There’s a building coming down soon in the middle of Allentown.
It’s small, nondescript, dated in design and structurally unsound to boot. I’ve been inside it many times, and I can say this firsthand: If any reason exists to keep that building around, I’ve never seen it.
I’ll feel a brief pang of cultural-historical regret when the wrecking ball moves in, though. I’ve learned that the second floor of the building was home to a disco during the late 1970s.
It’s one thing to tear down an office building; those are boring.
But a former disco? Think of the cultural history. Think of the memories. Think of the ghosts.
And think of the buildings like it in downtowns and suburban strip malls across America — the places that once reveled in dappled mirror-ball light, and vibrated brainlessly for hours at a time to the pounding low-end of extended dance remixes.
I’d bet we lose a couple of those a month to either demolition or extreme renovation. (Nothing weakens the bones of a building quite like hundreds of people smoking, drinking and shakin’ their groove thangs. I think I heard Bob Vila say that once.)
If we don’t act now, none of America’s heritage discos will remain for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. How could we face them? (And if the average American lifespan keeps increasing, we may have to.)
I propose the creation of a nonprofit foundation to be called Discos United: Saving Important Culture, or DUSIC for short. The purpose of DUSIC shall be to preserve a vintage ’70s disco building in every major American city — and, better yet, maybe restore a few.
Just think about America’s tortured love affair with disco. As a nation, we fell madly in love with the music. Then we spat it out and rejected it with a vengeance. And over the course of years, we came to terms with it again, along with its descendant dance-music genres.
Surely that intense cultural history deserves to be preserved somewhere. There’s a Motown museum, and a shrine to Sun Records, and a Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Why not celebrate disco closer to the roots, with a whole series of smaller-scale, more accessible mini-temples?
Disco also ranks as perhaps the one type of music — nay, the one cultural force — devoted entirely to pleasure and relaxation. Wasn’t no heavy message to it; it was all about forgetting one’s troubles. Should we reward the men and women who worked so hard to bring us this escape by heedlessly discarding the places where they shone so brightly? I think not, me.
It’s too late to save this woebegone building in Allentown. But if we come together, we can get in front of this worrisome trend. We can save America’s heritage discos. We can preserve cultural history where it happened — all over the country, from coast to coast. We can make a difference.
Ain’t no stoppin’ us now.