Today, gay dance clubs are places where we feel safe and free to express ourselves. We can wear (or not wear) whatever we like. We can dance with a same sex partner, flirt, cavort and have fun.
It wasn't always this way. Gay men and women who wished to dance together would have to find bars with blackened windows and locked doors. They were afraid of persecution and violence from those who wouldn't accept their lifestyle. Even when the doors were locked they lived in fear that the police could smash them down and arrest them for "lewd and lascivious behavior" a.k.a "dancing"!
By the late seventies we were living in a post Stonewall, post Cockettes climate, and experiencing a new freedom. The gay world was SO ready for DISCO! Dancing together was no longer a case of popping some coins into a juke box in a smoky bar and moving among the tables to a series of three minute long 45s with long gaps in between. Now we had the full audio and visual experience! The music boomed through incredible sound systems while lights flashed and throbbed, reflecting pinpoints of color from spinning mirror balls through a foggy haze. Under those hypnotic mirror balls our hearts were finally free. We would dance, kiss, embrace, sing, scream, sweat and fall in love.
The San Francisco Disco Scene
During the disco era in the 70s and 80s, San Francisco developed its own style of dance music. The sound was intense, energetic, electronic but warm, with soulful roots and gospel overtones. Artists such as Sylvester, Patrick Cowley, Paul Parker, as well as Martha Wash and Izora Rhodes, known as "Two Tons O' Fun" who became "The Weather Girls," were part of the creative energy that helped set the stage for a dance music scene that evolved into a worldwide phenomenon.
This creative energy wasn't confined to just the performers but also the people who made the magic happen "behind the scenes." DJs such as Bobby Viteritti, Michael Lewis, Rob Kimbel, Trip Ringwald, Timmy Rivers, Michael Garrett, John Hedges, Craig Morey, Steve Fabus, and Lester Temple rose to major prominence via the San Francisco disco scene. Even club owners became known nationally because of their extraordinary dance venues.
The Trocadero Transfer
One such person was Dick Collier. His masterpiece, the Trocadero Transfer, was unlike the cliché over lit pop/disco clubs of the Polyester era, where DJs strung a few top 40 disco hits together. This club had an uninhibited magical ambience. Well known for its bohemian atmosphere, with an "anything goes" dress code. The unique music and lights were choreographed together to take the audience on an all-night musical trip, raising and lowering the energy in waves. Nicknamed "The Troc", it became one of the dance clubs that significantly influenced and shaped the gay dance scene, going on to help mold the disco dance experience worldwide.
The Troc was famous for its lavish theme parties. Spring had the 'White Party' with light, airy disco sounds. Valentine's Day saw the 'Red Party' with songs of love and romance, rich and soulful. Around Halloween at the Trocadero, in the '70s and '80s, was their version of the 'Black Party', many people's favorite. The Black Party was sexy, sensual and seductive with intense and beautifully haunting music. There was never a dress code at these parties, everyone was free to wear whatever they liked. However, being held around Halloween, partiers might find themselves dancing alongside a leather daddy, or a priest wrapped in chains, maybe a badass biker dancing with a nun. Was that a fabulous gender bending 40's movie star dancing by, or was it Amanda Lear?
Check out the Trocadero Memorabilia section of this site for some unique pictures of "The Troc" during its heyday. There you will see some Troc posters, tickets, fliers and much more for a fuller perspective of this unparalleled and much loved dance club.
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