What Can a Disco Record by a Dead Porn Star Teach Us About Life?
Dennis Parker's "Like an Eagle" is a strutting ode to the impermanence of pleasure.
If Michael Aspel, the sugary-haired host of This is Your Life, walked into the kitchen at work brandishing his big red book and a crocodile's smile, how would you react? Would adrenaline and excitement course through your every fibre as you mentally prepare to relive a left well spent? Or would you stiffen slightly digging fingers into your cheese and pickle sandwich in anticipation of being confronted with every failure, mistake, and wrong doing?
I'd be firmly in the lunch-crushing latter camp. Poor old Michael wouldn't have much to report on, and most of the program would be taken up by the various barmen of the same five pubs I've frequented for a decade dimly trying to remember who I was. He was, they'd be pressed to say by a panicking producer, quite polite when he ordered pints. That'd be my legacy: polite pint purchaser. It'd all be so different if I was someone else. It'd be so different if I was Dennis Posa.
Posa, who passed away in 1985 at the age of 38, lived the kind of life that'd have most of us going green with envy over: porn star, disco diva, soap opera actor. Michael Aspel, you feel, would have had a lot to go over had he snuck onto the set of an American drama one fine afternoon. He'd put most of us to shame, anyway.
Dennis Posa was known to most people as another alias. To some he was Wade Nichols, well-endowed star of X-rated films like Jawbreakers, Teenage Pyjama Party, and Boynapped. To others he was, Police Chief Derek Mallory from long-running soap opera The Edge of Night. Yet to me, and lots of other people with a real soft spot for the OTT melodrama of late-70s disco, Posa will live on forever as the one and only Dennis Parker.
As Parker, Posa's sole contribution to the music world was a single album released on the Casablanca imprint in 1979. Arriving on the label in the same year as "Bad Girls" by Donna Summer, a Gene Simmons solo album, and Music From The Motion Picture Soundtrack "Roller Boogie", Like An Eagle wasn't a radio-friendly unit-shifter. On its release it sunk and Posa as Parker rolled back into the shadows of musical obscurity. The never-ending tidal shifts of a long career in a soap-opera saved him from a life that would have otherwise remained unseen by any but hard-porn aficionados.
Conjured into being by Jacques Morali, the French Svengali responsible for unleashing the Village People on an unsuspecting and slightly suspicious public, Like an Eagle, like most disco LPs, is far from flawless, but its six strutting, tumescent tracks tell an important story—perhaps the story that disco was born to tell in the first place. And that's the story of lust, longing, and loss.
You might be wondering whether or not a sort-of-novelty-record by a long dead porn star is worthy of such serious consideration, and you'd be forgiven for that. You'd be wrong, of course, but forgiven. The truth is, in an age where every facet of experience has been injected with an invasive irony-serum, the very idea of finding emotional solace in a record featuring songs called "Why Don't You Boogie," and "I'm a Dancer," sung by a bloke who's boner featured in titles like Captain Lust, is senseless. But go with it, and you'll discover a powerful and potent reminder that emotion often springs from the most unlikely of wells.
The dark side of disco's always glaring at the dancefloor, glowering from underneath a novelty wig, sadness refracted and reflected by the ever-spinning mirror ball that hangs above the amassed crowd like a portent of doom. Eventually the lights have to go up, the dancers have to dissipate into the night and the ball has to stop its previously-ceaseless rotations. The party ends and life crashes into view, and every great, dramatic disco record never shies away from that.
"Like an Eagle" by Dennis Parker is the dictionary definition of a great, dramatic disco record. Now, I've not seen all of Dennis' adult orientated work but I'm pretty confident in stating that this particular song was his artistic pièce de résistance. Played by everyone from DJ Harvey to James Murphy, it is rocket-fuel for discerning dancers, a swooning, rapturous, gargantuan stomp that stalks round the club licking its lips. It is the sound of the unbridled passion and animalistic sex that takes place in illicit spaces under cramped conditions.
Initially at least. Listening back to it in the cold light of day, when it is just the music and your own memories, the track takes on an air of potent sadness. Rather than suggesting nirvana can be found in a toilet cubicle fuck, it seems to say that the relentless chase for carnal communication—and brace yourselves here, guys, because this might blow your mind—comes with its own messy and confusing complications.
And it is this navigation between dream and reality which makes disco so thrilling even now, and so important. Disco, be it Chic, Instant Funk, or some novelty knock-off churned out to nick pocket money off impressionable kids, is suffused with tragedy—heartbreak lurks round ever corner. Heartbreak, of course, is a lesson everyone needs to learn, as sad as that as.
This, perversely, is a positive thing, for it teaches us to appreciate that pleasure and permanence cannot coagulate, and instilled with that knowledge we develop a taste for the present. Dennis Parker's music does that very same thing.