A photographer captures Disco Demolition Night

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Posted by chicagomedia.org on July 09, 2009 at 11:06:59:

In Reply to: Steve Dahl remembers Disco Demolition Night (again) posted by chicagomedia.org on July 09, 2009 at 11:05:26:

A photographer captures Disco Demolition Night

30 years ago, a photographer captured Disco Demolition Night revelers, pre-inferno. Now she wonders how their lives developed.

By Rick Kogan | Tribune senior writer

July 9, 2009

They were such bad boys then, Steve Dahl and Garry Meier. But they were not the baddest boys in the Comiskey Park crowd on the night of July 12, 1979, when they hosted Disco Demolition Night, an occasion that ranks in Chicago annals somewhere between the Great Fire of 1871 and the most recent invasion of alewives.

Dahl and Meier were WLUP radio disc jockeys who concocted the promotional event as a means for people to express their distaste for disco music and its scene.

They never expected 80,000 people to show up; 50,000 inside the park, the rest trying to get in. All of them, it seemed, grew rowdier by the beer-soaked minute during the scheduled twi-night doubleheader between the White Sox and Detroit Tigers.

Diane Alexander White, a 24-year-old commercial photographer then living and working in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, had gone out of curiosity. Being a young photographer, she brought her camera. She arrived with a friend, paid the admission (98 cents and a disco record) and started taking pictures.

"But the scene went south real fast," she says. "There was a bad vibe, and a lot of people sensed that. Cops on horseback. People trying to climb the gates to get in. A lot of beer. There was a real sense of potential danger."

And so, she did not stay long enough to take photos of the box filled with disco records that was detonated between games, blowing a hole in the center-field turf; or of the thousands of fans who rushed the field, starting fires and actually stealing the bases.

It had turned into a riot, and things got so nasty the second game was canceled (later forfeited to the Tigers).

By the time things got crazy, White and thousands of others had escaped the park. But 34 photos she took that night will be on display from 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday at the Music Garage, 345 N. Loomis St. There will also be "Disco Jeopardy" (in which the winner has the option of smashing a "Saturday Night Fever" vinyl record), live music and '70s artifacts. And you might spot a few people in vintage clothing, if it still fits and anyone has the nerve.

White, who has made a successful career in photography through a long affiliation with the Field Museum and a lot of freelance work, is eager to hear and even meet any of the people featured in her photos, and hopes that some might visit the one-night-only show.

It is likely that many grew up to be good citizens, raising families and staying out of trouble, and so understandably might not be interested in recalling their bad boy/bad haircut pasts.

Dahl and Meier have had their ups and downs since that night. Both are now gainfully employed by the Tribune Co. Dahl waxes nostalgic about Disco Demolition Night in his weekly column he writes for this newspaper, but downstairs, in the studios of WGN Radio, Meier says he is not going to devote one second of his 1 to 4 p.m. daily radio program to the event.

"Why bother?" he says. "That was 30 years ago, and I am not interested in reliving the past."

An exhibition of White's photos opens Sunday at the Music Garage.

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