King of Clubs

David Mancuso's Disco Wonderland

Mancuso recently started to put on parties in what has oddly—given its history as the international capital of disco—become the toughest terrain of all: New York. Hiring out a hall near St. Marks Place, he has been attracting the young (mainly Japanese kids) as well as the old (veterans of the Broadway Loft). His 34th-anniversary party in February was a sellout, and last weekend's Memorial Day party was equally successful.

Loft babies believe that Mancuso is once again putting on the best party in the city. "The best dancing experiences I have ever had have been at the Loft," says DJ-producer Nicky Siano, who, having drifted away from the New York dance scene in the early 1980s, has made a fairly astonishing comeback himself. "The atmosphere at David's parties is second to none."

For some, the Loft has begun to show its age. "I admire David's active avoidance of the spotlight, and his parties still have an underground feel because of that," says a comparatively young DJ. "But the majority of the crowd is the same as it was 20 years ago, and they want to hear the old favorites." Others wonder if Mancuso's refusal to use a mixer is anachronistic—and if it would be possible for him to pump the sound system just a little bit harder.

Let's get this party started: Mancuso with trademark decor
photo: Richard Mitchell
Let's get this party started: Mancuso with trademark decor

But if so many new records don't measure up to the old, if mixing technology encourages spinners to focus on the micro-detail of how two records blend together rather than the broader canvas of the dancefloor journey, and if clubbers are suffering from unprecedented levels of tinnitus as a result of repeated ear beatings from second-rate sound systems, what is Mancuso to do?

The Loft host's obsessive pursuit of the perfect party has emerged as a precious antidote to the increasingly stagnant status quo. "The Loft is unique and irresistible," says veteran DJ-dancer Danny Krivit, whose 718 Sessions are one of the hottest parties in the city at the moment. "It's about good friends meeting in a homey setting and listening to excellent music on a great sound system. The Loft is timeless." Mancuso has become not so much an idiosyncratic dinosaur as a prophet from the past who is pointing to a new-old future. Just by standing still.

Tim Lawrence is the author of Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-79 (Duke).

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