Before Noel Hankin established his career in advertising for multimillion-dollar liquor companies, he helped in revolutionizing the electrifying disco scene in the 1970s. Now a Southampton-residing retiree, Hankin looks back at the early days of his life as a disco promoter in his first memoir, After Dark: Birth of the Disco Dance Party (Leon Niknah Publishing Co.).
The 1970s and ’80s marked a period of high crime and perpetual violence in New York City, and at the same time, the disco era was taking off. Thousands of people—young and old—flocked to renowned clubs throughout the city every week to dance, socialize and let loose. In his book, Hankin details the history of disco, including early discotheques in France during World War II. The American disco scene we know about today began to take shape in many black and LGBTQ underground clubs, and The Best of Friends (TBOF) was right in the middle of it all.
“It was the birth of a movement, although we didn’t know it at the time,” according to the author.
Their love for music, dancing and hosting social events inspired Hankin and 12 other friends to form the TBOF social club where they could combine all these interests. TBOF operated several discotheques in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. In fact, three of their discotheques were the first Black-owned clubs in Midtown. The atmosphere TBOF founders created in their early events earned them widespread attention and an extensive list of loyal patrons.
Hankin begins his memoir with a flashback from the group’s first event as TBOF, and then introduces the members, a cast of young, talented, sociable men, many of whom met in college. TBOF is described by Hankin as more than an enterprise. It was a family, and the people they entertained and befriended were a part of that family. The way this family successfully built and managed their business for over 15 years, catering to a diverse group of people whom they all treated with respect, is a valuable lesson for entrepreneurs across many industries.
With each chapter comes various memorable quotes, and Hankin picks one to highlight in the beginning of that chapter. Chapter 18 begins: “Andy Warhol was just another guest.” The statement, made by TBOF’s former partner and promoter, Harold Dow, accurately sums up the popularity of their discotheques where celebrity appearances were common.
What led to this huge success? The author reinforces the benefits of ambition, good work ethic and due diligence as a young, Black entrepreneur. His experiences allowed him to speak knowledgeably about the complexities of club ownership, at a time where organized city crime was prevalent.
After Dark: Birth of the Disco Dance Party is an inspiring novel, perfect for lovers of music, history and pop culture, which takes readers back in time to the peak of disco in NYC and a group of friends who dreamed big, playing a major role in the movement.
The eBook version is available on Kindle eBooks. Learn more at discoafterdark.com.