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Can’t Stop the Music

On July 12th, 1979, during a White Sox-Tigers doubleheader at Comiskey Park, Chicago radio station WLUP sponsored Disco Demolition Night,” charging a discounted ticket price for fans who came to the game bearing disco albums to be blown up on the field. With more than twice the amount of expected attendance (with hundreds more people sneaking in past the gates), the event quickly got out of hand. A riot broke out, resulting in property damage and dozens of arrests. Though there was certainly something sinister about a bunch of angry straight white men destroying something closely identified with gay and Black/Latinx culture, the gesture was in vain anyway. Disco was already mostly dead, co-opted by novelty songs, Sesame Street, and even Ethel Merman. Even new music that still sounded an awful lot like disco was rebranded as “dance music,” as mainstream radio stations gradually returned to the mellow gold playlists of the early 70s. So, of course, the best time to release a movie capitalizing on the disco craze was almost a year later.

Can’t Stop the Music isn’t a movie so much as a collection of baffling decisions, most of them made by producer Allan Carr, who, after being largely responsible for the success of Grease, was given a blank check and presumably a large bag of cocaine to make anything he wanted. Ostensibly it’s about the creation of the Village People, but they barely rate as supporting characters in it. Carr, who threw numerous “pre-premiere parties” for Can’t Stop before it was even finished filming, declared it to be a celebration of a hot new generation in acting talent, but cast it with people like June Havoc and Jack Weston. Rather than hire someone with experience in directing musicals, or even feature films in general, Carr went with Nancy Walker, who only had a handful of TV sitcom directing credits to her name. It was rated PG, and sold as a fun for all ages comedy, but featured a startling amount of sex humor and even a glimpse of full-frontal male nudity. It was marketed as a cheeky look at wild, “shock the normies” downtown New York culture, but focused far too much on a boring straight romance, even ending with a marriage proposal… read more >

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