A ‘Saturday Night Fever’ dream

A ‘Saturday Night Fever’ dream
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

Bay Ridge burned up the dance floor — for one night only!

Brooklynites from around the borough — and even many visitors from the distant isle of Manhattan — time-travelled back to 1977 on Dec. 13 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of “Saturday Night Fever” with a dance party at the original location of 2001 Odyssey, the Bay Ridge nightclub made famous in the film, after this paper exclusively broke the story (and the Internet) with news of the party earlier this month.

The throwback night drew stars from the original film, and convincingly restored the Eighth Avenue space — now occupied by Chinese restaurant Bamboo Garden — to its former glory, according to an attendee who was born and raised in Dyker Heights and tore up the original 2001 Odyssey dance floor in his youth.

“I used to go to 2001 Odyssey when I was young,” said Michael Harkins, a disco devotee who said that even as a 9-year-old he used to sneak into the club with his mother. “Looking at the dance floor, with the people on it, it looked like the original club.”

Italian nutrition magnate and “Saturday Night Fever” superfan Gianluca Mech flew in from Rome to personally fund the event — which was free for guests to attend — to the tune of $200,000, according to the New York Post. And a pack of local organizers went all-out, installing a disco ball and recreating 2001 Odyssey’s iconic light-up dance floor, where locals busted out their best hustles, bumps, and YMCAs as disco stars Carol Douglas, Randy Jones from the Village People, and the Trammps played Tony Manero’s favorite tunes, including “Disco Inferno.

Original cast members Karen Lynn Gorney, who played John Travolta’s love interest Stephanie, and Lisa Peluso, who played his younger sister Linda, helped transport guests back to the 2001 Odyssey as they remembered it from the classic movie. And DJ Monte Rock III, who manned the club’s deejay booth and starred in the film, was also on hand.

The former owner of the club’s legendary original dance floor was among the attendees, and said that the party’s recreation helped add to the night’s vibe, but that nothing could compare to the original.

“The recreated floor was wonderful to work with, I gotta tell you,” said Vito Bruno, who helped produce the event. “There was so much more versatility in terms of the lighting effects. But the original was the original, and there’s just something about it.”

And after guests and local pols — including Borough President Adams, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R–Bay Ridge), and Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) — worked up an appetite on the dance floor, they snacked on slices from Lenny’s Pizza and sliders from White Castle to get a taste of Manero’s favorite late-night foods featured in the film.

Many guests used the free event as an excuse to go on a ’70s-themed shopping spree to make sure they looked the part, including Harkins, who donned a pink zebra-print coat, a sequin top, and patent leather pink heels, saying that he knew his outfit had to live up to the classic outfits that ’70s club-goers regularly donned for a night out in the Ridge.

“I started off conservative, then I thought, ‘I need to go flashier,’ ” Harkins said. “So I went one step ahead, and still said, ‘no, it’s not flashy enough.’ I grabbed a piece here, a piece there, and then I said, ‘this is what I’m dressing like to get back on that dance floor.’ ”

Bruno, who preserved the original dance floor, started his career at the 2001 Odyssey working at the door in 1977 — the same year the film came out — and eventually worked his way up to manager. He said he later spent years in court and racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills to fight for the dance floor after he bid on it at a badly attended auction and the auctioneers withdrew the floor to try to sell it for a higher price.

But Bruno eventually got the floor — for an amount he said he could not reveal — before selling it earlier this year through the same private auction company to an unknown buyer for $1.2 million.

Bruno said he fought so hard for the floor because it was a nostalgic reminder of his youth.

“It was sentimental — it was my first job in the entertainment business,” he said.

But the 40th anniversary party helped transport him back to the glory days of disco fever — even just for a night.

“For us that lived it and were there, it was a tremendously special moment,” he said.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.