'If I didn't play any song that reminded anyone of AIDS, there would be no music to be played.'

DJing at Eagle’s Nest
Read by Susan Morabito
Story by Jimmy Perigny
Jimmy’s story first appeared on The AIDS Memorial on Instagram

Hi, my name is Susan Morabito, DJ and producer.  And I’m pleased to share this story from Jimmy Perigny about his days of DJing at the Eagle’s Nest — a former bar known for low lighting, leather, and Levi’s — on the Westside Highway at 11th Avenue and 21st Street.

Jimmy wrote:

Here is a story I would like to share on World AIDS Day.  When I was hired as the Friday resident DJ at Eagle Nest in New York City in 1994, I was forbidden by the owner, Jack Modica, to play any disco or any music from the club the Saint. One night, I sneaked on The Main Event Barbra Streisand extended version at around midnight.

Jack ran into the booth and ripped the record off the turntable and proclaimed, “You are not allowed to play any disco, because it reminds people of the sad deaths from AIDS.”

I responded, “If I didn’t play any song that reminded anyone of AIDS, there would be no music to be played.”

He thought about it and later agreed. So I struck a deal to play only one song after the bar stopped serving … the last song. Patrons mostly stayed to hear my last song, which was a tribute to the Saint and our friends we danced with that passed on.

* * * *

Jimmy’s story reminds me of a similar one I experienced from the mid-90s, when Michael Fierman was playing the Pavilion one night at Fire Island Pines.  He was playing a song called  “Move Your Body (Elevation), which was big back then.  The dance floor was packed.  He then slammed into “Don’t Leave Me This Way” by  Thelma Huston, a song from 1977.  There was a notable shift on the dance floor.

Dozens of younger guys fled, and just as many people ran to the dance floor, but they were over 35-ish.  As I was moving towards the dance floor, I walked past these two guys and one said to his friend, ” What is he playing this for?  They’re all dead.”

That comment captured the vibe on the island for several summers.   During those days, I never felt the dance floor so divided.