If you randomly bust into dance moves when you hear “Le Freak” by Chic coming from the sound system at the grocery store, if you still expect to be on the guest list even though you have been to a nightclub in several years or if you suffer from minor hearing loss due to dancing next to speakers for an extended period of time; you may be suffering from disco damage. Other common symptoms include the unwavering belief that nothing gets good until after 12am, spontaneously yelling “Hey girl!” at drag queens even if you don’t know them and a deep desire to dance instead of dealing with your life.
Disco damage sufferers like myself have a had tough week. The back-to-back deaths of Donna Summer and Robin Gibb reinforced the depressing, unavoidable truth: nothing,not even a great dance song, lasts forever. I was a toddler during the original disco era but the beat must have seeped into my brain at an early age because my whole life I’ve been in love with dance music. Yes, I am aware that an affinity for dance music is part of my gay DNA but disco and the culture around it were very much a fantasyland and that appealed to me very much as a future drug addict and alcoholic.
I was scooped into nightclubs and raves at an early age. And what goes better with dance music than drugs? Body glitter and platforms are fabulous but if I really wanted to dance my ass off, drugs had to be my number one accessory. Once at a rave in a warehouse in suburban Denver, the Chic song I mentioned earlier came blasting out of the speakers. I was high on ecstasy and it felt like this was my moment. This is what I was looking for my whole life. I had friends on the dance floor, I felt fantastic and I was 20. This kind of high needed to happen all the time and normal life needed to feel more like this. So it was this feeling, this hunger that propelled me from Colorado raves to LA nightclubs to working at a record store and to DJing and promoting my own clubs in Hollywood. The goal of a budding disco diva was simple: get high and dance. Ecstasy was the preferred dancing accoutrement for many years but cocaine did the trick and so did some strong cocktails. (For the record, 3 Long Islands and 2 Vicodins aren’t a great dance floor combo and we’ll leave it at that.) There’s a great line in the disco classic, “Lost in Music” by Sister Sledge that sums it up:”Responsibility to me is a tragedy. I’ll get a job some other time.” For many years, I worked to keep partying, I kept partying to avoid really living.
Eventually, the lights came on, last call was called and I tried to live real life. For a club child, this is a difficult prospect. We’re used to phony relationships and being high all the time. Things like paying our bills and dealing with our problems are icky tasks meant for those boring, grownups we’d see heading to church on Sunday mornings on our way home from the club. I eventually would face the music and lucky for me that music still had a disco beat. You could take the homo out of the nightclub but disco would forever “toot, toot- aah- beep beep” in my heart. Donna Summer and the Bee Gees were the soundtrack to my growing up, the background music at the roller rink and still bumping at after hours clubs when I was hell-bent on vanishing in the 1990s and 2000s. Now, songs like Nights on Broadway or Try Me I Know We Can Make it are celebrations that despite ingesting more drugs than a Rick James after-party, I too will survive. My dance parties today take place at my desk most of the time although I still occasionally hit the clubs with other sober folks. So be kind to me if you see me shaking my booty in the frozen food aisle to Bad Girls or Jive Talking. It’s just a little disco damage and a sweet hangover that I don’t wanna get over.