RED BANK: CALLING DOCTOR DISCO

Gloria GaynorQueen of Disco Gloria (“I Will Survive”) Gaynor joins The Village People for a Saturday night concert at the Count Basie, a benefit for The Michael Fux Foundation.

Regular readers of redbankgreen know Michael Fux as many things — a foam-mattress pharaoh; a dabbler in the realm of restaurateuring, whose Blue Water Seafood was the flavor to beat for a while there in downtown Red Bank. A serious collector of auto exotica, who recently (and inadvertently) made headlines when a mechanic totaled his super-rare Ferrari Enzo.

Add philanthropist to the resume of the Cuban-born businessman, whose Michael Fux Foundation endowed a Family Center at Miami Children’s Hospital. The aim was to offer a comforting environment for families of sick and underprivileged children, during those times when the child is in the hospital. This Saturday, September 6, Fux will reportedly be announcing the site of an all-new Michael Fux Family Center in Monmouth County, during a special fundraiser show at the Count Basie Theatre.

Going up at 7 pm, the Disco Fever Benefit Concert stars two still-going-strong superstar acts from those polyester’d First Days of Disco — headlined by Newark-born Gloria Gaynor (“Never Can Say Goodbye,” “Let Me Know (I Have a Right),” and the evergreen anthem “I Will Survive”). The Queen of Disco will be joined by The Village People (“Y.M.C.A.,” “In The Navy,” “Macho Man”) — featuring charter member (and Asbury Park resident) Felipe Rose as the group’s iconic Native American; teamed with Eric Anzalone (Biker), Alexander Briley (GI), Jim Newman (Cowboy), Raymond Simpson (Cop) and Bill Whitefield (Construction Worker).

On the occasion of the 35th anniversary of Gaynor’s Grammy winning (and oft-covered) “I Will Survive,” the Disco Desk at redbankgreen spoke to the 64-year-old singer about survival, spirituality and centeredness on a crowded and crazy dance floor, with more around the corner.

redbankgreen: You’ve gone on record as being friends with Michael Fux, whose cause this show is for. Where and when did you meet Michael…and are you clued in as to where he’s planning to build his new Family Center here in local area? 

GLORIA GAYNOR: I met Michael seven or eight years ago when I was doing a benefit for his center at the Miami Children’s Hospital, so I jumped at the chance to work with him again. I love children, and I’ll rush to help out wherever and whenever I can. As far as where the new center is going to be, I’m sure I’ll be learning about it right when everybody else is!

You’re still a Jersey girl, correct? So this show in Red Bank is just a quick trip down the road for you. But we understand that the road takes you to some pretty far-flung places. How often are you out there performing, and how far afield does it usually take you? 

I’ve lived at my home in Green Brook for 15 years, and I love it there, when I get to be there. I do, maybe, 60 to 75 shows a year on the average; traveling with eight musicians and three backup singers. And we go all over… most of Europe; a lot of shows in Russia and the Eastern bloc. South America, the Middle East…

We’re guessing that you probably tour outside America more than ever these days, and that surely can’t be an easy life. How’s the life treating you versus how you got around back in the ’70s and ’80s? 

Years ago you bought a ticket and you got on a plane. Now you have to go through so many layers of security checkpoints; there are always waits and delays… so it’s a lot bigger piece of your life than it used to be. But you know what? As far as I’m concerned, that’s all part of what I get paid to do, and I love what I do.

If anything’s seen even more of a change, it’s the music biz, everything from the way music is made, to how it’s distributed and consumed. What in your opinion is the most dramatic change that music has gone through, since the days when you were starting your career? 

The most dramatic change I’d have to say is the role of the technology in producing a record. To me, creativity comes from people working together, in the same place and at the same time, and to go through the making of a record without having that contact with other musicians is a real adjustment.

In your own way, though, you were kind of there on the ground floor of some innovative new things going on 40 years ago. Your first album, with “Never Can Say Goodbye,” featured a whole continuous side of music where the songs just melted into each other, which was pretty groundbreaking in the days before 12-inch dance mixes. It really pointed the way toward the DJ and the remix specialist taking on a greater role in the making of the record. 

That’s something that came from me, and from my producer Tom Moulton. I love to dance, you know, and for me two- and three-minute records were never long enough. We gave them 17, 18 minutes of nonstop music. The people could keep on dancing, and the DJs could finally take a break; go get a cup of coffee.

Or whatever! Well, obviously the BIG elephant in the room is “I Will Survive,” which has taken on such a life of its own that it’s so much more than simply a hit record. We’re sure you’ve come to realize that you’re the keeper of a truly phenomenal thing that’s been taken to heart by generations of people… 

People of all ages have told me how important that song was to them; how it’s encouraged them to make it through the difficult times. So obviously it is more than just people who remember a big hit record from when they were younger. It’s people who discover it for the first time, and who are touched by it personally.

Would you go so far as to say it’s maybe even saved a life or two? 

Yes, actually I would… I believe it has literally saved at least a couple of lives.

From what we understand, it was a real challenge for you just to get the record down on tape in the first place. You were in an accident, and in a lot of pain, in a back brace… 

I was. I fell onstage, right around the time that I was making the record. I finished the show, went out to breakfast, went to bed, woke up the next morning… and I was paralyzed from the waist down. I had the studio time booked, and I had to finish the record lying down.

But you survived! And you and the song have treated each other well through the years. It’s formed the basis of your most recent project, a collection of inspirational real-life stories called We Will Survive: True Stories of Encouragement, Inspiration, and the Power of Song… 

I did an inspirational CD, an EP actually, to go with the book… and now I’m doing a full-length CD version, working down in Nashville. It’s due to come out sometime in 2015.

Take it here for tickets ($29 – $59) to Saturday’s Disco Fever concert. A special “Red Bank’s Hottest Night” After Party, hosted by Industry Magazine and R3 Ventures, will be presented from 9 pm to midnight, featuring music by That 70s Band, along with open bar, food and “a party atmosphere unlike anything the Basie has ever seen.” Tickets for the party only are $295 per person (two for $500), and include a meet and greet with Gloria Gaynor.

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