DJ Joey Llanos on Paradise Garage, The Choice Miami, and "Continuing the Legacy"
The Choice Miami's DJs Richard Vasquez and Joey Llanos.
Photo by Jemal Countess
Larry Levan and NYC's seminal Paradise Garage nightclub are now the stuff of legend -- a source of nostalgia for a bygone golden era of dance music culture, even among the younger generations that never got to experience it.
But an invaluable oral history of that time and place endures with veterans like DJ Joey Llanos, who cut his teeth at the Garage alongside the great, late Levan.
"It was a sanctuary where people of all backgrounds, races, colors, creeds, or sexual orientation were accepted on the dance floor as one," Llanos says. "They all came there for one purpose, and that was to hear the greatest sound system in the world at the time, controlled by its resident DJ, Larry Levan."
"Some of my fondest memories of being blessed to DJ at the Paradise Garage were the private moments spent with Larry Levan doing maintenance on the sound system before the parties," Llanos reminisces. "He taught like a Catholic school nun, with a stinging ruler that he did not hesitate to let me feel when I made an error handling the power of that monster sound system."
Llanos also fondly remembers all of the famous faces who passed through the Garage. "Other exciting moments were when great acts played," he says. "Like Grace Jones, Patti LaBelle, Whitney Houston, Jocelyn Brown, and Loretta Holloway, singing and bringing the house down. I miss those nights!"
Of course, fading memories aren't the only remnants of that time -- the music itself lives on. And after the Garage shut its doors in 1987, Llanos and fellow NYC record slinger Richard Vasquez kept the club's spirit alive at their small but beloved underground club, The Choice.
"Continuing the legacy of the Paradise Garage was easy because Richard and I were students of Larry Levan who went to his church religiously," says Llanos. "Richard has a record collection that would boggle a vinyl connoisseur's mind!"
The Choice NYC eventually closed in 1990. But as fate would have it, a promising new chapter's in store after 25 years -- and in Miami, no less -- with this weekend's reboot of The Choice as a monthly party at The Garret at Grand Central.
"I had been talking about reopening The Choice or doing a party with Richard for years," Llanos reveals. "He then moved to Florida, and finally, we have an opportunity to do it in Miami. All I can say is that I am excited because this event has been envisioned and we are going to dig into those music crates. So if you're into dancing to great music, The Choice Miami is going to be the spot!"
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The Choice Miami. With Joey Llanos and Richard Vasquez. Saturday, February 14. The Garret at Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The party starts at 11 p.m. and tickets cost $15 to $20 plus fees via residentadvisor.com. All ages. Call 305-377-2277 or visit grandcentralmiami.com.
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