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Guide to the Larry Levan and Mel Cheren Collection on the Paradise Garage MSS.483

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Fales Library and Special Collections

Collection processed by Stacey Flatt.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on October 06, 2017
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Biographical / Historical

The Paradise Garage, also known as "the Garage" or the "Gay-rage," was a discotheque in New York City, located at 84 King Street, in the Hudson Square neighborhood. The club is notable in the history of modern dance and house music, as well as LGBT and nightclub cultures. Founded by Michael Brody, with financial support from record executive Mel Cheren, the club open in 1977 and closed after a 48 hour party in September 1987. The Paradise Garage's business model was largely inspired by David Mancuso’s private, invitation-only DJ parties at The Loft in New York City: no liquor was served, there were no sales of food or beverages, and the club was not open to the general public. Unlike other clubs of its time, the Paradise Garage was focused on dancing, with the DJ as the center of attention. The club also hosted live performances with notable musicians, including Diana Ross and Madonna. In 1979, Tim Curry released the album Fearless, containing the single, "Paradise Garage," whose lyrics narrate visiting the club. Larry Levan was the resident DJ for the Paradise Garage from 1977 to 1987. Levan was known for his use of drum machines and synthesizers in his productions and live sets, eventually moving away from disco and developing more of a house music sound during the late 1970s and 1980s. He became so popular, his late-night sessions were known as “Saturday Mass.” He also produced and mixed albums for himself and other artists and DJs. Levan passed away in 1992 at the age of 38. Mel Cheren was the main financial backer for the Paradise Garage and recording executive for West End Records, known for its development of disco and house music artists. The company released many of DJ Larry Levan’s albums, but also included other musical successes such as "Sessomatto" by Sesso Matto, "Heartbeat" by Taana Gardner (remixed by Levan), and "Don’t Make Me Wait" by the Peech Boys (produced by Levan). In the late 1990s, the record company posthumously released one of Larry Levan's DJ sets, recorded live at the Paradise Garage in 1979. Cherin also published a book in 2000 on the rise and fall of the club,  Keep on Dancin’: My Life and the Paradise Garage, which included the history of the Paradise Garage and DJ Larry Levan. After the book's release, Cheren was often requested to participate in panel discussions related to the club, and development of disco and house music. Cherin passed away in 2007.

Sources: "Memories of the Paradise Garage, From Those Who Danced There," nytimes.com, May 9, 2014
"'He was like the Messiah': Larry Levan, the DJ who changed dance music forever,"  The Guardian, March 28, 2016
 New York Times obituary, December 21, 2007 "Mel Cheren: 'Godfather of disco,'"  The Independent, January 11, 2008