Disco Will Never Die

Photo by Ada Polla
Anais St. John as Donna Summer
Anais St. John as Donna Summer

A few weeks ago I got a call from a beloved New Orleanian, Anais St. John, a seductive, talented Jazz vocalist whom I first heard singing at the Windsor Court bar (I remember a song about a dentist named Dr. Long John “drilling for cavities”). She was calling to tell me about a Donna Summer show she was doing during Labor Day Weekend in New Orleans. I wanted to ask “Donna who?” but didn’t dare. Don’t blame me. I was born in the late 70s and was raised in Europe. Coincidentally, when this call came in, I was in the car in Tennessee between Memphis and Nashville with a man from Kentucky driving, a man who loves Donna Summer and had just started playing a song of hers.

I took this as a sign from the universe that I needed to attend that show. So I spent last night at Allways Theatre in the lower Marigny watching Anais become Donna Summer. The first thing I realized is that while I didn’t know the name, I knew the music of the “Queen of disco.” The second thing I realized is that my husband knows all the words to every Donna Summer song. And the third thing I realized is that the evening was quintessentially New Orleans. This was not karaoke. I was listening to Donna Summer music played by a full band involving keyboards, bass, guitar, drums, percussion, saxophone, two vocalists, and two dancers. An analog version of electronic music performed in the digital age – performed perfectly.

Anais’ three costumes were perfectly disco. She started out in a long-sleeved gold lame deep v-neck dress and bright green eyeshadow. Switched to a sleevless black sequined dress cut even lower, and ended as to be expected in tight black pants and a sparkling gold top (an outfit that at least a few women in the crowd were wearing).

Anais was the perfect impersonation of Donna Summer, and described herself as having much in common with LaDonna Adrian Gaines: “We are both chocolate; both tall; we both have big hair. We both married white men, have a background in musical theater, and a flair for the dramatic.” Indeed!

It was an amazing evening. If I could, I would go back tonight. Summer’s songs are still playing in my head, reminding me of a few key life truths:

  • Sometimes, enough is enough is enough.
  • Love to love the one you love.
  • When all else fails, just dance the night away.
  • Don’t ever stop listening to the radio.
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover. Bad girls are sometimes good girls.
  • Treat everyone with kindness because everyone is working hard for their money.
  • And disco will never die …