I lead an exceedingly obsequious professional life, since my access to food and shelter hinges on how much people like me. Booking writing jobs isn’t a function of literary merit; rather, it is an unctuous practice, marked by both kiss-ass and earnest diligence. Inclusion is victory and victory is inclusion—if someone requests your presence at an event, that is tantamount to a promotion, and just like a promotion, you don’t turn it down. And, just like a promotion, a special request for your presence is as sporadic as it is sought after. So, when I was invited to a private screening of “The Godfather of Disco” at the beginning of June, I elatedly said yes.
What I overlooked in my mirth was that this particular film was to serve as the opening event for NewFest 2007, the The 19th New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Film Festival (you can ogle their silver-haired avatar at http://www2.newfest.org/cgi-bin/iowa/index.html). It chronicles gay icon Mel Cheren’s role in cultivating disco music, particularly in New York, as an employee at West End Records.
Who invited me, you may ask? A PR agent, looking for coverage in some major newspaper. Mistakenly assuming that I have access to anybody important, she invited me to the movie as well as to “private drinks” afterwards with herself, Mel Cheren, the film’s director, and a couple of hangers on. The movie was pretty innocuous—it was about disco, mostly, and also touched on the AIDS crisis of the early 1980’s. It had about a dozen people giving testimony about Cheren, particularly concerning his role in sustaining the Paradise Garage, a gay 1970’s nightclub whose DJ, Larry Levan, spawned some of the greatest disco hits of all time (though I can’t remember a single one. I’ll Google it later). Even more important, though, was what transpired after the film—when the MC asked for Cheren and the director to rise and field some Q & A, my entire row got up. Both men were sitting directly next to me, and, upon closer perusal, almost every single one of the film’s interview subjects were also in my row. I had come alone, so the demographic in row F was as follows: everybody in the movie and me.
I was the first one out of the theater after the presentation. My popcorn was stale, my ass was asleep, and I needed to step outside and stare at chicks on 34th Street to bring myself back to sexual homeostasis. Drinks afterwards were uneventful—I chatted up Cheren about AIDS and disco (he’s older and hobbled by now, and barely speaks audibly), spoke with the PR agent about scotch and Justin Timberlake (she loves him, er, both, also), and told the director that I thought the film could have used a website, because, well, that was all I could think to say besides for, “A movie about gay women would have been way more up my alley.”
I returned home with a scotch headache and big disco backbeats sloshing in my cranium. I shot over to the kitchen, poured another thick glass of scotch, closed the door to my room, and queued up some iTunes. Here’s to NewFest, I thought, as I poured half the glass into my mouth and the other half on my chest. Here’s to NewFest.
Stay Soaked, Pink Floyd T-Shirt