|Los Angeles, October 26, 2000
DRILL TEAM 2000: MMOW, Gay Pride and Marching to Our Own Drummer
I “came out” in the San Francisco Bay Area at the end of the 1970s. At that time and in that place, “coming out” was both a personal and a political process. And also, a lot of Fun. Because a key part of “coming out” was learning “to Party,” or at least to “Party” as a gay person and with other gay people. And San Francisco was quite the Party town. For me, “partying” was always inseparable from dancing. As a result, I have never been much able to disentangle Gay Music, Gay Politics and Gay Fun. And for these last 20 years, I have found myself continuously caught in that web. But not that I’m complaining.
I had grown up very straight-laced in the most ultraconservative and redneck part of Orange County, California. No sex or drugs for me. And in lieu of “rock ‘n roll,” during my high school years, I went in for the singer-songwriter ladies of the canyons - Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, Carole King, Carly Simon, Linda Ronstadt - whose tales of love and disappointment gave voice to the unrequited (and unspoken) yearnings of a romantic gay teenager locked away in the land of citrus groves, horse stables, pickup trucks and the John Birch Society. While I had no sexual outlet, I was always very passionate about my Music. And my Politics. And part of the Great Glory of San Francisco at the end of the 1970s was finding a Community where my musical and political passions, along with a hunger for sexual exploration, were shared by a great many other gay men flocking to the City. Indeed, passions that had set me apart (even made me a bit of a freak) in adolescence, now joined me to a growing and vibrant Gay Community of men and women. My politics led me to the Streets. My love for music, especially this thing called Disco, led me to the Dancefloor.
My first summer of being fully “out” was in 1980, when I moved from Berkeley to San Francisco. I moved into one of those long railroad apartments in the Mission, where my collection of roommates was typical of the young gay men flooding into that Hispanic neighborhood in search of low rents. I attended my first Gay Pride Parade that June, and I didn’t just attend. I Marched. I was one of two people carrying the banner for the contingent of the National Lawyer’s Guild, with which I was working that summer on a project designed to create a grassroots political coalition between gays and Hispanics around the common issue of police abuse. Needless to say, it was quite an experience to have just come out, to be going to one’s first Gay Pride Parade, and to do so as a participant in an event as over the top as San Francisco’s was at that time. About half way through I asked to be relieved of duty, so I could watch the rest of the Parade. And needless to say, it was also quite an experience to see float after float, contingent after contingent, sponsored by every bar and bathhouse in the city - the Stud, Arena, the Brig, Badlands, the Eagle, Castro Station and all the rest - packed with wall to wall muscle boys. All nearly naked. All very gorgeous. And all dancing to Disco.
Disco in the gay ghetto during the summer of 1980 was much more than just our music. It was our religion, our sport and also part of our politics. At a time when gay people (gay men in particular) were seen as being in the vanguard of a sexual revolution that had not yet been cut down by the Epidemic, Disco, as a music of that liberation (including its excesses) was central to the Energy of the Ghetto. You heard it everywhere. It spilled out of the Castro, the Mission, Duboce Triangle, Dolores Heights, Twin Peaks. And it was making its way into Portero, Glen Park, Bernal Heights, the Upper Haight, and the Western Addition. And the spread of our dance music and dance clubs and bars very much corresponded to the Ghetto’s growing power. By the beginning of the 1980s, the gay community seemed poised quite literally to take over San Francisco. Many hundreds of new recruits were arriving every month. And while the assassination of Harvey Milk had been traumatic, his alliance with the city’s labor unions and other minority groups had paved the way for organizing gay people as a key pillar of the city’s Democratic urban coalition. It was no coincidence that Milk’s election night victory celebration was held at Alfie’s (watch the scene in “The Life & Times of Harvey Milk” documentary). Alfie’s was the Castro’s disco sweatbox for the levi and leather “clones,” the growing army of gay men who worked out, who made love, who danced hard, and who, most importantly, were creating a Community by being undeniably, unmistakenly and visibly “out.” And by voting. Increasingly as a bloc.
By the early 1980s our sheer numbers (in a city as small as San Francisco) placed us in a position to become the dominant electoral force in a major American city, much as Irish, Italians or Blacks had previously done in other major American cities. And just as every other "ethnic” group had its own music and cultural trademarks that defined its neighborhood, we had Disco. Of course, not all gay people (not even all gay men) loved Disco. But it was nonetheless a music that symbolized our “movement.” We had the best dj’s. We had the best clubs. And Disco helped us achieve significant and “open” prominence in the American music business. There could be no better proof of our success than the fact that the coolest straight people wanted to share our dancefloors. And part of Disco’s “unifying” (and thus empowering) force was the fact it crossed racial divides. Although the Eurodisco that was becoming more dominant by the early 1980s was increasingly “white music,” there remained a lot of Disco that could be heard in all gay bars. And to this day, I find that my strongest experience of true “unity” within the gay “community” is at a Gay Pride’s Disco stage. It is the one time when the white A-List crowd will share a dancefloor with Black drag queens and Latina lesbians. And during that Summer of 1980, during my first Gay Pride Parade, it seemed like Disco provided the beat not just for our music but for our Progress. We were Marching as a Disco Army. Politics, like dancing, require “Movement,” and gay people during that summer of 1980 were very much “on the move.”
There was, however, always a tension between “the Party” and “the Movement.” This had also been true for straight people back in the 60s. The antiwar and civil rights Movements, and the Counterculture to which they were uneasily joined, always had a tension between the political activists and the folks more motivated by the lure of drugs, sex and rock ‘n roll. In San Francisco gay politics, these tensions often played out along gender lines. Gay men were all about the Party, whereas Lesbians were all about political correctness, or so the common wisdom went. That never seemed quite right to me. There were plenty of very political gay men who also loved to dance all night. And at one time I shared a San Francisco flat with a half dozen lesbian or bisexual women who partied as hard as any group of gay guys I’ve ever known. In any case, for me, the whole distinction never made sense. The invigorating Power and Force of our Music and Party seemed so integral to the rapidly expanding Power and Force of our Community. I never saw how they could be separated.
And joined they were at the corner of Castro and Market - the Ghetto’s literal and vibrant epicenter. That was where Harvey Milk (or Harry Britt after him) passed out their flyers on election day. And that same intersection was where Sylvester - our local black drag queen diva of the streets, wearing capes and jewels, regularly sashaying into Gramaphone or one of the other local record stores - would take to the stage at the Castro Street Fair and entertain the Troops. Music and Politics were all in the Mix. And the Castro’s outpouring of grief in response to Harvey Milk’s assassination was not unlike what I am told was the stunned silence at the Castro Street Fair, when Sylvester announced from the stage his AIDS diagnosis. I wasn’t there, so I don’t even know how much of the story is true, but in my mind, that would be the moment when the Castro, and the whole way of life that it symbolized, the whole Mighty Spirit of our greatest Gay Ghetto ever, finally succumbed and came crashing down. That would be the Day the Music Died. And If the Epidemic was our Holocaust, that was the day when the Spirit of the Warsaw Ghetto finally crumbled.
But our Resistance would persevere, and the Band, as they say, Played On. But it was a very different Tune. The Blasting Disco of San Francisco’s notorious Gay Pride Parades gave way to the solemnity of Funeral Processions in the Dark Ages of the Epidemic. Our Parades were to mourn our many comrades lost in battle, to keep hope alive for the living, and to celebrate our Survivors and the countless men and women who cared and fought for them. With our banners and flags unfurled up Market Street, we remained an Army. But we were now fighting a Defensive War. We were under Siege. Survival, not conquering our fair City on the Bay, became the paramount goal. And while during this time I stayed connected to gay politics, I lost my enthusiasm for dancing. I tried to do my part to keep up the Good Fight, but I had lost the Spirit of the Dancefloor. Indeed, the arrival of “cd’s” had no effect on me whatsoever, because I had stopped buying Music. And for the longest time I harbored an irrational dislike for this new technology because I associated it with a new era which had passed me and my dying generation behind.
Thanks to music videos (both on television and in bars), I did, however, remain a “viewer” of Dance Music. It was chiefly the “pop” acts that kept my attention, especially when illustrated with good dance moves. I only became a Madonna fan once I saw the “Virgin Tour” concert video, especially the first third where Madonna is accompanied by her two cute young backup dancers. I only became a Whitney Houston fan when I saw that video of her power-housing her way through that art gallery in “How Will I Know?” But my real favorites were not so much the divas, as the dancers. And particularly the Dancing Armies. Throughout that entire era nothing captivated me as much as the series of videos from Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation album. In those videos I saw a combination of Musical Power and Force that I had not seen since San Francisco’s glorious Disco Days. By the end of 1989/1990, I was splitting my time between the Bay Area and Southern California. While working at my first law firm job in Los Angeles, I remember other folks at the firm thinking I was kind of crazy when I attended my first major music concerts in years by trekking down to the Forum in Inlgewood to see Janet (her “Janet” tour) and M.C. Hammer (the “Too Legit to Quit” tour). But most importantly, I was going to see their dancers. Sure enough, at both of those concerts I witnessed once again a Powerful and mesmerizing Dance Army. But I, of course, was a mere spectator. Not to mention an over-30 single gay white man sticking out like a sore thumb amidst the row after row of screaming black teenage girls.
By the music videos of the early 1990s, I found myself increasingly drawn to what seemed like a newly invigorated dance sound coming out of New York and the UK. I started buying dj tapes labeled “House” (a term I’d never heard of) and was especially attracted to music that once again seemed to cross the racial divide. Rozalla was my diva of choice, and Freedom Williams of C&C Music Factory became my gorgeous dancer of choice. And then came Marky Mark, and that fired up record with Loleatta Holloway. It had never occurred to me that a white boy, and especially such a beautiful young white boy, could work the floor so well (even if he was not the greatest of dancers). On Valentine’s Day of 1993, I saw where Mark was scheduled to perform at a dance party at Arena. I had not been in an LA club in years, but I had to see this boy “in the flesh.” Looking back, I realize that this party (promoted by Jeffrey Sanker, dj’d by Manny Lehman) was my first Circuit Party, and that Marky Mark’s torso probably became as good a model as any for the idealized “Circuit Boy Body” that was fast taking hold.
I just went to look at Marky Mark. I didn’t start dancing again until a bit later that year at the 1993 March on Washington. It was at the “Spring to Life” party at the Post Office Pavillion. Robbie Leslie was the dj. Rozalla appeared out of nowhere - not so much a Diva, as a Goddess. And it was a truly wonderful Party. Yet while I danced non-stop, I didn’t make it to the actual Dancefloor. It was just too great to stay up at the top of that huge grand stairway. Because from that vantage point I could see all the dancers below. And from that spot I could behold the Return to Glory of our fabulous Disco Army. We were unmistakably back. With an incredible Energy on the Dancefloor. An Energy that carried over to the next day’s amazing March on Washington.
This was the beginning of the term of a President we helped elect. It was also the fateful year of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which reminded us all too well that we had powerful political enemies. But we knew who they were. And we were strong and ready for the battle. In that Spirit we Danced. In that Spirit we Marched. We were Strong and United.
Fast Forward. 7 Years Later.
April/2000: I feel like I am holed up in a bunker. I am back from Michael Fierman’s glorious Saint-at-Large Black Party in New York. But now I have to return to reality. And I don’t like it one bit. Work is hard. And I can’t find much escape in the L.A. dance scene, which continues to be engulfed in the Music Wars. A year earlier the battleground was the gay record shops, where RIAA raids against bootleg tapes and cds had produced a fratricidal and none-too-pretty McCarthy Era of inquisition and “naming names.” Now the RIAA had gone on to fry bigger fish (Napster), and the war zone had shifted to the after-hours clubs. For over a year, Icon (as the successor to Probe, which had ruled triumphant during its 20-year reign) has been under heavy attack. The club will suddenly empty out in what can only be a well organized mass exodus. Competitors call Fire Marshalls. I hear reports of drug stings. It’s just all around ugly out there. It’s difficult to even figure out the alliances or who to trust. And Santa Monica Boulevard is the perfect metaphor. The street has literally been torn asunder as part of some two-year renovation project. West Hollywood has become a cross of “Blade Runner” and London during the blitzkrieg. They might as well put up barbed wire in the median strip. My spirits are weary.
And let’s face it, I’m getting old. Maybe it’s time for this old chorus line hoofer to hang up the dancing shoes. Or just stick to a few special parties in New York and San Francisco, where I always enjoy the music and crowd so much more. After the Saint-at-Large parties, I realize I am going in the opposite direction of the LA after-hours crowd, which seems to be moving toward hard music and hard substances. At some of the parties, I end up just sitting, watching the scene, feeling tired and sad. I must look like that old veteran of the First World War sitting in the outdoor German café in that scene from “Cabaret.” When a beautiful male youth begins to sing a Nazi song, everybody rises up, enamored more by the spectacular beauty of Youth than the actual message of the song. No one is more enamored of male beauty than I. But it seems the gravest of mistakes to allow the direction of our Music to be dictated by the taste of young boys on hard drugs. We say we are a Tribe. But tribal music has great respect for tradition. And Tribal Dance is led by Tribal Elders.
Occasionally I leave my bunker. But usually it’s a mistake. Soon after my return Icon has a party featuring Warren Gluck, who blew me away at the Saint-at-Large White Party. But this party is a total flop, because all of the West Hollywood crowd, who seem to travel in a massive boy-pack, are at a rival club. Icon has taken another major hit. So I decide to lie low, stay out of the line of fire. I have already booked the MMOW/Cherry 5 weekend for the end of the month. So I’ll skip the Palm Springs White Party (the LA circuit crowd at its most unpleasant) and just hold out for DC.
Meanwhile, I sublimate my dancing energy into the writing of another installment of “Dance Diaries.” I figure I need to process all that’s been going on. Get it out on the table. And in doing so, try to rise above all the battles and enemy gunfire. I have always loved both Politics and Music, but now I am becoming fearful that if I get too close to the actual behind-the-scenes “politics” of the gay dance and club scene, it may threaten my love for the Music. Kill off the Illusion. Kill off the Magic. And so I try to write about this love, and especially my passion for Disco and Progressive House, and the beauty that comes from their synthesis. I use the metaphor of a Train to describe the dance party journey. But in my own mind, another key image keeps coming to mind, an image from the circus: it is the pretty girl hoisted atop the shoulders of the muscleman, the beauty of both enhanced by their juxtaposition. Pretty songs need “muscular support,” I wrote in one of my many fan-mails to Michael Fierman. “Muscular and pretty is a great aesthetic, both in boys and in music,” I wrote in another. And so I resort to pretty images and pretty words to soothe my battle fatigue.
But this is War, and there is no escaping it. No Switzerland for me. I am trying to keep my spirits up by focusing on DC, but the political infighting over the MMOW is totally out of control. The Gay and Lesbian Community is truly outdoing itself this time with a bloody Civil War. The old grass roots activists are locked in a death grip with HRC, which represents a new well-heeled gay liberal bourgeoisie. And its “heels” are high. Elizabeth Birch (head of HRC) and Hilary Rosen (General Counsel of the RIAA) are the new Lesbian Power Couple, able to attract the likes of K.D. Lang and Melissa Etheridge to Saturday night’s Equality Rocks Concert. Indeed, the politically correct crowd is attacking the weekend as being all about “Music” and “Parties.” What a switch from 20 years ago. Now it’s Lesbians running the Party, with much of the gay male establishment throwing politically correct molotov cocktails. It all seems absurd. I remember the 1993 March. We had the greatest of Parties and the greatest of Marches. That was the point. The Party and the March were One.
And sure enough, the Energy upon my arrival in DC is nothing like 1993. The Disunity is in the air. I get some kind of food poisoning on the plane, so I don’t feel well and can only go to Friday’s opening party briefly. Joe D’Espinosa is one of my favorites. But the Party has been sabotaged by a last minute yanked liquor license, and the Energy of the Weekend doesn’t seem to be coming together. On Saturday afternoon, Dupont Circle just seems like a big gay dot.com convention, filled with very earnest, well scrubbed young people sporting HRC buttons and Gay Internet This and Gay Internet That.
Saturday night I go to “Equality Rocks.” And yes it does. And yes it did. The weekend should have just been about this. A massive concert. Period. This is the sort of event HRC (especially with some good music industry connections) can do really well. And anyone who was there will always think twice before saying another knee-jerk cliché about Tipper Gore. She is as Hot as anyone there. And I do love the Pet Shop Boys.
Saturday night we go to Cherry 5. Back to the Post Office Pavillion, site of that glorious Party seven years earlier, where I rediscovered my love for dancing. But once again, the party just had the hardest time coming together. There are lots of competing parties. Our Music, like our Politics, have become fragmented. We are weakened for the Weekend. Taylor Dayne is a total disaster. Her disorganized, fragmented, negative, tired energy seems like a metaphor for a weekend in trouble. But the other act - this troupe of wonderful native drummers doing a tribal beat in light and water, are fantastic. This is where our entertainment should be going. It reminds me of the Hawaiian drag queen troupe at one of Jito Garcia’s Galleria parties. If you want a diva, bring back Rozalla. Otherwise, give me a Tribe. Warren Gluck finds his groove the last couple of hours, and gets the party back on track. Afterwards, I opt for the smaller after-party. I want less of the Circuit. So I go to an event dj’d by St. Peter. It is absolutely flawless Progressive music. And I remember that this is what it’s all about. Taking a chance on a dj you have never heard of and falling in love all over again. I had the same experience with Phil B the year before.
Sunday I go to the March. Or I should say the non-March. It was nothing. Not a March. Not a Parade. More like a picnic procession of nice, good, well-meaning Gay folk holding their HRC signs, filing past the speaker booth, and waiting in long lines to get into the Festival (which just seemed like another convention of the gay dot.com crowd, who had packed up their clean and neat tents and tables and moved them over from the Dupont Circle encampment). On the way back to my friend’s apartment, I ran into my Dancing Buddy and his boyfriend. I told them what I had experienced. They skipped the “March” altogether, instead opting for a Disco nap under the Washington Monument.
The overall Weekend box score remained a close call until Sunday night. We went to hear Buc at Club Zei. It was one of the greatest of parties. An unbelievably eclectic crowd. Drag queens. People wearing silly outfits. Tons of flaggers/fanners. Cool straight people. Way cool black people of unknown sexual orientation. And Buc just playing prettier and prettier way past the party’s scheduled end. Just what the doctor ordered. Chief Medical Officer Buc salving my wounds from another round of battle.
May/2000: I return to LA and try to figure out what to do. The local dancefloors scare me. I have been far too bold in speaking my mind about the Music and I have made enemies. One dj who I offended has suggested that since I think I have all of the answers, I should buy a couple of turntables and a mixer. So be it. Done. But where is my floor? Where shall I spin? Then it comes to me. The Music and the March. How could I not have seen it? The MMOW was a bust, but the season of Gay Pride is upon us. Not quite a march, but the next best thing. So I decide it’s time to take matters into my own hands, not just duck the gunfire and run for cover every time I hear an air-raid siren. I shall do my part, lead my own counter-offensive. LA has always had a lackluster Gay Pride. So I’ll go to San Francisco. That’s the ticket. It’s been 20 years since my fateful Summer of 1980, and it’s time to March again. Up fair Market Street I shall go.
I decide to lead my own contingent. “Disco Saves” shall be our name and our cause. We shall march up Market Street just like in the Glory Days, blasting Disco. I will make mix tapes joining Progressive Music to Disco and lead an Army just like in the Days of Yore. I get the necessary paperwork submitted to the SF Pride Committee literally on the last possible day. But we are in. Now I just need a “we.” A friend from work agrees to join me. Three friends from San Francisco sign up. But “rallying the troops” is no easy matter. I forgot how flaky everybody becomes once you really need them to commit to something way in advance. I post a listing on The Circuit Dog. I don’t get a single response. For the first time I really sympathize with the plight of the Party Promoter. Jeffrey Sanker, my heart goes out to you.
June/2000: The month starts with Robbie Leslie making a rare LA appearance at the launching of a downtown club called LA 54. It’s a blast. All classics with a fun diverse crowd. Disco Saves, indeed! So I get my dj equipment set up and try to figure out how to mix. Every now and then I have beginner’s luck, but basically I discover that mixing is really hard. Someone at a record store asks me if I know how to “count the beats.” I ask: “What are the beats?” The look I get tells me I am in a lot of trouble. I end up making six short tapes. That makes it easier to redo it when something goes wrong. It will also give me more flexibility when I spin. And for the “spinning,” I go to Circuit City and buy their biggest and most powerful boom box. It’s 55 watts. A ghetto blaster in the memory and Spirit of my favorite Ghetto.
Now I must figure out what Sound I am seeking in the Music. My Circuit Dog ad reads as a “call to arms” for the Disco Drag Queen Drill Team 2000. “Drill Team” is the key. After I rediscovered Dancing, I found myself increasingly obsessed with Dance Music. But not knowing any of the proper terminology, I invented my own “slang” to describe the music. My Dancing Buddy was always amused by my phrasemaking, and I think he was always most fond of the first “category” I ever coined: “Drill Team.” “Is this Drill Team?” he would ask during a party, or “Did they play Drill Team?” (after a party I attended solo). But Drill Team was always hard to put your finger on. Because it really wasn’t a musical “category” at all. Instead, it was more of a “Spirit” that I would find in a lot of different “types” of music. And more to the point, Drill Team was a Spirit in Gay Dance Music that made me want to dance in a very particular way. As best as I can describe it, what Drill Team made me want to was not just dance, but March. March in honor of that Great Disco Army of yore. And also March for the battles to come. I would hear Drill Team in Classic Disco. I would hear it in late 1980’s “High Energy.” And I would hear it in that steady 135 bpm pounding of beautiful rhythmic Progressive House. For me, Drill Team was the Spirit that Inspired the Dance. More simply: Drill Team was the Spirit.
And in that Spirit I packed my boom box, my tapes, my boa, my sequins, my baton, my whistle and headed for San Francisco. When I was still an hour out of town, I could already tell it was going to be a flawless weekend. You could just feel the Energy. And from start to finish it was Magical. I had enlisted 8 other Drill Teamers. On Saturday we found another. I think it was Lenin who said that if he could get just 10 committed comrades, he could bring down the Czar. And we had our ten. Saturday night I went out to get in the Groove. Warren Gluck played a wonderful party at City Hall; it was the Party that should have been Cherry 5. Lydia Prim played gorgeous Progressive music at the Galleria. And my favorite party was Darin Arrowwood’s Aftershock at the old Ritch Street Baths. Darin is one of my all-time favorite dj’s. And he had gotten way out ahead of most of the pack in discovering the beauty and power of what I call Progressive House. Dancing to his music in the early morning hours put me in the perfect space just prior to “Disco Saves.”
SF Pride is an amazing event to watch, but nothing compares to being in it. Especially this past summer, when the crowd of 500,000-750,000 may have set an all time record. The weather was perfect. The mood was perfect. Once again, this was everything that DC was not. Our contingent was a motley crew. We had a huge disco ball suspended from a shopping cart, which repeatedly got stuck in the Market Street trolley tracks. . A Drill Team should have a little choreography, but we had none. And we had been ridiculously naïve about our boom box. After all the time I spent on the music, practically nobody could hear a single note in that huge open air setting. Once again I learned a thing or two about throwing a dance party - always do a sound check. But without music, without moves, without much of anything that was remotely professional, we nonetheless Marched. And Twirled. And Danced. And smiled and waved and shook our “Disco Saves” banners. And the crowd roared. And the crowd loved us. Because we were sincere. Because we were happy and fun. Because our cause was good. And most of all, because we had Spirit. Afterward, a stranger was telling me about his mother’s reaction to watching the Parade on local cable access. “She said she liked the group with the shopping cart and the disco ball,” he told me (completely unsolicited). Disco Saves, indeed. After the Parade we go to Buc’s closing party, which concludes a perfect weekend. The Music and the Movement are for me, reunited again.
Summer/2000: San Francisco leaves me overwhelmed, stunned, exuberant, defeated. I no longer know what to think. So I decide that’s its time for a major time out. Dance Diaries 3 shall be my “farewell address.” San Francisco shall be my “swan song.” I shall take a long sabbatical, and decide if maybe formal retirement is in order. This is all too much. And I have a very serious day job. I gave it my shot. Time to go quietly into the night.
But I keep finding myself drawn back to the Beat. It’s like that scene in the old King Kong. The Tribal drums start to play, and the natives are all magically and compulsively drawn to the pounding Beat. I hear those drums. I want to go. But LA still seems very unsafe. The West Hollywood crowd is the most dangerous. I live behind enemy lines. So I decide to play it safe, take only short reconnaissance missions for a few hours at a time. Wear funny outfits as camouflage. Don’t let em see the whites of your eyes
To my surprise, I keep having a good time. Latin Pride is great with tons of classic disco. Neil Lewis’s Black Ball for Sunset Junction Street Fair is perfect. Stick to the muscled and tattooed Silver Lake crowd, I remind myself. They look meaner, but they’re not. Lewis is also great at Icon, so maybe things are picking up. Buc and Robbie Leslie play LA, and I have a great time. James Anderson and John Marinello come to town. I’ve never heard them play, and I don’t expect to like them. I am completely wrong. Lots of great and powerful Progressive music. Every Party is wonderful.
And then I go to New York for business and for the first weekend of Fall, my favorite season. Friday I go to Heartbeat to look through Jim Faber’s collection. I find things I figured I would never find: Orson Karte/Tonight; Groove Corporation/Your Eyes; Time Bandits/Endless Road; Betsy Cook/Love is the Groove. Saturday night we do the New York City Boy standard tour: Victor at Roxy and Junior at Twilo. I have heard both play, but never in their respective Houses. I don’t know what to expect. I am stunned. I ride the Train the whole night. Two remarkable parties. The image of Junior Vasquez laughing, dancing and shaking his tambourine up in the booth amazes me. Sunday afternoon we take the Sea Tea, and right from the get go, it is filled with lots of love and good energy and good people and great music from Robbie Leslie. Michael Fierman shows up, and I get to say hello to my favorite.
October/2000: I return to LA Renewed. It’s time to get back on the horse. Back on the Train. Back on the Move. I must never give up. Choose your battles carefully. Don’t meet the enemy on his turf. And look for allies where you may not have thought to look. I see that LA’s AIDS WALK is coming up October 15. Perfect. Back to the turntables. This time I won’t try to push the Progressive/Disco synthesis. Just Full On Drill Team 2000. And no shopping carts. No banners. No disco ball. I just strap my boom box around my waist, throw on a silly hat with a boa, pop in the cassettes, and we’re off. And it’s another glorious day, and the Magic of the Music turns a walk into a March. The boom box works perfectly for this venue. It blasts. A few people looked at me funny. And then there were the “requests” (Do you have any Eminem? Do you have any Britney Spears? Or my favorite: “Will you play my tape instead?”). But from most people I just got That Nod, accompanied by That Smile. The song that really gets the crowd rocking is a last minute substitution I thought nothing of: Irene Cara’s Theme From Flashdance: “What a Feeling.”
What Power is created when our Music and our Movement come together. When we love each other and save our fight for those who would deny us our freedom.
Election day is twelve days away.
The President we helped elect is leaving office.
A new President will take his place.
Our enemies are completely united.
And they have made us their chief symbolic target.
And they have been shamelessly pandered to by one of the major political parties
What are we going to do about that?
“Something Bad is Happening,” worry Abba in On and On and On. It seems people are not respecting “Human Rights.” “Keep the Spirit Alive,” demands Shawn Christopher in Sweet Freedom. What are these folks talking about? “I am What I am,” bellows Gloria Gaynor. “Get Into the Music, It Will Set You Free,” say the DJ’s Rule. “We’re a Team Walking On,” shouts T. H. Express in Love 4 Liberty, “Let’s Dance.” “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,” insist McFadden & Whitehead. We’re on the Move. We’ve Got the Groove. What are they talking about? “Found A Cure!” proclaim Ashford & Simpson. What are they talking about? What are these folks talking about?
Our March, Our Music/Our Politics, our Party/ are One.
This weekend is our final round before November 7.
This is one of our own Holidays.
Hey Mr. and Mrs. DJ:
Stir the People.
Whip it Up.
Get the People Movin’
Get the People Marchin’
Get the People Votin’
For all of our fallen brethren
For all of our futures
And in the Name of the Father, the Mother, and the Spirit
And In The Name Of Love
DRILL TEAM 2000!
SF PRIDE DISCO DRAG QUEEN DRILL TEAM 2000
Dan Hartman, Vertigo/Relight My Fire
Spiritual Project, O Fortuna
Chicane, Sunstroke (Disco Citizens on the Train)
Kelly Llorenna, One Day I’ll Fly Away (Sharp Dub)
Da Hool, Meet Her at the Love Parade (Nalin & Kane)
T. H. Express, Love 4 Liberty
Radiah Frye, Power Hungry
Discobump, Discosound (DJ Zuul & De Mosse Mix)
Jark Prongo, Shake It (Club 69’s 1999)
Passengers, Hot Leather
Tin Tin Out, Sometimes (Matt Darey)
Three Degrees, The Runner
SF Suite: Rob Searle, Manhattan/Hondy, No Access/Sungod, Ancient Forest
T-Zone, No Limits
Transformer 2, Pacific Symphony (Rachel Auburn)
Sylvester, Don’t Stop
Sandstorm, The Return of Nothing
Rozalla, I Love Music (Fire Island)
Simon, Free At Last
Shawn Christopher, Sweet Freedom (Dave’s Freedom)
Club Philly, Love Train
Prince, 1999/Jacksons, Can You Feel It (white label)
FPI Project, Everybody All Over the World (Chris & James Solar Power)
Zee, Walking On Up (Eddie Fingers & Dr. Ju High Octane Dub)
Chris Domingo, The Lift (Simplicity-Outhouse Dub)
Pete Wardman, Keep It Up
Coming Out Crew, Free Gay & Happy (T-Empo)
Bedrock, Heaven Scent (Lifeline)
Ashford & Simpson, Found a Cure
LeMonde, I Have No Fear (Hallelujah Journey)
Evoke, I Believe
Blockster, You Should Be
Barbara Pennington, 24 hours a Day
Dream Girls, I Can Fly (Disconet Revisited)
Sarah Washington, Heaven (Serial Diva Heavenly Club)
Bonnie Pointer, Heaven Must Have Sent You
Gloria Gaynor, I Am What I Am (La Cage Aux Folles)
(Dedicated to Susan Morabito, whose incredible performance at the
Saint-at-Large White Party 2000 re-minded me of the Glory of Drill Team)
AIDS WALK LOS ANGELES 2000
Brand New Heavies, Back to Love (Graeme Park Club)
Sarah Washington, Everything (A & G Testament)
Whitehouse, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (Alistair Whitehead)
Rappination & Kym Mazelle, Love Me the Right Way ’96 (Re-Rapinoed)
D’Ream, Things Can Only Get Better (12” D:Reamix)
Erin Hamilton, The Flame (Solar City Club)
Diana King, Find My Way Back (Mark’s Extended N-R-G)
Tina Arena, If I Was a River (Nikolas & Sibley Flowing)
Cyndi Lauper, What’s Going On (Shep Pettibone Club)
Abba, On and On and On
Cijay, Love is Like an Itching in My Heart (Kevin Unger Dance Mix)
Miguel Brown, So Many Men, So Little Time
Pet Shop Boys, I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing (Extended Nude)
Pat & Mick, Use It Up, Wear It Out (Pete Hammond)
Pamala Stanley, Coming Out of Hiding
Mike & the Mechanics, All I Need is a Miracle (Greg Walsh)
Shooting Party, I Know That Mood (Royal Box)
Pet Shop Boys, Go West (Ming’s Gone West/Bros. in Rhythm)
Neil Diamond, America (white label)
Lonnie Gordon, If I Have to Stand Alone (Phil Harding)
Lonnie Gordon, Happening All Over Again (Hip House/Phil Harding)
Pat Benatar, We Belong (white label)
Liza Minnelli, Love Pains (Hurley’s Remix)
Marlene Ricci, Tonight (Extended)
Sharon Redd, In the Name of Love
Bananarama, Movin On (Bumpin Mix)
Barry Manilow, Could It be Magic (Trevor Horn ’93)
John Anthony, Take Me On (Vocal Anthem)
Sister Sledge, We Are Family ’93 (Steve Anderson/DMC)
Thompson Twins, Doctor Doctor (Phil Thornalley Extended)
Kiss Like This, Faith in You (Spike Drake)
Lexicon of Love (white label)
Stevie Nicks, Stand Back
Technique, Can We Try Again (white label)
Irene Cara, What a Feeling/Flashdance (Jellybean Benitez Remix)
Tony Moran, High
Eurythmics, Sweet Dreams (white label)
Cher, I Found Someone (Michael Christopher Extended)
Barry White, My First, My Last, My Everything (white label)
Bananarama, Na Na Hey Hey, Kiss Him Goodbye
Trammps, That’s Where the Happy People Go
Whitney Houston, Greatest Love of All (Junior Vasquez)
Madonna, Holiday (Jellybean Benitez Full Length)
Two Tons of Fun, Just Us
Etta James, Blowin in the Wind (Trip Ringwald/Maury Schott)
Los Angeles, October 26, 2000