Frankie Knuckles sought to make the dancefloor a refuge from all the bullshit in the real world. How, he wondered, could you make safety last forever…or at least until the morning hours?
In the seventies where there wasn’t much in the way of dance records (not the kind we know today anyway), he made do with what he had: disco, soul, R&B, jazz, and yes, even rock records. You could play one song after another, but how to keep the really dancey parts, the beats, going? Two records on two turntables, but that wasn’t enough. He wanted to add more parts.
And so Frankie loved the dancefloor so much that he played reel-to-reels for the masses. And it was grand.
House music, the music he created and so named after the Warehouse (the Chicago club where he began spining in 1977), like hip hop, is a lifestyle. Sure, you can merely dabble. A bachelor party. Or New Year’s. Or whatever special occassion you allow yourself once a year. Special because you know it will end and the next day it’s back to your life, back to your job, back to your blah.
But true house heads know that the dancefloor is more than a mere stopover. It’s the destination, where you congregate and share not just your best (or worst) moves but the entirety of yourself. It’s a community of peacocks in human form. The dancefloor is where friendships are made, kisses are exchanged and if you’re lucky, your soul flies free.
Whenever I hear someone say, “I don’t like songs that go thump, thump, thump. It’s too repetitive”, they’re missing the point. The point is to get lost in the repetition, to find solace in the beats, to let your mind and body float off into the ether. To enter (here comes a bad word) a trance. Like the ecstatics of ancient Israel who would go out into the desert and chant non-stop in the searing heat until they hallucinated and found communion with their god.
On these enveloping dancefloors, you became a part of something so natural and beautiful that when you returned to the real world, you looked at other people as if THEY were crazy and living on the outside of society. How, you wanted to scream at everyday people on the street, can you not want to be a part of the boundless love and energy and acceptance that you experience at a night out with other people who look nothing like you but are really just like you?! But you don’t scream. You smile and maybe listen to your Walkman and count down the hours until you’re among your people again.
The grand masters of any art need lucky as much as brilliance. Their art must hit at the right moment and that’s what makes Frankie Knuckles so special. He saw a need and wanted to do something about it and filled a void in our culture at the perfect time. He reasoned that people on the margins of society should have a place to be themselves, to be free. The crazier the better.
And so it was, a visionary black gay man from the Bronx began to play records to groups of sweaty gay men in places like Continental Baths on West 74th. And when the opportunity presented itself for Frankie to move to Chicago in 1977, he jumped at it and unknowingly began a journey that would change music, pop culture, and partying forever. You only need to look at the huge impact of electronic music in festivals, concert halls, and stadiums worldwide to understand his legacy.
The news yesterday of the death of Frankie Knuckles dots the final sentence in the book of genesis for house music. Every party has to end. And that’s a hard thing to accept. Frankie Knuckles was, and will always be, The Creator of house music. No genre of music is solely attributed to one person but house.
Frankie made house. This house. And we all now live in it.
There’s no cult surrounding the books of Thomas Harris like the kind surrounding other crime authors. Harris writes about the behavioral science investigators of the FBI who look into the darkest corners of the human mind. In addition to being murderous and incapable of stopping, the serial killers of Harris’s books have a flair for sadistic ritual killings and dramatic presentation of the bodies. Not the kinds of things you want to rehash and examine with a book club.
You’ve undoubtedly heard of Harris’s greatest contribution to pop culture, the villain Hannibal Lecter. Played most famously by Anthony Hopkins, his first on-screen appearance was by Bryan Cox in Michael Mann’s Manhunter, the first of two adaptations of Harris’s Red Dragon.
Red Dragon chronicles the investigation by Will Graham, an FBI agent whose sophisticated sense of empathy allows him to enter the minds of serial killers. During the investigation he must play mental chess with Lecter, a psychiatrist who once helped him but turned out to be a pyschopath himself.
Now Hannibal, the T.V. show on NBC, chronicles how Lecter and Graham met and how their lives and minds would be forever intertwined. It was created by Bryan Fuller (of the excellent Pushing Daises) and can easily lay claim to the goriest, most graphic show ever on network television. Assuming that’s your cup of tea, here are three more reasons why you should tune in to the season two premiere tonight.
1) The Guest Stars
Here are a just a few examples. Gillian Anderson as Lecter’s therapist. That’s right…Dana Scully is head-shrinking Lecter. Eddie Izzard as another insane doctor who is seemingly keeping Lecter’s cell warm for him. Raúl Esparza as Dr. Frederick Chilton (yes, Lecter has him many times for dinner). And Mobius himself, Laurence Fishbourne, as Jack Crawford, Will Graham’s mentor and enabler. And these are the people you know. Several other actors are stars in the making, like Hugh Dancy (who plays Graham), Caroline Dhavernas (as Dr. Alana Bloom) and Gina Torres as Bella Crawford.
2) The Pedigree of the Directors
T.V. isn’t really a director’s medium, but try to tell me that the horrific Grand Guignol artistry and look of the show doesn’t have the fingerprints of masters like Guillermo Navarro (the cinematographer for Guillermo Del Toro), John Dahl (who directed Red Rock West and The Last Seduction), and British legend, Peter Medak, all over them. Let’s see who they bring aboard for season two.
3) Mads Mikkelson. Obviously.
The world I dream about has enough money to remake Casino Royale and this time swap roles between its leads. Daniel Craig will play a Bond villain and Mads Mikkesen is James Bond. Smooth, with an impassive face, he betrays nothing of the danger that awaits. He is a killer at the ready. That is essentially how he plays Lecter. No Hopkins hamming here. This is the face of sophisticated evil. The beautiful death incarnate.