“The Legend of Cool ‘Disco’ Dan” closes U Street Movie Series tonight

September 18, 2013

It seems like outdoor movies should have finished weeks ago, but the stellar U Street Movie Series actually wraps up tonight at Harrison Field. Appropriately, it's going out with a bang, showing a documentary about a true Washington icon.

"The Legend of Cool 'Disco' Dan" is the story of the '80s in Washington, shown through the prism of graffiti artist Cool "Disco" Dan, whose omnipresent tags made him a hero. Those who grew up around here will flash back to the days of go-go and "[Expletive] Set Me Up," while newcomers get a short and intense history lesson about the changing face of the city.

The throwback vibe begins at 7 p.m., when DJ Harry Hotter starts spinning go-go and funk. We suggest grabbing some takeout from Chix, Tacos El Chilango, the Greek Spot or &Pizza before making your way to 13th and V.

The documentary premiered at AFI in February. Here's what our Maura Judkis had to say:

[Filmmakers Roger Gastman and Joseph 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 previously reported, 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.

Fritz Hahn has written about bars, drinks and nightlife for the Washington Post Weekend Section since 2003, but he also writes about everything from Civil War battlefields to sailing classes. A product of Prince George's County public schools, Fritz majored in journalism at the University of Maryland and lives in the District.
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Fritz Hahn · September 17, 2013