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Literary Mixtape: ‘Dancer from the Dance’–Malone’s Imaginary Disco Set

Literary Mixtape: ‘Dancer from the Dance’–Malone’s Imaginary Disco Set

Author: William Johnson

January 19, 2012

The folks at Flavorwire have an ingenious recurring column in which they create musical mixtapes for assorted literary characters. Each inspired post is dedicated to one literary character and provides a playlist of music they might have listened to. An exercise like this is catnip for a queer book geek. The column got me thinking, “What music would fill the lives of some of my favorite LGBTQ characters? What music would Myra Breckenridge listen to before teaching an acting class or what song would Celie, from the Color Purple, be humming at her pant’s shop?” 

I knew I had to start with a particular favorite of mine: Andrew Holleran’s classic, hilarious and haunting disco era novel Dancer from the Dance. The novel follows erstwhile romantic Malone on his search for love and meaning amid the debauched 1970s New York City party scene.

Dancer from the Dance , which contains multiple passages describing the euphoria of the early 1970s discos and parties, surprisingly contains very few musical references. The novel provides a vivid sense of time and place, but there are very few passages that describe the actual music of the era.

One disco that is prominently featured in Holleran’s novel, the Twelfth Floor, is based on an early 1970s private club called the 1oth Floor. The website Disco-Disco states:

The 10th Floor crowd was a very glamorous, beautiful and chic white gay crowd, it was the crowd who frequented Fire Island as well as the Flamingo. The club was located on the tenth floor and was a private disco with 400 members, members could bring two guests. Membership was $75. It was a loft space, white, not very large, windows on the front with seating, chairs and sofas, directly across was the dance floor and the DJ booth, it was an intimate space. The elevator often didn’t work so the guests had to walk up 10 flights.

The club was located across the street of the legendary Everard (nicknamed Everhard) Baths…

The 1oth Floor played a very specific type of disco–the early stuff–before disco became infected with overtly euro and pop influences (see Donna Summers). The Tenth Floor played mostly bare bones and raw soul/dance music. The tracks spun at the club were more of the underground funk inspired variety–not so much of the four-to-floor cuts we commonly associate with the scene. Knowing that, it is easy to come up with a hip shaking track-list that would send Malone into disco nirvana.


This Patty Jo track is one of the only songs that Holleran flat-out references in the novel and it’s a Curtis Mayfield produced foot-stomper.

In this classic cut Teddy Pendergrass breaks off a little old school disco philosophy. “Hey Malone, listen to Teddy! You can’t hide from yourself!”

In which Eddie Kendricks tries to prove his feminist bonafides while still trying to get laid. The characters in Dancer from the Dance were notoriously apolitical; maybe they just needed a political manifesto with a beat?

If the Temptations are telling you there are natural laws in the world then it must be true. No relative queer theory on the dance floor!

Minnie! ‘Nuff said!

There is always the come down–that moment when you come home from the club alone and a little dejected. You need a wistful track to help you rest up before you head out and hit the scene all over again.

William Johnson photo

About: William Johnson

William Johnson is the former Deputy Director of Lambda Literary.

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