De Benedictus was part of the New York dance music scene which was centered around two discotheques: the Paradise Garage and the Loft. I leave out Studio 54 on purpose.
I believe I told this story before, but for many years I hunted Antwerp flea markets for vinyl. My prey were records played by DJ Larry Levan at the New York discotheque Paradise Garage.
I was assisted in my hunt by a internet list of records I had found in 1996. You can find that list of 1100+ records here. I printed it and tried to learn the names by heart and started hunting.
At the time, I was already a fan of house music. I listened to radio shows by Pierre Elitair and the guys behind Liaisons Dangereuses. But now, finally, I found the antecedents of that kind of hedonistic nightlife music.
I gradually delved deeper, learning which labels to buy (Salsoul, West End, Prelude), which producers to focus on (Patrick Adams) and which artists to follow (Arthur Russell).
Where had this fascination with dance music come from?
I don’t know.
I remember when I was in my early twenties, walking along the Meir, hearing “Rotation” by Herb Alperts, and being intrigued by this music which could not be heard on the radio.
This world continues to fascinate me.
Michael de Benedictus role in that world was short and modest but large enough for me to document his legacy during a couple of hours on a lost coronavirus afternoon.
His magnum opus Lanark (1981) features a skin disease called ‘dragonhide’.
Adjectives applicable to this work are grotesque, fantastique and rabelaisian.
The book has a tendency to depress.
Update: The skin disease ‘dragonhide’ reminds me of Maldoror: “I am filthy. I am riddled with lice. Hogs, when they look at me, vomit. My skin is encrusted with the scabs and scales of leprosy, and covered with yellowish pus.”
Jerry Herman was an American composer and lyricist, known for his work in Broadway musical theater. He composed the scores for the hit Broadway musicals Hello, Dolly!, Mame, and La Cage aux Folles. He was nominated for the Tony Award five times, and won twice, for Hello, Dolly! and La Cage aux Folles.
By pure coincidence I was watching Paris Is Burning (1990) this afternoon, it features the Jerry Herman-penned gay anthem “I Am What I Am” from La Cage Aux Folles.