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Posted at 1:07 PM ET, 12/12/2008

Goodbye to You, '80s Night (With Update)

By Fritz Hahn

It's the end of an era in Adams Morgan: The '80s Dance Party, which drew bachelorettes, retro-loving singles and generations of Madonna fans to Club Heaven for 15 awesome years, got the boot from the club this week in favor of a reggae and hip-hop night.

Promoter/DJ Neal Keller says he got word from the club yesterday, though he'd heard earlier through the grapevine that the club's owners were inviting promoters to offer proposals for events "every night but Saturday."

The '80s Dance Party's longevity boils down to a simple formula. DJs spun tunes that everyone could sing and dance along with, from Duran Duran to Kajagoogoo, INXS to Terrance Trent D'Arby, Culture Club to LL Cool J, without being ashamed. Music videos played on screens on the wall, shots were a ridiculous $2 during happy hour, which ran until 11, and the diverse crowd (from college students to older women on a girls' night out) was always ready to put their hands up and jump around to Cyndi Lauper.

Part of the reason for '80s night's demise is economic. Keller admits business has dropped because "there's been an economic slowdown, and it seems to have affected business across Adams Morgan." But, he adds, the owners also thought it was just time for a change in direction. "They thought the night was over the hill, and they were afraid the night wouldn't attract young, new customers," Keller says. "I pointed out that we have bachelorette parties coming in all the time, and we just had Comcast's 'Dating on Demand' show filming here, so we do get young customers ... but they just weren't very happy with the business or the night [itself]."

Keller says the '80s Dance Party hasn't found a new home yet -- "it's all very new, very sudden" -- but he's already had some interest from other clubs. Or, he says, he might turn the night into a vagabond "roving the D.C. club scene," popping up to throw events at different nightspots before moving on to another location.

For updates, check the '80s Dance Party's official Web site, www.80sdanceparty.com.

-- Fritz

UPDATE: I've just received an official statement from the club disputing Neal Keller's account -- they say he left, and was not fired -- and announcing that they will not be doing a "reggae and hip-hop night," as Keller says he was told, but will be growing the '80s Dance Party into an '80s and '90s Dance Party. One thing that's not in dispute: It really did come down to declining attendance at the event.

By Fritz Hahn  | December 12, 2008; 1:07 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs  
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Comments

Hmmm a reggae/hip-hop night.
Now thats a novelty!

I can see it now a reggae/hip-hop night
in a sea of other reggae/hip-hop nights in Adams Morgan...The owners are truly men among boys to concoct such a ingenius and ORIGINAL idea!

Posted by: jimmydeanroundsausages | December 12, 2008 2:10 PM | Report abuse

An end of an era for a guilty pleasure. I predict it will get picked up by another club. It still seemed fairly popular, even after all of these years. Lots of good times were had there.

Posted by: kschlem1 | December 12, 2008 5:11 PM | Report abuse

To clarify the above story, Heaven & Hell is actually enhancing their Thursday 80s Dance Party and will now include 90s music in the dance mix.

There will NOT - repeat - NOT - be REGGAE or HIP HOP music on Thursday nights at Club Heaven. That is inaccurate information.

Neal Keller has been replaced by a longtime Washington, DC-based 80s DJ at Club Heaven.

Club Heaven has been remodeled in anticipation of this move, complete with the addition of a 30-foot long granite bar and extensive renovation of the restrooms.

THE 80s and 90s WILL CONTINUE TO THRIVE AT HEAVEN & HELL EVERY THURSDAY NIGHT! We can't wait to see you there!

Posted by: party4ned | December 12, 2008 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Neal was the heart and soul of 80's night.
With out him there is absolutely no point in
going to Club Heaven.
I think the owners will realize what a mistake they made sooner rather then later.

Posted by: gdanzig666 | December 16, 2008 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Neal destroyed the ORIGINAL 80s Dance Party at Club Heaven. Neal didn't start this Thursday 80s night party - two other guys did! What Neal ended up doing was taking over a great idea that wasn't his and then he drove it into the ground. With his abstract music and abrasive attitude toward those he didn't already know, it's no wonder the night was struggling.

If anything, I can't wait for whatever version of 80s Dance Party they do next at Heaven. It'll be a definite improvement over whatever "DJ Neal" was doing (or not doing, apparently).

Posted by: premiumcakesdc | December 18, 2008 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Is there really any purpose to slagging me off at this point? I HATE being drawn into this, but here goes: 80's Dance Party was started by THREE people. The two other guys were James Noble and John Cook, they were also Teenbeat recording artists Romania. James went on to do Panic, John got married and moved to Hawaii. I went from doing the door to being the DJ. Ergo, I did not take it over. I had John's blessing when he left. And if nobody else liked what I did with the night (uh . . continue to play 80's), The Legwarmers approved. I was there FROM THE BEGINNING. I also did ALL the flyers, posters, advertising, from the mid point of the first year. John did the website from '98 - '03. I was also Romania's roadie, did tech work for the club, lighting, video, on and ON. I'm sorry if the night wasn't all things to all people, but I'm proud of my contribution. At its best, 80's Night was always a team effort. The requests for the 'abstract music' came from many of the longtime regulars!!!! (whom I'm hoping will weigh in), and THEY were on my case about the pop stuff & the crowd pleasers! So go figure! John didn't even keep the requests lists! I ALWAYS made an effort to find out what people wanted to hear and to expand the selection, with both the songs and the video. Comments like the one above hurt because you really don't know what you're talking about. Google the night, look it up on Yelp.com. Can't please everyone, but there are plenty of positive reviews. AND I'm still getting gigs (NYE in MD) WITHOUT slandering other DJ's! These comments only turn up now, when the event is over and a new one begins? Could it be the new promoters of the new night at work? HMmm. And for the record, Club Heaven has no rights to the name "80's Dance Party," I have a signed document to that effect on my desk. Also, the renovations started last spring, I know because I made numerous unpaid trips to the Home Depot with the owner. Those renovations were happening anyways for the sake of the whole establishment, not just Thursdays (please, they wouldn't even chip in to pay for flyers for my Thursday.) Despite the club dumping me and misleading me about what they planned to do with the night (and then doubling back when it backfired), I wish them well with Thursdays. So can the new DJ's ease up a little? Or at least get your facts straight. Sheesh! I always respected DJ Ben Knapp, and I could never figure out why he was so bitter. Now I know! Future 80's Dance Party and related events will turn up at other places, more info at www.80sDanceParty.com. And big thanks to Fritz Hahn to taking an interest in this story in the first place. Sorry your blog is getting cluttered up with this drama.

Neal (The Angel)
EigtiesNite@aol.com

Posted by: EightiesNite | December 18, 2008 10:20 PM | Report abuse

As a seasoned 80s night regular I must back up Neal's account of the event's history and especially of his tireless efforts promoting it. When Jim and John hosted the night it was great, then it continued to be great when they left and Neal took over the DJ booth. Heaven and Hell owner Mehari, just as oddly famous in his own right, kept the night on the schedule for 15 years.

I long ago learned to assume weirdness on both sides when considering a dispute between promoters and club owners. It is a business hosting an event that is near-and-dear to the hearts of the promoters and DJs, so changes always ruffle feathers. I got to experience that myself when "back in the day" my Industrial night at Heaven was supplanted without notice, only to be back a couple months later. It is a waste of angst to begrudge the guys who come next.

All that said, Neal really went the extra mile, especially considering he was promoter, manager AND dj -

During the [holy crap] 12 years I attended 80s night at Heaven and Hell, Neal's dedication to his job and especially to Thursdays was unbelievable. Every week for 15 years - balloon drops, banners, ads, fliers, costumes, incredible tolerance for requests that I disagreed with...a dazzling performance that I've never seen approached by any weekly promoter.

Kudos Neal, I'll miss the original - and YOUR - 80s Dance Party at Heaven.

Posted by: shamelessdc | December 19, 2008 12:26 AM | Report abuse

As a long time visitor to 80s Night over the years I have to back up Neal's history of the event as well. Having seen the past 10 years of the event first hand the greatness of 80s Night had continued throughout. The amount of effort and dedication put forth by Neal was unbelieveable especially when coupled with the longevity of the event. To keep up such a high level of enthusiasm and dedication for 15 years is remarkable in a business where most events don't last even six months. All of those 80s videos, balloons, and party favors didn't just magically appear. They were there because Neal took the time to track them down and get them on his own dime. I could care less about a 30ft granite bar. Substance impresses me over style. Best of luck to the new Thursday night DJs. We'll see if there still around 15 years from now.

Posted by: juvicg | December 19, 2008 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Let me add my support for Neal as well. He did a fabulous job at 80's night over the years. I met Neal in the late 90's and he has always been supportive of the local scene and willing to help out other DJs in the area. I agree that it is a real testiment to Neal's abilities that he managed to keep that night going for 15 years. Anyone that says he ruined the night doesn't know what they are talking about. He became the only reason I kept going to Club Heaven and now that he is gone, I for one won't go back. I hope the real 80's Dance Party finds a new home at an even better location soon.

Posted by: DCStrange | December 19, 2008 11:19 AM | Report abuse

For what it's worth, I don't understand the shots people took at Neal. The first time I went to 80s night at Heaven was in either 1995 or 1996. I remember DJ John, and I also remember Neal -- aka The Angel -- working the door back then.

I lived in DC on and off from then until 2006. In the years when I didn't live there, I made sure to include a Thursday night in any visit, just to go to 80s night.

My now-wife and I loved Neal's spinning. Loved it enough to hire Neal in 2005 to DJ our wedding (which was just down the road at the Women's National Democratic Club). Neal not only did a great job with the music and requests, he also was super helpful with letting us use his equipment for the ceremony. And his fee was totally reasonable. We didn't even bother looking for someone else. Since then I've happily been a reference for Neal with multiple other folks looking for a DJ.

I've gotten to be friends with Neal over the years, and I'll really miss his spinning at 80s.

I know not everyone loves every club night, but SHEESH! Stop kicking the guy. He's been a DC institution for years.

As for those of us mourning the end of the original 80s night at Heaven, I'm sure we'll all be packing a Golschlager shot for Neal next time we see him.....

Jonah Gelbach

Posted by: gelbach | December 19, 2008 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Agreed, Neal did a great job and Heaven DJ. He had the thankless task of having to keep two different groups of people happy: the die-hard 80s fans who wanted to hear edgy, proto-alternative tunes you can't hear on the radio, and the bachelorette and office party crowd who only wanted to hear the few songs they remembered from the 80s. He managed to please both crowds pretty much all the time. If you made a request and he didn't have the song, he'd go out and find it for next time. If you had a dedication, he'd announce it over the speaker. And if you wanted to talk cool music, he'd always lend his time to talk. He always threw his heart and soul into his theme nghts, but never let theme get in the way of a good time. I'm missing 80s night with every hour it's gone, and I deeply hope it finds a new home soon.

Posted by: ubermolch | December 19, 2008 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Neal, for always being a gracious host and keeping the party going after all these years. I look forward to the future of 80's Night and will be there ready to dance! If Will and I had gotten married in DC you would have been our DJ hands down! ;)

Posted by: lil_sarah_666 | December 19, 2008 7:34 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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