Schulenberg’s Page: The summer of disco and disconnect

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AUGUST, 1973: As crazy as the world might seem these fraught days, it was pretty complicated and a cause for stress in 1973, too. Spire Agnew, the Vice President under Nixon, was being accused of getting kickbacks from government contracts in the state of Maryland.  He called the reports  lies while claiming newspapers were fabricating the stories!  Responding to questions whether or not he would resign, he vowed that being innocent he never would!

Eventually, confronted with undeniable evidence he did!

President Nixon himself was being investigated by Judge John Sirica and the White House was beginning to resemble a fortress under siege.

Nothing changed in my life.  I still had a lot of work.  Advertising was using a lot of light hearted illustration possibly to divert the public‘s attention from the Vietnam War and political strife in Washington!

I got a call from Art Taylor, an ad agency art director for whom I was doing illustrations for a campaign for an electric company.  He wanted us to meet for lunch at Yellowfingers and talk about the project.

Any excuse to go to Yellowfingers was fine with me and for work was even better!

Some evenings later I met Buzzy King for dinner at Elaine’s. He’d told me about le Jardin, a new disco that had opened downtown.  After eating we were going down to check it out.

It was a wild scene and a perfect opportunity for me to do quick sketches while dancers gyrated across the dance floor!

Around the dance floor were banquettes with huge pillows where people lounged with drinks while watching the dance floor.

“The Bicycle” was yet another short-lived dance step that really didn’t gain the popularity of dances like “the Frug,” “the Swim,” or even “the Hitchhiker,” which I first saw demonstrated at the basement discotheque Chez Castel in Paris in the summer of the early ’60s  when Americans visiting Paris came to Castel’s and danced it!

This is Joe Warfield, an American expatriate living in Paris and playing the records for the dancers.  He is possibly the very first disco deejay in the world since Chez Castel has been called the first club with a discotheque in the world.

Streisand sent me six copies of her first album and I gave one to Joe so I know for a certainty that the chic and very exclusively private Chez Castel on the tiny rue Princesse at Saint Germain-des-Pres was the first place in the world to know of Barbra and hear her sing!

The Parisians loved her and her album became a regular feature.

“The Hitchhiker,” when compared with the dances that followed, was a somewhat pallid affair consisting of a dancer with left hand on hip while rhythmically shaking and extending the right hand out with thumb extended and gesturing hitchhiker-style!  It didn’t take much talent to be able to do it!

No wonder that the decade of the 1970s has been called The Disco Decade!  New clubs seemed to be opening every week!

The whole character of Manhattan was beginning to take on yet another guise. And what I’d perceived happening somewhat subtly in my Upper East Side neighborhood was also beginning to obviously change.

An old late 19th-early 20th century tenement style building a block north of my apartment was being demolished to make way for a luxurious sleek new apartment building that few or none of my predominantly Hungarian neighbors would ever be able to afford! Would the small food shops follow and disappear? What would replace them? And the young people in the neighborhood who’d found the very inexpensive rentals and moved in? Would they have to leave?


Could this be called progress?

Or more added chaos!

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