It was the late nineties (I think, my memory is a little fuzzy) and I was wandering Manhattan with a couple friends hitting all the necessary record stores. One friend mentioned this new shop opened by a Japanese millionaire that specialized in hard-to-find jazzy disco type fare and Asian vinyl imports. Completely up for it, we made our way across town and into the shop which was compact, clean, and immaculate and we might have guessed a Japanese millionaire was involved if we didn’t already know. The only people in the store were us, the Japanese man behind the register, and a familiar figure in the corner set-up to play tunes for the shopkeeper and anyone who happened to enter. This guy apparently had the job to sit and play records all day, drawing from a combination of his collection and the store’s stock … we did see him pull something off the racks and place it on the turntable at one point. One of my friends leaned over and broke the mystery by whispering in my ear with awe: “That’s David Mancuso.” And we spent more time than planned in that small shop having a semi-private listen to Mancuso’s selections. Since then I’ve often wondered about the unique mix of notoriety and obscurity that would grant such an influential selector the day job of Manhattan record store atmosphere-maker.
David Mancuso, a self-described “musical host” who revolutionized night life in New York with weekly dance parties he gave at his downtown loft, beginning in 1970, died on Monday at his home in Manhattan. He was 72.
Mr. Mancuso brought to his Saturday night gatherings the values of the 1960s counterculture, an audiophile’s fascination with sound technology and a voracious appetite for all styles of music. The parties at the Loft, as Mr. Mancuso’s apartment came to be known, became a near-religious rite for the city’s underground.
A Mancuso party was a ’60s dream of peace, love and diversity: multiracial, gay and straight, young and old, well-to-do and down-at-heel, singles and couples, all mingling ecstatically in an egalitarian, commerce-free space.
Mr. Mancuso did not call himself a D.J. He shrank from the limelight. His goal was to disappear into the music and allow its power to transform the audience.