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Curtis Sliwa On Loving EDM, NYC Clubs of the 70’s and Raving in 80’s London

Posted in Curtis Sliwa, Interview, Interviews, Law & Order, Legends of NYC, Music, NY/NJ, Print, Radio, Society with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2014 by Lupa
You heard it here first...

You heard it here first…

Curtis Sliwa, former night manager of a Bronx McDonald’s turned founder of the crime patrol group The Guardian Angels, longtime conservative radio host and victim of a botched Gambino crime family hit allegedly on the orders of John Gotti Jr, has decided to come out of the closet to the Lupa Cartel as a full fledged member of… dance culture????

In an exclusive interview Curtis recounts his love of music, specifically dance music, which endures to this day.  Directly following the interview is a playlist made by Curtis with some of his favorite tracks.

Curtis’ detractors will no doubt be inclined to view these surprising, hard to believe admissions as some sort of scheme to stay relevant and believe it to be a figment of what many say is Curtis’ wild imagination (like Curtis has ever made something up).   To that I can confidently call BS and I offer this as evidence pointing to his early progressive nature.

As recounted by former Sopranos actor Carl Capotorto (Little Paulie), whom Curtis managed when he worked at the McDonald’s in the Fordham section of the Bronx, Curtis officiated what was possibly New York’s first gay marriage ceremony in the Soundview projects including his account of Curtis’ rather animated disco dancing during the reception.  In 2014 it’s questionable if you can do a gay marriage ceremony in a Bronx project without some issue.  In 1977 I imagine it very well could have gotten someone killed.

Curtis at the party following the gay wedding he officiated in the BX

Curtis at the party following the gay wedding he officiated in the BX.  Either Curtis just stepped out of a sauna or he was bustin moves on the floor.  For the record, Bronx projects don’t have saunas,  unless you count lack of AC.

Keeping that third party account in mind, it should compel any cynic to take the following at face value: Curtis was a dance machine before it had acceptance in Canarsie, the heavily guido neighborhood in Brooklyn he grew up in.  I’m not talking about Snookie, Paulie D, Jersey Shore guido either.  I’m talking O.G., original guido; a time when a man simply dancing could be interpreted as a homosexual act, or in their parlance being “half a fag.”

Lupa:  What kind of music did you grow up listening to?

Curtis: When I was a young little huckleberry naturally radio – the old style radio – was the only kind of music to listen to.  I listened to WWRL which is R&B on the AM dial, sampled WMCA which was breaking Top 40, WINS which is all news now would also break a little Top 40.  Never listened to WABC because it only played the Top 40, but I loved R&B and WWRL was the place to go.

Lupa:  And this was in the 60’s…

Curtis:  This was in the 60’s and naturally everything from Sinatra to Dean Martin, which I didn’t like, but it was part of the Italian culture growing up, and then all other songs in between from The Monkees to the Beatles to the Rolling Stones.  The Stones caught my attention and then eventually when it came to hard rock The Who and Led Zeppelin.  But it was really R&B that always held sway, so Sly Sylvester Stewart and the Family Stone was my all time favorite at the time but there were other groups.  I would listen to War, Tower of Power, groups that weren’t necessarily at the top of the charts, but when given the choice to watch Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and Don Cornelius’ Sooooooouuuuuullllll Train, it was Soul Train that I watched over and over and over again and I would dis and dismiss Dick Clark and American Bandstand.

Curtis as a teenage meeting the biggest Dick to ever occupy the Whitehouse.  This was after being selected Newpaper Boy of the Year for his part in rescuing a family from a burning building while on his route for the NY Daily News

Curtis as a teenager meeting the biggest Dick to ever occupy the Whitehouse. This was after being selected Newspaper Boy of the Year for his part in rescuing a family from a burning building while on his route for the NY Daily News.  Look at that jacket!

Lupa:  So when disco came along, the dance music of the 70’s, were you into that also?

Curtis:  I was totally into disco, but I didn’t just discard like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, which was my favorite rock/folk music group, cause I like that genre too.  But when given the choice I much preferred to go dancing late at night because that’s what the ladies liked and when you grew up in Canarsie, or you went to East New York or Brownsville or places like that most guys were gavones. They didn’t want to get up and dance.

There were three types of guys A. the sitters, the guys who would sit or stand and stand and glare, B. the guys who were waiting for the slow jams so they could grind on the dance floor and cop a feel.  That didn’t require any great skill level.  C. the guys who liked to step out and do the hustle.  So if you had any kind of fluid motion, if you could churn and turn a young lady on the dance floor, if you could twist and just bend, the ladies were queuing up to dance with you because all the gavones, all the Italian stallions, were sitting on the sidelines thinking that was totally unmacho.  And this was before Saturday Night Fever and John Travolta so I got into the dance mode very early in my growth period.

Lupa:  How accurate would you say Saturday Night Fever was in representing that time, place and culture?

Curtis:  Oh yeah, Saturday Night Fever was very, very accurate at sort of bringing together the street and the culture because Travolta wasn’t a hitter, he wasn’t a member of organized crime, he was a pretender, a poser as a tough guy.  You punch Travolta in the face and he would have had an immediate mental collapse because remember, it was all about his look.  It was all about him primping up like he was a peacock.  But his ability on the dance floor was what I would always seek to achieve but then again remember, there were other dance styles incorporated by blacks and Hispanics.  So you had the robot that blacks loved to do at the time, the Patty Duke, the bus stop, the hustle obviously which was more in line with what you saw in Saturday Night Fever, but then salsa and merengue.  So I dabbled in a little bit of everything.  Often times I just created my own dance steps.  I would go when I was a night manager at Mickey D’s in the Bronx and close at 2 in the morning and go to the late night red light clubs, the illegal clubs.

Whoever photoshops a picture of Curtis' head onto Travolta from Saturday Night Fever wins a special prize... free access to this website!

Whoever photoshops a picture of Curtis’ head onto Tony Manero wins a special prize… free access to this website!

Lupa:  What were the names of some of them?

Curtis:  There were no names!  They were illegal joints.  Sometimes they would move from place to place.  They didn’t have liquor licenses.  Everything was supposed to be closed by 2, they were open til 6, 7 in the morning.  It was an eclectic mix of people on the fringes of society.  Drug dealers, gangbangers, heterosexual couples who had already been at regular clubs.  A tremendous eclectic mix.

A lot of times they were frequented by these big bull dagger lesbian women with their… females who were – the best way to describe them at that time – is that they were young ladies who were intimidated by men, they had had bad experiences with men, but they loved music, they loved dancing, they were there with the bull daggers – clearly lesbians – but they hadn’t sort of lost the attraction to guys.  So I would be there to try to pick off what they called at the time “fag hags.”  These were young ladies intimidated by heterosexual men, probably because they had been battered, bruised and taken advantage of.  Because I could dance so well often times I would attract them out to the dance floor, have great conversations with them, until all of a sudden a woman would step in between wearing construction boots and telling me to mind my P’s and Q’s and I knew it was time to do the bird.

Lupa:  What about the mainstream clubs like Studio 54?

Curtis:  No, I would have never have been chosen because I smelled like a McDonald’s french fry and hamburgers at 2 in the morning.  I was low budget.  These were clubs where there was a lot of illegal activity going on, illegal drugs, it wasn’t part of my thing.  Guns.  All kinds of vices going on in the back rooms.  I was there to DANCE.  I mean, I was like a Whirling Dervish.  From the time that I got in there at 3 in the morning till the break of dawn at 6 in the morning, that’s all I was doing, dancing.  Not with guys.  Just looking for females to dance with and there were lots, cause again, a lot of women would show up, they would be good dancers, hardcore lesbians, but they would see I was the only one out there on the dance floor.  They didn’t mind doing the boogaloo, the bump, all kinds of dances they probably wouldn’t have normally engaged a heterosexual male in.

Lupa:  In the 80’s came the rise of techno, house music, rave parties.  I understand you went to a rave in England?

Curtis:  I was over in England to bring the concept of the Guardian Angels to the West Indian Caribbean community of which most lived in council estates.  I was over in the Wandsworth section of South London, and I had gotten stabbed up while making a presentation to their youth by their youth supervisors all of whom were working what they call the dole.  20 hours of work as counselors, then they would get put on the dole and they were all working off the books at The Fridge which was a club in the south end of London, a notorious club, very rough.  After I got stabbed up and I was recovering from multiple wounds to my mouth I was still trying to develop the Guardian Angels and people said “if you want a lot of young people, you gotta to go to a rave.”

Lupa:  What year was this?

Curtis:  I’d say ’87, ’88, ’89 somewhere in that time period.  So I said “what’s a rave?”  They’d say it’s a collection of young people, they get together usually in warehouses or community rooms in council estates and they just play music nonstop.  There’ll be sweating and the atmosphere will be almost putrid because of all the body smells, but the music is great, the lights are dimmed and it’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced over in the States.

So I walked in one time to what had originally been a factory of some type, I think spinning wool, all the machinery was down and off in the corner there were like hundreds of these people sweating. You could smell the body odor because they had obviously been out on the dance floor for hours but they were like in a trance.  They were like Whirling Dervishes.  I loved the pulsating sound of the music.  I loved the way they would segue way from song to song after long periods of time.  This isn’t like disco where you’d have a three minute song and then they would try and merge into a different song.  Some of these songs would go on for a half hour!   The beats would change but it would still pretty much be the same song.  Then it would have the urge to merge with another song and I fell in love with what was rave music.  There was nothing like it back in the States.  Nothing I could find on the radio, certainly nothing like this I could find in the underground.

Curtis and The Guardian Angels outside the Bronx McDonald's Curtis worked at in the 70's and started The Guardian Angels

Curtis and The Guardian Angels outside the Bronx McDonald’s where Curtis worked at in the 70’s and started The Guardian Angels

Lupa: Didn’t you have a responsibility to try and shut them down or call the cops?

Curtis:  Well actually I felt an identification with the ravers because they were ostracized, they were like nomads, Bedouins, they had to move from place to place.  They had to squat on property.  The bobbies, if they knew of their existence, would have put them out of existence but they were curmudgeons, crabby crumb cakes.  They were out of it.  So I really identified with all the rave people.

Now a lot of them they were in a drug induced psychosis.  Special K, ecstasy they were all emerging and they were taking drugs to enhance the experience.  To me it was like a natural mood elevator.  To this day when I need extra energy I’ll put on techno music, house music, rave music, play it over and over.  People here at WABC where I’m broadcasting once again will tell you about times where they would come in at 3, 4 in the morning when I was doing the morning show and they would be blasted off the foundations listening to this rave music coming from the office and that would be the way I would pump up before the show cause I had only had 2, 3 hours sleep.

Lupa:  Have you ever heard of PLUR?  Peace, love, unity, respect?  It’s like a rave mantra.

Curtis:  No, and in fact if you were to ask me the names of my favorite songs or the DJ’s who were actually responsible for putting together the music and the groups, I would be able to identify them by the sound of the songs but not by acronyms or terminology or groups that would get together.  I’m very much what you could call a free agent.  I love all this music and I think it surprises people, as I approach 60 years old, that I would be into techno, rave, dance music of this type that goes on and on and on till the break of dawn.  In fact, there have been periods where people have left me, come back two, three hours later and they say “are you still playing that same song?”  Cause all I would do is play it over and over again.  I would have it on rewound (sic) and that would be the only song cause I would like completely bug out to it.

Lupa:  What’s the final thing you’d like to say to anyone that had no idea you were into this kind of music?

Curtis:  Not only was I so into it and still am, but I remember this past summer when they were conducting the Electrical (sic) Daisy Carnival on Randall’s Island (*I had previously misinformed Curtis it was EDC when it was Electric Zoo) that was supposed to go three days but they had to cut it short, that when I was coming over the Triborough Bridge going from Manhattan, Harlem to Queens and I heard the music and I saw the lights pulsating down there on Randall’s Island and the bodies just moving in tandem.  I told the Guardian Angels “PULL OVER TO THE SIDE!  PULL OVER!  I NEED TO LISTEN TO THIS!”  I must have been there for a half hour just grooving.  And it was European DJ’s that were dominating, there’s no doubt. As much as I want America to be #1, second to none, when it comes to rave, house, techno, dance music, the Europeans dominate.

Curtis & Kuby

Below you will find a playlist Curtis made of some of his favorite techno, EDM, whatever you call it songs, with some commentary on each track. Make sure and listen to Curtis back on the air with acclaimed attorney Ron Kuby 12-3P Mon-Fri on 77 WABC in NYC and you can find the stream at WABC or the I Heart Radio app.  Besides having a great show with great chemistry, Ron also happens to be The Dude Jeff Lebowski’s legal counsel of choice!

Above & Beyond ft Richard Bedford – Sun & Moon 

Curtis:  This is so appropriate to house/techno music cause you could start when there was sun shining out and play this song till the moon was shining and then until the sun came out again.  Ohhhh, then it just gets into that nice little slow move and then just breaks wild again.

BT & Andrew Bayer – The Emergency

Curtis:  Emergency.  It’s my entire life, emergency, one big 9-1-1 call responding.  I love the flow of the music here because it has the urge to merge.  So if you’re on the dance floor this is where you get up tight, close and like really, really personal.

Ercola – Every Word

Curtis:  These… songs… are the bomb!  It’s OK when a guy sings it but when you hear that female voice vibrate through both your ears.  Then you start listening to the strains and pains in her voice and the anguish of the song.  You just melt, and you imagine she’s melting right into your arms.

Freemasons ft Wynter Gordon – Believer

Curtis:  One of my all time favorite techno/house songs because I fancy myself as a true believer and people who would be out on the dance floor after 4, 5 hours they’re true believers in the music cause it requires the flow to just pump through every vein and artery in your body.  When this song comes on, knock out the lights.

Kaskade – Angel On My Shoulder

Curtis:  Ohhhh, it’s like you’re just floating, from the subways to the streets, and the name of the song definitely attracted me.  Angel On My Shoulder.  Since I created the Guardian Angels it is so appropriate that music like this would be pulsating through my cerebellum and medulla when I would board that number 4 train, that mugger’s express.

Katy Perry – Waking Up In Vegas (Manhattan Clique Remix)

Curtis:  Katy Perry, Lady Gaga.  I go with the Gaga goo goo girl except when it comes to this song Waking Up In Las Vegas.  Anyone who has ever been to that town where the former mayor said “whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” knows why her pitch and rhythm fits this city like a finely tuned glove.

Kim Sozzi – Secret Love

Curtis:  Listen to how Kim Sozzi’s voice just jumps from octave to octave and it’s almost like you can imagine yourself chasing her out on the dance floor.  And this is live and local.  She’s a Long Island girl, so she’s got everything the 5 boroughs is comprised of.  She could have been on the BQE heading in to a club in Brooklyn or Queens to sing this very song.

Maniacalm ft LALA – Never Forget You

Curtis:  THIS.  IS.  THE.  BOMB!  This is dedicated to every girl that I had to be extricated from on the dance floor.  Either because, feet don’t fail me now, I gotta get outta here before her boyfriend gives me a beatdown and his friends gather round.  Or it was just getting too hot, too heavy and either the woman knew it was time to turn off the faucet or I’d recognize it was time to take a coooooooold shower.

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