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Save the funk DJ Romeo Cologne is on a mission 

Every Tuesday night at the Star Bar and every Saturday night at the Clermont Lounge, Romeo Cologne spreads the funky gospel to hundreds of congregants.

"Funk came out of oppression, written by black people in the 1960s and '70s," he says. "It's a combination of rock, soul and R&B, a unity of the cultures for everyone, written by people who had every right to be in a rotten mood. Instead they wrote this beautiful music to lift all of us up. The funk is part of Americana, as much as rock 'n' roll is. And I get to give the message."

This is not just about revisiting glitter, bellbottoms and disco balls, he says. "I'm not a retro act. It's not old, it's not out of date. There is no better dance music, ever, than the funk. The funk is alive, where it's played, whenever people dance to it. Young people feel the funk -- it doesn't have to be explained to them. It's magic."

For more than 15 years, David Pierce, aka Romeo Cologne, has been hosting funk and disco dance parties in Atlanta and Athens. Pierce explains Romeo Cologne's birth: "In the '70s, men could be more expressive and flamboyant. DJs were a combination of entertainer, emcee and party personality. After the music clubs in Athens closed, I would throw late-night parties and play disco funk music as this anachronistic, sexy swinging DJ character and the people would have fun and dance. Sometimes there were more people at the parties than had been in the clubs."

What started out as a roving Athens house party has turned into one of the longest-running events in Atlanta nightlife. On Nov. 25, the Star Bar hosts a combination birthday party and 10th anniversary celebration for the venerated purveyor of funk.

"Romeo is our mainstay. He's family," says Jim Stacy, owner of the Star Bar, who has known Pierce since the Athens days. "This will be a special night."

The party starts at 7 p.m. downstairs in the Little Vinyl Lounge, then moves upstairs as opener DJ Quasi hits the decks. Romeo will start his set at midnight.

Quasi was a Romeo fan first, and eventually struck up a friendship, which eventually turned into Romeo inviting him to be his opening act. Quasi's set leans to newer music: Prince, Jamiroquai, De La Soul, and occasionally Beastie Boys; whereas Romeo goes deeper into R&B, soul and funk -- bands including Parliament, Michael Jackson, Bar-Kays, Midnight Starr and the Gap Band.

"It's the easiest gig in the world, and the ultimate, because people come to hear Romeo and I get to learn from the Funkmaster himself," Quasi says.

Chad Cabra, Romeo's production manager for more than eight years, says, "This is one of the most decadent and inclusive music genres of the past 50 years. People come here from all walks of life, and really strip away their inhibitions and have fun together."

In fact, wading through the packed crowd on a recent Tuesday, one is struck by the true diversity of ages, races, fashion statements and dance styles. Darrell Ellis dances with his sister, Sara Miller. They have been coming to the party for more than three years. "I like the music, and I like Romeo. He has style and class," Ellis says.

Andy Poulos isn't dancing. He does not dance, ever. So why come to a dance party? "It's all about the funk, baby," he says with a broad grin.

Star Bar soundman Joel Burkhart says, "The event has lasted so long because it's a constantly changing crowd. The crowd is what makes it a can't-miss. You might get musicians, athletes, celebrities. They come and they all love it. It's the people, not just the music."

Romeo Cologne gives ultimate credit to the music, however. "The funk is the star. I'm just the co-star."

music@creativeloafing.com

Romeo Cologne's Birthday and the 10th Anniversary Celebration of Funk Disco will be held at the Star Bar Tues., Nov. 25 at 10 p.m. $5

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