People all over the world

Before you read this post, you need to press play--

I was disappointed that there weren't more house heads at the movie on Saturday night--maybe I didn't do a good enough job of publicizing it. Maybe more would have come if they had known that the much-loved
Lady D was one of the interview subjects.

The film felt a bit schizophrenic,--walking the line between a promotional video for the label and a film about the early days of the AIDS epidemic in New York--but hearing some of the stories as told by the people who were there was pretty amazing.

Besides one quick snippet from a DJ at the Paradise Garage, the film glosses over the drug aspect of disco culture. I think that really does a disservice to re-creating the environment in which this music was born, but really the film is more interested in the chunks of vinyl put out on West End than it is in establishing the milieu of the disco scene. In this glossing over the drug aspect, the filmmakers also fail to tell the audience that Larry Levan died, essentially, from his drug addiction. Because the film bounces back and forth between Mel Cheren's charitable donations to Gay Men's Health Crisis and life at the Paradise Garage, it almost seems that Larry died of AIDS.

What this film does best is extol the virtues of the hugely influential label.
Jellybean Benitez and Junior Vasquez both come off as narcissists--the former from his snobbery and "I was there" attitude, the latter in his story of how he felt that Larry passed the torch to him. The rest of the interviewees seem to have a genuine affection for the tracks. Judy Russell is used to hilarious comedic effect, only getting quick statements like, "That track was hot," and, let me tell you, she liked all the tracks--except Heartbeat.

One thing that the film really got me thinking about, and I really hope that someone out there can comment on this, was the Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park on July 12, 1979.
Randy Jones, the cowboy from the Village People, makes the contention that the disco backlash was actually based in homophobia and racism. I would also like to add classism to that mix, but mainly the first two. It kinda blew my mind. I mean, I've seen footage from that night lots of times (including in the fine film The Last Days of Disco), but never did it occur to me that racism and homophobia could be the underpinnings of the rage from that night.
Anyway, the film is worth your time. And if any of you who lived through the disco heyday (ahem, Earl) or who have a degree or two in history (ahem, GayProf) would care to expound on disco and its backlash which culminated in Disco Demoltion, it would be much appreciated!


Earl Cootie said...

Sorry, I was into the prog-rock back then. Didn't really follow or listen to disco. But I do wonder if on top of the racism, homophobia &ct., there wasn't a bit of misogyny tossed in too?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but you can't blame Disco Demolition on homophobia. Steve Dahl was a local Chicago DJ who planned the event. It was a promotional thing to get more folks to listen to his radio show. He became a very influential rock DJ because of this stunt. It was not malicious, but it was ridiculous.

GayProf said...

I can't say without more study, but I think that disco's demise had a lot to do with a reaction against the perception of it as a "seventies" genre and being frivolous (also being linked to a particular type of "scene"). Disco stopped being transgressive, became mainstream, and thus became something that people rejected. In much the same way, "theme" albums also lost favor at the same time.

What is more interesting to me is why the queer community kept disco alive when it was largely eschewed by the rest of the U.S. Eh -- What do I know? I was only 3 or 4 at the time.