Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-1983
Tim Lawrence is Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of East London and the author of Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970–1979 and Hold On to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973–1992, both also published by Duke University Press.
Robbie Leslie, Roy Thode, and Sharon White chalked up the most appearances during the opening months of 1982. But Thode suffered from a history of mood swings and, apparently troubled by the demands of the Saint crowd, which sometimes took to writing hostile letters to the owner, died of a drug overdose shortly before he was due to open the summer season at the Ice Palace on Fire Island. White and Leslie received more work in the aftermath, with Leslie eventually given preferential treatment by Bruce Mailman. During 1982 dancers started to refer to the contagion that was killing disproportionate numbers of gay men as “Saint’s disease.” The Gay Men’s Health Crisis held a fundraising benefit at Paradise Garage on Thursday 8 April. Activist Larry Kramer grasped that the disease required a governmental response but found his efforts to jolt Ed Koch into action frustrated by Herb Rickman, the mayor’s gay community liaison. AIDS came into general usage in August.