Dance floor sizzles at Saturday Night Fever bash

Italian businessman Gianluca Mech hosts a 40th anniversary party for Saturday Night Fever at the site of the original discotheque where the movie was filmed.
Italian businessman Gianluca Mech hosts a 40th anniversary party for Saturday Night Fever at the site of the original discotheque where the movie was filmed.PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK • Well, you could tell by the way he used his walk that this was not Mr Eric L. Adams' first time at a disco.

Wearing red plaid pants and a maroon textured blazer over an open-collar shirt, Mr Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, darted between two partners as the dance floor changed colours and the sounds of Tavares' 1975 hit, It Only Takes A Minute, boomed through the speakers.

"I loved disco. Had my best nights out with just a group of friends who enjoyed dancing, enjoyed having a good drink and enjoyed meeting very attractive ladies on the dance floor," said Mr Adams, 57. "It was just a good era."

The scene was part of a celebration on Wednesday night of the 40th anniversary of Saturday Night Fever at the former site of 2001 Odyssey, the discotheque in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where the film starring John Travolta was filmed.

The movie debuted in New York City on Dec 12, 1977, according to movie website IMDb.

Mr Gianluca Mech, an Italian businessman, spent more than US$200,000 (S$270,000) to re-create the famous disco from what is now a Chinese restaurant, Bamboo Garden, if only for one night - just to honour a movie that he said changed his life after he sneaked in to watch it with his sister in Italy when he was eight years old.

"When I feel a little tired, when I feel I cannot have success with what I want to do, I watch this film once more and I feel strong again," said Mr Mech, who sported a custom-made Dolce & Gabbana designed version of the white three-piece suit made famous in the movie by Travolta.

Instead of bell bottoms, the US$5,000 suit was tapered at the legs and perfectly met the tops of a pair of shiny patent leather shoes. All around the makeshift club, enough men sported versions of Travolta's white ensemble that it felt like 1977 all over again.

But this is not Tony Manero's Brooklyn. The once Italian, Irish and German enclave is now a bastion for Chinese immigrants.

There are at least five Chinese restaurants and two Chinese grocers along the three-minute walk from the Eighth Avenue N train stop to the former site of 2001 Odyssey.

The sign for the Maimonides Cancer Centre is also written in Chinese characters. And the house on 79th Street that served as Manero's home in the movie is on the market for US$2.5 million.

The dance party, however, was about reminiscing, as Mr Adams proclaimed the day Saturday Night Fever Day in Brooklyn.

Back for the evening was Karen Lynn Gorney, who played Stephanie, the girlfriend of Travolta's character in the movie.

The Trammps performed their hit song, Disco Inferno, and Carol Douglas, whose name appeared on the marquee of the club in the movie, also sang. Lenny's Pizza, still on 86th Street in Bensonhurst, was served free all night.

Mr Joseph Curcio and his sister Elizabeth appeared in many of the movie's dance scenes.

"Him, he had a whole head of hair," Ms Elizabeth Curcio, 61, a retired hospitality worker, said when asked if people still recognised them. "It was all about dancing for us and getting a new outfit every week."

The pair frequented the 2001 Odyssey when a casting director noticed their moves and invited them for a tryout.

"It was exactly like the movie - segregated. There was racial tension. They juiced up the sex in the cars, though," Mr Curcio, 58, a hairstylist, said of the movie. "It was the greatest experience of my life."

The film, which follows Travolta's character Manero as he spends most weekends dancing at the disco while dreaming about a brighter future for himself, is a cult classic closely associated with Brooklyn.

Randy Jones, the cowboy from the Village People, said the 2001 Odyssey was the site of the group's first live performance in February 1978 after Saturday Night Fever began making the club famous.

"There's a lot of people from that era who are not around anymore," Jones said after performing.

"That's why it's your duty to represent the good times and good feelings of your youth."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2017, with the headline 'Dance floor sizzles at Saturday Night Fever bash'. Print Edition | Subscribe