Regulars From New York's Legendary Paradise Garage Share Their Stories

28 years after the fabled club closed, the Paradise Garage gang reunited for one more dance.

by Luis Nieto Dickens and Michelle Lhooq
09 September 2015, 9:25am

Paradise Garage was the club that started it all. Opened in 1977 in a former parking garage in New York City, it played an instrumental role in the birth of house music. Until it closed in 1987, the club was a sanctuary for black, latino, and LGBT communities to converge with one mission: dancing their hearts out—sometimes all the way till lunchtime. DJ Larry Levan shepherded these all-night marathons with his fabled "Saturday Mass" parties, and as fellow DJ David DePino put it, he "would preach through his music from the DJ booth, just like a minister or priest does from a pulpit."

28 years later, Paradise Garage's community is still as strong as ever. On Saturday, September 5, hundreds of regulars (and some awestruck newbies) converged under Verboten's giant disco ball for a reunion, with disco greats Joey Llanos and David DePino holding court in the DJ booth. We asked these OGs one question: what was your favorite memory from the Garage? Here's what they had to say.

Photos and interviews by Luis Nieto Dickens/No Sleep NYC

"People were there for the music. That was all it was about—the music, the most important thing. Garage was very unique, it cannot be replicated. You have to come to the reunions to get a simple feel of it."

"I started going to the Garage in 1984, until they closed in 1987. In the 80s, every single record had a special meaning. Everyone in here lived these records, danced to them. It was a special moment in time. The Garage nurtured social relationships—it was a real home. When Larry [Levan] would come on to the stage, he would light up the Garage. I remember legendary performances like New York City Beach Boys, Grace Jones, Chaka Kahn, the list goes on!"

"You would come out of there at 7 in the morning, with the sun hitting on your face!"

David DePino

"It was so crowded, every body was stuck on the dancefloor. Oh, and Grace Jones—that was the best!"

"In that era, people would get dressed and go out at 12 AM. Not Paradise Garage. There, you got there at 2 AM, and the sound-system was crazy."

"It was a great era, the disco era. It was an era of music, and of clubs. That's when Madonna's 'Vogue' was out, and Studio 54 and Zanzibar were around. People went there to dance. The one thing about the Paradise Garage is you would come out of there, not just in daylight, but I'm talking about 12 PM the next afternoon."

Joey Llanos

"I remember these girls standing there next to David [Depino]." [points to the side of the DJ booth] "They would dance all night at the Garage, and look at them, they can't stop!"

"We are dancing all the way to the end, till the sun comes up. That's what you would do at Paradise Garage."

"Banging music and beautiful vibes all around!"

"Best party of all time. David Depino is a legend!"

"You'll be dancing all night and all morning at these parties. Tonight is not quite like the Garage, but close!"

"It was beautiful, and I just miss Larry Levan. It was so fantastic, best music ever. Once you got on the dance floor, you cannot leave. I remember Loleatta Holloway, when she came out, they did a Halloween party. She was on the side of the stage and she had a whole witch outfit."

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