See “The Legend of Cool ‘Disco’ Dan” at AFI on March 1

February 12, 2013

Cool "Disco" Dan's name was once ubiquitous, but catching a glimpse of the new documentary about him -- "The Legend of Cool 'Disco' Dan," by Roger Gastman and Joseph Pattisall -- is considerably harder. Two showings at the AFI Silver Theatre on Feb. 23 have sold out, so the theater has added another showing March 1 at 7:15 p.m. It's also likely to sell out, so purchase your tickets well in advance.

The film has been popping up in Post stories lately -- it was the missing link that connected an artist's daughter with a breakdancer who posed for a portrait long ago, and it was the catalyst for the former Cool Disco Donuts to change its name to Zeke's D.C. Donutz. The documentary was screened for press Tuesday morning.

Gastman and Pattisall have interviewed a wide range of subjects ranging from the "Mayor for Life" Marion Barry to homeless former drug addicts on the streets. They explain the D.C. that birthed Cool "Disco" Dan: The riots, the neighborhood crews, and the crack epidemic that made D.C. the onetime murder capital. And while Dan himself is a large part of the documentary, some of the most engaging interviews come from other taggers, crew members, or witnesses of the era, like Go-Go Tonya F, Gangster George and, on the other end of the spectrum, the late Chuck Brown and Count Gore de Vol.

"The Legend of Cool 'Disco' Dan" is about Dan, but it's really about some of D.C.'s most formative years: The era that gave us Chocolate City, street art, Marion Barry, go-go and hardcore. It's a big nostalgia-fest for anyone who grew up in D.C., and a thorough explanation of D.C. beyond the Mall for anyone who didn't. As for Dan: He seems somewhat vacant at points in the documentary, suffering from an unspecified mental illness and, as we reported in the doughnut story two weeks ago, currently living without a fixed address. The documentary invites anyone who recognizes him on the street to ask him for an autograph, which the filmmakers say would make his day.

Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts for the Weekend section and Going Out Guide.
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Lavanya Ramanathan | February 12, 2013