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An homage to New York's 'ferociously inventive' 1980s party scene

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A new book highlights New York artists like Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Madonna and Run-D.M.C.

A new book entitled Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-1983 takes a look at what the book calls "a ferociously inventive period characterized by its creativity, intensity, and hybridity." The early ‘80s not only brought new party venues to NYC but also innovations in art, performance, video and film. The book profiles DJs, party hosts, producers, musicians, artists and dancers to talk about these "post-disco, post-punk, and hip hop scenes," that were happening at clubs like the Roxy, the Paradise Garage and the Mudd Club. It also discusses the backdrop of the city at the time: in the midst of the cultural renaissance that exploded before New York’s gentrification, Reaganomics, and the spread of AIDS.

The author, Tim Lawrence, is a professor of cultural studies at the University of East London. The New York Times reviewed the book and noted that its focus is music—Lawrence even includes some DJ playlists in his writings. Artists that he spotlights include Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Fab 5 Freddy, David Wojnarowicz, Deborah Harry and Madonna; as well as the DJs Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa and Run-D.M.C.

As the Times says, the book shows that "...the New York party culture of the early ’80s is of interest because it allowed the intersection of a wide array of subcultures, which sent sparks flying. Gallery owners and graffiti artists, punk bands and hip-hop D.J.s, performance artists and budding entrepreneurs all commingled — and, as ‘Life and Death’ amply demonstrates, left defining footprints not only on one another’s work, but sometimes on the forms themselves."

You can see the table of contents and read the introduction here [PDF]. "I believe that nightclubs are these terribly important places where all kinds of things happen," dominatrix doorwoman and performer Chi Chi Valenti is quoted as saying. "They’re kind of underrated, but if you look at the things that have been formed and born in clubs, especially but not only in New York, the results are extraordinary."