[Today marks the 35th anniversary of one of Chicago’s great civic embarrassments: Disco Demolition. In honor of the events of July 12th, 1979, I thought I’d reprint a piece I’d written for Open Salon in 2010. Enjoy.]
Best Of Big Mike: The Right’s Disco Inferno
Nearly 31 years ago, old Comiskey Park was overrun by a bunch of lunkheaded suburban white boys exercising their rights to free speech, vandalism, and general idiocy. On the night of July 12th, 1979, Steve Dahl staged his infamous Disco Demolition between games of a scheduled doubleheader. The second game never happened.
The event is known all over the world. It’s another of those Chicago identifiers that people from Des Moines to New York like to snicker about when the topic of our town arises. Every time I hear a non-Chicagoan bring up corrupt aldermen, Al Capone, or Disco Demolition I cringe a little.
Like It Or Not, This Is Chicago
Disco Demolition featured unbridled anger, a wild mob, and a bit of violence thrown in for good measure. Pray tell, why were an estimated 90,000 people so enraged?
They hated a genre of music.
Yup. They felt put upon, abused, repressed, tyrannized, and diminished by, well, the goddamned Bee Gees.
As a result of their righteous ire, police in riot gear had to be called in to clear the field, some 39 people were arrested, and the Comiskey Park turf was wrecked, essentially, for the remainder of the season.
Even as a dopey 23-year-old, I knew that the bile wasn’t all the result of KC and the Sunshine Band records. As I watched the field full of knuckleheads running around like madmen, thrusting their fists into the air, trying to see out of cheap-beer-and-pot-slitted eyes, ecstatic in their triumph over the crushing evil that was Donna Summer, I understood that disco music was only a stand-in for the real object (or objects) of their loathing.
Down With That Cruel Despot, Donna Summer!
The truth of the matter was these people despised spics, niggers, and fags. Oh, they didn’t mind the first two groups living in their holy city — so long as they kept to their own neighborhoods. But with disco having taken over the Billboard charts, the Disco Sucks crowd was petrified that their whole world was next.
Disco was made for and by Puerto Ricans, blacks, and gays. It was an equalizer, maybe the most democratic pop music ever. White people who jumped on the Hustle bandwagon did so knowing full well that they’d be rubbing sweaty bodies with brown-skinned people and homosexuals on packed dance floors.
Colors And Genders and Races And Orientations — It’s Tyranny
The very idea turned some people’s stomachs. What could be next? Miscegenation? Or worse — kissing a member of your own sex. Sheesh, no wonder 90,000 went bonkers on that steamy July night.
Does all of this sound familiar?
Really, don’t the Tea Party ragers and all the rest of the sputtering, fuming Obama=Hitler sign-carrying gang have as their forefathers the Disco Sucks kids? Just substitute socialism for disco, Barack Obama for Giorgio Moroder, and Glenn Beck for Steve Dahl.
Disco Sucks = We Want Our Country Back
Glad you didn’t mention the similarity to book burning and incipient nazism; I bet there are a whole bunch of diseases for which this could be a symptom. I’d vote for Moroder for President though … In the UK the Criminal Justice & Public Order Act gave police officers the power to remove people from events at which music “wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats” is played. Folk music okay, banging house = criminal offence.