The story of

How The Disco Craze Led To Our Fitness Phase!

Disco Mirror Ball

It was the mid 70s , New York City and the whole world it seemed was going Disco crazy. Intense danceable music, strobe lights, mirror balls, neon and champagne.

Stásh had just returned from Viet Nam to his hometown, New York City with a bullet in his hip, a purple heart and a brand new Chevy van when he met me. Hoping to get rid of his limp he was walking nightly under the Verrazano bridge. I was still smoking, had 2 doctors supplying me diet pills, and had chronic bronchitis, hypertension, I never exercised ever and didn't even own a pair of sneakers. I was a walking time bomb.

We loved music, Stásh was from Brooklyn and I'm from the Bronx and something musical was spreading its sparkling tentacles from the outer boroughs to the big apple, Manhattan . Disco music was everywhere.
"Disco Sucks" T-shirts were everywhere. You either hated Disco music or loved it. We loved it and still do

The disco haters were usually young men, who'd rather sit, get stoned while listening to the likes of "The Grateful Dead" then get up and possibly work up a sweat. The guys who survived the 70's were destined to become the out of shape 50+ couch potatoes we work with today. .

We were in our late 30s and believing the maxim , "It's never too late to start again" we decided to get into the Disco business and possibly be the oldest DJs around.

We researched sound systems and the latest music. Stásh built our own portable system, perfected "spinning, became a dj-tech and I did the lights . We built a shiny black portable DJ booth 2 technique turntables, a mixer and a Bose tri-amped sound system with a light controller, for mirror ball, strobes, police lights and fog We hired my teen aged daughter , our nephews and their college friends as traveling roadies. We packed it all plus milk crates full of original vinyl records into our shiny black Chevy van and with 2000 watts of power we called ourselves . DISCO VAN 2000. The Traveling Discotheque.Disco Van 2000

Disco Van 2000

We advertised in New York Magazine classified. "Disco Your Den" or "Disco Your Wedding " We got our first gigs at private parties in the glamorous Hamptons and at suburban Long Island bars that were testing the disco idea before they put in permanent sound and lighting systems.

Stash & Norma with Gloria Gaynor

I can't remember how we bluffed our way and got the Gloria Gaynor college tour gig. She was THE disco diva (pre Donna Summer) requiring a private dressing room, pre concert champagne banquet buffet and we were her opening act.

Disco Van 2000

We had to drive all night from college to college, slept on waiting room sofas. Learned the ropes the hard way. We wore jeans, trying to project natural image. Stásh wore a safari hat before Indiana Jones did, we both wore high top boots We had to set up discos in the college gyms. We got stronger, lifting the heavy equipment and more flexible putting down the duct tape, and hanging up mirror balls. We got hundreds of college kids on the floor dancing a brand new kind of dancing , the "line dance" which was getting popular in the gay clubs of lower Manhattan. We called the version we taught , "The WALK". We noticed that 20 minutes nonstop of the "Walk" worked up a pleasurable sweat, you didn't need a partner and our clothes were getting looser . Ten years later while attending Arizona State University Department of Physical Education Exercise Science we learned why and how cardiovascular exercise, flexibility and strength training work and the "Walk" became the precursor to WALKAEROBICS©.

We were both getting in better shape and back in New York we got citified. and rented a west side of Manhattan apartment. We wore black(or white in summer.) Stásh's satin shirt opened to the waist to flaunt his Pecs and English riding boots and black (or white) safari hat. I had permed blonde hair with Black (or white) loose silk camis over satin bell bottoms, gauzy silk jackets with huge jeweled shoulder pads in high, high platform shoes and wrapped in a colossal black and white feather boa. Ah those were the days. .

DJ Stash

We did street fairs on Lexington Ave and E Harlem (with the help of Armando Rivera the brother and manager of the magnificent "Chita") and hotel shows for political candidates e.g. woman's libber Bella Abzug at the Plaza. And when Ed Koch beat her for mayor we did his victory party at the Waldorf.

That's when our trouble with the union workers started. There was no union for disco DJs. The musicians union barred us and hated us because
they wrongly believed we were taking away their jobs. And in New York if you're not union you don't work. But they weren't legally suppose to stop us
Our case was a dilemma. One time I had to wield a heavy lighting pole threatening a freight elevator operator to let us load our stuff. In clubs, DJs were working for free for the chance to use the equipment. Rap was an infant and underground. When we tried to organize the Harlem and Brooklyn DJs to start a union they didn't trust each other or us. Remember "Don't trust anyone over 30"?

On our own we learned how to count the heart beat of the music, the BPMs beats per minute, a method we still use with real hearts. Stásh became a great mixer/spinner and eventually taught "spinning " at Hunter college. (see book The Disco Handbook) he was interviewed on TV news

About that time we got evicted from our apartment 'cause we were using the freight elevator to haul our equipment after late night gigs and the rest of the five rooms as a weekend dorm and impromptu dj training school for our roadies.

We moved van and all to an office warehouse on W 54th sty (of course…where else?) and hired a secretary.

Disco Van 2000 and Stásh and I became the djs for the well-to-do. To be specific prosperous American born of immigrant parents…Italians, Jews, Poles, Eastern Europeans, Anglos and don't forget the Gypsies,

Just a little bit about the Gypsies. We start by saying that as "Gadgees" (non gypsies) we enjoyed and were in awe of the Gypsy people we met and did parties for. In the US in the 1970s they were and perhaps still are a unique, secret counter culture society living unobtrusively among us. They love Disco music, dancing, expensive perfume and Crown Royal. They seem to mature early and It seemed like every body of all ages drinks Crown Royal at the arranged weddings of 13 year olds. Even I was hit on by a little kid in a tuxedo. They didn't like formal schooling, documents, working regular jobs. They are intelligent and entrepreneurial They paid well but a groom's uncle advised us to collect in cash before we start the gig.

We accumulated a huge collection of records besides disco, Our play list included rock, jazz, swing ,ethnic and top 40 . We played the music the client wanted which we balanced with a blend of the best of the newest international dj/dance music. We still use much of that original vinyl to make sets for our workouts today. We hired character dancers to liven up the dance floor and often featured soloist Montego Jo of the "Fifth Dimension" a fabulous percussionist , to play live along with the recorded music.

We started to get some huge glam gigs . High society receptions at the Hayden Planetarium and the Guggenheim Museum, mirror balls strobe lights and all.

We impressed record producer Clive Davis at Barry Manilow's award party at a N Y Hotel. His son's Bar Mitzvah party was the first of many…so many. It was under a huge tent in the back yard which we blasted with tons of sound, lights, fog and character dancers a la Studio 54 in suburban Great Neck.

In a Catholic High school gym in Staten Island, Disco was so popular that the nuns did the Hustle and we taught them to do the Walk with the kids.

A lucky NY teenager had her Sweet Sixteen party in a banquet room at Regines (world famous discotheque) All was great till one of the character dancers we hired showed up as "Pan" with only green greasepaint and his pipes for a costume. The mothers were mortified.

We fondly remember Fonze (Henry Winkler) of Happy Days fame, whose niece had her Bas Mitzvah in an orthodox Manhattan temple, where he danced the Russian Kazatski. It was memorable and touching. He was the family celebrity but seemed shy. When his Aunts asked if he remembered them, he giggled.

And for contrast we also Discoed the Broadway show Wiz 's cast party with Michael Jackson, Diana Ross et al at the ill fated Towers of the World Trade Center and Kiss's new years eve party at the Plaza. That was a hoot. Kiss dancing to Disco records we were spinning.

Often after late night gigs we'd pop in to one of the currently hot discos, the Monster, 12 West and the jewel in the disco crown, the Studio ….Studio 54.

The Monster had massive sound system, big big DJ booth at the head of a huge long relentlessly neon flashing danceable space, where we learned and joined the hordes of Greenwich village types doing the nonstop automaton-like brand new fad, "line dancing". The "Bus stop, the Walk and the Continental"

12 West was our favorite. It was actually cozy with carpeted platform seating which you could feel were actually the base speakers around the dance floor, The sound system was superb. The celebrity spinners name was posted at the bar and huge bowls of fresh fruit of all types was available . It was an opportunity for our whole Disco Van crew , guys and gals, good dancers or not, straights and whatever to boogie freestyle together without raising eyebrows.

Studio 54 was the place for the chosen people. The incredibly powerful doorman cherry picked a cast of characters nightly to fill the club from the eager well dressed crowd pressing up against the velvet ropes. Ignored supplicants were obviously offended . It wasn't necessarily looks and money that got you in. There was an old bag lady they liked who was let in every night. Stash was a doorman's favorite and whoever was on his arm was admitted. Also my two handsome roadie/djs Disernia and Suter were never rejected. I will admit that when I was with them I flounced in confidently. I was never passed over but with one exception. It was when I tried to impress and bring my exhusband in. We seemed invisible and after too long a while we schlepped up the dark NY street looking for a cab. He was devastated and I was humbled.

After the judgmental rope was dropped and one was waved in, you entered a deep dark velvety almost organic passageway which led into the brilliantly, magically revamped movie theater First one could hear the fantastic sound and then one saw the lights, strobes and fog moving vertically and horizontally to the beat. Old time lighted sets came down from and back up to the ceiling for dramatic effect . The use of total darkness was mind blowing. The beat was so infectious that It was impossible to stand still. The crowded dance floor was packed with the beautiful, the strange, the costumed, the trannies, the young ,the old, the famous and raggedy bell bottomed blue jean wearing college kids.

The gorgeous "boy" waiters wore tight gym shorts. The velvet sofas were designed and lit for posing. The dark upper balcony was designed for secret doings and going to the ladies room was an adventure. The beautifully dressed lady fixing her makeup at the sink next to you could just as well be a famous movie star or a dude.


Because of our unique heterogeneous clientele I was an invited speaker at the Disco convention (see article). The industry was attempting to grab a piece of the potentially lucrative mainstream market .

This was the time when New York was trying to clean up the Times Square 42nd street area. Stásh found an empty government building on 42nd street near the river We were proposing an 8 story Art Deco entertainment, shopping, Disco and Banquet facility. It was to be called "42nd Street" A friend/investor bid for the building for a bargain at a million bucks in an exciting helicopter ride to the government office. But when we were in the midst of final negotiations with a highly regarded conservative Jewish wedding caterer the disco business started to self destruct. The news blared out on some body's boom box. "Steve Rubell of Studio 54 arrested in drug bust". With that news the bottom dropped out of our plans. There was scandal and to top it off there was aides.

Though Disco could not get rid of its bad image, Disco Van 2000 hustled

DJ Stash & Norma

In the late 70s after a New York City YMCA bicycle stress results determined I was physically 10 years older than my actual age. I started to take Stash's fitness "fanaticism" seriously. Between gigs he would meditate, stretch, take long walks and would jog anywhere, everywhere. Stásh got me my first pair of running shoes with sports orthotic inserts . I joined him laboriously huffing and puffing in the park, and at the Y. This was the Y that inspired the Village People's "YMCA" We (Stash, Disernia, and me ) used to run the laps on the banked indoor track balcony. I probably looked cute in my designer workout duds as I struggled not to be the slowest runner in the slow lane. I did once pass someone …I found myself coming up on an ancient bent over old man probably over 65 taking tiny steps. The exhilaration I felt as I passed him was wonderful. I passed him more than once that day. I found out later that the ancient man was in the midst of training for 100 mile ultra marathon. I grappled with weights and hated the aerobics classes. Stash did the exercises he learned in the Airborne, weightlifting and calisthenics(insert airborne pic). I always lit a cigarette after we left the Y.

Wearing my new brilliantly white Nu Balances, we started walking the streets of NY , vigorously. Park Avenue, Madison, and Fifth, usually after dusk… few people and no boutiques open so, window shopping only Fantastic!

In our continuing attempt fix ourselves we became "ESTholes" for a short while. . Long weekend EST seminars in a hotel auditorium led by trainees of self help guru Werner somebody(?) He was "bon vivant" who liked racing cars and spending money, apparently, and he never showed up for the seminars. You had to pay extra for that. Whatever did happened to Werner?

And there were no pee breaks but thankfully no sweat lodges either. Stásh and I did learn one thing, that we were ok.

As soon as we finally read the definitive fitness book, Covert Bailey's Fit or Fat we realized how little we knew. We did know that the liquor and lifestyle was going to kill us too soon.

Besides our wish to get away from the unhealthy Disco lifestyle we had a passionate wish to reverse or slow down our aging. "Anti aging" was a new term and we were drawn to it. So, we retrieved the old maxim "It's never too late to start again" and added "again". We bequeathed the Disco Van and equipment and entrusted our record collection to Disernia our favorite roadie turned DJ and sold everything else in a giant garage sale, feather boas, platform shoes and all. We bought a 35' motor coach, jeep, 500 cc single dirt bike, said goodbye to Broadway and headed west on a journey to find out if it was too late or not. To be continued.

Walk Aerobics Video Cover

Indoor Full body exercise
low impact aerobics
Simple steps
Great music

Static Stretching

Improve flexibility
No pain

Quantum Cleansing

Relaxation techniques

Cancer Fighter

Techniques to battle and
To conquer the beast

Cadence Trail

Walking Program
Hear nature's sounds
Follow the beat



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