Dancing can bring people together and, for a time, the predominant style of dance was disco.
In Lebanon County, that meant Stan’s Disco, which has captured the imagination of local residents and given them an outlet to “shake their groove thing” for nearly five decades.
Stan’s Disco has positively impacted an entire generation of local residents, and in some small way continues to impart that same influence. Not only did it create great memories and lifelong relationships, Stan’s Disco was a way of life that helped make Lebanon a better place to live.
But the story of Stan’s Disco could not be told without telling the personal story of the man behind it: the incomparable showman, Stan Horst. Through vision and persistence, Horst has managed to provide the locale with entertainment, physical recreation and fellowship for nearly 50 years.
“All I can say is that I’m a better person from knowing all the friends I got to meet,” said Horst, a 71-year-old Lebanon resident. “I got to know a lot of good people, and that’s coming from my heart. I have nothing but good memories. I did so many of them (disco dance parties) over the years. I just love to see people have fun.”
At an event in October, Horst said he will pull the plug on the business after one last hurrah – a big event more than a year down the road.
“That night I announced that I was going to do one more, the people just surrounded me,” he added. “It was an emotional night. Some of the stories they told me, I just couldn’t believe. I always wanted to see a full dance floor and everybody having fun. That’s what I was all about.”
From modest beginnings in the early 1970s – when disco was born through some inexplicable molding of Motown, rock ‘n’ roll and pop musical influences – Stan’s Disco’s 15 minutes of local fame is now beginning to wind down. At the time, not even Horst could’ve predicted the path it would lead him down, because the nightspot took on a life of its own.
“Stan’s Disco was kind of an accident,” said Horst. “Some of the local establishments weren’t having (live) bands anymore, so they’d have music pumped in, and I thought to myself, ‘I’d like to try it.’ Disco wasn’t there yet. I remember one night at the Sho Bar (in Lebanon), we had a staring contest. Someone from the audience yelled out, ‘If I want to listen to records, I’ll go home.’
“It was more like a record hop than a disco. After about eight weeks like that, we started to get our groove on. It got fuller and fuller and fuller, until they were standing at the door waiting for someone else to leave before they came in. I started turning away jobs. Then I asked some of my friends to spin records for me, and I got up to eight DJs.”
Horst’s popularity was rooted in record hops hosted by many of the Lebanon County high schools, and then in 1974 he struck a deal with Lebanon Catholic High School to host an under-21 club in the Beavers’ auditorium/gymnasium. Stan’s Disco Scene regularly drew some 1,300 young adults, before moving to the former Robert Hall building in Annville two years later, where it conducted dance parties on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
“I was always thinking about what else I could do to keep the under-21 people occupied,” said Horst, who was 23 when he founded Stan’s Disco. “We were pretty strict. We told the kids they couldn’t leave and come back in. I was very considerate of my neighbors and all the council people were behind me. Everybody was very supportive. Throughout the years, there were people growing up dancing together. People asked me, ‘Did you ever have any trouble?’ Nope.
“Disco had a definitive, delivered beat,” he continued. “It had the thumping, and it was very repetitive. It may have been easier to dance to. The beat of it is very memorable.”
During its heydays of the 1970s, Horst conducted DJ-ed disco dance parties at various locations in and outside of the county, including Pushnik’s, the Colonial Theater, the Treadway Inn, local fire halls, the Lebanon Valley Fairgrounds and Expo Center and later at the Eagles’ Hall, under such titles as Stan’s Disco Scene, Stan’s Disco Nights and Stan’s Disco Review, just to name a few. By the early 1980s, disco was going out of style and Stan’s Disco’s local popularity and influence began to wane.
Over the years, Horst and his DJs have appeared at over 6,200 local functions.
“We were all over the place,” said Horst. “I’d say we were still in full swing in ’81. But I was starting to get burned out at that time. I remember sitting out at the pool and saying to my wife, ‘The accountant wants me to invest in something or start closing down some of the discos.’ I said, ‘I’m tired’ and dropped some of the discos. Stan’s Discos did make me money back then, but I kept putting it back into the business.
“It might have started out as a side hustle. But I decided I was going to go into the DJ business full-time. It was scary, but I did it. One day I was at work, and I said, ‘You don’t need me here. I’m going to go and do my thing.’ I gave my notice and told myself, ‘I’ve got to make it.’”
Horst returned to local entertainment relevancy in the early 2000s, with Stan’s Disco throwback, revival and remembrance dance parties, as well as New Year’s Eve bashes. All well-received and attended, the dances served as living proof that Horst’s popularity has stood the test of time.
“They just remember all the fun they had growing up,” said Horst. “That’s how I grew the deep roots with people. Stan’s Disco was their place. Now when we have the dances, it’s the children of the children who went to Stan’s Disco who are coming. They’ve heard their parents talk about how Stan’s Disco got so full at Lebanon Catholic.
“Everyone is always asking me, ‘How long can you keep doing this, Stan?’ I tell them, ‘You’ll know when I’m done.’ I feel so fortunate.”
Six heart attacks, a stroke and a quadruple bypass procedure later, and Horst is prepared to put actions to Donna Summer’s 1978 pop hit “Last Dance.” At his most recent “And the Beat Goes On” dance at the Eagles Hall on Oct. 23, Horst announced that Stan’s Disco’s final swan song will be on March 25, 2023, at a dance at Eagles Hall.
It will mark the close of 50 years in the business, according to a message on the Stan’s Disco Scene page on Facebook.
“My kids told me, ‘You’re not the Stan of the ’70s,’” he said. “They are afraid because of all the heart attacks. They’re very protective of me. But I feel like I’m being put out to pasture, sorta speak.
“I do think it’s been a success. Sometimes at the dances I’ll go out into the audience, and people will be grabbing me and wanting to get pictures with me. I can feel the love.”
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