May 3 is the 50th day of the Season of Discord, which means it’s the Discordian Holyday Discoflux! And… yeah, nobody really seems to know what to do about that.
The Principia Discordia doesn’t give us any information on Discoflux, other than noting it on the official calendar. Other Discordian texts like the Apocrypha Discordia and The Book of Eris don’t provide any clues, either. The only explanation of Discoflux I could find was on a wiki site (Discordia Wikia, natch), which suggested we take the name literally and celebrate… well, disco:
Dress as you would to go to a disco sometime in the 1950s through 1970s, imagine you’re the Disco King or Queen (or both), then begin dancing to the music in your head. Pretend the discotheque is at your local market, a playground, or in front of a house of worship. Leave before the police arrive. If one shows up before you depart, tell the officer, “Love the threads. Wanna boogie?” If the officer declines the invitation, apologize profusely for your mistake and claim you forgot to take your medication. Better yet, forget the whole thing.
In lieu of taking that advice to heart, I’ve chosen instead to reflect on how disco ties into this particular time of year. The boundaries between the worlds are just as thin now as they are in late October, and as my friend Eddy used to say, Beltane for us is Samhain in the Underworld. It’s a time of return, and in a couple of months, it’ll be the anniversary of the time an angry, impotent white dude unsuccessfully tried to kill disco. That failure (to murder, that is; not the man) is definitely worth celebrating.
Back in 1979, a Chicago DJ named Steve Dahl announced an event in coordination with the Chicago White Sox. On July 12, during a double-header between the White Sox and the Detroit Tigers, Dahl would blow up thousands of disco records midfield, thus heralding the official death of disco.
Dahl himself had a longstanding resentment towards disco. He’d been laid off when the rock station where he worked converted to an all-disco format, and while he quickly found another position, his bitterness towards disco festered. So when the promotions director of the White Sox approached him about a PR stunt designed to boost sagging ticket sales, he pounced.
The gist was this: On the night of the double-header, fans could buy a ticket to the games for $0.99 and a disco LP. The records would be gathered up, Dahl would explode the lot of them, and disco would run, screaming, for the hills. The White Sox owners hoped to attract 20,000 fans with the stunt — around 5000 more than normally attended their games. Instead, 50,000 showed up. Things went south from there.
Attendees were supposed to put their disco records in drop-boxes by the gates, but some people held onto theirs, tossing them around like Frisbees (along with firecrackers and broken bottles). And they weren’t all disco records, either — according to witnesses, some participants brought R&B and Motown records to destroy. At some point, it stopped being specifically about disco, and more about cancelling the music of marginalized cultures.
Disco grew out of the black, gay, and Latin underground dance scenes, and as it gained mainstream popularity, it started to be perceived as a threat. Dahl, for his part, claims the promotion was not intended to be racist or homophobic, but his defense of the night reads as an “Equal Rights are Special Rights” manifesto: Minority-created art is allowed to exist, but if it encroaches at all on the popularity of majority-created art, then there’s a problem. And the problem isn’t the majority appropriating and repackaging that art for its own consumption — no, the problem is that the minority dared to create art in the first place.
Between the games, Dahl rode out to centerfield, where a giant crate of records, rigged with explosives, was waiting for him. He led the crowd in a rousing chant of “Disco Sucks,” and the fuse was lit (both figuratively and literally). The crate exploded, blowing an unanticipated crater into the field, and then fans rushed out of the stands and started rioting, because that’s what overstimulated white people are wont to do during sporting events.
Needless to say, the White Sox were forced to forfeit the second game. And despite Dahl’s best efforts, disco survived, going on to influence electronic dance music (a genre which eventually spawned the KLF’s Justified and Ancient, an actual Discordian anthem). And because disco survived, I got to see Thelma Houston live in concert and also once met the Village People, which doesn’t have much to do with anything but was still really cool.
I think it’s that survival that’s important to remember this time of year. The music of marginalized communities managed to flourish in the faces of the people who were trying to stamp it out, just like magic and witchcraft and the Gods have all persisted, despite repeated attempts to eradicate them.
And just like we have persisted, enduring the winter and looking ahead to the challenges and victories of the upcoming summer. If that in itself is not something worth dancing about, then I just don’t know what is.