Disco Demolition Night Commemorated at Elmhurst History Museum
While rock ‘n’ roll radio stations have been known to hold some outlandish promotions, one will always stand out in the minds of Chicagoans: Disco Demolition Night. Many of us here at the Elmhurst BMW and many Chicago area BMW Dealers still remember that infamous evening. You can too or learn about for the first time right here at the Elmhurst History Museum.
From now through October 8, Elmhurst History Museum celebrates one of the most infamous events in baseball history with Disco Demolition: The Night Disco Died, a free exhibit that features a wealth of information, memorabilia, photographs, artifacts, video clips and interviews. The exhibit was inspired by the book by Steve Dahl, journalist Dave Hoekstra and photographer Paul Natkin.
For more information, visit the Elmhurst History Museum website: http://www.elmhursthistory.org/317/Upcoming-Exhibits or call 630-833-1457.
Elmhurst History Museum
120 E. Park Avenue
Elmhurst, Illinois 60126
Sunday, Tuesday to Friday 1-5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
On July 12, 1979, rock station WLUP-FM teamed up with the Chicago White Sox for a twinight doubleheader at Comiskey Park called Teen Night (which would long be remembered as Disco Demolition Night). Anyone bringing a disco record to the stadium would pay just 98 cents admission. (WLUP is 97.9 on the radio dial.) Listeners were told the records would be blown up on the field.
The combination of anti-disco sentiment and explosives proved to be irresistible to the station’s fans. The event sold out, with 20,000 non-ticket holders massing outside the entrance gates. Unable to get in, many in the restless crowd took matters into their own hands and stormed the gates, jumping over turnstiles and scaling security fences. While the stadium could only hold about 45,000 people, official estimates put the size of the crowd inside at 47,795. Bill Veeck, then owner of the White Sox, believed there were between 50,000 and 55,000 attendees.
To combat the crowds crashing the gates, security was moved from the field to the entrances. Because the organizers didn’t expect such a large crowd, many in the audience were unable to hand in their albums and brought them to their seats. Once the game started, these records were transformed into Frisbees that sliced through the air and landed on the field. Fans began to hurl bottles and firecrackers, making it necessary to stop the game several times.
After the game ended, WLUP shock jock Steve Dahl, sidekick Garry Meier and a hired model called Lorelei drove around the perimeter of the field in a Jeep. The open vehicle offered little protection against the firecrackers and beer hurled from the stands.
The box of records, which had been filled with explosives, was located in center field.
“Now listen,” announced Dahl. “We took all the disco records you brought tonight, we got ‘em in a giant box, and we’re gonna blow ‘em up real good.”
The box was detonated in an enormous cloud of smoke, blowing a massive hole in the grass. Thousands of fans stormed the field. “The place went bonkers,” remembered WLUP DJ Mitch Michaels. “People started jumping out of the stands. It was like the rats leaving a ship. A few, then more, then total chaos.”
The crowd proceeded to trash the field. They stole bases, tore up the grass, wrecked the batting cage and lit a bonfire in center field.
Order was eventually restored by the Chicago police in full riot gear. Because the damage to the field was too great for the second game to be played, the White Sox had to forfeit the game to the Detroit Tigers.