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Mel Cheren, Activist and Disco's Godfather, Dies at 74.

Mel Cheren, a founder of disco label West End Records and someone who was officially deemed "a Godfather of Disco" by a 2006 documentary, died of AIDS-related complications last Friday at the age of 74.

Cheren_2The New York Sun reports: "At West End Records, which he co-founded in 1976, Cheren released some of the formative singles of the disco era, including 'Hot Shot' by Karen Young and Raw Silk's 'Do It To the Music.' He also backed a memorable nightclub, the Paradise Garage, where disco dreams played out in the fabulous late 1970s and early 1980s...All too notoriously, the predominantly gay social scene of early disco burned out in the face of the AIDS epidemic. Cheren became a leader in that cause as well, holding the first fund-raisers and donating the first office space to the Gay Men's Health Crisis in his Chelsea brownstone, a renovated SRO. After GMHC outgrew those quarters, Cheren converted the brownstone into a gay-oriented bed-and-breakfast, the Colonial House Inn."

Regarding The Paradise Garage, which Cheren opened with his partner Michael Brody in the West Village in 1977, the Sun writes: "Smoke machines and music videos lurked in the corners and one of the most sophisticated sound systems in the city pumped out DJ Larry Levan's selections. As it was a private club and sold no alcohol, the dancing could continue far into the night, sometimes even until noon the next day. The endless throbbing at Paradise Garage is often cited as a precursor to house music and similar modern styles. Despite the onset of AIDS and the 'death to disco' or 'disco sucks' movement of the early 1980s, the Paradise Garage managed to stay open until 1987. Today it is again a garage."

Cheren says he saw over 300 friends die of AIDS in the 80's and 90's. On November 29 of this year, Mel Cheren told his story to CBS News on LOGO, just one month after he discovered he had contracted the disease.

Mel Cheren interview [cbs news on logo]
Mel Cheren, 74, Disco Pioneer, AIDS Funder [new york sun]

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Comments

  1. Damn. I remember after going to "church" at the Garage, a group of us would climb the fence of that public pool over on Hudson and go for a sweat-cleansing dip.

    Those were the true club days, kiddies!

    The Church Choir:

    Grace Jones.
    Taana Garner.
    The Peech Boys.
    Ashford & Simpson.
    Don Ray.
    Michael Zager Band.
    T.S. Monk.
    Bionic Boogie.
    First Choice.
    Positive Force.
    Trussel.
    Imagination.
    Colonel Abrams.
    Gwen Guthrie.
    Chaka Khan.
    Diana Ross.
    Cerrone.
    Gino Soccio.
    Change.
    Peter Jacques Band.

    (Sigh)

    Posted by: Banjiboi | Dec 11, 2007 4:20:07 PM


  2. R.I.P., Mel.

    Posted by: Banjiboi | Dec 11, 2007 4:22:24 PM


  3. R.I.P baby

    See ya in the VIP room

    Posted by: Speck | Dec 11, 2007 4:27:00 PM


  4. He only found out in Oct that he had AIDS??? I don't think so.

    I would replace Miss Ross with Blondie myself.

    Posted by: anon (gmail.com) | Dec 11, 2007 5:58:55 PM


  5. THANKS FOR THE GOOD TIMES MEL!!!!!
    YOU WERE ALWAYS SO FRIENDLY TOWARDS ME, I WILL NEVER FORGET YOU..PEACE
    JOSEPH

    Posted by: LITTLE NAKED MAN | Dec 11, 2007 10:30:38 PM


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    Posted by: jay | Dec 12, 2007 4:25:33 AM


  7. I only went once. I was a kid on my first trip
    to NYC...where I would move to a few years later. I went to Fiorruci's and they told me about "Garage". I went all by my lonely and had the time of my life. Perfectly sober, I danced till 5 am. Sylvester sang at 3am. It was magic...and no pretense. Later would come Studio 54, The Monster, The Saint, Roxy, Boy Bar, Pyramid Club, Paladium and more...

    RIP Mel xoxo

    Posted by: Pugzz | Dec 12, 2007 9:50:21 AM


  8. @ANON

    Yeah, for Blondie, but Ross's No One Gets The Prize, The Boss, and It's My House are certified anthems of the Garage Era . :-)

    Posted by: Banjiboi | Dec 12, 2007 12:13:52 PM


  9. Mel, you were a sweetheart, just a real sweetheart. And, baby, there has never been a place as magical or fabulous or fun or fantastic as Paradise Garage. Anyone in NY in that era knew that Studio 54 was fluff. The Garage was the REAL deal and the best music I ever heard played in any club anywhere. You've earned your angel wings, Mel. You kept the cool head and helped us get over those first couple of years when AIDS was GRID and we didn't know WHAT the f*ck was going on. But you kept it together and motivated us to love and care for one another and I love you and will miss you like crazy. Tonight I am definitely going to look up the night sky and see where your star is. It's gotta be the biggest and the brightest even if for only one night. Tell Ozzie and Rick and Carlos and Fritz and Russ and Joey and Charles and Marsha and Jacques and Lotus Lane and The Hot Peaches that I miss them all.

    Posted by: mike | Dec 12, 2007 2:21:42 PM


  10. Mel, you were a sweetheart, just a real sweetheart. And, baby, there has never been a place as magical or fabulous or fun or fantastic as Paradise Garage. Anyone in NY in that era knew that Studio 54 was fluff. The Garage was the REAL deal and the best music I ever heard played in any club anywhere. You've earned your angel wings, Mel. You kept the cool head and helped us get over those first couple of years when AIDS was GRID and we didn't know WHAT the f*ck was going on. But you kept it together and motivated us to love and care for one another and I love you and will miss you like crazy. Tonight I am definitely going to look up the night sky and see where your star is. It's gotta be the biggest and the brightest even if for only one night. Tell Ozzie and Rick and Carlos and Fritz and Russ and Joey and Charles and Marsha and Jacques and Lotus Lane and The Hot Peaches that I miss them all.

    Posted by: mike | Dec 12, 2007 2:22:50 PM


  11. Mel, you were a sweetheart, just a real sweetheart. And, baby, there has never been a place as magical or fabulous or fun or fantastic as Paradise Garage. Anyone in NY in that era knew that Studio 54 was fluff. The Garage was the REAL deal and the best music I ever heard played in any club anywhere. You've earned your angel wings, Mel. You kept the cool head and helped us get over those first couple of years when AIDS was GRID and we didn't know WHAT the f*ck was going on. But you kept it together and motivated us to love and care for one another and I love you and will miss you like crazy. Tonight I am definitely going to look up the night sky and see where your star is. It's gotta be the biggest and the brightest even if for only one night. Tell Ozzie and Rick and Carlos and Fritz and Russ and Joey and Charles and Marsha and Jacques and Lotus Lane and The Hot Peaches that I miss them all.

    Posted by: mike | Dec 12, 2007 2:31:37 PM


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