Judy Russell was born in NYC in 1956 and grew up in the Bronx. She was always into music and started sneaking into clubs at age fourteen. In 1980, she was invited to the Paradise Garage and her life was changed forever. She and her best friend Manny Lehman quickly became close with Larry Levan, and part of the inner circle and the volunteer staff. She and Manny also began working at Charlie Grappone’s legendary Vinylmania record shop from 1980-1987, where all the the Garage heads went to buy the records they heard Larry play. Judy and Manny were instrumental in steering Vinylmania, initially a rock record shop, in the direction of underground dance music that came to make it famous.
After leaving Vinylmania in 1987 Judy worked for Abigail Adams at Movin’ Records for a year before joining co-owners Frank and Karen Mendez at the essential NYC house label Nu Groove Records (founded in 1988). There she co-ran the label with Frank and Karen, touring with artists overseas, and helping Kenny Dope and Bobby Konders launch successful sub-labels, DopeWax and Massive B, both their first label ventures. When Frank and Karen sold Nu Groove, Judy moved to Downtown161, running much of both the label and distribution sides of the business for owner Linda Perrone.
In 2013, things took a turn for the worse for Judy. Downtown161 closed and Judy became very ill. She was in and out of the hospital, unable to work, and eventually lost her apartment. Her health finally stabilized, but having spent her savings on medical and basic expenses, she found herself without a job, and struggling to get by. Being a person who has always worked hard for everything she had, and taken care of herself from an early age, she was very hesitant to ask her friends for help. She didn’t want to be a burden to anyone. But sometimes we all need a helping hand.
That’s where I came into the picture. I met Judy, fatefully, in the summer of 2016 when I ran a pop-up record shop on 7th avenue and 16th street, around the corner from where Judy lived. We immediately connected over mutual musical friends, and a shared interest in the history of the underground dance scene in nyc, a history that I had only read about. She had lived it. I happened to be there in the right place at the right time to help her save her personal belongings, including an amazing collection of Paradise Garage and Vinylmania memorabilia (which was featured in Love Injection’s exhibition at White Columns Gallery in 2017) when she, sick and in the hospital, was cruelly and illegally evicted by her landlord. Then she got transferred and simultaneously lost her phone and all her contacts, her only way to reach me and her huge network of friends and former colleagues. Eventually, after a year or more, she finally tracked me down on facebook. She still doesn’t feel comfortable asking her friends for help, but the truth is that she needs our help to get back on her feet.
So, I approached Paul and Barbie at Love Injection about interviewing her for the zine, and also launching an online fundraising campaign and benefit party to raise money, and to raise awareness about her situation and they jumped at the opportunity to help. In an ideal world, we can provide seed money for her to get herself situated in a new apartment and find a new job. After all that she has given to us and to this culture, I felt like it was the least I could do. Your generous donations, words of encouragement, and apt an/or job tips are all appreciated.
Please share this link across your social media or directly with anyone you know who knows Judy, loves this culture, or just might want to help. The more we share it, the more we can all multiply the impact we have and make it possible to reach our fundraising goal.
If you have any leads on an affordable room, apartment, or a job to offer, please mention that in your comment and we will contact you.
Thank you so much! And thank you for helping me to help a friend in need.
With love and gratitude,
P.S. For those of you in NYC, we are also going to have a benefit party at the Panther Room at Output on Thursday, April 12 from 6-10pm. Tony Humphries & DJ Spinna and more djs TBA!!! Save the date! Judy will be there! Please RSVP at https://www.facebook.com/events/2037625846559688/
P.P.S. If you are not able to attend and would like to leave a short video message for Judy, you can do it very easily using this link https://www.tribute.co/judyrussell/
. The short videos will be compiled into a compilation and delivered to Judy.