The Gallery, The Loft and The Paradise Garage were the three most important clubs in New York’s underground Disco scene. The DJ Nicky Siano, whose club The Gallery ran from 1972-77, had the distinction of being connected to all three. He was also the DJ when the most celebrated of all clubs, Studio 54, opened it’s doors –playing as Bianca Jagger entered on a white horse!
“Nicky Siano was the king of DJs. He was so fierce he could put on a record and people would scream. There was no other DJ like Nicky Siano. He was the best DJ I ever heard.” Kenny Carpenter
The Gallery ran to packed houses for five years. It ran alongside David Mancuso’s Loft. Mancuso was a mentor of Siano -who would later work at The Loft- and encouraged the young DJ to open The Gallery. Siano was only 18 when the club first opened. Two of The Gallery’s most celebrated regulars were Frankie Knuckles and Larry Levan who, inspired by Nicky Siano, soon elevated themselves to working at The Gallery and eventually to DJing (Levan would also became Siano’s lover). From here Frankie Knuckles went on to open Chicago’s infamous Warehouse and Larry Levan opened The Paradise Garage.
“Larry and I would blow up balloons, set up the food bar, prepare the punch, and give out acid, but we also spent a lot of the time hanging out in the booth, watching Nicki’s every move. He pretty much taught us what we were doing.” Frankie Knuckles
The Gallery became a stepping stone for many future stars - Grace Jones made her debut at the legendary club - and
Nicky Siano became the first DJ to obtain star status. He was also the first DJ to mix records together, which brought him a growing crowd of musical admirers and future DJs:
“Nicky was the first mixer and mixing became everything. It was the most exciting part of the record.” Mike Stone
“At the end of the night he would sit down, take off his shoes and socks, and start to mix with his toes! Everybody loved Nicky. Nicky was the first DJ star.” Michael Gomes
“Larry Levan, Walter Gibbons, Tee Scott would all sit in the booth taking notes, waiting for Nicki to pass out so they could jump over him to get to those turntables. They were like eager wolves!” Kenny Carpenter
In 1978 Siano turned his hand from DJing to making music. Along with a young Arthur Russell, another regular at the Gallery, he formed Dinosaur and released the groundbreaking “Kiss Me Again” on Sire Records. The record featured David Byrne on guitar, who himself would shortly go on to form Talking Heads.
By the end of 1978 Siano’s prodigious drug habit had caught up with him. He closed The Gallery and was eventually sacked from Studio 54 after playing the whole of Kraftwerk’s “Trans Europe Express”! Siano left the music world, de-toxed and then in the 1980s devoted his time to working with the Aids community in New York.