Detroit has lost one of its best. Anita Sarko has joined our friends in the Here-Before. She will live with us endlessly through the spinning vinyl of DJs everywhere.
Michael Musto's Goodbye.
Anita Sarko was a world class DJ, lively writer, and dear friend. My parents and I accepted her as family and shared years and years of holidays with her, laughing and loving over gifts and Italian food. I first knew “Auntie” Anita as a Mudd Club DJ, serving a bracing brew of highly individual music for the throngs in the late ’70s/early ‘80s club for new wave party people. Anyone who requested a particular record from Anita was greeted with the retort that she wasn’t a jukebox, otherwise you could just bend her over and put in a quarter! She went on to wear elaborate outfits and spin music (and heads) in the Mike Todd Room, the VIP room of the ultimate ‘80s megaclub, the Palladium, where she was a favorite of co-owner Steve Rubell. Around the same time, she and doorman/impresario Haoui Montaug filled Danceteria with No Entiendes cabaret revues full of fresh, whack talent that, like everything else she did, defied expectations and didn’t pander. If you asked her what “No Entiendes” meant, she said, “Exactly.” We shared head spinning experiences going on road trips with that act to places like Hong Kong, and a few years ago, Anita was sent to Russia to educate the kids about the art of club DJing, which she’d pioneered as one of its first female stars.
Detroit-born Anita (who’d studied law at the University of Miami) showed a different side as a writer for magazines like Egg, Paper, Interview, and Playboy, always coming up with a distinct and pungent point of view. She was a tough broad who didn’t like being mistreated, and was vocal about those who’d done her wrong. And she knew what she liked; I was with her at a tasting when she sent back the cassoulet five times because it wasn’t hot enough—and I guess it wasn’t! But the letter she wrote before ending her life last weekend was full of love and gratitude toward those who passed her test and were special to her. And Anita also had a “country” side--a warmth and appreciation--not to mention a wonderful ability to kick off her shoes, cook, and try to relax off the nightlife-related insecurities, which added to her unique textures.
Five years ago, Anita was diagnosed with both ovarian and uterine cancers, but she was operated on and not only survived, she was declared in the clear earlier this year. But she suffered some lingering pains and also complained of the results of the hormone depletion caused by her hysterectomy. More of an issue, though, was the fact that she couldn’t find creatively satisfying work and worried about her career, feeling that various projects had reached an absolute dead end for her. I helped her with her resume and job possibilities, but she found that nothing clicked, since employers were looking for recent college grads, not old-timers with history and personality. Rejection turned to despair and, though Anita was doing work and paying her bills, she feared for her future and felt discarded and unappreciated. The last time I talked to her, I made a point of telling her she was “legit”. She was so much more than that. A brilliant woman, and I loved her more than I can say.