Disco broadened the contours of blackness, femininity, and male homosexuality. African-American musicians and producers experimented with lavish, sophisticated arrangements that didn’t always sound recognizably “black.” Their lush new sounds became the foundation of disco. With this sonic turn, black masculinity moved away from the “sex machine” model of James Brown towards the “love man” style of Barry White. As for gay men, as they became newly visible, largely through the dissemination of disco culture, their self-presentation shifted as effeminacy gave way to a macho style recognizable to anyone who has ever glimpsed the Village People. Feminism’s critique of three-minute sex found its voice in disco, and black female performers broke with representational strategies rooted in respectability. There’s no way to make sense of how we got from Diana Ross to Lil’ Kim without exploring disco.

Alice Echols, author of Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture

Foxy Friday: The Rodeo cowboy

Rodeo, NYC 1954– Photograph © Robert Frank, from The Americans

Summer Reading

There’s nothing better than those early days of summer, sitting by the pool or lake with a cocktail (hoperfully) and a good book. This summer I am excited for two books. The first, is the long-awaited Waiter Rant, which is an adaptation of the popular blog by a Manhattan waiter/amateur customer psychologist/voice for those who have worked in the service industry. I know I have plugged Waiter’s site before on this blog, but for goodness sakes, it is a worthy read for people who have had to work at restaurants, and also for those who eat in them. I’ve had food service experience, and let me tell you, there are a lot of assholes out there…and a lot of people who have no idea how to properly behave in public or muster up some human decency. I am SO EXCITED for the book, that I’ve been re-reading the archives on his blog in anticipation.

Another book I definitely have to get is
Girls Like Us by Sheila Weller.

I read an excerpt of it in last month’s Vanity Fair and it seems like a perfect summer read. The book examines the love life and careers of 70s singer/songwriters Joni Mitchell, Carole King, and Carly Simon. I love Joni Mitchell, who is a genius, supremely talented in many areas of life (besides writing and composing, she’s also a fantastic painter and artist), gorgeous, controversial, and has had a few fabulous men in her life (David Crosby, Graham Nash, Jackson Browne, James Taylor….)

Carole King is has lead a less tabloid-worthy life, and she’s the woman I know the least about, in terms of her personal life. I think as a songwriter, she is very underrated for her versatility and for being the first important female songwriter in the 60s. Although I’m not a fan of her Tapestry stuff, her songs in the 60s were so important. To write “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman” and “One Fine Day”, and then to write “Wasn’t Born To Follow” and “Porpoise Song” and everything in between. WHOA.

Carly Simon’s career is less impressive than Mitchell’s and King’s, but she has an interesting backstory, a couple good albums, one legendary song (“You’re So Vain”), interesting former boyfriends/husbands (James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Kris Kristofferson, Warren Beaty…), and she’s the only one of the three that was actually interviewed for the biography.

Anyway, those are my suggestions for summer reading fun! I am such a dork…

The Westing Game

Easily one of my favorite books when I was a kid was The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. Thanks to my favorite blog, Jezebel, I was reminded of the true awesomeness of this book. If you don’t remember the plot, Jezebel gives a really good synopsis. It basically is a really confusing and witty mystery about a group of people that live in a luxury high-rise apartment complex and how their lives are intertwined. It’s genius.

I’m so desperate to read it again that I’m considering buying a copy on eBay. I stole a copy from my elementary school back in the day and now I can’t find it. Ugh.

Does anyone else remember this book?

Claudia Kishi: Fashion Idol

I have always been into fashion. While my current fashion icons range from Anita Pallenberg to Kate Moss to Oscar Wilde and even (admittedly) the dreaded Olsen Twins, my first and most important fashion icon was Claudia Kishi.


Claudia, as some of you may remember, was a member of the Babysitters Club. She was Asian, a quirky fashionista, a bad speller, and BFF with the other cool member of the BSC, Stacey McGill.

 She was the shit.

I remember reading Ann M. Martin’s descriptions of Claudia’s outfits and thinking “Oh wow, Claudia is sooooo cool.” What can I say, I was eight years old and a huge nerd.  But Claudia seriously took fashion risks. Granted, it was the 80s, and there were a lot of nasty fashion trends that she and the rest of the BSC participated in (stirrup pants, rolled socks, side ponytails, tie-dye, white overalls, etc).

Still, she always was wearing the craziest getups, and they all sounded awesome.  She was known for her wild accessories: bird hair clips,  mismatched earrings, t-shirts as dresses (belted, naturally), multi-colored hair, polka-dot tights, SPANDEX, purple high-tops. She once envisioned a whole outfit to appear like a head-to-toe WATERMELON. Claudia was brilliantly ahead of her time. Especially since she was a middle-schooler. 

Here’s one of my favorite descriptions of a Claudia Kishi ensemble, from the brilliant website What Claudia Wore 

“That afternoon, for instance, I was wearing a man’s paisley vest I’d found at a yard sale, over a striped button-down shirt with tuxedo-stripe black Spandex stirrup pants, held up with pink-flecked black suspenders. My hair was pulled straight back with a paisley comb, and I was wearing electric-pink ankle boots. The boots really set off the formality of the rest of the outfit, sort of like the punchline of a joke. I think you can tell a lot about people from the way they dress. If you saw me, you might think: artistic, fun-loving, good sense of humor. At least I hope you’d think that.”

Ah. She was so fierce.  

If you want more of a trip down memory lane, visit the BSC Headquarters.

Who was your favorite member of the Babysitters Club?