October 20, 1944|
Utica, New York
|Died||November 14, 2016
New York, New York
David Paul Mancuso (October 20, 1944 – November 14, 2016) was an American disk jockey who created the popular "by invitation only" parties in New York City, which later became known as "The Loft". The first party, called "Love Saves The Day", was in 1970.
Mancuso pioneered the private party, as distinct from the more commercial nightclub business model. In the early 1970s, Mancuso won a long administrative trial when the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs found that he was not selling food or beverages to the public and therefore did not need a NYC cabaret license.
Mancuso's success at keeping his parties "underground" and legal inspired others, and many famous private discothèques of the 1970s and 1980s were modeled after The Loft, including the Paradise Garage, The Gallery, 12 West, The Flamingo and later The Saint. Mancuso also helped start the "record pool" system for facilitating the distribution of promotional records to the qualified disc jockey. Elements of Mancuso's influence can also be seen in the famous nightly scene outside of New York City's Studio 54, where legendary owner Steve Rubell and 20th Century Fox vice President Billy Smith a.k.a Billy Amato understood the appeal of selectivity and took Mancuso's "invitation only" idea and expanded it to ridiculous, and ridiculously effective, extremes.
Mancuso was born on October 20, 1944 in Utica, New York. He was born out of wedlock while his mother's husband was serving in World War II and lived in an orphanage for the first five years of his life. Although he nominally resided with his mother thereafter, he remained a frequent runaway and spent a year in reform school as a teenager; during this period, he cultivated an interest in early rhythm and blues music.
He dropped out of high school on his sixteenth birthday and worked as a dishwasher for two years to finance his move to New York City in 1962. Over the next several years, he was employed in a variety of capacities (including stints as head of Holt Rinehart Winston's Xerox department and as a personnel manager for Restaurant Associates) before pursuing a career as a freelance purveyor of antiques.
After being introduced to high fidelity sound components (including the Klipschorn speaker) by a friend who resided in Brooklyn Heights, Mancuso purchased some equipment from fellow hobbyist Richard Long, who soon became a close friend; following his initial work with Mancuso, Long would go on to design many of the most important sound systems in the New York underground disco scene.
Mancuso continued to develop a highly variegated social network (a characteristic that he ascribed to his unconventional upbringing), frequenting rent parties in such disparate milieus as Harlem and Staten Island while also immersing himself in the hippie culture of the era at such East Village venues as the Electric Circus, the Planetarium, and the Fillmore East (where he was present for notable performances by Timothy Leary and Nina Simone). He became an ardent devotee of Leary's The Psychedelic Experience (1966) after his initial experiments with LSD and soon developed a personal acquaintance with the psychologist as a member of the League for Spiritual Discovery, often attending his private parties.
Before hosting his first Loft party at his home at 647 Broadway in 1970, Mancuso was playing records for his friends on a semi-regular basis as early as 1966. These parties became so popular that by 1971 he and Steve Abramowitz, who worked the door, decided to do this on a weekly basis. These parties were similar to rent party or house party.
In 2003, British journalist and lecturer Tim Lawrence published an influential and comprehensive study of the New York roots of modern dance music culture that placed Mancuso at its narrative center. Entitled Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970–1979, the book highlights the influence of Mancuso's late 1960s and early 1970s Loft parties on every major figure in the New York dance music scene, including Robert Williams, founder of Chicago's Warehouse and Muzic Box, Nicky Siano founder of the Gallery, Larry Levan DJ at the Garage, Tony Humphries founder of Zanzibar, among numerous others. His first major loft party, called "Love Saves The Day", was held Saturday, February 14, 1970, at 647 Broadway. The importance of Mancuso and The Loft are also chronicled in Josell Ramos' documentary, Maestro (2003), a Garage and Levan-centered narrative of New York dance music culture in the 1970s and 1980s.
In May 2008, Mancuso, with the help of Goshi Manabe, Colleen Murphy, and Satoru Ogawa, launched his own audiophile record label, The Loft Audiophile Library of Music. The music is mastered by Stan Ricker.
- The New York Times
- "Review: Maestro (2003)". The New York Times.
- "David Mancuso, Whose New York Loft Was a Hub of '70s Night Life, Dies at 72". The New York Times. 18 November 2016. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
- Lawrence, T. (2003). Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture 1970–1979. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.