MANUEL SANTANA, THE DJ DOORMAN

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Manuel Santana’s life was filled to the brim.
He was a beloved doorman, husband, father, dance maven and DJ.
Santana worked the early shift at The Chesapeake, on East 94th Street, arriving home at 3:30 p.m. in time to prepare rice and beans for his wife Marlene and their four children-Reggie, Niko, Dmitris and Bianca-before hitting the clubs to pursue his passion for music and dance.

Manuel Santana worked the early shift at The Chesapeake, on East 94th Street.

Manuel Santana worked the early shift at The Chesapeake, on East 94th Street.

Although not a morning person, according to his wife, he managed to make mornings pleasant for those at The Chesapeake.
“My son’s disabled, and he was so funny with him,” said Chesapeake resident Karel Karpe. “My son would say, ‘Where’s my bus?’ and Manny would pretend to call or join in with him as to where the bus could possibly be. That’s the way he was with all the kids-protective, teasing, tolerant.”
“Plain old fabulous,” agreed resident Mary Gaines. “Always smiling, dear, true blue.”
“He was a wonderful husband and father,” said Marlene Santana, his wife of 22 years. “He loved his daughter. She’s a daddy’s girl. And his sons-he played basketball, football and baseball with them and took them to the beach. He kept us all busy.”
Friend Wolfie Jiminez shared the doorman’s passion for music. They met by chance 13 years ago when they both wandered into the same music store.
“I missed the music,” said Jiminez, who was pining for the 1970s when he was a DJ who played disco and soul before settling into family life. Santana played “house” music-music influenced by soul- and funk-infused varieties of disco-and had a reputation on the dance floor. “Our friendship came at the right time for me,” Jiminez said. They had things in common: their age, their children, their passion for music. “We could always escape the daily grind and talk about our music. We had a bond.”
Santana’s sudden death at age 50 was a shock to everyone. He was at a club when he fell to the ground with a pain in his chest and was rushed to the hospital where he died early on Monday, June 16, the day after Father’s Day. Marlene Santana later learned that her husband wasn’t able to dance that night. “He was sick for awhile but didn’t tell me, for about a month. He didn’t like going to the doctor. He liked to dance.”
Jiminez received a voicemail from his friend the day before he died. Santana was just checking in. “He had a dream to play music online. DJing,” said Jiminez, pausing to compose himself as he spoke about the last time he heard from his music buddy. “That’s where we were left off at the end. He didn’t quite make it. He used other people’s equipment but wanted to be independent, to get the software, a laptop.”
“He was youthful because of the dancing and the music,” Jiminez added. “Music brings you back to a much more innocent time.”

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