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Disasterama : adventures in the queer underground 1977-1997 (edition 2019)

by Alvin Orloff

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DISASTERAMA: Adventures in the Queer Underground 1977 to 1997, is the true story of Alvin Orloff who, as a shy kid from the suburbs of San Francisco, stumbled into the wild, eclectic crowd of Crazy Club Kids, Punk Rock Nutters, Goofy Goofballs, Fashion Victims, Disco Dollies, Happy Hustlers, and Dizzy Twinks of post-Stonewall American queer culture of the late 1970s, only to see the "subterranean lavender twilit shadow world of the gay ghetto" ravished by AIDS in the 1980s. Includes an introduction by Alexander Chee (How to Write an Autobiographical Novel (2018, HMH Books). InDisasterama, Orloff recalls the delirious adventures of his youth--from San Francisco to Los Angeles to New York--where insane nights, deep friendships with the creatives of the underground, and thrilling bi-coastal living led to a free-spirited life of art, manic performance, high camp antics, and exotic sexual encounters, until AIDS threatened to destroy everything he lived for. In his introduction, award-winning essayist and novelist Alexander Chee notes, "There's a strange love I have for these times that can be hard to explain. How can I love what I lived through from a time that was as 'bad' as that? But as I read this, and those days came into view again, what I think of that love now is that there was a beauty to the beauty you found then that was made the more fierce by the horror of what was happening. If you could still find the worth of your life,still find sex, love, friendship, your own self-worth amid these attempts by the state at erasure and the ravages of the AIDS epidemic, then it had the strength of something forged in fire." Orloff looks past the politics of AIDS to the people on the ground, friends of his who did not survive AIDS' wrath--the boys in black leather jackets and cackling queens in tacky frocks--remembering them not as victims, but as people who loved life, loved fun, and who were a part of the insane jigsaw of Orloff's friends.Disasterama showcases Orloff's wit and poignancy as he relays the true tale of how a bunch of pathologically flippant kids floundered through a deadly disaster, and, struggled to keep the spirit of camp and radicalism alive, even as their friends lost their lives to the plague.… (more)
Member:richardderus
Title:Disasterama : adventures in the queer underground 1977-1997
Authors:Alvin Orloff
Info:New York, NY : Three Rooms Press, 2019.
Collections:Your library, Reviewed
Rating:****
Tags:None

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Disasterama!: Adventures in the Queer Underground 1977 to 1997 by Alvin Orloff

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The Publisher Says: DISASTERAMA: Adventures in the Queer Underground 1977 to 1997, is the true story of Alvin Orloff who, as a shy kid from the suburbs of San Francisco, stumbled into the wild eclectic crowd of Crazy Club Kids, Punk Rock Nutters, Goofy Goofballs, Fashion Victims, Disco Dollies, Happy Hustlers, and Dizzy Twinks of post-Stonewall American queer culture of the late 1970s, only to see the “subterranean lavender twilit shadow world of the gay ghetto” ravished by AIDS in the 1980s.

In Disasterama, Orloff recalls the delirious adventures of his youth—from San Francisco to Los Angeles to New York—where insane nights, deep friendships with the creatives of the underground, and thrilling bi-coastal living led to a free-spirited life of art, manic performance, high camp antics, and exotic sexual encounters.

Orloff looks past the politics of AIDS to the people on the ground, friends of his who did not survive AIDS’ wrath—the boys in black leather jackets and cackling queens in tacky frocks—remembering them not as victims, but as people who loved life, loved fun, and who were a part of the insane jigsaw of Orloff’s friends. In Disasterama, Orloff tells their story: the true tale of how a bunch of pathologically flippant kids floundered through a deadly disaster.

My Review: I'm Author Orloff's age. Despite being born within hailing distance of the place, I spent little time in San Francisco, more in Austin (a surprisingly queer place even then!) and New York, but the world we lived in as young men has utterly vanished. Many of the guys I knew are dead...many aren't...but all of us have empty slots where loved people once stood. But enough long-face!

What a fast-paced and nostalgic look back at a moment when being young was fun! It can't be helped that AIDS took the lives of so many. It feels like the world Orloff describes (and illustrates with candid snapshots and collected ads, posters, and the like...who the hell keeps this ephemera?!) is as distant as World War II. These days, fun seems dead and young people have to think about what we had the luxury of ignoring.

Selfishly, I'm glad I could ignore it. Responsibly, I wish I hadn't had that choice. ( )
1 vote richardderus | Oct 9, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The raucous, punk queer community and it's underground. The devastation brought about by the HIV virus. I am not sure what I expected, but this book wasn't it. Glad to have read it though, it was a different perspective than I have read before. ( )
  bookwormteri | Sep 24, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I'm glad I read Disasterama, because it is what it says it is and queer history is of particular interest to me.

But it failed to really draw me in. The writing was fine, but Orloff has this sense of humor that I dislike.

For example, early on he describes getting in the mood as rising to the occasion with "if you catch my drift" in parenthesis, which is so cliche and unfunny to me. And unfortunately, this is the sort of humor that's prevalent in this memoir.

So, I wasn't always looking forward to reading it and ended up taking a while to get through it. Mixed feelings, overall ( )
  alliepascal | Sep 23, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
__received as part of LibraryThing's Early Review Program__

Like many memoirs, this is secretly a love story. Because it's a queer, punk love story, it's a love story to many people; to chosen family, to practical strangers, to lovers, to crushes, and to one great love who, as is so often the case in punk queer love stories, was never a lover at all.

This book could easily have tipped into the maudlin. It did not. It is sometimes nostalgic, but in the good way. As the author explains retro camp, so could he explain this book; and I can't do any better.

This is a book we need about a time when there was so much death, and so much fierce life raging around, in between, and before that death. We, the next generation of queers, hear about the death, and we're stopped in awe f the magnitude of it, afraid to ask about it, but we need to know about all the rest of this; just so very much love. ( )
1 vote Kesterbird | Sep 9, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book had pluses and some minuses.

The Good:
- I love a hyper-specific memoir that delves into a time, place, or subculture with a lot of detail and heart. Alvin absolutely achieves that.
- The sprinkles of political and philosophical questions in the sea of AIDS and glitter and New Wave are great, and give the memoir a sense of wider reflection.
- At the end, I really felt like this was a love story / elegy / processing of Alvin and Diet's relationship more than anything else. This is a good thing, and had the author dispensed with the rest and focused on this, it would have been just as strong a work if not stronger.
- There can never be too much queer memoir, and I treasure every added story.

The Less Good:
- The tone is a little to journalistic/flat in parts. I can understand the urge to document what happened in light of so few folks being left, but the strongest moments were the most interpersonal rather than the detailed descriptions of club nights.
- "Eventually, time worked its magic on my brain. My memories of the plague years faded to the point where they seemed like a chapter from a history text" - unfortunately, some of the resulting memoir read like said history text. I would have preferred Alvin cover less ground but dig a bit more deeply into certainly anecdotes. I know that this is a fraught suggestion for an author who seems to be quite earnestly enumerating memories for posterity. I liked the introspective, interpersonal, and philosophical (Antimony/Antinomy, Seven New Types of Sadness, etc) best of all, and more of these ruminations would have been welcome. I thought the more stylistic moments were great, but overwhelmed by the plodding through of time.

I would still recommend it, as it totally delivers on "Adventures in the Queer Underground: 1977-1997" it just didn't reach the level of being writing I enjoyed for its own sake. The stories here are good, the delivery is earnest but could be improved.

[Thanks for the ARC, Three Rooms Press and LibraryThing!] ( )
  urnmo | Sep 8, 2019 |
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“No one is cooler than Alvin Orloff. This is memoir in the classic (or classic Hollywood) sense: a witty and glamorous raconteur who’s lived a wild life tells all.” —Andrea Lawlor, Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl

"Alvin Orloff's memoir . . . a witty remembrance that avoids cheap sentiment or easy responses. Tackling a mass of contradictions with unflinching realness, this book both entertains and inspires." —Michael Musto, Fork on the Left, Knife in the Back

“Heartbreaking and hilarious, sexed-up and political, Disasterama is a deeply personal coming-of-age story. —Michelle Tea, Against Memoir and How to Grow Up

DISASTERAMA: Adventures in the Queer Underground 1977 to 1997, is the true story of Alvin Orloff who, as a shy kid from the suburbs of San Francisco, stumbled into the wild eclectic crowd of Crazy Club Kids, Punk Rock Nutters, Goofy Goofballs, Fashion Victims, Disco Dollies, Happy Hustlers, and Dizzy Twinks of post-Stonewall American queer culture of the late 1970s, only to see the “subterranean lavender twilit shadow world of the gay ghetto” ravished by AIDS in the 1980s.

In Disasterama, Orloff recalls the delirious adventures of his youth—from San Francisco to Los Angeles to New York—where insane nights, deep friendships with the creatives of the underground, and thrilling bi-coastal living led to a free-spirited life of art, manic performance, high camp antics, and exotic sexual encounters.

Orloff looks past the politics of AIDS to the people on the ground, friends of his who did not survive AIDS’ wrath—the boys in black leather jackets and cackling queens in tacky frocks—remembering them not as victims, but as people who loved life, loved fun, and who were a part of the insane jigsaw of Orloff’s friends. In Disasterama, Orloff tells their story: the true tale of how a bunch of pathologically flippant kids floundered through a deadly disaster.

Includes more than 60 rare photos of the underground counterculture, club flyers, drag queens, and queer icons of the era.
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