On Sunday, May 11th, as part of the Red Bull Music Academy Festival in NYC, King street between Varick and Hudson, where the original site of nightclub Paradise Garage used to be, will be closed off for a street party in tribute to the late Larry Levan. The party will feature sets from friends and collaborators such as François Kevorkian, David Depino, and Joey Llanos. Closed in 1987, Paradise Garage was one of the few clubs ever designed and erected specifically for a DJ. Leading up the event, RBMA is giving a real in-depth look at why pioneering DJ is kept at such high regard over 20 years after his death. You can read RBMA’s full feature here or read this excerpt, written by Peter Shapiro.
Why is Larry Levan almost universally regarded as the greatest DJ who ever lived? Because at Saturday at three in the morning you were just as likely to find him on a ladder in the middle of the dance floor cleaning a mirror ball as you were behind the decks.
“The way I clean and vacuum my house, Larry shined the mirror ball and made sure the floors were waxed,” says David DePino, a DJ who used to open for Levan. “Everything had to be perfect. If he saw the mirror ball wasn’t as shiny as it should have been, he would get out the ladder and people would sit. They would sit on the floor and wait for him to finish, because they knew he was getting into the party. Sometimes he would go up after shining the mirror ball, and then he blacked out the room and pumped up the sound. They would scream and applaud him. They knew the party was getting ready to start.”
It would strike anyone involved in contemporary clubland as utter madness for a DJ to stop a set dead near peak time to personally polish a few tiny tiles of glass dangling 20 feet above the dancers’ heads, but Levan understood that DJing isn’t simply about beat matching. It’s about throwing a party, which he believed was an art form and not a mere profession. In sharp contrast to today’s careerist DJs and their ruthless two hour wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am sets, Levan put his heart and soul into every detail at the club with which he will forever be associated, New York’s Paradise Garage.
On the surface, there was nothing particularly special about the Paradise Garage. As the latter half of its name indicates, it was housed in a nondescript parking garage at 84 King Street in Manhattan. But Levan treated the club as a temple to music. This complete devotion to music, to dancing, to the party, could be seen in every element of the club. The sound system, the mirror balls, and even the garbage cans were treated with reverence by both the club goers and Garage employees. And this relationship extended to the dance floor, where Levan was able to foster the kind of beloved community of which legends and myths are made…
Click here to read the rest of the feature.