Sunday, January 24, 2016

John, I'm only dancing


Did I ever tell you about how it was illegal to dance in New York City? Some of you who were there remember. Giuliani took office and started enforcing these “blue” laws, originally made to enforce religious standards that had been on the books since prohibition but had not been enforced in decades. One said that you could dance in establishments on the avenues, the commercial streets that ran north and south, but not in venues on the “streets” which were the ones that were numbered, or parallel to the numbered streets, which ran easy to west.

He was on a campaign to clean up the quality of life in New York and used those laws to shut down noisy businesses when possible.

My grandmother, by the way, who happened to go dancing at the original Peppermint Lounge, which was on 45th street, a numbered street, but was run my a crime family so it was probably immune to the laws…, she used to work during prohibition, bringing moonshine to the cops and the firemen. Her caretaker used to brew the liquor in the bathtub in an apartment on the upper west side.

So it was only natural that I would work as a dj and business partner throwing dance parties on a street that ran east to west, which was eventually targeted by the whole Giuliani mess. Coney Island High happened to be on Saint Marks Place, so you could not get a more commercial “street”, but indeed they tried to keep us from dancing there.

As I have written before there was a “kill switch” at the top of the stairs where you entered the club, so everyone danced all night long and if a police raid came in the door at the bottom of the stairs, someone would hit the switch which would change the music playing in the club by the DJ to piped in loungy undanceable sounds, and immediately kill the vibe and make all the dancers leave the dance floor to go get a drink or something. By the time the cops got to the dance floor there was no dancing, thus the shut downs were mostly avoided.  This was New York City in the mid nineties.

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