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My life and The Paradise Garage: Keep on Dancin Paperback – March, 2003
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It is an engaging tale, fondly nostalgic and sometimes tragic. My initial attraction to the book was its depiction of the era that I feel has heretofore not been properly represented. Not only was I enthralled on that account, but I was fascinated by Mr. Cheren's personal life story and his involvement in the popular music industry. It also traces the history of the Rock and Roll era all the way up to the demise of the Disco Era just after the sad swan song of the inimitable Larry Levan's innovative House Music mixes, born there at the Paradise Garage! The story about the owner's ultimately lonely and sad destiny and the treacherous chicanery of those that surrounded him as sycophants and leeches kept me turning the pages (shocked to learn what went on behind the scenes!) I only saw them occasionally and even so as acquaintances of acquaintances. I feel it is the stuff of thrilling screenplays and the intrigues are retold by one who was present and in the mix. As an account of the AIDS epidemic it is a heartwrenching work. I too have sadly lost many of the friends and acquaintances that populated that time in my life. But they're still very much there, very much alive at that place in time and that was reassuring to know. Please have Mr. Cheren know how grateful I am for his work and that the anecdote about the fate of the hanging sign over the King Street entrance with it's fabulous logo brought a tear to my eye.
I hope all who partook of the New York Gay scene, The House Music explosion and the After Hours Dance Club craze of that time treat themselves to this unforgettable revisit to a time they will be reconvinced was indeed more important than they recall.
The assertive ego on display here is part and parcel of the story. Cheren's involvement in the record and nightclub industries all but promise self-promotion will be prominent. He deserves some of his self-accolades, I'd say. He did join into the record industry at a time when shifts in lifestyle and musical tastes were emerging. He did shape the signings and releases that forged the genre that would be called disco. He did participate in the nightclub and social world that exploded outwards following the Stonewall transition. He did rally in response to the health crisis that exploded in the 80s. He did survive HIV to tell the tale.
Regardless of authorial shortcomings, this book is invaluable in its first-hand portrayal of the NY gay scene post-Stonewall. It stands as a companion to the other, much-cited document The Dancer From The Dance, which we must remember is fiction. Cheren's autobiography gives the places, players, and events with all the details anyone could hope for. He paints the picture vividly, bringing it all back to those of us who took part and depicting it clearly for those who weren't there.
Even more valuable to me, and what makes me keep referring back to the book time and again, is the timeline of emerging music. Cheren's part in the music industry allows him to discuss early disco releases in authoritative ways that scholars have not been able to. He was there, he can discuss the newness of the music and the responses of the audiences he danced with. He worked alongside many of the notable DJs, remixers, and producers and watched with pride as his chosen musical motif developed throughout the 70s, 80s, and beyond. He is one of the few writers who not only detail the important, magnetic musical releases of the early 70s, but also the pre-disco records of the 60s that dancers had to settle for in the early clubs.
This book has many merits; for me, it is most revered for its musical insights into social dance soundtracks. For fans of real disco, this is a must-have. For people wanting to understand social dancing patterns in the US, it is essential.