“I hope you all support my new business venture Ben’s Chilly Bowl, serving fro-yo and paying homage to an unaffiliated D.C. icon!” wrote one Facebook commenter.
“Check out my new brownie shop, it’s called Chuck Brown Brownie House,” wrote another. “Now go-go get those brownies!”
“It was such a playful, fun name. . . . It reminded me of my childhood,” said Gordon, who grew up near Eastern Market and remembered seeing the artist’s eponymous tags on buildings and near Metro tracks as a kid. “The [store] name was never so much supposed to be about Cool Disco Dan. . . . It was about the culture and not necessarily about him.”
After a day of overwhelmingly negative feedback, Gordon changed the name to Zeke’s D.C. Donutz, after his middle name. The “Cool Disco Donut” mural by the door will go; the graffiti interior will stay. And so will some of the hurt feelings, at least for a little while, among a community that is extremely protective of Cool “Disco” Dan (real name: Dan Hogg), their onetime rebel hero.
‘A certifiable D.C. legend’
Cool “Disco” Dan is a symbol to people who lived in the District in the ’80s. He is Chocolate City. He is the era of Marion Barry’s “[Expletive] set me up.” He is fearlessness. He was “a certifiable D.C. legend,” wrote Washington Post reporter Paul Hendrickson in 1991. When the city’s streets had a harsher edge, Cool “Disco” Dan was a phantom, his tag omnipresent. He told Hendrickson that he turned to graffiti when many of his peers had turned to drugs, and in doing so, made his mark on a city in transition.
“Almost always this is an after-midnight man. He finds a wall. He Hancocks it. He’s gone,” Hendrickson wrote.
While some of Dan’s tags have been preserved, many are gone, either because of cleanup efforts or the building demolition that can come along with gentrification. You can still see them riding Metro’s Red Line from Union Station to Takoma Park, where some remain along the tracks.
Soon, you’ll be able to see many more of them — the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s “Pump Me Up: D.C. Subculture of the 1980s,” a show devoted to D.C.’s graffiti and music culture in that era, goes on display Feb. 23 and features many photos of Dan’s work. The show was curated by Roger Gastman, who also produced a documentary with filmmaker Joseph Pattisall that screens the following day at AFI Silver: “The Legend of Cool ‘Disco’ Dan.”
The confluence of these two events made February the best and worst time to open a Cool “Disco” Dan-inspired doughnut shop. Once it got out that Gordon’s shop was unaffiliated with Dan, his friends and admirers made their displeasure known. Asad Walker, also known as the graffiti artist Ultra, started a Facebook page called “The Society for the Preservation of Cool ‘Disco’ Dan” and threatened to picket the store opening.