News & Politics

DC Gives Cool “Disco” Dan a Go-Go Sendoff

The late graffiti artist was remembered as a hero for people who grew up in Washington.

Photograph by Benjamin Freed.

Danny Hogg got the go-go equivalent of a 21-gun salute on Saturday, when his family, friends, and fans gathered at the 9:30 Club to pay their respects to DC’s most renowned graffiti artist. Hogg—better known as Cool “Disco” Dan—died last month at age 47 due to complications from diabetes.

Though few knew him well personally, Hogg’s ubiquitous tag that appeared on walls, overpasses, Metro stations, and other surfaces throughout Washington made him a heroic figure for people who grew up in DC in the 1980s and ’90s. His mourners ranged from folks in their Sunday best to graying punk rockers, though Cool “Disco” Dan’s sendoff was anything but funereal.

WPGC host DJ Flexx‘s jams primed the crowd as people went to their seats, followed by a performance by the Howard Gospel Choir. Local go-go star Big Brother CJ Jones acted as master of ceremonies.

“I realize now what an important part Cool ‘Disco’ Dan played in the go-go movement, in that era, as he tagged himself into the culture of DC, with his artistic contribution,” Jones said, with Hogg’s famous signature blasting across a projector screen above.

Journalist Alona Wartofsky, whose articles for the Washington Post and Washington City Paper introduced readers to go-go music, approached the podium next. Cool “Disco” Dan markings resonated with go-go’s roll call, in which the band on stage gives shout outs to regulars in the crowd.

“With his tagging, Dan took that go-go name check and pushed it to the next level in a venue that we all lived in, Washington DC,” Wartofsky said. “He inspired other taggers and he predated the selfie generation by almost 30 years. And before he was done, everyone knew his name.”

Additional speakers included Joseph Pattisall and Roger Gastman, the director and producer, respectively, of the 2013 documentary The Legend of Cool “Disco” Dan; Clinton Yates, an ESPN writer and radio host; and Rare Essence talker James Funk.

Pattisall lamented that many of the buildings where Cool “Disco” Dan left his mark have been torn down and replaced, with many new residents likely unaware of Hogg’s legend. “People filling those condos, they’d be perfectly happy to never hear about Cool ‘Disco’ Dan,” Pattisall said.

“Fuck ’em!” one man in the audience shouted back, to a small round of applause.

Mayor Muriel Bowser, appeared alongside Hogg’s mother, Denise Womack, and sister, La Tonya Watson.

“I know how important it is to all of Dan’s friends, but most especially his mom, Denise, to his sister and his family, that Dan is on the record in Washington DC, as a local hero, as a part of the tapestry of Washington DC, and as someone important to be remembered,” Bowser said. “And I am happy, on behalf of all 681,000 of us in Washington, who are here now, those of us who grew up here, and those who will move here in the future, to remember ‘Disco’ Dan.”

Reading an official proclamation, Bowser declared August 19 Cool “Disco” Dan Day, breathing life into a legacy that started and ended with a name, but became part of the city’s lifeline.

The Howard Gospel Choir sang a closing hymn, then ceded the stage to Rare Essence, who got their set going with one more roll call—Cool “Disco” Dan’s name saved for last.

Correction: Due to an editing error, Roger Gastman’s last name was misspelled.

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