True Blood's Lafayette Reynolds must be taking style cues from Sylvester James, a.k.a. Sylvester, the late American disco and soul singer-songwriter whose flamboyant, androgynous hippie-feminine looks, counter and drag culture leanings, and string of hit dance singles earned him the moniker "The Queen of Disco" back in the 1970s.
At the age of 41, after losing his partner suddenly to the HIV/AIDS virus, Sylvester succumbed to the same disease in 1988, leaving behind a legacy as one of the LGBT community's brightest and most active proponents. According to English journalist Stephen Brogan, Sylvester was "a radical and a visionary in terms of queerness, music and race."
This Thursday, LGBT record store We Got the Beats in Oakland Park celebrates the release of Sylvester's greatest dance hits compilation, Mighty Real, aptly named after the record he became most famous for. And since Sylvester willed the future royalties from his catalog to San Francisco's AIDS Emergency Fund and Project Open Hand, proceeds from the re-released Greatest Hits album will benefit the two organizations.
We Got the Beats is the exclusive Broward County host for the listening event taking place all over the world on July 18. In order to properly commemorate the artist and release, store owner Tony Cicalese is throwing a free party, complete with giveaways including limited vinyls and CDs, free beverages (yes, there will be free beer), as well as a $1 vinyl sale featuring hundreds of 12" disco singles available at the special price that night only.
When Fantasy Records, who just released the new greatest hits collection (including a new remix by Ralphi Rosario), contacted We Got the Beats about hosting the listening event, Cicalese says, "We were thrilled -- this is right up our alley. Sylvester is still much beloved in the disco/gay communities and we still love to remember him. And our store regularly carries a good bit of his catalog, both new and used, so it's a perfect fit."
Since the "little gay record store" is jam-packed with music, there's unfortunately not enough space for DJs or even a temporary dance floor for the event, but chances are you can count on some "spontaneous bopping" as visitors are taken on a journey through Sylvester's most dance floor-ready hits. Plus, Cicalese plans to keep the store open past the official end time of 9 p.m. if there's still a crowd.
Late notice left little time for organizing any sponsors or rallying involvement from the local community for the event, so "the free beer is all on us," Cicalese says. "As a former bartender, I'm also working on a recipe for a pink cocktail we could premix in pitchers -- possibly something with passion fruit!"
As for which freebies guests should look forward to most, Cicalese says, "I think the best giveaway is the new album, pressed on pink vinyl. Fantasy [Records] is also sending us some CDs, and some fans (to keep cool), and our store will kick in some nifty pink boas."
Sylvester "Mighty Real" Global Listening Party, 5 p.m., Thursday, July 18, at We Got the Beats, 2900 N. Dixie Highway, Suite 201. Call 954-671-9482, or visit www.wegotthebeats.biz.