When disco arrived it changed a lot of things. It changed the kind of music people listened to; changed the way they danced and changed the places they went out to at night. The movie that made everyone want to disco was the ever popular “Saturday Night Fever” which came out in 1977. The movie soundtrack went platinum and the music was fantastic you heard it practically everywhere you went. If you are puzzled as to what I’m talking about then you missed out on an incredible time and if you are smiling and nodding then don’t you want to get up and disco once again? Of course it was always thought that you either loved or hated disco but it is now a part of music history.
The hits from the movie included the Bee Gees “Stayin’ Alive” and Yvonne Elliman’s “If I Can’t Have You”. The interesting thing is that this movie would never have seen the light of day if it hadn’t been for a magazine article. The article was about an Italian-American disco dancer and his entourage in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York titled “The Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night,” written by journalist Nik Cohn. It was published in New York Magazine. So the idea was born and the starring role in “Saturday Night Fever” went to John Travolta.
John Travolta in the role of Tony Manero made everyone want to be part of the disco scene and guys wanted to dance and strut just like him. He was so exciting in the way he dressed, to his larger than life status at a local disco and his dreams of finally escaping from the life he was living to something bigger and better. The fashion cry became platform shoes and white three-piece suits. Everything went according to the great imagery that Cohn had provided in his article. What was the problem? The problem was making it all seem so very real because the story was actually almost entirely fabricated.
However I’ll tell you once you sat in that darkened movie theater and had the awesome music of such Bee Gees hits like “More Than a Woman” blasting in your ears you were caught by the disco fever and you had stars in your eyes. I watched Travolta dancing and I thought to myself pure disco magic. I knew I couldn’t afford to go to a disco night after night but I did know that I would go as often as I could. I was never any good at disco dancing but I sure had a fun time. Anyway what was actually real was that there was a 2001 Odyssey discotheque in By Ridge, Brooklyn. That was my neighborhood and that was all I needed to know. So off to the disco I went. I remember that lighted up dance floor and the disco ball throwing rainbow colors all about. However I was sadly disappointed because without Travolta as Tony out on the dance floor and without all that Hollywood movie magic it was a bit disappointing.
I highly recommend anyone who would like to see this movie to find it and watch it. It is well worth it for the dancing and the music. Anyway yes, most of it happened in my Bay Ridge neighborhood and therefore I have a feeling of homesickness writing this. Let’s take a walk in the footsteps of Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever”.
The opening of the movie has us gazing at Travolta casually picking up a double-decker pizza at Lenny’s Pizza on 86th Street at 20th Avenue in the bordering neighborhood of Bensonhurst and swaggering on down the street. Trust me I’ve tried that move and with a pizza it doesn’t work for me. However you can give it a try since Lenny’s is still open and selling pizza today.
Tony in the movie worked at Bay Ridge Home Center at 7305 Fifth Avenue at 73rd Street. It has changed somewhat but is still a hardware store.
Next stop is Phillips School of Dancing at 1301 West Seventh Street at Bay Parkway, Bensonhurst. This is where Tony met his new dancing partner Stephanie Mangano played by Karen Lynn Gorney. You can still learn to dance there.
Two establishments are long gone. One is the White Castle on 92nd Street between Third and Fourth Avenues in Bay Ridge. This was where Tony and his friends would go. It was also the place I loved to go as it was open 24 hours. The second is the coffee bar which Tony and Stephanie visit and it’s now a Mazda dealership on Fifth Avenue at 94th Street.
You can still see the house which counted as the home of Tony Manero and his family. It’s located at 221 79th Street in Bay Ridge. Must of walked past there hundreds of times but Travolta was no longer there.
The 2001 Odyssey was located at 802 64th Street and Eighth Avenue in Bay Ridge. It was just a short distance from where I lived on 70th Street near 3rd Avenue. It has been demolished. I would have like it to have been left as an icon from the disco days a symbol of “Saturday Night Fever”.
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And of course the fabulous Verrazano Narrows Bridge can still be seen which was featured in the closing moments of the movie. I still remember that I could see the lights of the bridge in the distance from my window and I dreamed of disco magic.