Danny Hogg was a pro­lific graf­fiti artist whose tag, Cool “Disco” Dan, was a sym­bol of a stormy era.

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - BY MAURA JUDKIS maura.judkis@wash­post.com

Danny Hogg, the pro­lific Wash­ing­ton street artist who plas­tered the city with his tag, Cool “Disco” Dan, died of com­pli­ca­tions from di­a­betes on Wed­nes­day. He was 47.

Mr. Hogg’s tag be­came an en­dur­ing sym­bol for a city that had en­dured a lot. He was at his most pro­lific in the late ’80s and early ’90s, an era when D.C. was known as the coun­try’s “mur­der cap­i­tal” and then-Mayor Mar­ion Barry was ar­rested for us­ing crack co­caine.

“When you think of D.C.’s tur­bu­lent times, what hap­pened and where the city came from, he is an icon of that era,” said Roger Gast­man, a doc­u­men­tary film­maker who pro­duced a movie, “The Leg­end of Cool ‘Disco’ Dan,” about Mr. Hogg and the D.C. street-art scene. “There’s not many left. He’s a folk hero.”

Mr. Hogg grew up in Capi­tol Heights, Md., and spent most of his child­hood draw­ing, said his mother, Denise Wo­mack. He got his nick­name from go­ing to gogo shows and spent his teenage years spray-paint­ing that name on build­ings across the city.

“I would give my kids al­lowance for do­ing er­rands in the house, and he would use the money to buy spray cans and mark­ers,” said Wo­mack, who re­called throw­ing them in the trash when­ever she found them. “The po­lice came to our door many times — ‘Oh, your son was writ­ing on govern­ment build­ings,’ ” she said.

His graf­fiti style was “very plain, sim­ple, in your face, the bare bones of graf­fiti,” said Asad Walker, a graf­fiti artist and friend of Mr. Hogg’s. “I think the over­all D.C. style, still to this day, can be kind of sim­ple and straight­for­ward. That aes­thetic was pro­moted by him.”

In 1991, Mr. Hogg was pro­filed by Wash­ing­ton Post re­porter Paul Hen­drick­son, who ac­com­pa­nied him on a late-night tag­ging binge.

“Al­most al­ways this is an af­ter­mid­night man. He finds a wall. He Han­cocks it. He’s gone,” Hen­drick­son wrote.

Some thought he was the most pro­lific graf­fiti artist in D.C., but that wasn’t true, Gast­man said. “I bet other peo­ple had their name more. Dan just picked the best spots.”

Like along the Metro’s Red Line, where com­muters could see his tag ev­ery morn­ing. Or on the for­mer Wash­ing­ton Coli­seum. Or along the 14th Street Bridge.

“He thought long and hard about where to put it,” said Joseph Pat­ti­sall, who made the doc­u­men­tary with Gast­man. “He would go back and trace it to get it as thick and as bold as he could. He took more risk than pretty much any­body.”

He had run-ins with the cops, of course. But Mr. Hogg’s no­to­ri­ety pre­ceded him, and his re­la­tion­ship with po­lice was not en­tirely ad­ver­sar­ial. Walker re­mem­bered a time when the two of them were paint­ing graf­fiti in Edge­wood Ter­race and heard gun­shots nearby. They de­cided to leave and were walk­ing down Rhode Is­land Avenue when a po­lice cruiser passed by them and slowed down.

“I was like, man, if these cops turn around, I’m dump­ing all of these cans,” Walker said. “The cop car does a U-turn and comes back to us, and the cop is like, ‘Hey Dan!’ It was 3 a.m. The cop rec­og­nized him from be­hind. That’s how fa­mous he was.”

In per­son, Mr. Hogg was re­served and shy.

“Graf­fiti is a funny thing, be­cause you want ev­ery­one to know you, but you don’t want any­one to know you at the same time,” Pat­ti­sall said.

Mr. Hogg stopped tag­ging in the early 2000s. But he ex­pe­ri­enced a bit of a come­back in 2013. That was the year Gast­man’s doc­u­men­tary made its de­but, and an in­creas­ingly gen­tri­fied D.C. ex­pe­ri­enced a col­lec­tive nos­tal­gia for the city’s by­gone cul­ture — but a san­i­tized ver­sion of it. Cool “Disco” Dan found his work dis­played in the Cor­co­ran Gallery of Art for “Pump Me Up,” a trib­ute to D.C.’s graf­fiti and go-go cul­ture. It also briefly in­spired the name of a dough­nut shop — Cool “Disco” Donuts — which sparked an an­gry dis­cus­sion about ap­pro­pri­a­tion in a city where sev­eral white-owned res­tau­rants are named af­ter black artists.

In ad­di­tion to his di­a­betes, Mr. Hogg strug­gled with men­tal ill­ness, poverty and home­less­ness through­out his life. He didn’t at­tend some of the screen­ings of his doc­u­men­tary be­cause he couldn’t be reached. His fi­nal res­i­dence was a state-funded group home in Fair­fax, Gast­man said, who, along with Pat­ti­sall, main­tained a re­la­tion­ship with the artist af­ter their doc­u­men­tary was pro­duced.

Mr. Hogg was wary about this turn in the spot­light, but even­tu­ally warmed to it, said his friend Rosina Teri Me­molo, a lo­cal pho­tog­ra­pher who has doc­u­mented his work.

“He was al­ways happy to sign things and to make peo­ple’s day,” she said. “I think that was one of his fa­vorite things, the love that he got. I think he thrived off of that and he ap­pre­ci­ated it.”

Most of Mr. Hogg’s tags have been erased now — painted over, or gone be­cause build­ings have been re­placed by con­dos and of­fices. His friends said that in re­cent years, he had come to em­brace his legacy as D.C.’s most fa­mous street artist.

“He knows, with­out be­ing ego­tis­ti­cal, that Cool ‘Disco’ Dan is an icon of D.C.,” Gast­man said, still speak­ing in the present tense about his friend. “He knows that it has be­come larger than him­self.”


Danny Hogg in front of one of his tags in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. The lo­cal icon was known for his straight­for­ward graf­fiti style.

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