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  • feedwordpress 09:01:40 on 2017/01/26 Permalink
    Tags: Amateur Night, Apollo theatre, disco, disco ball, , , , R&B, soul,   

    “Disco is the best floor show in town. It’s very democratic, boys with boys, girls with girls, girls with boys, blacks and whites, capitalists and Marxists, Chinese and everything else, all in one big mix.”*… 


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    Yolanda Baker has been making disco balls every week of her life for nearly 50 years and shows no signs of slowing down.

    Baker, known as Yo Yo to her colleagues, works for Louisville’s Omega National Products – America’s leading disco ball manufacturer – and has over the years filed orders for Beyoncé, Madonna, Studio 54 and even the Saturday Night Fever film set.

    During the height of disco fever, Omega had 25 workers crafting 25 balls a day – more than 160,000 disco balls annually – with Baker steering the ship. But as China began flooding the market with cheaper options, the team at Omega began to shrink – Baker has been the company’s only disco ball maker since 2008…

    All that glitters at: “Meet Yolanda ‘Yo Yo’ Baker, America’s last disco ball maker.”

    * Truman Capote

    ###

    As we boogey on down, we might recall that it was on this date in 1934 that the famous Apollo theatre in New York City’s Harlem district (re-)opened as a showcase for black artists.  Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, it had been built in 1913-14 as Hurtig & Seamon’s New Burlesque Theater, and designed by George Keister in the neo-Classical style.  The Apollo fell on hard times in the 20s and limped along until, under new management, it became (starting on this date in 1934) a mecca of the Swing Era.  It featured musical acts including Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Chick Webb, and Count Basie, dance acts such as Bill Robinson and the Nicholas Brothers.  And though the theater concentrated on showcasing African-American acts, it also presented such white performers as Harry James, Woody Herman and Charlie Barnet during the swing era, and, later, Dave Brubeck, Stan Getz and Buddy Rich, who was a particular favorite of the Apollo crowd.

    The Apollo’s “Amateur Night,” a Monday-night talent contest launched many storied careers, from Ella Fitzgerald and Thelma Carpenter to Jimi Hendrix (who won in 1964).  Others whose careers were hatched or given an early boost at the Apollo include Billie Holiday, Pearl Bailey, Sammy Davis Jr., James Brown & The Famous Flames, King Curtis, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Parliament-Funkadelic, Wilson Pickett, The Miracles, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Rush Brown, Stephanie Mills, Dionne Warwick, Bobby Short, The Jackson 5, Patti LaBelle, Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Ben E. King, Mariah Carey, The Isley Brothers, Lauryn Hill, Sarah Vaughan, Jazmine Sullivan, Ne-Yo, and Machine Gun Kelly.

    Restored 11 years ago, the venue draws an estimated 1.3 million visitors a year.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:08 on 2015/03/28 Permalink
    Tags: , , disco, Gemellus, Hasse Persson, , , , Studio 54, ,   

    “The key of the success of Studio 54 is that it’s a dictatorship at the door and a democracy on the dance floor”*… 


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    In 1977, at the height of the disco craze, a club opened at 254 West 54th Street in New York City. Studio 54 was—and, arguably, remains—the world’s most renowned and legendary disco. Regularly attended by celebrities such as Andy Warhol, Elizabeth Taylor, Mick Jagger, Bianca Jagger, Jerry Hall, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones, Michael Jackson, Calvin Klein, Elton John, John Travolta, Brooke Shields and Tina Turner, the club fostered an atmosphere of unadulterated hedonism for New York’s art and fashion set. Hasse Persson [c.f., here] and his camera were frequent club guests from 1977–80. The images he photographed there have become legendary, capturing the club’s famed revelers, dancers in costume and general, drunken exhilaration—and yet, incredibly, Studio 54 (published by Max Ström) marks the first time in history that they have seen publication. Almost 35 years after the club’s unceremonious and sudden closure, this beautiful hardback volume superbly documents the zeitgeist…

    More at “Never Before Published Photos of Studio 54” and at Persson’s own site.

    * Andy Warhol (seen, holding his camera, at the bottom of the photo above)

    ###

    As we look for the “Hot Stuff,” we might recall that it was on this date in 37 CE that the Roman Senate conferred the Principate on Caligula.  His great-uncle Tiberius had left the office jointly to his grandson, Gemellus, and to Caligula; but Caligula had the will nullified on the grounds of Gemellus’ supposed insanity.

    Caligula reigned until his assassination three-and-a-half years later by members of his own Praetorian Guard; the first two years of his tenure were marked by moderation– but accounts of his reign thereafter paint a portrait of extraordinary sybaritic excess and cruel, extravagant, and perverse tyranny…  leading many historians to suspect that Caligula succumbed in his last months to neurosyphilis.

    A marble bust of Caligula restored to its original colors. (The colors were identified from particles trapped in the marble.)

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:32 on 2015/01/31 Permalink
    Tags: Altman, disco, , , Mash, Minimalist, , Philip Glass, theme song,   

    “Disco is from hell, okay? And not the cool part of hell with all the murderers, but the lame ass part where the really bad accountants live”*… 


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    A 1976 recording of the theme from M*A*S*H, about the 1977 release of which, Tom Mouton of Billboard wrote:

    The strongest [of three recent singles from FARR Records] is ‘Song From M*A*S*H’ by the New Marketts. Here is a beautiful and well-orchestrated melody featuring guitar and synthesizer playing the melody line and pleasing synthesizer solo in the vamp. The record was produced by Joe Saraceno…

    email readers click here for video

    Interesting fact:  The lyrics of the song were written by Mike Altman, the son of Robert Altman, director of the original movie. Appearing on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show in the 1980s, Altman reported that his son had earned more than a million dollars for his part in writing the song… while Altman himself made just $70,000 for directing the movie.

    More at “‘Suicide is Painless’ (AKA ‘The Theme from M*A*S*H’)– the Disco Version.”

    * “Hyde,” That 70s Show

    ###

    As we take something for the fever, we might send repetitive birthday greetings to Philip Glass; he was born on this date in 1937.  A composer who describes himself as a “Classicist,”” he is considered by most to be (with the likes of Steve Reich) one of the “Major Minimalists”– and one of the most influential music makers of the late 20th century.  He has written works for the musical group which he founded, the Philip Glass Ensemble (with which he still performs on keyboards), as well as operas, musical theatre works, solo works, chamber music (including string quartets and instrumental sonatas), film scores, ten symphonies, and eleven concertos. Three of those film scores (Kundun, The Hours, Notes on a Scandal) have been nominated for Academy Awards; his score for The Truman Show won a Golden Globe.  He is the second cousin of This American Life‘s Ira Glass.

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