Staying Alive: Pop-Up Club Celebrates 40th Anniversary of “Saturday Night Fever” in Bay Ridge

Staying Alive: Pop-Up Club Celebrates 40th Anniversary of “Saturday Night Fever” in Bay Ridge
Dancers tore up the lighted floor while celebrating the 40th anniversary of “Saturday Night Fever” (Paul Stremple/BKLYNER)

BAY RIDGE – While bitter cold struck the borough last night, a disco inferno was burning in Bay Ridge, with a one-night-only recreation the the 2001 Space Odyssey Nightclub, which was featured in the hit movie “Saturday Night Fever.”

The brainchild of Italian TV personality Gianluca Mech, the event coincided with the 40th anniversary of the cinema classic, which portrayed the life of a young Italian-American in Bay Ridge, working by day and dancing by night. Judging from the crowd, folks were excited to celebrate.

“This is a dream come true,” said Mech, who reportedly spent more than $200,000 to make over the Bamboo Garden Chinese restaurant—which occupies the space where the original nightclub stood—for the night’s party.

“I first saw this movie as an 8-year old in Italy,” said Mech, who snuck into the film with his 16-year old sister. “It inspired me to come to New York and to dance.”

Italian TV personality Gianluca Mech talks to the press. Mech, a “Saturday Night Fever” super-fan, organized the event. (Paul Stremple/BKLYNER)

Called crazy by other kids, Mech has seen the film more than 30 times and to him, he said, it represents not only the Italian American experience in New York, but the ongoing themes of community and the immigrant experience. Mech called attention to the neighborhood, which now has a significant Chinese population, relating the struggles against racism that many different ethnic groups have faced when arriving in America.

The mood was high and local politicians—as well as disco-era celebrities—were on hand. Councilmembers Vincent Gentile, Robert Cornegy and Rafael Espinal, along with Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams rubbed shoulders with cast members and singers alike: Carol Douglas, a Bed-Stuy born disco pioneer, Randy Jones of The Village People, and movie cast member Karen Lynn Gorney.

A scrum of TV cameras and photographers barraged the VIPs with camera flashes, crowding together on the lighted floor to get a shot. “This is just like back in the day, when I was a celebrity,” said Karen Lynn Gorney, who played Stephanie in the film.

Local politicians and disco celebrities attended the event (Paul Stremple/BKLYNER)

“I can’t believe I’m here, at 79 years old,” said DJ Monte Rock, who spun records at the original 2001 Space Odyssey Club and had a role in the film. “What a time to be alive—and to tell the story of an innocent time.”

Nostalgia was on the minds of many, and while leisure-suited men and sequined woman ate slices of Lenny’s pizza and sipped champagne from plastic cups, The Trammps took to the stage to play their smash hit, “Disco Inferno,” while professional dancers tore up the floor.

As the music turned to Van McCoy’s “The Hustle,” the emcee encouraged guests onto the dance floor, a multi-colored light-up wonder that evoked the stunning original in the club.

Borough President Adams even presented a proclamation that declared Wednesday, December 13—the day of the movie’s 1977 premiere—Saturday Night Fever Day in Brooklyn.

Rafael Espinal, a City Councilmember representing Bushwick and Eastern Brooklyn, was fittingly present at the pop-up club—last month, his efforts to repeal New York’s dance-limiting “Cabaret Law” were finally signed into effect.

“Just last month it was illegal to dance without a license,” he said, celebrating the new freedom to groove. “Let New York City dance, and let Brooklyn dance!”


Sign in or become a Bklyner member to join the conversation.