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Doing it for Love

As hokey and Hallmarked as Valentine’s Day is, I’m still into the fact that there IS true love out there. Not the kind focused necessarily on another person, but certainly keeping with the idea of valuing something more than oneself; giving of oneself to keep it going; and loving it not for what one can get back from it but just because.

In honor of this, thecommich would like to salute some varied characters that have one thing in common: doing what they do, for no other reason than the love of it. In keeping this bullheaded attitude, most of the below mentioned have changed and bettered lives, whole industries, and arguably the world in general. This post isn’t so much about marketing, dear readers – but I’m hoping that reading these people’s stories helps you focus YOUR passion as well.

Herewith, thecommich salutes:

David Mancuso

Before Paul Oakenfold, before Chicane – before even the invention of the pre-amp and mixer – there was David Mancuso and his New York abode, simply called The Loft. If you were lucky enough to have been in NYC in the late 60’s you would have witnessed the precursor to the disco era and house parties, all because of one man’s obsession with creating stories out of sound.

According to journalist Bill Brewster (co-author of the definitive DJ sourcebook, “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life“), David started the Loft out of simple frustration from the sound quality of other night clubs. He wired his loft with all the stereos he could find, effectively creating the blueprint for all other disco setups. A teetotaler, David served only fruit, juice and water in his pad – which, considering the plethora of drugs and alcohol available on the street at the time, is kind of heroic in itself. He also made a point to invite all kinds of people to his pad – not just hardcore clubbers or (eventually) the celebrities who learned about his parties. The result was a democratic atmosphere where Diana Ross could be seen boogying down with the tranny across the street.

But the most groundbreaking thing David Mancuso did for his Loft – and indeed, for all of us who’s ever had a blast on the dancefloor – was to create a story (now known as a setlist or programming) out of the songs he chose. He would plan his set list days ahead, building anticipation within his followers who knew the depth of knowledge he had over his catalog. People would come in at 9pm (RIDICULOUSLY early for nightclub standards) just to hear him start and follow the “story.” Others were known to burst into tears in the course of his set, because a song – the placement, the progression, it’s emotion – was so beautiful (OK… thecommich will have to put a little caveat here that MDMA came out around this time too).

David is still alive and has an independent record label, still pushing the envelope for audiophiles, dance freaks and clubbers everywhere. If I ever meet him I hope to have a glowstick he can sign, waiting in my purse.

Jeff Clark

If you’ve ever tried to surf, say in Waikiki where the waves are about a foot high, you will begin to understand the complete and utter insanity that Jeff Clark undertook in 1975. This was the year when Jeff – then a junior high school student – paddled a mile out through freezing shark-infested water, shallow reefs, and deadly cross currents in Half Moon Bay California, to surf a point called Mavericks, whose waves go up to 50 FEET high… alone. And continued to surf it alone. For 15 freaking years. If he had gotten in any kind of injury surfing during that period in time, the ocean would have swallowed him up and there would have been nothing to send back to his parents.

The next time anyone was documented even TRYING to surf Maverick’s was in 1990, and only then in the company of Jeff. Since then, the wave has actually claimed lives (most notably that of pro surfer Mark Foo) – but it has also morphed into one of the world’s most epic and well-known surf contests, with surfers given only 24 hours notice to pack their thickest wetsuits and come to Half Moon Bay. Maverick’s reputation as the biggest wave this side of Hawaii continues to draw the best, bravest surfers from around the world – and I’d give a LOT to know if any of these modern day competitors would even think about surfing this spot alone, even for a week.

Despite his obvious disregard for common sense, great white sharks, and bodily integrity, Jeff is still with us. He travels around the world to surf when he is not selling his custom surfboards down the street from his beloved break.

Marilou Diaz-Abaya

This is definitely a personal salute for thecommich, having studied film direction under this unbelievable force of nature masquerading as filmmaker. From her earliest features (Tanikala, Karnal) to her international award-winning opus on national hero Jose Rizal, Marilou has shown that she has the grit, ambition, and determination to look squarely at Filipino society and reflect its best and worst in her films.

Where to begin with Marilou? The fact that she speaks 5 languages (and used all of them to direct hundreds of multinational actors – and a water buffalo – in Rizal)? The way she takes on tough subjects – women in Filipino society in Brutal and Karnal the practice of illegal child-labor fishing in Muro Ami – with unflinching passion? Her willingness to teach a bunch of spoiled private school kids – for a year, and for free –  despite a grueling work schedule? Her work in film education and ocean preservation, and psychosocial rehabilitation? I mean, how frikkin’ cool can one woman be?
In a country where celebrity is accorded to two-bit philanderers who tape their sexcapades, or wayward kids with extreme road rage, thecommich finds comfort in knowing there are truly talented, hard working, WORTHY Filipinos who do their best everyday to create quality work that we can all be proud of.

Marilou continues to make and teach film, and has recently survived a bout with cancer. Ma’am, you continue to inspire me every day.

Readers: Who would you like to salute?