thanked/credited on two of Crewe’s albums from the time - his “Street Talk” LP as The Bob Crewe Generation (see Disco Delivery #66) and the first Disco-O-Tex & His Sex-O-Lettes album, whose hit song “Get Dancin’” was apparently inspired by a AJ having a moment on the mic at an earlier gig, when Crewe was tagging along.

Miller was also mentioned in the last transcribed post from this issue as the DJ at Our Side, which had formerly been The Paradise Ballroom and before that, Dude City. Apparently both venues were owned by notorious LA underworld figure Eddie Nash. No word on what was the case with it’s brief turn as “Our Side,” but apparently it was only known as such for a brief period, changing its name back to The Paradise Ballroom after its competition across the street, named The Other Side (briefly described in the last post as Hollywood’s “chicken de-light disco”) mysteriously burned down. The venue would also be known as 836 North for a period, eventually becoming Probe in 1978. Probe would last for a good 21 years before closing in 1999.

Miller also figures in yet another interview I transcribed earlier, from the April 7, 1976 issue of The Advocate where Donald von Wiedenman interviewed Bob Crewe. Miller appears as one of Crewe’s interlocutors while in the studio finishing his “Street Talk” album. His comments about Bob Crewe in this interview seem to foreshadow that Advocate cover story, some 8 months after.

I have to say, I enjoy Miller’s comments here, talking not only about good gigs and career highlights but also being fired from his first gig and how one can seem to feel a good or a bad night coming on. This interview also traces some evolving elements of disco at the time - from DJ’s on the mic falling out of favour, to just how influential discos and disco DJ’s were in breaking records that would have otherwise fallen through the cracks, like Barry White & The Love Unlimited Orchestra’s “Love’s Theme." It’s the one specific song mentioned more than any other in this issue alone, which I should add, earned Miller one of the gold records he's pictured with in the article.

Can’t help but wonder whatever happened to A.J. Miller, whether or not he continued DJing into his old age like he suggested he would. Either way, this is an interesting interview showing just how influential disco DJs, in particular gay disco DJs and audiences were becoming at this point.


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“Get Dancing” AJ: West Coast’s Gold-Plated DJ
By Christopher Stone


Get Dancing!” Howled disco jockey Tony Miller night after night. His bid to boogey was a familiar one to patrons of The Barbary Coast, San Diego’s first gay disco bar.

What Tony, a.k.a. AJ the DJ, didn’t know then was that his command to “get dancing” would be the inspiration for the international disco anthem and a record that would catapult Disco Tex & The Sex-O-Lettes to stardom. Tony remembers the fateful Friday two years ago:

Bob Crewe, who has written or produced about 56 gold records, was in town to visit my roommate and me. That Friday night he came to The Barbary Coast where I was working. It was cooking. I was doing my thing on the mike. I was screaming, ‘Get dancing!’ and what-have-you.

Bob had been to discotheques in New York, but he said it was at our club that it first struck him how important discos were going to become. Bob frightens me because he knows today what you and I are going to be into tomorrow.”

Tony and Bob spent the weekend clowning around, listening to old tapes, and even staging a mock musical with the jock’s idea of discotheque stage performance. Tony’s concept was eventually developed into the Disco Tex & His Sex-O-Lettes album.

Bob called one night, months later, and said. ‘I’m sending you something’.

That something was an advance copy of “Get Dancin’,” which Tony premiered at San Diego’s women’s club, Diablo.

Those girls didn’t know it, but that night when I broke ‘Get Dancin,’’ they were the first people in the world to hear it. I have never been so excited about a record in my life. I called Bob Crewe when I got home - about four in the morning. I woke him out of a sound sleep and started screaming about the record.

Because he was the first to break the record in discos and because he fought to get it radio airplay, Tony was awarded a gold record by Chelsea, distributor of “Get Dancin’.” This marked the jock’s second esteemed platter. 20th Century Records gave him gold for being the first to introduce “Love’s Theme” in discos. (To his knowledge, Tony is the only disco d.j. on the West Coast to have a gold record.)

Convincing 20th Century to release ‘Love’s Theme’ as a single was a real struggle. Barry White went around and around. He didn’t want to release the song. He released four other cuts instead, and they went right down the tubes. It took six months to convince him that this was the hit off the album.

By that time it was in every discotheque in the world. ‘Love’s Theme’ has sold over 2 1/2 million copies and it’s still selling.

Lest you think Tony’s disco road has been paved with gold: “I was fired from my first job as a disco jock the fourth weekend. I was scared to death. I knew how it had to sound. I knew what I wanted to do, but I couldn’t stop shaking long enough to get the records on.

Tony was scared because he had created a monster. With the introduction of a discotheque, which was the d.j.’s idea, the sluggish club caught on in a big way and our boy was in charge, if not in control. Later, he stopped shaking, was re-hired, but continued to collide with the boss.

He wanted a lot of talk. He wanted the club to be like a radio station. We know now that talk doesn’t work. I knew it then. People don’t want to hear jokes and they don’t want to hear the time and temperature. If that’s what they wanted, they’d stay in their car and play the radio.

Inside a disco the music takes you on a trip. It gets you involved and excited. If some clown gets up and tries to tell jokes or promote the bar, it breaks the momentum. It interrupts your trip.

Since November of last year, Tony has been spinning platters his way at Our Side, formerly The Paradise Ballroom, in Hollywood. Whatever it takes to make the crowd “get dancing,” he has it.

There’s no one formula for success. It changes from club to club and group to group. Every time I devised what I thought was the formula, it worked for awhile - then it didn’t work, There’s no formula, but there is a feeling. A group reacts off each other. I take my cue from the group. You have to. You can’t bring your personal problems to the club. If you’re having a bad night - get ready. Your people are not going to stay, because they can sense it. It’s how you play the records. If your heart’s not really in it, they can sense it.

Record companies have been using discotheques for showcasing new products that wouldn’t normally receive attention within commercial radio’s restricted formats. Now Tony observes that playlists of successful discos are becoming tighter.

You can’t overdose people with new things, even in a discotheque. I have to decide what’s really hot and then filter in the rest of it later.

On the other side of the disc, the jock doesn’t believe there’s any such thing as old records: “Any record that is played like it’s brand new, can sound new.

I honestly love what I’m doing. When I’m 65, I’ll probably still want to be a d.j. Whether or not the crowd would relate to someone that old playing ‘Lady Marmalade’ is something else.

The most substantial thing that gay people have contributed in the last five years is the discotheque. We’ve got people turned on to music they never heard before. I think it’s the most beautiful kind of sharing thing that we can do. We have shared something that has sort of been our secret.”
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PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
vintage articles: cheap thrills, entertainment and escapism - by christopher stone // the advocate - august 13, 1975 (wednesday may 5, 2021)
vintage articles: wanna dance? get wrecked to the ass! - by vito russo // the advocate - august 13, 1975 (wednesday april 28, 2021)
vintage articles: exclusive supremes interview - by christopher stone // the advocate - august 13, 1975 (sunday march 21, 2021)
vintage articles: ‘the first step in getting ahead is getting started.’ an interview with bob crewe. - by donald von wiedenman // the advocate - april 7, 1976 (tuesday march 17, 2015)
disco delivery #66: the bob crewe generation - street talk (1976, elektra) (sunday march 15, 2015)

LINKS:
discomusic.com - clubs & discotheques: probe (836 n. highland, los angeles, ca) (web archive)
discomusic.com - clubs & discotheques: paradise ballroom (los angeles, ca) (web archive)
discomusic.com - clubs & discotheques: dude city (836 n. highland, los angeles, ca) (web archive)
discomusic.com - clubs & discotheques: the barbary coast (pacific highway, san diego, ca) (web archive)
queer maps: probe
wikipedia: disco tex & the sex-o-lettes - get dancin’
all music guide: disco tex & his sex-o-lettes lp (review)
discogs: disco tex & his sex-o-lettes - the disco tex & the sex-o-lettes review lp
discogs: the love unlimited orchestra - rhapsody in white lp
all music guide: the love unlimited orchestra - love’s theme (review)
the washington post - selling a hit: you don't need a radio if you're hot in discos (by timothy moore) (september 1, 1977)


CATEGORIES: VINTAGE ARTICLES, INTERVIEWS

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Vintage Articles:
Disco Scenes (Hollywood, San Francisco, New York) - by Christopher Stone, Bob Kiggins & Vito Russo // The Advocate - August 13, 1975

 

Continuing with more instalments from the Discos! issue of The Advocate. For this issue, their regular city entertainment columns became a quick trip through parts of the gay disco scenes in Hollywood, San Francisco and New York.

Before I go on to the transcribed article, some things to mention:

Studio One is mentioned not just here but in the previous Vito Russo column as one of the best disco venues on the west coast (and it does sound like an impressive complex). Though well reviewed in this column, it appears history has been much less kind to it. Still early in its operation when this was printed, other than a mention about its stringent ID requirements, there are few hints in these pages of the controversy that would surround Studio One and its racist door policies. I’m certain subsequent issues of The Advocate cover the ensuing community backlash, which included multiple demonstrations outside the venue - for now, the Studio One article from the ONE Archives gives a good outline. I’m certain it was far from the only venue where exclusivity, something that was not only common among many disco venues, but also one might argue, necessary when it came to protecting queer spaces, also gave cover for some rather bold racism and classism - of which Studio One has become a prime example. As much as I love delving into the archives of gay publications, one thing that does stand out, whether it is The Advocate, or Christopher Street, or most other gay publications from the time, is that the point of view does tend to be overwhelmingly white and male. Although there seems to be greater attention around representation these days (due largely to sustained activist pressure, let's be honest), it remains an uphill struggle against the stubborn assumption, where ‘gay’ is often by default, white, affluent and male. It’s easy to get caught up in the selective fog of nostalgia, I’ve certainly been guilty of it myself, yet even more important to consider the limitations of the archive.

Some other interesting tidbits here for the nostalgic traveller - Christopher Stone mentions the young mobile disco entrepreneur, Jane Brinton towards the end of his Hollywood column. Brinton would go on to a much higher profile career in the music business in the 1980s and 90s, starting a management company called This Beats Workin’, managing DJ/producers Shep Pettibone and Junior Vasquez through the peak of their careers. Today, she is the co-founder and executive director of The Waterbearers, a charity working to expand clean water access in the global south.

While many of the venues mentioned are long gone and some have left a bigger imprint than others, it’s notable that at least a couple of the San Francisco venues mentioned in Bob Kiggins’ column have had astonishingly long lives. The Endup, founded in 1973, is the only one which remains open today. Opened in 1966, The Stud was around for 54 years, described as San Francisco’s oldest and most diverse queer bar. Having been the focus of a campaign to remain open amid a crushing rent increase in a rapidly gentrifying San Francisco in 2016, the Stud became ”the first co-op nightclub” in America. Despite this, in 2020 the double whammy of COVID and gentrification did it in (at least for now). Yet, The Stud still exists in a kind of digital exile, so a physical return in the post-pandemic future is not yet out of the question.

The City discotheque, while not as long-lasting, is also a notable venue. Patrick Cowley had worked there as a lighting technician before rising to prominence as a producer and all-around synth wizard. Apparently it was here where Cowley and Sylvester had met each other. Two men who figured prominently in both Sylvester and Cowley's careers - John Hedges and Marty Blecman, founders of Megatone Records, had both been DJ's at The City.

As a counterpoint to his lament in his earlier piece in this issue, Vito Russo, in his New York column seems to have found a disco scene to his liking, and it was on Fire Island.

A note about venue links: Whenever a specific disco venue is mentioned, I like to link to its discomusic.com discotheque profile. While discomusic.com still exists in a more skeletal version, the closure of discomusic.com as an active community was a real loss for many of us disco fans. While some of the site’s features, like the forum and the disco record database have been largely supplanted by the growth of Facebook and Discogs, respectively; it remained an incredible repository of information and and its forum a much more open and less intrusive (given how Facebook monetizes all of our data) space to interact. That being said, I’m certain it was all very time consuming and expensive to maintain, however one part of the site which hasn’t been duplicated anywhere else was its archive of user-submitted DJ and venue profiles. Often bolstered by user comments and photographs, these entries were often incredible repositories of disco history. While many of the submitted listings have been preserved by the Internet Archive, some have not. Even some of the ones that have are not quite fully intact. Still, for context, I try to link to these archived profiles whenever possible.

I should also say how much I love all the disco-themed ads in this issue, especially the ones attached to these columns (and there are other full-page ads in between these also). I’ll have to parcel these out into a separate post sometime.

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Disco Scenes - Hollywood
by Christopher Stone

Do you wanna dance? As gay discos go-go, the two really big shows in Hollywood town are still Studio One and Cabaret.

My favourite is Studio One (652 N. LaPeer, West Hollywood). Their advertising, which touts the club as “the place to come and the disco to be at in Southern California,” does not exaggerate.

Good to excellent entertainment is always featured at The Backlot, the complex’s dining-showroom. While the cuisine poses no threat to Le Restaurant or Scandia, it’s as good as you’ll find in any gay eatery in Hollywood.

Studio One also features four bars, a jewelry concession and a game room, complete with watering hole, television and pinball.

The discotheque itself is without equal in California. The largest dance floor around, embellished with lights and lasers, makes for a totally satisfying disco experience. There is always room to dance and breathe, even when there is a big crowd, which is every night after 11.

But what I really like best about the place is the friendly, “family” atmosphere created by owner-manager Scott Forbes, his partners and staff. They are genuinely nice, sociable and fun people. Possibly because of the genial tone set by the staff, the clientele seems to be friendlier than at the other clubs.

Studio One has reigned as Hollywood’s premier disco for well over a year, and I have no doubts about its retaining that top position long after the others have locked their doors. (By the way, be sure to always bring proper identification to Studio One, or any disco. Oscar nominee Valerie Perrine was turned away at the door the other night for lack of an ID.)

Cabaret (333 La Cienega, West Hollywood) opened last spring and was an immediate hit. Like Studio One, Cabaret boasts multiple bars and rooms. They also have Howard Metz, Los Angeles’ most celebrated disco jock, spinning their records.

But the dance floor is postage stamp size compared to the other club. It’s great if you want your tootsies tortured or if you get off on stepping all over others. If you have claustrophobia, forget it, dear.

Cabaret attracts a hard-edged, raunchy crowd, and the camaraderie is so apparent at Studio One is completely lacking there. To be fair, manager Jeff Croon and his assistant Tim Manning have been very accommodating to me, but some of their staff members are totally devoid of charm and common courtesy.

Perhaps it’s the rough, decadent feeling at Cabaret that is so attractive to its regular patrons.

For the most part, Cabaret hasn’t been able to compete with the “name” entertainment at Studio One. An exception was Charles Pierce who graced the showroom for three weeks. If management is wise, they will get Pierce’s autograph on a long-term contract, pronto!

Our Side (836 N. Highland, Hollywood), formerly the Paradise Ballroom and before that Dude City, is a pleasant place to dance, dance, dance to disco jock Tony Miller’s hot platters. The nitery’s recent facelift seems to be attracting good nightly crowds.

And right across the street is The Other Side, Hollywood’s chicken de-light disco. ‘Nough said.

Once “the” disco in town, After Dark (8471 Beverly Blvd., West Hollywood), re-opened last spring following last summer’s mysterious fire. But the disco hasn’t recaptured anything approximating its former glory. More and more straight people attend the club; the magic is gone.

If you’re a say-at-home and would rather have the disco come to you, by all means call Jane Brinton’s Aristocrat Mobile Discotheques (213-851-7831). Brinton and her staff will bring over $20,000 worth of disco hardware, music, lights, bubbles and what-have-you to your home, office, school organization, wherever.

Last month, Jane and her mobile units were in the middle of Franklin Canyon playing for Karen Black’s wedding. Movie generators were used as her power source. That’s mobile.

There are other mobile discos in town, but none that equal the elaborate, sophisticated equipment Aristocrat has to offer.

Jane’s price tag for hauling her hardware runs up to $300 per evening, but the fee varies with the length and location of the gig. The cost includes over 2,000 albums and a jock to play them.

In addition to her mobile service, Brinton can custom design and build a disco of your very own for between $6,000-60,000.

“It all depends on what you want,” says Jane. ■

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Disco Scenes - San Francisco
by Bob Kiggins

Whatever your musical taste, San Francisco has a dance bar to feed it - for a few evenings’ worth at least. The present difficulty with “going out” is that with so few really hot dance scenes to choose from, boredom can set in quickly. And a disco full of bored people is not long a disco.

Cabaret/After Dark, our lone dance-show-restaurant-bar, has gone through some changes of late. Opened over two years ago as the first of its kind in the city, Cabaret introduced quality name entertainment to an increasingly ambisexual clientele. Riding the crest of a not-yet-defined sociological wave, the major focus here, as anywhere else mentioned was not dance or stage shows but sex.

And not just gay male genital sex, either. Increasing numbers of women, gay and straight, swinging couples, curious tourists and just plain folks out for a good time turned the gay bar/dance hall combo in to a jumble of sensuality.

The disco that best accommodates that phenomenon will win out over a management lacking the foresight, creativity and financial resources necessary to bring it off. While San Francisco is well-endowed with all three, the recent shuttering of Cabaret shows how tenuous the relation can be.

There may be hope. Supposedly closed for “extensive remodelling,” the fact that Cabaret will be revived (under new ownership) as The City, 936 Montgomery St., which promises to be an entertainment cruise complex the liked of which this “Baghdad-by-the-Bay” hasn’t seen since the Cliff House and Sutro Baths went up in flames. At press time, it’s all systems go for a mind bending concoction that could prove the ultimate paean to the art of disco craftsmanship and imagination. When The City is unveiled over Labor Day Weekend, San Francisco will take its place in the great race to out-disco the next city - or the next block, since rumours persist that we will witness the birth of a sister showplace Cabaret Two.

For the time being, however, don’t come to San Francisco expecting any super-discos. Disco fever is, of course, rampant here, but with the unexpected shut-down of the Cabaret, it has shifted to the less overwhelming neighborhood dance bars. Herewith, then, a listing of fun places to cure even the itchiest of feet.

The Endup, at 401 6th St. (corner of Harrison), sports a decor straight out of the teen stereo department of Montgomery Ward (flashing colored lights behind translucent wall panels, a plastic raised dance floor, black lights, even a go-go boy in a cage), but it’s as “today” in disco terms as Gloria Gaynor. The music is loud, “get-down,” driving and expertly paces; the dancers eager, extroverted, and energetic; the crowd amiable, good-looking, and in the 25 and up range. A spacious bar and attentive bartenders (there are, unfortunately, no floor waiters) add to the Endup’s overall appeal. Expect to sweat and be crowded on weekends, when you’ll pay $1 admission (it’s good for a drink). Cruisy, too.

Not too far away, at 1535 Folsom St., is the Stud, a perennial favourite hang-out of the long-haired, flannel-shirted, “earthy” set. A congenial atmosphere and (for the most part) less than frenetic vibes makes the Stud one of the more comfortable places around. Dancing is free-for-all in a pocket-sized area, the music (taped) varied (i.e., Stones to Spinners), and it’s rarely too crowded. Organic decor. Live music Thursday nights.

And while you’re in the area, you can do it up neo-country style at the Rainbow Cattle Company, Valencia at Duboce. After the dinner rush, this bar/restaurant opens the back room to the shit-kickin’ dance dreams of a friendly crowd, determinedly un-glittered and decidedly laid-back. Country & Western, down-home boogie, and a newly refined audio system raise the roof and spirits of the Cattle Co. clientele - the least disco maniacal in the city.

For friskier dance floor acrobatics, check out the Mind Shaft, 2140 Market St. Wend your way through the pool table area near the door (where you’ll pay $1 for a drink ticket) to the elevated dance area (it’s even latticed - the ideal patio boxing ring), set amidst a colourful, attractive Deco-ish environment. It gets steamy on weekends (traveling waiters are very accommodating), but you’ll be so immersed in the heady soul music and elbow-to-elbow craziness nothing will matter.

Without Cabaret, the glitter set seems to have found sanctuary in Buzzby’s, 1436 Polk St., a flashy, sassy, cheerfully stylish disco in the heart of one of San Francisco’s flashier gay ghettos. The Buzzby clan is primarily well-dressed and well-heeled, but all images soon dissolve under the spell of the crafty d.j., who invariably gets everyone on the floor in chaotic, spirited dancing. Again $1 at the door, and efficient floor waiters/waitresses. (Note: Buzzby’s has of late been enforcing their capacity limit; arrive 11PM-ish to avoid a wait in line.)

You might also find any of the following to your liking: Bo-Jan-gles, 709 Larkin (very Soul-Train, crowded and mixed); the Nickelodeon, 141 Mason St. (Where boys will be girls, decor very Hollywood); Olympus, Columbus at Lombard ($2 weekends, palatial, bouncy, largely straight); or the ’N Touch, Polk near Pine St. (Pushy crowd, mostly cruising).

[Ed. Note: Donald McLean is on vacation. His column will resume upon his return.]

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Disco Scenes - New York
by Vito Russo

Everyone seems to be discussing the big disco boom in New York these days. The Village Voice has just done a cover story on the subject, indicating that discos are at least as popular as that paper’s two recent cover stories which concerned gay people. In New York, you can’t find a disco without gay people, and vice versa, so I guess it’s all the same story.

The first bit of news for those of you who haven’t heard is that The Flamingo has closed for the summer and the former Flamingo crowd adjourned to Cherry Grove’s Ice Palace on Fire Island. More about that Ice Palace in a minute. In the city, it’s 12 West, the new in-place for the disco freaks, beautiful people and hangers-on from Bayside, Queens and Brooklyn, looking for David Bowie in the crowd. 12 West is located on West St. Between 12th & Jane and is just a stone’s throw from the latest gay outdoor sex scene, where you can get your rocks off while someone picks your pocket. (This is especially easy if you also have your clothes off. Stay away from it.)

There’s real action at 12 West, where you can dance until 6AM without stopping and without coming down once. Its quadrophonic sound system is sensational, and free juices and fruit are available all evening. Also, a generous supply of ice water for those who dehydrate quickly. It is a membership club, as are all major discos in New York. You may either join for something like $40 a year (they never stay around that long), or you can come as the guest of a member for about $5. This is your best bet. If you don’t know anyone who is a member, wait outside. Someone will take you in eventually, It’s done all the time.

Le Jardin is a more commercial, more above-ground version of 12 West that has been around for a few years now. It started out as a lavish gay bar on the order of Studio One in L.A. and is now a heavy glitter trip. Whenever a place gets “discovered” and becomes popular with all the groupie teenagers from New Jersey, the original crowd moves on to greener (more “in”) pastures. This is what has happened to Le Jardin. Everyone has gone over to 12 West. Le Jardin is worth seeing, however and boasts the entire basement and the entire rooftop of the Diplomat Hotel on W. 43rd St. The basement level is, as the name implies, a garden for dancing. The dance floor is enormous and surrounded with lots of fake greenery and green and white lounges and couches at which you may be served large drinks from small glasses. The rooftop is really something to see. It overlooks most of Manhattan consists of several rooms in blue and white and silver. There is a stark-white baby grand piano and a silver and white bar which is surrounded by silver ferns. There is also an outdoor terrace which is furnished with waterbeds, from which you can watch any number of color television sets. It’s a nice place to visit and will give you a sense of freaky New York nightlife, especially if you’ve never been here before. It costs $7 to get in, and they have a membership policy also.

For a special weekend, and it must be a special weekend due to its location, visit the Ice Palace on Fire Island. Daytripping (spending a day and leaving on the last boat) is discouraged, so make arrangements to stay awhile. You won’t regret it, because there’s a lot more to see on Fire Island than just the disco, and your trip won’t be wasted. The Ice Palace has been around for a long time. It’s probably the longest running disco on the East Coast. Even when it was just a dance bar, it was a place where people discovered records and made them hits before they ever got air play. On Fire Island, there’s always one song which seems to typify that certain summer, if you will. Last year it was “I’ll Always Love My Mama,” with “Love’s Theme” as a close second.

This year the Ice Palace has been the subject of a $60,000 redecoration, and sports mirrored walls and even shows with top stars before the late-night dancing begins. Della Reese, Morgana King and Carmen MacRae are among the latest in early evening entertainment, followed by dancing until 4AM, all one block away from one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Fire Island is another world, and the rules are all flexible. If you stay at the Beach Hotel, be prepared to listen to disco music all night, as your room will more likely than not be directly opposite the dance floor, separated only by a swimming pool. The dress is very casual, sometimes nothing at all, due to the fact that this completely gay community is isolated after the last boat leaves; no one may arrive or leave until morning except by speedboat or helicopter. The Ice Palace gets its share of straight people, but it is more of an integrated society than a “look at them dance” routine, and at about three in the morning, people are literally dancing on the walls. (They have these little walls which separate the rooms and people dance on them, ok?)

I assume that anyone who is interested in disco dancing in the first place accepts the rules that apply. These are not, usually, cruise bars. They are places where people go with a group of friends to dance the night away. On Fire Island, this rule bends a little because everyone is there for a good time; the lack of restrictions, law and order, and stress bring about a sort of early-Rome feeling which continues until the sun is well up over the gorgeous horizon. There is seldom, if ever, any trouble. There are two policemen on Fire Island and they dance very well. Their job consists of mostly tossing unruly straight teenagers off the dock when they manage to find their way out to the Grove. Also, drugs are ignored within reasonable limits.

Discos in New York are enjoying a period of fashion. This may last a year or a day. One never knows here. Everyone is looking for a way to dance their troubles away. Places like the Limelight and Hollywood, old-fashioned, plain gay dance bars are still packed to the rafters every night, so the discos aren’t taking any business away from them. ■

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PREVIOUS RELATED ENTRIES:
vintage articles: cheap thrills, entertainment and escapism - by christopher stone // the advocate - august 13, 1975 (wednesday may 5, 2021)
vintage articles: wanna dance? get wrecked to the ass! - by vito russo // the advocate - august 13, 1975 (wednesday april 28, 2021)
vintage articles: exclusive supremes interview - by christopher stone // the advocate - august 13, 1975 (sunday march 21, 2021)

LINKS:
the waterbearers: jane brinton
one archives: studio one
los angeles conservancy: the factory (studio one)
wehoville - jim crow visits west hollywood: studio one and gay liberation (by don kilhefner) (august 5, 2016)
los angeles times - opinion: should we preserve ugly but important buildings - like the former studio one in west hollywood? (by ann friedman) (july 27, 2016)
los angeles blade: west hollywood divided over fate of the factory (by christopher kane) (july 3, 2018)
los angeles times - scott forbes, 57, ran dance palace (obituary) (by jon thurber) (february 7, 2002)
the endup san francisco
the stud san francisco
discomusic.com - clubs & discotheques: the city (san francisco) (web archive)
discomusic.com - clubs & discotheques: the endup (6th and harrison, san francisco) (web archive)
discomusic.com - clubs & discotheques: the stud (folsom street, san francisco) (web archive)
gaytravel.com - fire destroys gay landmark on fire island (march 27, 2015)
rooftops of nyc: rock ’n roll on the rooftop (le jardin, diplomat hotel, w. 43rd street near sixth avenue) (december 1, 2011)
new york times: an aging midtown hotel that will not go gently (by david w. dunlap) (november 7, 1993)
google newspapers: the village voice - inside the disco boom (by richard szathmary & lucian k. truscott iv) (july 21, 1975)


CATEGORIES: VINTAGE ARTICLES

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