FoHDiary Day 3: Dancing Is Dangerous
Today I travelled half the length of Manhattan, down streets no tourist has any business in. Lots of parking garages, local deli’s, hardware stores and apartment blocks. Nothing of the usual sight-seeing fodder. And after tramping the streets for 8 hours solid I definitely have a better understanding of how the map works. While there are still the same number of places again to tick off the list (and those are the ones that are essential, leaving out Twilo, Tunnel, Roxy, and Sound Factory) theres a band of several that cut a swathe across the lower east side. That’s the plan for tomorrow.
— The Continental Baths. Upper West Side. Now an ornate apartment building with a bank on the ground floor. The facade exists at the very least, but nothing of its sordid past (and yes it was definitely sordid).
— Regine's. Lennox Hill. Originally in the Demonico’s hotel, now owned by the illustrious president elect, and hosting none of its former glory.
— Studio 54. Midtown. If anything on today’s tour should need no introduction it’s the cocaine and sex fuelled wonderland that made a mockery of disco’s message of egalitarianism. Now a theatre.
— Better Days. Time Square. One of the few clubs to weather both the death of disco, and the upheaval of the 80s only to die a quiet death in 1990. Demolished and replaced by an Italian restaurant.
— Sanctuary. Hell’s Kitchen. Converted Lutheran church. Now a theatre. At something vaguely artistic still happens in the place. Home for Francis Grasso post-Salvation II.
— Xenon. Times Square. Overblown futuristic disco opening in 1977 after the success of Saturday Night Fever in the old Henry Miller Theatre. Xenon closed in 1984. Now a theatre again.
— Le Jardin. Times Square. Pre-Studio 54 hot spot. Stomping ground for Steve D’Acquisto. Housed in the rather gorgeously dilapidated Hotel Diplomat. Literally across the road from Xenon/Henry Miller. Razed to the ground. Now a parking garage for a bank.
— Haven/Salvation II. Greenwich Village. Legendary for the birth of slip queueing and beat-matching (or at least should be). Francis Grasso’s experiment in hedonism before it got shut down in 1972. Now an opticians, although the building remains remarkably unspoiled.
— Stonewall Inn. Greenwich Village. Should require absolutely no explanation. Now with the Gay Liberation Monument right outside.
I have a playlist I’m working on with tracks I want to use to present this work in a few months. It ranges from 60s gospel, through philly r&b, proto-disco, NY garage, post-disco, house, speed garage and other genres. Listening to it today in context I was struck by how well some of the tracks work. Love Is The Message is absolutely in keeping with the tone and the pace of the city. As are tracks like Could Heaven Ever Be Like This, Ten Percent, I Was Born This Way, and Barbara Mason’s Another Man. But by the time Jesse Saunders’ On & On had kicked in it wasn’t working. There’s something rhythmically that doesn’t fit here. It’s something to do with the place itself, it’s makeup and it’s overall tone.
There’s a reason heavy metal came from the midlands, or techno came from Detroit, or modal jazz happened in New York. The ideas the music offers are, especially in the case of heavy metal literally, in the water, in the air, in the surroundings. Detroit, industrial heartland. Techno. Those things connect easily. But something about the solidity of early house, those bubbling 303s, and the un-swung metronomic pumping of stuff released on Trax and DJ International just doesn’t interlock with a New York street. Whether it will fit better when I’m padding the streets of Chicago in a few days remains to be seen.
Finally, on Monday I was talking about escapism. I get it now. This city is an assault. It’s loud, challenging, inflexible, and unyielding. You have to work around it. It costs money, shoe-leather and sanity to exist here. The thought of dancing to 9 hours of disco while messed up on LSD must have seemed like a Sandals-resort-spa-all-expenses-paid vacation after a 5to9 working week in NYC.
No I'm not going to talk about the election. Enough rubbish has been said by everyone without me wading in with my size 12s.
I’M BLOODY SHATTERED. I’M GOING TO BED.