DANCE DIARIES 6: FIRE ISLAND & BUC
It was sometime last Spring that I left the message on
Buc's answering machine, asking about his upcoming playdates for
"the season" on Fire Island. And of course I got his
standard outgoing message. "This is Buc," he would begin, with
that hard emphasis on his name. The first few times I ever called
him, I remember being intimidated by that greeting. He sounded so
tough, even as he apologized for his prolonged delays in getting back to
people. But once I got to know him, I actually looked forward to
calling and hearing that reassuringly familiar opening. And I
always got to hear it because Buc adamantly resisted email and the
internet. And in my experience, he never picked up the phone.
The evening after leaving my message I came home to one of Buc's long
rambling voicemails, one that had to be carried over to a second call
when my machine finally cut him off. He explained that he would be
playing a tea dance at the Ice Palace in Cherry Grove over one holiday
weekend and an afternoon party (which he had been playing for many
years) the day after "the big beach party" in the Pines. He
indicated they would be very different parties, with very different
venues and crowds. And so if I ended up coming, I should make my
I had never been to Fire Island, and I had a lot of mixed feelings about
doing so. But I knew that Susan Morabito would likely be playing
most of the big weekends. And that Michael Fierman was not playing
nearly as much as he used to. And to me Fire Island was all about
the classics, so I wanted to pick the week when I could hear the
greatest number of my favorite old school dj's. I confirmed my
hunch that the "big beach party" was the Pines Party that had
replaced the GMHC Morning Party. I had heard a recording of Robbie
Leslie's Pines Party 2000 performance and thought it was quite
wonderful. And I discovered that Pines Party 2001 would be dj'd by
Warren Gluck, who I thought had just given one of those performances of
a lifetime at the Saint-at-Large Black Party. I sent Robbie Leslie
an email asking if he would be playing in 2001. He sent back an
email indicating probably not, but he strongly encouraged me to go.
I decided I would do so and immediately booked the flight. Then,
after reviewing the "accommodations" listings in the gay
travel guides at A Different Light bookstore, I booked a room at the
Cherry Grove Beach Hotel. It sounded unpretentious, and I
discovered that other than very expensive private house rentals, there
were not a lot of commercial lodgings in gay Fire Island. I also
saw where the hotel was connected to the Ice Palace, which I knew as not
only a famous disco from the 1970s, but also as the place where Buc told
me he had played a very rousing and successful closing party to the
previous summer's Fire Island season. It all seemed perfect. As a
marginal Jew, I had never been to Israel. But as a devoted gay dance
partier, I would at last make my pilgrimage to the gay Promised Land.
Buc had given me a phone number of the organization I needed to call in
order to get tickets to his party. I called, and it was a
non-profit group in the City. The guy who answered the phone was
very polite, but explained that the party was a private benefit and only
hosts - major donors to the charity - could get tickets. I said I
was a friend of Buc's and that Buc had told me to call. The guy
took down my information and said they would need to check with Buc and
get back to me. After not hearing anything for about a week or so,
I called back and told my story to a different (and also very friendly)
guy, who said he didn't know anything about it. But he suggested
that I call Buc and ask him to directly call the foundation and request
that I be allowed to buy tickets.
When I called Buc's machine the next morning, the message said he was in
DC, but to leave word and he would get back. My message went
something like this: "Hey, Buc, this is kind of embarrassing.
Here I am at 44 still trying to wrangle tickets to gay dance
parties where I suspect I am really not wanted. But why quit
now." Then I quickly explained my situation and asked if he
That same day I got a voicemail from Buc in DC. I was comforted by
his hearty laugh, and he said he was amused at my predicament. Then
he told me who to call and assured me it would be no problem getting
tickets. "It's really quite simple," he said. "When
I am the dj, they let my friends come to the party. And if they
don't, then guess what? I don't play. Why, you ask? Because
The next day I got my tickets. And that was that.
As I always like to do, I arrived in New York City a few
days before the main event. That allows me to exalt once again in
the wonderful sensations that only New York City can provide. And
it gives me time for the only form of shopping I truly adore - hitting
the record stores, specifically Heartbeat.
Friday afternoon my dancing buddy and I joined the other clearly
identifiable revelers at a jam-packed Penn Station. New York had
just had an excruciating heat wave, and I had never experienced that
sensation of the City just completely disgorging its population for a
summer weekend. It seemed everyone who could flee was doing so.
But I heard that a summer storm was headed our way. Sure
enough, when we disembarked from the train it was raining. And by
the time the ferry started heading out over the bay, it was a full on
downpour with thunder and lightening. I insisted on sitting in the
front of the boat facing forward, so I could turn my back on
civilization as we headed out to the Island. But when we reached
the dock at Cherry Grove, I found we got more than I bargained for.
The power in town had just gone completely out. So my
dancing buddy and I did the only logical thing - we headed straight for
the nearest bar, where we drank as fast we could before the beer got
Cherry Grove was in a state of chaos. We were cold and wet. Nothing
was working, and everyone was running around carrying flickering
candles. And the bar was filled with a motley crew of heavy
drinking older gay men and lesbians, laughing in that way that people do
when they have had a few too many. The whole Fire Island
experience was just not getting off to a good start at all. We
weren't sure what to do. Then we overhead somebody say, "I
hear they have power in the Pines." And when on further
inquiry we learned that there might also be a tea dance in the Pines, I
figured, "Bingo!" Moreover, my purchase of a host
package of tickets to Buc's party entitled us to attend a private
welcome party at what sounded like an exclusive Pines residence. My
dancing buddy needed to stay in the Grove to meet his boyfriend, who was
coming out on the last ferry. So we decided that I would go to the
Pines and we would meet up in front of the Pavilion at a designated
I enjoyed my first water taxi just like a kid on his maiden voyage to
Disneyland. As the boat sped out into the ocean, the trip to Fire Island
seemed full of renewed promise. But as we started coming into the
Pines Harbor, I found myself feeling a growing anxiety. Oceanfront
mansions, yachts, a meatrack of wall-to-wall muscleboys. My
long-romanticized Jerusalem suddenly appeared to be nothing more than
another gay Babylon devoted to Youth, Money and Sex. Not that
Babylon doesn't have its good points. It was just not at all what
I had expected. Or come for.
As it turned out, the tea dance had just ended, and the crowd was moving
over en masse to the Pavilion for cocktails. This became my
introductory lesson to the fine distinctions between "high
tea" and "low tea." Meanwhile, armies of young men were
pushing wagons loaded to capacity with very expensive foods from the
gourmet cantina. The whole scene was just too much for me. So
I crossed over to the ocean side, walked along the sand dunes and
listened to the Sea. I stayed there for well over an hour until it
was time to meet up with my friends back at the Pavilion. "You
let David go to the Pines alone!" was apparently the scolding my
dancing buddy received from his boyfriend. In any case I was in no
mood to brave the exclusive "host welcome party" and we
returned to the Grove. Where the lights had returned.
Despite the setbacks, I remained hopeful for the
weekend. I had come for the music and at the Pines Harbor I found
a flyer announcing that in addition to the parties I already knew about
(Gluck on Saturday night; Buc on Sunday; Susan Tuesday night), Michael
Fierman and Robbie Leslie would both be playing t-dances. I
was stunned. Here I was, my first trip to Fire Island, and I was
going to get to hear all five of the dj's I considered the founders of
the modern gay dance Circuit.
And sure enough, Saturday night things started to turn around. Michael
Fierman played one of the most incredible 3-hour sets of tea dance music
I have ever heard. There was scarcely a crowd for the first hour,
but by the final hour the scene inside the restaurant/bar was near
pandemonium. All hands were waving in the air. People were
dancing atop chairs. It was, quite simply, a Disco Riot. I
was in heaven. And that night was more of the same. It was
Playful Warren Gluck, as opposed to the Maestro Warren Gluck from the
Black Party. And playful worked for me, seeing as how I was in a
16-year old girl's silver sparkled stretch bikini, trying to dance while
balancing an enormous disco ball on my head. Fortunately, we left
around 3 in the morning, so we could get some sleep. And be ready
for Buc's party the next day.
Buc had told me to be sure to come to his party early. But not
that he needed to. My favorite parts of a dance party are
frequently the beginning and the end. I have never felt any need
to arrive socially late. To the contrary, if one of my favorite
artists is at the turntables, I like, whenever possible, to hear the
first and final notes.
And in Buc's case it was much more than that. For Buc, in a way
that was not true of anyone else I had ever met on the gay dance party
scene, had become a friend. I am not sure how that happened.
I am pretty shy to begin with. And then I have a tendency to
put people I admire on a pedestal, which tends to become an obstacle to
intimacy. But I think what happened in Buc's case was that he
decided he liked me. And while he had a very healthy ego and pride, he
wasn't much interested in being on any pedestal. And so in his
very forthright manner, starting when I met him at the Palm Springs
White Party in 1999, he instead offered what, for me, is that most
wonderful and elusive of gifts: genuine adult male friendship.
We were among the first to arrive at Buc's party. It was at Jim
Pepper's huge compound. And I had to go exploring to find Buc.
But when I did, I was greeted by that wonderful huge smile. And
that salutation I often get from guys who genuinely like me. I've
never had a nickname, but what guys do is combine my first and last name
into one word. "Hi, Davidkarnes!" boomed Buc. And
there he was. The Music Man, swaying to the beat of his own tunes.
Happy as a clam. Even though almost nobody was there yet.
And the weather was being most uncooperative. But it was Buc's
party. And he was having a time of it.
I must confess the party was a bit of a disappointment for me. The
music was lush and gorgeous and filled with layered beauty one rarely
hears on the Circuit. It would have been perfect for a lazy and
sultry Fire Island sunny afternoon. But it was cold and rainy.
And quite apart from that, I was distracted by my own personal
issues relating to Fire Island, my friends, a lot of stuff that had
nothing to do with the music or the party. I usually try to always
say goodbye to my favorite dj's. But while I stayed to the end of
the party, I think I only made the most cursory of farewells to Buc.
Buc's party had been the centerpiece of my first visit to Fire
Island, but I remember feeling in a funk when it was over.
The next 48 hours of my Fire Island visit - Sunday
night, Monday, Tuesday afternoon - remain a blur. Robbie Leslie's tea
dance was also sabotaged by the weather. But Robbie made the most
of it, playing "Here Comes the Rain Again" at the most
appropriate moment. Other than that, what I mostly remember is
constantly walking back and forth between the Ocean and the Bay in the
Pines, trying to get a sense of the place. Trying to connect.
But failing. I was enchanted by the trees, the absence of
cars, and that incredible system of suspended wooden walkways. But
the "community" seemed to me like one of those rich gated
Southern California housing developments transported to a rustic pine
tree setting. "Rolling Hills Estates meets Lake Arrowhead,
with a twist of Laguna Beach," as they might say at a Hollywood
pitch meeting. I just couldn't see the attraction. And
compounding matters was my decision to re-read Andrew Holleran's
"Dancer From the Dance." I had read it when first
published in 1978, but had found it very upsetting, although I never
really remembered why. Now I remembered. I happen to think
Holleran is our best contemporary gay writer, and the book a work of
genius. Nonetheless, this celebrated classic of gay fiction
essentially used its protagonist, Malone, to chronicle the empty
shallowness and superficiality of urban gay life. I was absolutely
astounded to read the verdict in the final pages: Malone was
"in the end a circuit queen." I had no idea we even had
that expression in 1978. But there it was, in black and white.
And here I was on Fire Island more than 20 years later. And
it seemed like nothing had changed at all.
I figured I had another opportunity to salvage my Fire Island visit with
Susan Morabito's Tuesday night party at the Pavilion. Susan often
has a very classical three-act dramatic approach to her performances.
In this case, the first act was a very spirited warm up with a lot
of rousing disco-flavored house classics. Her middle act was
filled with a lot of current hits and crowd-pleasers. But her
third act is usually the wild card. And that night Susan decided
to take the crowd on an extended down trip that I found quite beautiful.
It was the kind of journey that I wanted from Fire Island. And I
had planned it as my one night of being out dancing until dawn. My
dancing buddy had to get back to the city, so he caught the first ferry
back to the mainland (his boyfriend had returned on Sunday). So
starting around 5:30 am I was for the first time alone on Fire Island.
Just me and the other hard core dancers, and Susan playing a deep
morning groove as the sun was rising.
Around 6:00 a.m. Susan surprised us all by suddenly announcing that she
was being required to shut the party down. I was totally amazed.
I had noticed they had closed the bar, even though there was a
good-sized number of people still dancing in the club. And it had
seemed to me that the party was just at a point where Susan might be
ready to suddenly brighten the floor with some Fire Island morning music
classics. But to my horror, the music suddenly stopped. I
was at my first all night party at the Pavilion, which I considered the
last remaining Mother Ship of the classical all-night gay dance party in
general, and of the morning music tradition in particular. But
when all was said and done, it was just another for-profit club, whose
policy was to close up shop once the bar revenue dwindled and the staff
anxious to get home.
At one point early in the party I noticed that Buc was visiting with
Susan in the booth. But I didn't think any more of it. When
the party was over, I felt lonely and sad and retreated to a far bench
in the courtyard outside the Pavilion. From there I watched the
various dancers exit. Some to go back to their rentals. Some to await
the next ferry. Some just high with no destination at all. I
must have been sitting there for a good 45 minutes when all of a sudden
Buc came out. He came down the stairs, chatted with some friends,
and then came over and sat down next to me.
We chatted. He said that some dj's were getting together at
somebody's house, but that he was instead going to go over to a friend's
place for morning coffee. I asked if I could be his date, and, as
an answer, he gave me one of his big glorious smiles. A couple of
other people he knew joined us and we journeyed to one of the far ends
of Fire Island Pines. After a few false starts we found the house
of his friend.
Buc's friend was a 50-ish gay man, who said he had inherited the house
many years before when his lover died. The sun was finally fully out and
shining brightly into every room. And every room was filled with
the most wonderful bouquets of fresh flowers. We all drank coffee
and ate some light snacks and talked about nothing. And it was
really quite wonderful. I remember voicing some of my more
distressing impressions of Fire Island Pines. And I remember our
host, who seemed a very kind and gentle man, giving me the sweetest
smile. A smile that said, "I understand what you're saying;
but there is more to the story than that; you need to push yourself to
see beyond it." I remember telling our host how beautiful I
found his home. And I remember specifically telling him that I felt his
home had a most wonderful spirit that I couldn't quite describe. At
which point he looked me straight in the eye and said, "It's not
the house. It's the spirit of all of the wonderful people who come
here and pass through. Just like you. And that's why you're
always a guest in my home. Stop by anytime you come to Fire
Buc was a center of attention, and so I kept my distance during the
coffee. But after a couple of hours or so, Buc said it was time
for him to leave. And then he came over to me and asked if I would
like to go for a walk. I said sure.
I thought I had crossed back and forth over every walk way in the Pines
at least three or four times. But Buc somehow managed to take me
into some nooks and crannies and dead ends that I had missed.
And they were the most incredible places. What Buc showed me
were homes that had the most beautiful gardens. Japanese gardens.
Ponds with lily pads. Rich flower beds. The master
work of gay men using their incredible talents to combine Art with
Nature. Buc loved nature, and he loved to photograph it. He
told me on a couple of different occasions that he was very proud of his
photography and wanted to do exhibits and be considered a serious
photographer. And he told me that his photographs were almost
always of nature, rarely of people. I had obtained some music sets
from him which featured (as cover art) some of the most gorgeous of his
photographs. They were almost always of flowers. In the
fullest of bloom.
Buc made me see Fire Island in a way that I never otherwise would have.
He was fearless. He would just open the gate to the most
expensive private estates, and we would tromp on in, as he pointed out
this tree and that flower bed. "We'll just say, 'Oh, guess we
got the wrong house' in case we run into anybody," he explained,
with a shrug. But we didn't run into a soul. Toward the end
of the tour he took me to a very large modern house on an enormous lot.
"And this is where Michael Fierman and his crew stayed every
summer up until this year," he explained. He showed me the
pool area, recounted some of the great parties that had taken place
there, and then exclaimed, "But oh my God, with all that glass, it
got so unbelievably hot in that house during the summer. It could
really be unbearable!"
And then my tour was over. Buc said he needed to pack up, and
asked if I wanted to walk him back to the Pepper compound. I said
sure. And then we went back to his room and for the next couple of
hours talked intensely and non-stop. About music, of course.
I am obsessed with dance music, but rarely have anybody to talk to about
it. And so Buc was my perfect partner, because he was a great
conversationalist who knew everything about music. Or at least all
of the music about which I cared. And Buc was always completely
engaged, especially that morning. When I said I was getting into
80s music, he wanted specifics. And when I said Erasure and the
Pet Shop Boys, he wanted to know which songs, which mixes. When I
said I was mostly buying classic disco, he grilled me. "Which
records?" I said I had fallen in love with Suzi Lane's
"Harmony." "Oh, that incredible pink LP where she
has her arms draped around herself?" Yes, I confirmed, and he
beamed with approval. When I said that through the influence of
Robbie Leslie's tape club I was getting particularly hooked on 70's
disco/soul, he again pressed for specifics. Hodges, James &
Smith got a complete vote of approval. And when I told him that I
was especially smitten with one of Robbie's compilations that included a
rare extended mix of Diana Ross' "I Ain't Been Licked Yet,"
Buc perked up. "I love that record...Extended mix...I would
very much like to hear that!" And I told him I would make him a
copy. Best of all, when I told him I would be dj'ing my first
party (for a friend's opening of her backyard patio in LA), he didn't
say a word. He just smiled ever so warmly with a grin that said,
without being the least bit campy: "You, go girl!"
Just as Buc always wanted my opinions, he was always very candid and
straightforward about expressing his own. About music. About
other dj's. About the Circuit. More than any other dj I
followed, it was always my sense that Buc was the most uncompromising.
I know that dj's have to please the crowd. But it always
seemed to me that Buc only played music he really believed in. And
he always had very strong beliefs. And he expected me to have my
own, even when we differed. He would agree with me, for example,
that almost all dj's were fools in not realizing that Sylvester's
"Don't Stop" and "Can't Stop Dancing" are much
better records than "Do You Wanna Funk?" But then he
would go on to sternly advise that "I Who Have Nothing" was
nonetheless Sylvester's best. And when I hinted that I was having
a hard time getting into the whole "Body & Soul" thing
that he so adored, he seemed sympathetic. He told me specifically
which compilations to get. And insisted that I check out
"Body & Soul" the next time I was in New York on a Sunday
night, reeling off a whole of list of dj's he admired who were connected
to that scene. "You know, the best dj's are not all
gay," he admonished with raised eyebrows.
Emboldened by our discussion of "Body &
Soul," I took the opportunity to talk about House music, and
confessed the fact that when I first rediscovered dance music in the
early 90's, and identified myself with High Energy, I actually thought
"House was the enemy." I named some house styles in
particular to which I had objected. "That music's not House,"
Buc scoffed, "it's just obnoxious." And then I recounted
how I had slowly moved beyond my "High Energy" identity.
Under Leslie I was becoming a student of classic disco. And from
Fierman I had learned Progressive sounds. And I explained
that it was Buc's music and parties that had shown me the incredible
beauty and uplifting spirit of House, and made me realize how
wonderfully it could be integrated with other styles that I liked.
"I'm really glad to hear that," he said, with a very soft
That morning on Fire Island was one of only a few
occasions where I got to spend a large amount of time with Buc. But
each of those occasions was an incredibly special experience - an
opportunity to discuss the canon with one of its high priests. And
in particular with a priest who was so gracious, had such integrity and
treated me like an equal. It was very much part of Buc's magic
that when I was with him he made me feel like I was the most important
person in the world. "No, I think I am going to stay put, I
am here with my friend Davidkarnes," he said in response to more
than one of that morning's phone callers, who were inviting him to visit
at some undoubtedly fabulous house in the Pines. And each time he
gave me a smile as he said it. And when I was with Buc in those
situations I always felt like I was a safe protected cub in a den in
which his magnificent presence and spirit just filled the room. "I
know all these other dj's are also Leos," he told me that morning,
"but I am a real Leo, a real Lion." And he was right.
Because if he liked you, even his roar made you feel good and
safe. All warm and fuzzy with the King of the Forest.
Finally, Buc said he really needed to pack. His ferry was leaving
in just a couple of hours. He was so gracious and gentle in letting me
know it was time for me to go. And so we hugged and said goodbye.
But I couldn't get Buc off my mind. Our time together -- talking,
visiting with his friend, sharing in the gorgeous beauty of Fire Island
-- had deeply moved me. I had bought a disposable camera in the
Grove in order to get some photographs of me in my Pines Party regalia
for my 2001 year-end Holiday card. The prior year I had sent out a
scandalous card and wanted to maintain the tradition. My dancing
buddy's boyfriend had snapped quite a few pictures of me in advance of
the Saturday night party, but I knew I had some frames left. So I
returned to the Grove, grabbed my camera, and headed back to the Pines.
I retraced the steps of my tour with Buc and took pictures of the key
places. Mostly of flowers. When I was down to my last few
frames I realized that it was only minutes away from the departure of
Buc's ferry. And so I decided to go down to the Pines Harbor and see him
off. There was a large crowd of people leaving (I think many
people had stayed for Susan's party). And so it was easy to keep
myself hidden in the throng. That way I, like a commando
paparazzo, could surprise Buc with a no-notice snapshot.
At long last I saw Buc heading toward the waiting area, carrying his
bags and records. A lot of people knew him and said hello. And
just as I was about to take his picture, a shirtless tattooed guy with
his own camera seemed to have the same idea. But I decided that
was my moment. I tapped Buc from behind, and as he was looking
back over his shoulder, I bellowed, "Buc, what a photo
opportunity!" and received one of those wonderful smiles, just as I
snapped the picture. "I enjoyed our morning together,
Davidkarnes!" he laughed loudly. And this time we really said
I had one more day on Fire Island, and it was so pleasant. The sun
was now fully out, and my half-day with Buc and his friends had changed
my entire attitude toward the place. When I was in LA I had told a
major A-list circuit boy that I was going to spend 6 days on Fire
Island. "That is probably a couple of days too many," he
glibly responded. But he couldn't have been more wrong. It
was only in those last two days - after the parties had ended - that I
got to really feel the magic of the place.
Then the hour came to head home. This time around I picked a seat
on the ferry so that I could face backwards. I wanted to savor
every last moment as I watched Fire Island fade into the sea, resisting
until the last possible moment my destination - the mainland and
workaday world. But as we left the dock I realized that I had
miscalculated. I was facing the wrong way. My back was to
the island. I considered switching positions. Then I decided it
was just as well. Time to leave it all behind. My Fire
Island journey was over.
When I got back to LA I had my roll of film developed.
I found that my nature pictures came out very average and
uninspired. But my picture of Buc was very special. His face
and spirit filled the frame. But it turned out that the picture
was actually the last one on the roll, and not only was it over-exposed
on that bright sunny day, but the whole right side of it was burned.
I decided that for Christmas I would try to get it cropped and
re-developed so that I could send it to Buc as a gift.
During the fall I traded a couple of voicemails with Buc. For well
over a year he had been trying to locate the negative of a picture taken
from the dj booth of his "Sweet 16" GMHC Fire Island Morning
Party in 1998. I had seen a copy of that picture and very much
wanted to blow it up poster-size so I could frame it on my living room
wall. Around late September Buc left word on my machine that he
had at last found it and wanted to know what size I needed and how much
I was willing to spend on the print. Meanwhile, I had sent him a
cd of my Robbie Leslie recording with Diana Ross's "I Ain't Been
Licked Yet." As expected, he loved it. But the cd I sent
didn't have track markings, and so in his message he asked if I could
make another cd with just that one song. I tried a couple of
times, but couldn't get the equipment to work. I left Buc a
message some time in October that I wasn't having much luck, but would
keep at it.
And that was my last contact with Buc. I am on the "partylist"
email distribution, and I remember thinking about Buc when I saw the
listing for him playing the Toronto Leather ball in late November.
He told me several times that he really liked playing for the
older leather crowd. He had loved the time he played Jito Garcia's
"Magnitude" party in San Francisco. And he said that he
always used to love playing at the old Probe in LA because it was filled
with what he considered the most stellar collection of "big manly
Meanwhile, because of "September 11" among other reasons, the
party that was supposed to be my first dj gig was canceled. And so
I decided to make a cd set instead. I called it "the Recovery
Party" and made the decision that I would devote it to classic
disco. All year Robbie Leslie's tape club had been introducing me
to new songs from that era. And I was especially influenced from
recordings I heard of Robbie's first and last performances at the old 12
West club in New York City. I came to believe that the crucial
period spanned by those performances - 1979 through the end of 1980, the
years when I had first come out and discovered the dancefloor - was
somehow very important in integrating the 70's disco/soul sound with a
new Euro-influenced sensibility. And in my cd set - particularly
the middle of it - I very much wanted to pay tribute to that era and
that music. Making mix tapes, however, is hard for me, seeing as
how I don't know how to count, much less match, the beats. Every
dj has told me that the basic techniques of mixing are really quite
easy. And every dj has resorted to the same metaphor in making the
point: "It's just like riding a bicycle; as soon as you get
the hang of it, you never forget." But I have never gotten
that hang, so my project became very all-consuming.
In December it was announced that my company was being sold. I am
a lawyer, so that meant a lot of work. Between the cd set and my
job, I was very preoccupied. But just before Christmas I went to
my local West Hollywood photo shop to develop my Holiday card and my
re-done photo of Buc. The Holiday card came out great.
But Buc's print came out badly. The cropping was fine.
But because the picture was over-exposed, the lab over-compensated
by making it very dark. All the shine and sparkle from Buc's face
disappeared. So I took it back for a second time. And the
result was the same. And now Christmas was past and New Year's
right around the corner. So I went back to the shop and explained
the whole saga, my whole trip to Fire Island, the importance of this
photo, and why it needed to be right and bright. The guy at the
counter smiled and said he would see what he could do. My picture
should be ready right after the first of the year.
For New Year's I had decided to just go to one party - Susan Morabito
and Eddie X at the Mayan. The Mayan is my favorite venue in Los
Angeles, and I actually liked the idea of the big party not being on New
Year's Eve itself. And I was also very excited that I had
persuaded a couple of gay women to join me. When I came out in San
Francisco I always danced and partied in gender-mixed groups, and I have
always thought that mix makes parties more fun. But these women
had not been to a major gay male circuit party, and I was very
apprehensive. "Will there be any women there?" they
asked. "The dj," I said. But they ended up having an
incredible time. As did I.
The next day was New Year's eve. I had asked my one good friend
from work to come over in the afternoon to listen to part of my
"Recovery Party." She was my LA music buddy who had
"co-produced" my "Disco Saves" contingent at San
Francisco Gay Pride 2000. And even though her tastes tended more
toward rap and hip-hop, I had great respect for her admiration of all
good music. I decided that if she gave the "Recovery
Party" her stamp of approval, it would be ready to "go to
print." I played for her the last two segments - the
down-trip, which I considered the most important - and she loved it.
So that was that. I was so content, and so tired, that I
went to bed around 10:30, awakened only briefly by the horns and sirens
New Year's Day seemed very inexplicably spiritual to me. I mostly
stayed at home. And I spent several hours going through my music
collection and for the first time ever "weeding it out."
I must have picked out at least 50 12" records, all purchased
in the last couple of years, most with 135+ BPMs, that I realized I just
truly didn't want. I am a collector and am very compulsive about
my collection. And in the past whenever I have wanted to improve
it, I go out and try to find more good music. But this time I
realized that the best way to improve my collection was not to add to
it, but rather to discard. To get rid of the music I didn't really
believe in. Consistent with my "Recovery Party," I
determined that my record collection should only consist of music that
liberated, that healed, that inspired. It was like pruning a rose bush
or thinning out a flower bed.
And as for flower beds, my New Year's was also dominated by the most
extraordinary display of flowers I have ever had in my home. I
only get fresh cut flowers when family or good friends are coming over,
and so I had selected a very verdant display on the day that my lesbian
friends arrived. And they, like I, were absolutely amazed at how
intensely the blooms opened as soon as the stems were cut and they
landed in fresh water. By the next day, when my music buddy joined
me, the flowers were even more intense, like nothing either of us had
ever seen. And I remember thinking, that last day of the year,
that if Buc was there, he would have taken a picture.
After New Year's it was back to the grind. And at
lunch on Wednesday I went to the shop to see if the latest version of
Buc's photograph had come out any better. To my incredible
surprise and delight, I discovered that it had turned out perfectly.
Finally, the photograph captured the beauty of Buc's spirit, as
well as that fine summer day when the sun finally decided to come out
full force and warm up Fire Island Pines just as it should be warmed.
I had already hunted down the right frame for my present, and so
Thursday morning I brought it into work for mailing. Buc was the
only person to whom I had not yet sent my Holiday card, so I enclosed
one of those as well. And then I wrote him a note, wishing him a
Happy New Year, enclosing the playlist to my Recovery Party (which I
couldn't wait for him to hear), and assuring him that I was still
working on getting him the Diana Ross single. "We Ain't
Licked Yet!" I promised.
But just as I was about to seal the package I noticed that under the
glass there was a very noticeable dent in the middle of the photograph.
I couldn't believe it. I had been through so much with this
picture, and I didn't understand how it could have gotten there. And
I so wanted it to be perfect. I was so frustrated that I
considered just sending it off. But then I thought, no, I had a
second print at home. After all of this time, what difference
could one more day make. And then I went to lunch.
When I returned from lunch I had an "urgent" message alerting
me to news "regarding a friend." And that's when I found
out that Buc had passed on New Year's Eve. He had died on that
very afternoon while me and my friend had been lost in wonderment at the
beauty of flowers and music. Nature and Art.
Everyone insists that the New York skyline is forever changed, a break
that cannot be mended. I understand the sentiment, but I have not
been able to fully relate. The Empire State and Chrysler
Buildings, the Statute of Liberty -- that is my New York skyline. And
But in my own private firmament of the heavens -- my celestial skyline
-- where great spirits spin the tunes that keep us all in balance, and
keep the earth connected to the stars, there is indeed now a void.
One that I don't think can ever be filled. That is how I
feel about Buc's passing.
I am sorry to say that I have, of necessity, fortified my heart over the
past decade or so. The Entertainment Industry. West
Hollywood. The gay Circuit scene. These are not arenas for
the sensitive or soft-hearted. And over the past several years I have
often thought I might actually be forgetting how to cry. I of
course know that tears come naturally to the young, but I had come to
believe that by middle age, if you don't use the plumbing, the pipes
just kind of rust over.
These past few days I discovered I was wrong.
Crying, it seems, even for adults, is just like riding a
And life is really very basic. Buc was our Music Man. Our
Lion. One of the Founders.
But he was also my friend. And he played
beautiful, wonderful music. And treated me with tenderness and
I am going to miss him terribly.
The only way I can even hope to make it right is to renew more than ever
my commitment to all that is best in our Music and our Party. And
that is how I shall try to heal the loss. And honor that most
wonderful of men.
That shall be my Resolution for 2002.
January 7, 2002
Discosound Recovery Party
Dionne Warwicke & The Spinners, Then Came You (Atlantic, 1974)
MFSB, MFSB (CBS, 1975)
Beautiful Bend, Make That Feeling Come Again (T.K., 1978)
Suzi Lane, Harmony (Elektra/Asylum, 1979)
Donna Summer, Dim All the Lights (Casablanca, 1979)
Barry White, Ecstasy (20th Century, 1977)
Ashford & Simpson, Solid (Francois Kevorkian Club)(Capitol, 1984)
Whitney Houston, I Wanna Dance With Somebody (12")(Arista, 1987)
Donna Summer, This Time I Know It's for Real (Atlantic, 1989)
Sharon Redd, In the Name of Love (Prelude, 1982)
The Brothers Johnson, Stomp (A&M, 1980)
Shalamar, The Second Time Around (Solar, 1979)
Loleatta Holloway, Love Sensation (Tom Moulton) (Salsoul, 1980)
Bionic Boogie, Risky Changes (Polydor, 1977)
La Flavour, Mandalay (Sweet City, 1979)
Boris Midney's Evita (RSO, 1979)
The Trammps, That's Where the Happy People Go (Atlantic, 1976)
Technique, Can We Try Again (white label)
Barry White, Let The Music Play (white label)
Sylvester, Don't Stop (Megatone, 1983)
ABC, The Look of Love, Parts III & IV (Phonogram, 1982)
Westside Strutters, Gershwin '79/Rhapsody in Blue (Parachute, 1979)
Salsoul Orchestra, Salsoul: 3001-Introduction (Salsoul, 1978)
Venus Dodson, Night Rider (Jim Burgess)(Warner, 1979)
Brainstorm, Lovin' Is Really My Game (Tabu, 1977)
Three Degrees, Jump the Gun (Ariola, 1980)
Sylvia Love, Extraterrestrial Lover (RCA, 1979)
France Joli, Come to Me (Prelude, 1979)
Gino Soccio, Dancer (Warner, 1979)
Trixie, Electricity (H. Csaznik & E. Sierra)(Brasilia, 1980)
Deborah Washington, Love Shadow (Randy Sills)(Ariola, 1978)
Two Tons of Fun, Earth Can Be Just Like Heaven (Fantasy, 1980)
The Four Seasons, Who Loves You (Warner, 1975)
Cerrone, Love Is Here (Warner, 1977)
Love Unlimited Orchestra, Love's Theme (20th, 1974)
Salsoul Orchestra, Magic Bird of Fire (Salsoul, 1977)
Madonna, Open Your Heart (Extended)(Sire, 1986)
Stevie Wonder, All I Do (white label)
Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes, The Love I Lost (DMC, 1997)
Donna Summer, Carry On (Outta Control)(Interhit, 1997)
Michael Jackson, Man in the Mirror (Epic, 1987)
Alphaville, Forever Young (Special Extended)(Warner, 1988)
Nightlife Unlimited, Love Is In You (Casablanca, 1979)
Diana Ross, The Boss (J.Simpson & M. Hutchinson)(Motown, 1979)
Lionel Richie, All Night Long (Motown, 1983)
Dolly Parton, Peace Train (Holy Roller)(Flip It, 1997)
Marvin Gaye, Sexual Healing (Club)(CBS, 1982)
The Dream Academy, The Love Parade (12")(Blanco Y Negro, 1985)
Our Tribe, Love Come Home (Dignity Piano)(Atlantic, 1994)
Cyndi Lauper, What's Going On (Long Version)(CBS, 1987)
Etta James, Blowin' in the Wind (Ringwald/Schott)(Disconet, 1983)
Nicolette Larson, Lotta Love (Jim Burgess)(WB, 1978)
Mama Cass, Make Your Own Kind of Music (Yum Club)(MCA, 1997)
Sting, When We Dance (A&M, 1994)
Rose Laurens, American Love (Passion Remix, 1987)
Secret Life, Love So Strong (Original)(Cowboy, 1993)
Deniece Williams, Free (CBS, 1976)
Frankie Knuckles, The Whistle Song (Paul Shapiro)(Virgin, 1991)
Thelma Houston, Saturday Night, Sunday Morning (Motown, 1979)
Carole King, Beautiful (A&M, 1971)