F**k me I’m Fabus

While entering his sixth decade as a professional, Steve Fabus is still working as hard now as he did when he started as a young man in 1973. Starting in his hometown of Chicago, and later in San Francisco, he forged a reputation as one of the most skilful and soulful DJs of the disco era, playing in The I-Beam, Trocadero Transfer and EndUp. After a sojourn in New York, he returned to San Fran in the late 1980s and these days is co-host of the long-running Go! BANG party, alongside Sergio Fedasz. Steve draws on a rich history of the art of DJing, from Ron Hardy and Lou DiVito in Chicago to Bobby Viteritti and Vincent Carleo in San Francisco.

interviewed by Bill, 21.10.2021

I remember you telling me about going to Den One in Chicago. Can you tell me a bit about that? 
I did go yeah. This is really early. This is in ’74. I actually worked in a porn theatre next to the club, the Bijou Theater. I was a film student. I wanted to be a movie director at that time, and I went to Columbia College in Chicago, an arts school that had a great film department. And one of the reasons I worked at the Bijou Theater besides the fact that, well, I enjoyed some of the porn, but more importantly, really, actually at that time, the film students would come in after the theatre was closed and we would screen our own movies there, after we closed the theatre. I was a projectionist at the theatre. But anyway, another night, we would just go next door to the club. It was called Our Den at first and then Den One and I remember Ron being very young. I don’t think he was even of age. It was I think 21 in those days. They lowered it in Chicago to 18 legal age to get in a bar for a while, but at that particular time, it was 21. But he was in there anyway, I think, at 19 or 20 years old. Yeah, he was playing the music of the time and there was another DJ there, Artie Feldman. He was very good also. It was a at that time very mixed club, black and white, and it was fun. I just went in there as after hours, after we closed the theatre down to just go in there and hang out for a while and dance.

Ron Hardy at Music Box playlist

Do you remember the kinds of records they would have been playing at the time?
Well, yeah. I mean, okay, ‘Soul Makossa’ (of course), War’s ‘City Country City’, Creative Source’s ‘Who Is He And What Is He To You’, ‘Love Train’ ‘I Like What I Like’ by Everyday People.

That was a Canadian record, wasn’t it?
Yeah, the one that starts with all the percussion and builds up. Just an incredible song. Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes’ ‘The Love I Lost’, ‘Stoned Out Of My Mind’ by The Chi-Lites, ‘Love’s Theme’, ‘Girl You Need A Change of Mind’ by Eddie Kendricks.

What year did you first start coming to San Francisco?
The first time I came to San Francisco was in ’71. I just wanted to go to California and see what was going on over there, for all kinds of reasons. Part of it at that time was I was just there for a visit, and I would go back to Chicago to keep going to school. Basically I was living in Chicago and just coming to California and discovering a lot of things about it. Actually, I first went to LA. We got friends together and got what they used to call a drive-away car. It was a service where we could get somebody’s car. There would be companies that would provide this service so people could get their cars delivered to them across country.

At the time just anybody that wanted to, so long as they had a clean driving record, could drive the car across the country for free. They’d even pay for the gas. So, we got into one of those cars the first time and drove it across the country, and first to L.A. I was with friends. Actually, I was with a boyfriend at the time, going to California for the first time. We stopped in LA, and that was fabulous. I loved LA. We went to the beaches and Sunset Strip and all of that, the gay area in West Hollywood, also another gay district called called Silver Lake.. But the real destination was San Francisco, basically. We hitchhiked up the coast and my boyfriend had been in San Francisco before, and he just told me that, ‘Well, wait till you get to San Francisco. Your mind’s going to be blown’.

And what did you think when you got there?
Well, yeah, my mind was blown by it. It wasn’t like any other American city. It just seemed very different architecturally, and a city on hills, and all this incredible old Victorian architecture. At the time, a lot of it was painted bright colours because of the hippie thing. And of course, Haight-Ashbury was going on. It’s still going on, even though there were some problems by that point with crime and all that. There was a very well-established gay neighbourhood around the Polk Street area, and it was at that time the very beginnings of what would become the Castro. Of course there was North Beach that was the neighbourhood that the beatniks were always congregated in. So, it was very interesting to be in the city. It was a feeling like, well, this is a city of nonconformists. I mean, after being in bohemian districts in Chicago, which is like Old Town, but also in New York, the Greenwich Village and all that, San Francisco seemed to be a city where almost a huge part of the city was all bohemian. I saw people that basically, they were dressed in all different fashions. More like just kind of countercultural. It felt very like this is the capital of the counterculture in America.

Anyway, I loved it. My boyfriend was right. I was like, ‘Yeah, this is quite a magical place’. But at that particular time, I wasn’t ready to move there yet. I had things going on in Chicago. I mean, Chicago was a pretty incredible place as well. I had a lot of fun in Chicago. There was a great community there. But there was eventually a calling out to San Francisco where no matter where people lived, they could be in New York, you know? An incredible city like New York, but yet there was this calling for a great number of people to leave and go to San Francisco. It was just physically so attractive and unique, and there was this whole spirit of openness. It was a very sexually free city. I mean, you could find that in New York and Chicago too, and LA, but in San Francisco it was turned up even more. We used to laugh, if you couldn’t get laid in San Francisco, then you might as well give up. It was a very free place. It was the capital of the porn industry and there were all kinds of bars and sex clubs that catered to more of a kinky sexual taste, shall I say. I guess kind of like Berlin is or whatever, but San Francisco was that way back then. It had a draw, and a lot of people were called to it.

But it must’ve been a particularly draw if you were gay?
Yeah. There was a feeling, that was in the back of our minds that we could build our own world there and build a community, starting with this village in Castro, and before that, the Polk area. We could build this whole magical place where we also had political power, with power in numbers. So, not only was it probably the number one party city for gay people at that time, and not just gay people, but everybody with the hippies and everything else. It was a place with numbers of people coming in and with numbers of people living there. Percentage-wise, we could obtain some political power. And that’s what did happen.

When did you actually make the permanent move to San Francisco?
Late ’74, early ’75, yeah. 

And in ’75, what in terms of bars and clubs were happening in San Francisco? Because that disco scene must have been emerging by that stage, right?
Yeah. There was the place called the Mind Shaft. Not mineshaft, but Mind Shaft. That was actually a very cool club. It was more in the Castro District. There was The Stud, of course. The Stud started as a biker bar way back, like in late ’60s, and then it turned into a place where most of the Haight-Ashbury people would go. This is South of Market District, which is more downtown, and in the industrial area just south of Market Street. This became like this legendary place. Janice Joplin went there. The Cockettes would hang out there. Etta James performed there. When I went into The Stud, I realised this symbolised San Francisco in many ways, because they used to call them head bars, which were bars that were for the counterculture, for the hippies. There was nothing quite like that anywhere else. I mean, there were some bars in New York like that. There were a couple bars in Chicago that were like that, but they were kind of smaller. This was a bigger and just more quintessential, symbolic part of what the counterculture was in San Francisco. So this felt like, well, God, there’s nothing like The Stud.

And when you say head bar, was it somewhere where people were kind of smoking weed and stuff like that?
Yeah, they smoked weed. They’d even smoke weed in the bar sometimes, but definitely outside the bar. And they were on other drugs as well. I mean, a lot of people were on acid or mushrooms or whatever. And also, it was like a lot of long-hairs. Basically hippies, and then as time went on, just more countercultural type people. You know, punks started going there. But also, interestingly enough to that whole period, they played a lot of rock music in the club. But they did have nights where they played disco as well.

Presumably it was gay-friendly as well.
I mean, basically it was a gay bar. It was gay hippie, and yeah, that’s one of the reasons that I found San Francisco interesting. Being that this was the capital of hippiedom, I found a lot of the people, the movers and some of the luminaries of the whole scene were gay. This bar was a gay bar with gay hippies, the ultimate gay hippie bar. And of course, with it being San Francisco, outside of the Stud, the City Disco opened which was in North Beach. At first, it was called Cabaret After Dark, which then became the City Disco. That opened a little later. You’re talking about ’75. There was The Shed, which was an after hours club in the Castro as well. That was fun. David Bowie went to that club when he was in town. There was The EndUp, of course. How could I forget that? I’m forgetting one of the more obvious ones. But yeah, The EndUp actually started in ’73, and that was a major place to go.

Who would’ve been the resident DJs there when it opened?
Peter Struve was one of the first DJs there, and Tom Junell, but Peter Struve was the main early DJ at The EndUp in ’75 and ’76.

When you moved there, did you move with the intention of becoming a DJ, or did you just end up being one? What was your ambition when you moved there?
Well, I was inspired by going to the Chicago clubs. I mean, I really got into it. Well, there was Den One, but of course there was Dugan’s Bistro, which was the big club downtown. I really liked going there, and I got very inspired by what they were doing there. And there was another club, PQ’s, which was kind of almost like The Stud of Chicago. That was funkier. Also kind of reminded me of The Anvil in New York, so just a smaller club which is a little more like a hole in the wall spot, which was really hot. And The Bistro was big, a big room. So at those two clubs, actually, I was the most inspired by what was going on.

Were they racially mixed, similar to Den One, or was it more white or black?
PQ’s was more mixed. The Bistro was mostly white, but it was definitely some … There were, I don’t know, I guess like 10% black, another 15%, 20% Latin. So I would say about 70% white, basically.

Do you remember who the DJs were at Dugan’s Bistro and PQ’s?
Ron Beltman was the first DJ and then Lou DiVito came in after that. So, this is going back to ’73. Chicago had a big room disco in ’73. So it was right up with New York having that kind of place. So, I got to hear all that music that people would hear at The Loft or The Sanctuary or The Gallery, whatever, over at these clubs in Chicago.

Did you know about The Loft and The Gallery when you were in Chicago? 
I actually didn’t know right away, no. What I did know is I was hearing this great music in Chicago, and then later on I would find out from people that went to New York, ‘Oh yeah, well, this is going on at David Mancuso’s party,’ or, ‘This is going on at The Gallery’. Chicago has to be right up with New York. I mean, it’s like Second City or whatever, so I was able to hear all that music there. I did go to New York with friends and again, we’d get a one of those drive-away cars or rental cars and just drove to New York from Chicago. It was like a 12-hour drive, so it’s not that bad to drive there. So, I went to some of the first clubs in the Village, the original Limelight which was actually in the Village as a smaller bar. 

We stayed in the Broadway Central Hotel, which was a cheap hotel, but drag queens and musicians and artists would stay there. So that was fun. But yeah, I was just happy that we had our own clubs in Chicago that I could basically hear all this music. And that’s where I was first inspired to even be a DJ. I just thought, ‘Well, God, this is really an incredible new thing that’s going on, and I’m enjoying it so much, I want to be on the dancefloor for hours.’ Chicago has a late night drinking license for clubs, like New York, so it was open till five in the morning and people could drink till five in the morning, so I could hear what that was all about, hearing a DJ play for long hours into the morning. So I did some house parties in Chicago. I still have an invitation for one of the first parties I did in my flat in Chicago, and anyway, it’s pretty hilarious. It was an acid punch party, which a lot of people were doing at that time. So, I would mix some rock, but with some of the new music that was coming out with Eddie Kendricks and ‘Soul Makossa’, and all that kind of stuff, mixing that up with a reel-to-reel tape recorder and one turntable. I would also do some after hour parties for this theatre troupe. It was an underground theatre troupe in Chicago that had their shows at Kingston Mines Theater, and then I would come in and I would play. I would DJ for them after hours. But I carried that over when I moved to San Francisco, because I continued to do house parties in San Francisco after I moved there.

How did you move from that to becoming a ‘professional’?
I met a lot of people very quickly. I was trying the whole thing out where I wanted to give a good party, just have fun. But I would invite some very important people to the party like Harvey Milk. I lived a block away from his camera store in the Castro, so I invited him. I invited Sylvester. I invited The Cockettes. They were my friends anyway. I first met Sylvester through The Cockettes, because he was a Cockette. And at first, he had a rock band, Sylvester & The Hot Band, and that’s what he was doing then. He was just hanging out, and Harvey Milk came over to the party, The Cockettes, and a bunch of people in the neighbourhood, my friends. It was just great. I was hanging out with Harvey and we shared a joint. It was that kind of thing.

Then I met Rod Roderick. I think I might have mentioned this before somewhere, I think to you, but he was kind of like a cross between a gay Hugh Hefner and David Mancuso, because he was giving his own loft parties in San Francisco. He was obviously tied in to the whole scene. He also happened to be from Chicago, but he went to New York all the time, so he had that connection. He did it in his own house, which was a whole Victorian building on McAllister Street, and it was like three floors. He owned the building so we could do whatever we wanted to. We called it The Mansion, and he gave some legendary parties there, and continued to do that for years. And he also did some parties in warehouses South of Market District, SoMa District. And sometimes, he would team up with some other people and they’d do parties together. But this is like the underground of the time. This is before the big room clubs opened in San Francisco. He did the parties before that, so he kind of guided the city along with how to do a party.

Was he key to your progression?
Well, he reached out to me. Most of the bathhouses had DJs in San Francisco, and for a while, they served as after hours parties, because this is before the Trocadero opened. People would go there just to hang out and party and of course, the option was you could do other things as well. I learned a lot playing at the bathhouses, because it didn’t have a dance floor. So, I could work on my craft and experiment a lot more, so I kind of found my sound that way, which was already inside of me. A lot of it came from inspiration from what I heard in Chicago and New York, but also, kind of this mix of what I was hearing in San Francisco.

Anyway, it gave me time to really work on being a DJ. And so, I had a lot of fun with that. One of the guys that owned I-Beam, or was going to open The I-Beam, came up to me also in the baths. This came later, but said that he liked my sound. He was from New York and his name was Bob Wharton. The other owner was Sanford Kellman who was from Detroit. But they liked my sound because it had that combination of East Coast and Chicago with the West Coast. So, they wanted that at The I-Beam, so that’s eventually how I got to play at The I-Beam.

Did you play at The I-Beam from when it opened?
Not right from when it opened. They did bring a DJ in from LA, Paul Dougan, for a while. But then after about six months or so, they decided on bringing me in with Tim Rivers and Michael Garrett. So, we were the three resident DJs at The I-Beam. And we played disco, of course and at that time was seven nights a week. So, between the three of us, we all played different nights. But we had our regular nights to play. I played Sunday after Michael Garrett played, and I would play some Thursdays. Timmy Rivers played Saturday at the time and Thursday. I played Friday sometimes with Michael Garrett. The I-Beam opened before the Trocadero opened. It was a great club and at that time, it was mostly ’70s music, more on the soulful side. 

What was the club capacity at The I-Beam?
It seemed like capacity was probably about 600- 700 people. The Trocadero was a little larger. So, I think there could be up to … I mean, throughout the whole night at The Trocadero, probably at times when it was really packed, 1,000 people could go through it throughout the night. 

How did that compare with City Disco?
City Disco was a little smaller than The Trocadero. City Disco had another level, though. It was like a cabaret downstairs, so you would have people like … I mean, Sylvester performed there, but you’d also have these female impersonators like Charles Pierce and cabaret acts going on downstairs. Piano bar kind of stuff. But that usually, unless it was Sylvester, didn’t have much to do with what was going on upstairs. City Disco, Cabaret After Dark actually was the first name of that venue. It was in the North Beach area of the city, which also had a history of being a gay district, but at the time, there was still another couple gay bars in that area. But Cabaret After Dark was this huge, big disco which started out all gay. With the City Disco, though, it was more of a mixed club, and that was great. They liked to think of themselves as the Studio 54 of San Francisco. So, a very mixed crowd. Lots of gay people, but lots of everything.

Was there quite a fierce rivalry between The I-Beam, The EndUp, the City Disco, The Troc? How did that all work?
There was a little bit of rivalry. In a sense, the fact that The I-Beam could never get its after hours permit. The I-Beam was ironically on Haight Street, which was the crazy Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood, but at the time … I mean, there were people that lived in the neighbourhood that never liked the fact that their neighbourhood was invaded by hippies and it just went basically in their minds berserk, like things getting out of control. The few conservative people that lived in the neighbourhood. But they had a certain amount of power when they would complain about sound. They’d make a lot of sound complaints. So, when The I-Beam tried to get its after hours permit, it was always shot down because these people would come to the meetings in City Hall where we were debating pros and cons of granting after hours license. 

What were the after hours options? Were there illegal after hours happening?
Well, the Trocadero opened about five or six months after The I-Beam opened. At first, I mean, Trocadero opened without alcohol and it didn’t really plan to have alcohol. Of course, a lot of the clubs in New York didn’t have alcohol, and that was one of the reasons that they became so successful and more free and more of a party space, because they didn’t have to deal with agencies that control … you know, Alcoholic Beverage Commission in New York, and in San Francisco the same thing. But at the very beginning, Trocadero couldn’t get its after hours license either. Trocadero was South of Market, which is more of a industrial neighbourhood, near a freeway, so it was like a noisy, industrial area, not really residential. So, they granted the after hours license to Trocadero pretty quickly. So then in that sense, it wasn’t really competitive with The I-Beam. A lot of people would go to The I-Beam earlier and then they would to The Trocadero afterwards.

From a DJ point of view, when you finished work at The I-Beam, would you go and hang out? Were you friends with other DJs? Would you go to another club and hang out with your friends?
Yeah. I went to The Trocadero, it was a pretty tight community. Of course there were rivalries, and there were some people dissing the different musical styles of some DJs because…

That’s what DJs do. DJs love bitching.
I guess so, but I never did. At The Trocadero, the DJs had all that time, all night, so they could go into different kinds of music. The I-Beam, I guess it was closer to what would be like Paradise Garage. But we wouldn’t play more of the nuanced Euro, they called it Eurobeat at the time or that kind of prettier music, like Alec Costandinos and stuff like that. That would be more like The Trocadero sound. And then they would get to hear morning music also. Bobby  [Viteritti] played till oftentimes eight or nine in the morning.

But I kind of worked around that, too, when Bobby brought me in to be basically his warmup DJ, and that was fine with me, because I was already playing The I-Beam. I didn’t feel like, oh well, I’m just his warmup DJ. I just felt like, oh, this is good. I can play at Trocadero with Bobby, and they brought me in because I did play a different sound than he played. They didn’t want somebody going in there that was going to be trying to copy him. He liked the fact that I played more of a Garage sound, and he wanted me to do that. Then he played his thing, and he really became The Trocadero. I mean, Bobby Viteritti is The Trocadero.

But that’s when also in 1980, The EndUp wanted me to come in to do their morning party. It hadn’t been going on that long, like, I don’t know, a year or so. They wanted me to come in because I was playing I-Beam and now Trocadero, so I could come in and do the morning party. So I went to The EndUp at six in the morning to do that, and played every Sunday morning from six am till one in the afternoon. The place would be packed. People would come in from The Trocadero and other places, their houses or wherever they were. They would come in to dance. They’d fill the place up. By seven in the morning, it was filled up, and I could take them from sleaze all the way up to some of the, at the time, the early ’80s records like D-Train and stuff like that. I’d play more of a funky, soulful Garage-y kind of sound, and then I would also play some Hi-NRG. I’d mix it up with all those hours as time went on, and even more people are coming in, so it worked out really well.

What would you class as your sort of classic sleaze records from that period?
I still played stuff from the disco era, but I’d play Steve Arrington, D-Train, ‘Be Mine Tonight’ by the Jammers. I also brought in the classic deep disco stuff, like ‘Can’t Fake the Feeling’, ‘Down To Love Town’, ‘Put Your Body In It’, ‘Feed The Flame’, ‘If My Friends Could See Me’, all that time. Gino Soccio’s big records like ‘Try It Out’, which was a perfect EndUp record in the morning for me. You know, ‘P.A.R.T.Y.’ by Denise LaSalle. I did a remix of that later on with Paul Goodyear, but that was huge. P-A-R-T-Y, party.

Who do you think were the most influential DJs of the era? Was it Bobby?
There were people that idolised Bobby, and there were people that were into really what I was doing, and also a DJ like Vincent Carleo, who was a New York transplant, and one of my mentors. Vincent played at Flamingo and came out to San Francisco to stay. He worked a lot of the underground loft parties that Rod Roderick gave. He was also the first DJ to open The Trocadero. He played on opening night. And Timmy Rivers, he was one of my mentors, and he was a beloved DJ. He was kind of like that Larry Levan or Frankie Knuckles at the time of San Francisco.

When you were playing at all of these things, did it feel like you were kind of part of a secret society? 
Yeah, we did. We did feel that it was very special, we had a very special thing going on in San Francisco. And I know people in New York felt the same way, and Chicago to a certain extent. But yeah, in San Francisco, it was kind of a unique feeling with our scene. But beyond that, just the fact that we were building a very special place for ourselves.

Also, I suppose you were kind of building an idealised version of a gay society as well.
We were, yeah. And many times, we would laugh and say, ‘This is too good to be true. I mean, is this really happening?’ We actually have this incredible place with this culture and not only the culture, but where we have power here, political power in numbers. 

Speaking of that, what did the city feel like when Harvey Milk was assassinated?
Oh, it was just horrible. I mean, right away, it was like for people that remembered when JFK was assassinated, it felt like that. It was just so sorrowful. Everything closed. What would happen is if something extreme happened in the news. People would just call each other up and what would always happen is people would just go into the street. And so, people went into the street after Harvey was killed, and they just went to the Castro and blocked traffic, and they went into the street just to hug and to, as a catharsis, try to comfort each other, but also kind of strategise what our response would be. They’d just sit in the street, block traffic on the main street. Eventually we just marched with candles. But yeah, it was devastating. It was devastating. The mayor was killed as well, of course.

When was the first time you heard about people getting sick? I know that Patrick Cowley was one of the earliest people to die.
Yeah, he was. I first met Patrick Cowley in a very kind of different way. I had a boyfriend at that time, and he and my boyfriend had gone off and had a little thing. So at first, I was like, okay, who is this guy? I mean, this is really early period, but we were all kind of hippie, so it didn’t matter. It was like, okay, whatever. Share and share alike. But then I started getting to know him, and it turned out we had a really good relationship, and I ended up doing parties for him at The EndUp. 

I mean, at first it was like we heard about this gay cancer, and it just seemed like, ‘Oh, well, it happened to some people in New York, and some people in LA,’ Actually, there was some cases in San Francisco, but we wanted to think, ‘This is not going to be a big deal’. We were always used to just getting penicillin shots for our STDs. Sometimes the VD clinic would be quite busy sometimes, you know, take a number in San Francisco, if you can imagine. But we always thought there would be a way to deal with whatever kind of sexually transmitted disease we would get, because that’s how we always dealt with it. There were no worries.

So, we were holding onto that for a while. But then I forget exactly when, but it was not too long after that, they put up photographs of people that had KS lesions on their body. And they put the photos up on this drug store, which was called Star Pharmacy. They put them up on the windows, so people walking down Castro would see it, and people would huddle around these pictures. I think by them doing that, and I’m glad they did do that, it changed people’s feelings about it. Visually, it just looked so horrible, and I think that was a big part of it, but also it was like, this is a cancer. And if people got these lesions inside their body, like in their lungs or something, they would die. It just was horrible.

People started being fearful at that point. I mean, some people still went out to the bars, and even to the dance clubs, but by ’83, people were really getting scared. I mean, I was at The EndUp in the morning, and it didn’t affect numbers of people there too much at about that point. Maybe slightly, but that’s when I moved to New York as well. I felt it was good for my own wellbeing to move there, plus I’d always wanted to live in New York. And so I just felt … I went through a little struggle with it for a while, because I didn’t want to feel like I’m abandoning San Francisco. Also, it was true that in New York, there’s so much more going on that I could probably be a little more distracted from having to deal with having this going on all around me all the time. Interestingly enough, in New York, the clubs were still pretty packed for the most part going through the ’80s. There was the whole downtown scene, which wasn’t just in gay clubs. So, it was good for me to be there for many reasons.

Do you remember a guy called David Diebold?
Yeah, I remember. I mean, I actually was like a consultant with him on some records, it was ’White Rabbit’, I think I remember him doing. I sat in with him while he was in the studio doing that. He would come into the record store where I worked at CD & Record Rack in the Castro. It was 18th and Sanchez. It was one of the major DJ record stores.

Is that the one that Jerry Bonham owned?
Jerry Bonham worked there and Neil Lewis, and I was there as well. I came in there in ’98 when I moved back to San Francisco.

Was David primarily a DJ, or what was he?
He wasn’t a DJ. He just produced records. You know, he helped other people with some other songs that I can’t really remember exactly which ones they were now, but yeah. He was basically producing his own music. I don’t think any of them got to be really big hits, but they were out there.

Have you ever seen his book Tribal Rites?
I have a copy of it right here.

I found it when I was living in New York about 28 years ago. It’s a really hard book to find now, isn’t it?
Yeah, it is.

Did that make much noise when it came out?
Yeah, it did. It did. I mean, it was I think the first major book to chronicle the San Francisco scene. It’s kind of interesting, because it looks like it’s put together in an amateurish way, but it doesn’t matter because there was a lot of information in it, and he got to spotlight most of the main people involved in the scene and talk about the clubs. It has that now-famous picture of all the DJs at the Fantasy Record party that was celebrating the release of ‘Earth Can Be Just Like Heaven’ by Two Tons O’ Fun. So, almost all the DJs in San Francisco at that time are in that picture. Not all the DJs were in the BADDA record pool, the Bay Area Disco DJ Association, but a lot of them are. I’m in the picture right in the middle, wearing a leather jacket, next to Martha Wash. And then Bobby’s way on the side, and the Howard Merritt’s up there, and Sylvester’s in the picture, and Jeanie Tracy, John Hedges, Michael Garrett.

When did you return to San Francisco?
I loved playing in New York, but I did return to San Francisco in 1988, when they were reopening Dreamland as a Sunday party, a tea dance. They asked me if I wanted to come back to San Francisco to reopen the club, and they were going to call the party Reclamation. It had a lot of symbolism. At that particular time, people were still dying a lot. I mean, that was one of the peaks of the whole epidemic. But at that particular time, there was kind of a shift in people’s attitudes, and it was like, ‘Well, if we’re all going to die, we might as well die having fun’. People wanted to go be with each other on the dancefloor again. So, yeah, we reopened that club and it was a big success.

That was also the place where Sylvester came in, was wheeled into the club unexpectedly, actually. I was playing, and there was a second tier above the dancefloor. The DJ booth was in the corner of the room, and Sylvester was wheeled into the second tier overlooking the DJ booth, overlooking the dancefloor. It was a surprise. I was warned by one of the promoters, came into the DJ booth and said, ‘This is going to happen’. So, he came in and they shone a light on him, and he was waving to the crowd, and I stopped the music, and they were just applauding and stamping on the floor. I decided, okay, I’m going to play all Sylvester now, of course. I played almost all the full length of his songs for about an hour. And then, before my last record, my promoter friend came in and said, ‘Well, Sylvester, it’s time. He wants to leave now and just say goodbye’. So, I just ended the record cold, and there was this thunderous stomping on the floor and applause. People were sobbing. I was sobbing. I’m almost sobbing again telling you the story. And he had the light on him, and he just said goodbye and waved, and they wheeled him away.

So that club would open at six pm and go till four am in the morning. Sylvester came in around 10 at night, and by 11, after he left, they just kept stamping on the floor and applauding, and I just let that go on. I made the decision right then, I can’t play anymore. I can’t play anything else. Out of respect to Sylvester. I mean, we just can’t continue with a party after that for this night, and everybody kind of understood that. And people slowly walked off the floor and filed home, out the door, and that was it. That was that night. So, I’ll always remember that night. 

Wow, that’s incredible. OK, so final question. I want to ask you about Go BANG!. Tell me how that started, and how you built that up.
Sergio Fedasz had already started Go BANG!, and he did a one-off at this hole in the wall, underground kind of place called 222 Hyde, but moved it right away to the Deco Lounge, which was a gay club in the downtown Tenderloin district. Ken Vulsion, one of the co-founders of Honey Soundsystem, was a friend of Sergio’s, and he recommended to Sergio that I become his partner doing the club. So, Sergio came to one of the Honey parties I was playing – this is back in 2008 – it was basically warming up to me, and came into the booth there and asked me if I wanted to do a guest appearance, and I said, ‘Sure’.

So I did that, and yeah, I had a lot of fun with it. A lot of people showed up, and Sergio at that time just said, ‘Will you be my partner doing the club?’ I got a really good vibe from Sergio right away, and I just felt like I liked what he had started with the club, and I just thought, with me there, we could make this fly, and he felt the same thing. So, it started that way and we became partners, and the club got bigger and bigger and bigger right away.

It’s pretty incredible for someone like you that’s been around so long to still be doing a club that successful, that’s underground.
Well, you know, I don’t know what else I want to do. I mean, this is what I really love doing, so if I can keep doing it, I’m just going to keep doing it. That’s just been my whole attitude. To me it’s like, alright, if I’m going to be doing it, I’ve got to do it like I’ve always done it. You know? I love the fact that I can play mostly disco at Go BANG!, but outside of Go BANG!, I play new music. I play house, because I’ve always … I never really stopped playing from the disco era. I just went into the house era, and all the way to present time. I have a real love of house as well, and to me, it’s just a transition from disco. So, it’s all music to me. Other clubs and events, I actually play mostly house. Yeah. But I’m so happy that I can continue to play disco at Go BANG!, and we have crowds for both. Because Sergio and I, one of the parties that we do where we play house, he plays house as well, is at DAD BANG!. DAD BANG! is funny. I mean, it’s kind of a funny title, but people love it. It’s a collaboration between one of the new parties of this crew that calls themselves Dads & Disco, so they call themselves DAD. It brings in a whole other crowd. At that party, it’s not just disco. They say Dudes and Disco, but it’s multi-format. They just play whatever they want.

© Bill Brewster & Frank Broughton