Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Choice Story

Chapter Two (previous chapter is below)

I was deeply saddened several months later when I looked out into the yard of David’s home in the mountains and saw all those beautiful pieces of solid oak, early 20th century furniture just sitting out in the open air .I walked over to take a closer look and found that all pieces were totally ruined. .Rain and snow had t warped every valuable item. It looked like some pieces were already broken down for firewood.

This recollection takes me to thinking about how important it was for me to engage in a friendship with David. I had never met him before Gregory suggested we talk to him. I had been to the Prince Street Loft just a few times. He was very likeable and also a very good story teller.
He expressed a great reluctance to the Choice idea before he met me because he was guarding against the Loft being turned into something commercial.
Once he saw that I was an artist and not a businessman he slowly warmed up to the idea. He liked visiting me at my 2nd Street townhouse. He saw the many paintings I had done through the years, which were displayed on every wall of my white brick loft space. He also took note of my collection of books… most about art. But most of all he saw that records…thousands of pieces of vinyl were everywhere.

Then too was the sound system in my home of all Klipsch speakers. David was a devotee of Klipsch speakers. The Loft too was all Klipsch.
He began to trust the situation. We both loved great food and David believed that sharing dinners was an important part of the trust needed in business relationships. The day before we reached an agreement he brought over a great loaf of fresh bakery and some great cheeses. He demonstrated the breaking of bread, to go along with the shaking of hands. It rang a bell of sincerity, having a kind of Biblical connotation. He said it was an Italian thing.

Then came all the stories about how he kept the Loft going despite numerous attempts by The City government to close him down. He told of his court appearances. It was the father of his current attorney Mike Linn who kept the place open since the sixties in all of it’s various incarnations. Linn and David concocted various creative strategies to test the ordinances against social clubs and rent parties. Linn established many precedents which set the groundwork for future social clubs like The Paradise Garage.
I remember a story where he told me that Linn pointed out to the judge that David had shown up at court with two different colored socks that day… clearly demonstrating that David was not a business man club owner but rather a funky loft dweller who simply threw parties every weekend.

David explained to me how important it was to establish a membership with full data in the membership list. This too had been valuable evidence used to thwart attempts to shut him down. There were many social clubs existing in New York that were never bothered or challenged. They were usually storefronts where neighbors would gather to party. I remember visiting one in Harlem in 1960. By this time in the late 80’s there were several
after hour clubs that illegally served alcohol. How these clubs stayed open were described to me for the first time by Mancuso and Linn.

They also made me aware that I would have to be very careful about how I promoted the Club that I was about to launch. There could be no media advertising. There could be no signage outside or inside the door identifying it as The Choice, There should not even be any articles or interviews given to the newspapers. It was however OK to print and distribute invitations encouraging membership.

I was surprised however to find that David showed no interest in music at that time. Every deejay I had known previously had the most to share when it came to music. David was not the least bit interested in talking about it or listening to it. He would rather talk about audio equipment. He told stories about his equipment: his prized rosewood cartridges. his Levinson amplifiers. his Thoren turntables. His tweeter arrays, which were produced by Alex Rosner according to David’s ideas. I was aware of audiofiles through reading. But I had always placed them into the world of Classical music and Jazz. I saw them as wealthy people who splurged on lavish sound equipment for their homes. They were people who would proudly demonstrate their sound euipment in their homes with some dynamic piece of Beethoven or Ravel and then turn the system to a whisper while they wowed you with talk of their other posessions. David was above all an audiofile… but was putting his knowledge and passion to use with disco.

David also told the story about a major fight that he and Larry Levan had at The Loft with it ending in Larry assaulting his beloved Thoren turntables and destroying it’s tone arm in a fit of rage and spite, thereby bending it out of shape. It was known that David and Larry were good friends before the Garage took off. It was said that Larry was a protege of David, but once the Garage took off egos could not endure. It was because of this final episode that they were no longer speaking. Larry always spoke to me with a fondness for Mancuso. But Larry also had stories of David’s crazy moments. Personally my experience with the two of them was that Mancuso was a difficult person to deal with and Larry was basically a sweetheart with major disfunctions.

I never imagined at the time that these two individuals would be talked about and celebrated twenty years later as the pioneers of what would today be described as a huge deejay culture. They were no doubt very charismatic individuals with a power and a presence that was elusive. One could not quite put a finger on or define what their magic was or where it emanated from.
David seemed to care nothing about his appearance. Never dressed up and was quite disheveled looking…in my eye a slight resemblance to Charles Manson. Larry on the other hand was always styled no matter when you caught him. He always commanded accessories that were original. He would add little touches of humor to designer items by the most original talent.
He and Patricia Field were great friends, and Larry and his friends would always break the latest trends from her store at The Garage. Without this great styling, to my eye he would have looked rather average. He loved the just breaking Japanese designers , who just gave him whatever he wanted.

It is mind boggling to me that in all of what my life has been, I would have to say that these two individuals are probably on the top of my list as who has impacted my life the most. I say that because I have realized that most of us rarely get a chance to do something in life, which has an impact on many others. Something we sense is important. We don’t get too many chances to do something really great in life. The average person you would hear speak of the greatest thing they did, would say that it was in bring their wonderful children into this world. Life did not give me that experience but it did give me The Choice.

As I look back now at my 66 years I would have to say the greatest thing I got to do was The Choice. There are people that have expressed to me that it literally saved their lives. That hit record “Last Night A Deejay Saved My Life” is no joke. Larry’s performance gave me the inspiration to persue an art form which was more expressive and relevant that the figurative painting I was creating or the advertising world’s commercial art I was doing to make big bucks.

When I was dancing to Larry’s performances there was a level of multi- meaning in the tracks and the way they were put together. His form had the same property that really good poetry has. If you were to dwell on it you would find that it meant this, or maybe it meant that. You could interpret the message as being about a love affair, but on another level it could be a religious or spiritual experience. In another way it could be about politics or philosophy, success or failure. If one were a creative thinker, one could get lost for hours dancing to the deeper meanings of life. In those days lyrics were key to a compelling dance track. One could wake up to a new reality expressed very basically in street talk, by a screaming diva or a screaming saxophone. I find it incredible today that some at some parties today people are turned off by any trace of vocals. I can’t imagine why this generation wants it that way. Is it indicative of the “I don’t want to hear it” mentality .Our generation wanted to see and hear “Love Is The Message:… it was our anthem

While Larry’s example gave me direction for my spinning style. David gave me the information of his experience in running an underground party venue as well as a venue that did not dictate a commercial pop mandate. I had been trying for 7 years to do my thing at popular clubs, only finding that most of the time I had to compromise what I really wanted to be doing with the music I truly wanted to play. I am still baffled to this day how these two characters turned my many capabilities toward this direction and this mission. Was it a cop out or was it what I came here to do.


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DJ Alex Voices said...

Hi Richard, many thanks for sharing your recollections. Glad to have seen the footage from the party courtesy of Louis. All I need is the time machine now...

I hope you can continue to share with us and look fwd to reading more.

Thankyou also for the mixes, I recognise nearly all the records as I used to dance to many of them in London at that time.

Peace and thanks


Barbara said...

1aaahh very fond memories. Great reading. I remember a night at the Choice when Larry was playing maybe it was about 4am, I was in my world in the middle of the dance floor and I turned around and looked up, Larry was on the turntables staring down at me laughing and I felt like I was a puppet and Larry was pulling my strings with his music what a freaky but fascinating feeling.