1/28/13

Jean-Michel Basquiat wins dance contest, breaks records!


James Chance fan, Nicholas W, sent in this scan of this absolutely stunning gig poster recently along with the fantastic story about its origins. Big thanks to Nicholas for sharing, and if anyone else out there has anything to share - stories or otherwise - feel free to reach out to us here.

I found this poster lying on the floor of the Squat Theater on 23rd St. I had just witnessed the "James Chance Dance Contest" at the Squat....for which the judges were Richard Hell, Debbie Harry, and Anya, I think. I went with my girlfriend; the place was packed.

The contest was to be judged by James, Debbie Harry, and Richard Hell, who were all sitting in a row on the stage. The winner of the prize for best dancer was to receive a set of all James’s records. I noticed that wandering around in the big crowd on the dance floor was the painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, dressed in a three-piece suit but with no shoes…..totally barefoot.

The music started and everyone started dancing. Jean-Michel was dancing around like a wild man…it was kind of dangerous to go near him!

After about half an hour, the music stopped, everyone applauded, and James came to the mike and said “We’re going to discuss it and then we’ll announce the winner.” He got into a huddle with Debbie Harry and Richard Hell and they discussed. Then James came to the mike. “And the winner tonight is…..Jean-Michel Basquiat!” he shouted. Everybody clapped and Basquiat jumped up onto the stage as Debbie and Richard clapped and smiled approvingly. “And now we will present Jean-Michel with the prize.” said James, and he handed to Basquiat the stack of his albums.

To everyone’s complete astonishment, Basquiat took the records and with one rapid motion whacked the pile down on his knee and snapped the whole pile of records completely in half, and then threw the pieces out into the crowd. Then jumped off the stage and walked out of the theater.

James looked completely shocked. “Some people have no class!!” James yelled into the mike, as Jean-Michel disappeared out the door and the crowd roared with laughter.

After the show I went up to James and had him autograph this poster, which he did with great surprise, if not suspicion. He signed it "James White", which surprised me, because up to that point I had known him as James Chance. I may be one of the very few people on the planet to have a James White autograph from this early era! 

- Nicholas W., January 2013
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