The Last Disco Ball Maker

Disco balls—or mirror balls—appear to be a ubiquitous dancehall staple. Every club and party venue has one—but did you know they’re the product of a fairly niche, old timey market?

Thanks to some wonderful reporting by NBC News, there is only one American producer of disco balls. The company is Omega National Products and, within the company, there is a single woman named Yolanda “Yo Yo” Baker who is responsible for hand making these balls—and she’s been doing this since the 1970s. She’s the last mirror ball craftsman in the states. The company is responsible for making the dance floor feature popularized in Saturday Night Fever and Soul Train: they’re a strange craft service whose hand on American (and international) culture is a lot more pronounced than we give them credit for.

You’d think that after forty years of mirror ball making, Yo Yo would have some insight into the business of balls—and you’re correct: her handicraft goes for approximately $125 dollars while balls from China are selling for around $30. Obviously, the demand for balls appears to still be there but, because it can be done cheaper elsewhere, Yo Yo is only cranking out around five a week (and she bemoans the quality of these cheap balls too). To challenge perception, Yo Yo and Omega are hoping to reclaim the world record for the largest mirror ball ever, to step back into the spotlight as the world’s leading manufacturer of the product once again. Power to you, people.

The little profile is absolutely delightful, a slice of American past and present through the lens of dance music. Watch it below and marvel at Yo Yo’s quaintness.

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