Break out the bell bottoms–this month marks the 35th anniversary of the release of Saturday Night Fever. John Travolta launched his career playing Tony Manero, the movie’s disco-crazed main character, and the movie’s soundtrack was the vehicle for the Bee Gees’ comeback. Saturday Night Fever also put Bay Ridge on the national map.
Since the movie’s release, a lot has changed in Bay Ridge (I should know since I’ve spent most of my life here, although I was only three when the movie first came out), and not just because disco died a long time ago. A lot of the places that showed up in the film are no longer around, and Bay Ridge has become much more ethnically diverse over the years. The old school Italians and Scandinavians are still here, but there has also been an influx of residents who are Arab, Latino and Eastern European, which you can see reflected in the variety of shops and restaurants that line the streets here.
In my opinion, the strongest carry over from the movie is Bay Ridge’s character as an old-fashioned, traditional neighborhood. Compared to trendier areas like Park Slope, Cobble Hill and Williamsburg, Bay Ridge still remains middle-class and family-oriented–you’re more likely to find people who have lived in this neighborhood for a long, long time than in other parts of Brooklyn. Of course, Bay Ridge hasn’t been entirely immune from gentrification; places like the Little Cupcake Bakeshop and a newly-opened artisanal ice cream place on Third Avenue have been popping up lately, and there’s a new beer garden called The Lockyard slated to open next year.
Still there is a sense of pride that I feel for the neighborhood whenever I watch the movie and recognize familiar places. So to mark the film’s milestone, I recently decided to revisit a few recognizable spots–sans the sharp disco threads and slick hair.
Underneath the elevated subway track, Lenny’s Pizza in Bensonhurst is one of the few places from the movie that is still in existence today. It’s featured in the very beginning when Tony stops by for two slices, and then eats them sandwich-style while strutting down the streets of Bensonhurst. On my visit to Lenny’s, I wasn’t tough enough to eat two slices simultaneously while walking, so I opted to eat in. And I have to say the slice that I had was magnificent—you can feel like you’ve truly lived when you’ve had an authentic Brooklyn slice, especially in Bensonhurst–for me, any place outside of the borough just seems to pale in comparison.
There’s been a hardware store has been on 73rd Street and Fifth Avenue for as long I can remember living here. It used to be called Six Brothers, where Tony works for Mr. Fusco. In one scene that takes place inside the store Tony asks for an advance and Mr. Fusco refuses. Tony says, “Oh fuck the future,” to which Fusco responds, “No, Tony! You can’t fuck the future. The future fucks you! It catches up with you and it fucks you if you ain’t planned for it!”
I must have passed by this house between 3rd Avenue and Ridge Boulevard many times without knowing that it was the home of Tony’s traditional Italian family—the façade is different now than in the movie. As fans remember, this is where all the family tensions take place: the arguments between Tony and his parents, and the return of Tony’s brother Frank, who has left the priesthood and the scene where Tony implores his father to, “watch the hair!” It’s also where Tony combs that mane and dons his disco gear before heading out to the 2001 Odyssey Club with his pals.
Nowadays, it’s just a large commercial building that, among other businesses, is home to a Chinese restaurant, but 802 64th Street used to be the 2001 Odyssey Club. Nik Cohn’s wrote about it in a 1976 story for New York Magazine, “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night,” which inspired the movie. It’s the club where Tony reigns as undisputed champ of the dance floor with his electrifying moves. According to the “Back to Bay Ridge” featurette on the Saturday Night Fever DVD, the place turned into a gay club called Spectrum in 1987 and then finally closed eight years later.
This is the studio where Tony formally introduces himself to Stephanie and where the two practice for the big dance contest at the Odyssey. According to this movie locations website the place is still in business, but when I went to visit there recently, it seemed boarded up–there was no sign above the door and the facade was covered in graffiti.
If there’s one place that appears in the movie that I most wish was still around it would be the White Castle on 92nd Street in Fort Hamilton (don’t judge me). In one scene, Tony, his rowdy friends, and Stephanie hang out for a bite to eat. I remember eating there whenever I was visiting the shopping strip on 86th Street, but it shut down in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s and was turned into an office complex that included a Uno Chicago. Bay Ridge has a KFC, Burger King, Pudgie’s, Nathan’s and McDonald’s today, but I still miss that White Castle.
The Verrazano Bridge–the longest suspension bridge in the world, which connects Brooklyn to Staten Island–looms large in the film. It’s one of the first things we see as the movie begins; it’s what Tony and Stephanie stare at while sitting on a bench, dreaming their big dreams; and it’s on the bridge that tragedy strikes near the film’s end. Opened in 1964, the bridge was just over a decade old when the film was released.
When Tony and Stephanie go on their coffee date, they passed by what was then the Grand Union supermarket on 92nd Street and Fifth Avenue, which I don’t think I’ve ever been inside of. Today, it’s a giant Staples store. And if you look carefully, the couple also passes by Kelly’s Tavern, which is still around, after having coffee.
What would a movie that takes place in Brooklyn—or New York for that matter—be without a subway scene? In the film, Tony rides the train alone all night after the horrific sequence of events on the bridge. Back then, the R was known as the RR and I wouldn’t be surprised if the service was as slow as it is now. As evidenced by the movie, the old subways cars were drab and full of graffiti–today’s cars seem sleek and modern in comparison, and you definitely can’t smoke on them anymore.
As someone who grew up here, in a neighborhood that often feels like a small town, I can understand and identify with Tony’s restlessness–the idea of wanting to do something bigger and better. Bay Ridge is for the most part a safe, well-to-do area if you want to settle down and raise a family. It’s seems like a totally different world, tucked away from Manhattan or from its northern Brooklyn neighbors, as Stephanie emphasizes time and time again in the film. Then again, as Tony replies to Stephanie, “Hey, you know Bay Ridge ain’t the worse part of Brooklyn…I mean, you know, it ain’t like a hell hole or nothing.”
Hi David, great article, I grew up in Bay Ridge and was there when this movie was shot. You may be interested in a movie I wrote and directed called WHITE IRISH DRINKERS, set in 1975 and shot in Bay Ridge. It stars Stephen Lang and Karen Allen. Here’s the website with a trailer: http://whiteirishdrinkersthemovie.com/
Hi John, I *loved* White Irish Drinkers! Quite authentic.
How ironic. I grew up exactly in that neighborhood, went to all the places they filmed the movie and grew up to be a John Travolta lookalike impersonator. Now, all I do is imitate him imitating me. You can read my bio at my website. http://www.JohnTravoltalookalike.com
Are you sure thats the house of the family??? Looks to me like a complete rebuild. I’d say it was more like the house on the same side, the second one down from the apartment blocks
yes, i can confirm that the house was completly rebuildind
The house wasn’t rebuilt and the foyer, living room, and dinning room were kept in tact and refurbished outta appreciation for the movie.
Yes it is, my grandmother lives right across the street. My mom met Travolta when they were filming
Correction, the house was redone not rebuilt. Obviously the outer part of the house was redone but the inside foyer, livingroom, and dinning room was kept in tact and restored. The house is beautiful inside and outside with every amenity imaginable. Through the years many people have knocked on the door to ask if it was the Saturday Night Fever House. With joy, they were always shown what they came to see. The house may be up for sale soon. Stay tuned!!!
I’m living in Belgium and one of my dream will be to visit New york, because when i was young, i identify myself in toni Manero…and also most of my friend. I’ll visit bay ridge and i want thank you for the details you put into the site. I ‘m sorry for my poor english but i m trying to do my best.
The former Odyssey turned gay in 1984, and closed its doors in 2001. Doesn’t anyone fact check any more?
It’s an office building now w/ a Chinese restaurant on the first floor. that whole strip of 8th Ave. is Brooklyn’s Chinatown now. Bay Ridge Bowling Lanes is also gone. the 1970’s were beautiful then.
For 10 years I lived about a block away from the corner of where the club was — and left right before the doors of Spectrum closed. NOTE TO EDITOR: it actually closed in 2005, not in 1995. You are off by a decade! Please correct for your readers. Here is the NY Times article about it:
I used to pass by Spectrum almost every day then, and was enamored by its connection to the movie. So one day, I went inside, and yes, stood on those famous plexiglass tiles. Must have been the only straight dude there that night.
Funny, I make movies professionally now, so this had come full circle.
Great article David, I actually practiced at Phillips Dance Studio when it was open a few years ago when I lived in Brooklyn. The inside was EXACTLY as it was in the movie down to the booth seating and ballet bars. I’m surprised someone hasn’t declared it a heritage site.
I noticed on google earth the dance studio is surrounded by an Asian vegetable food mart , is there a way to see inside the dance studio ? I live 10 hours away, please find out if you can go downstairs and take pictures if it’s pretty much the same, Thanks Mike….
Wow this brings back so many memories. All good. Every weekend my friends and I would get all dolled up to go to the odyssey., and then who would think that great film would be filmed there. It was an awesome movie I sure wish those days were back.
so i started looking into this movie because i watched wolf of wall street and jordan belfort mentions that bay ridge is “saturday night fever territory”. Having lived in bay ridge for the bette part of a decade it got me curious. I had seen the movie as a kid but i hadn’t even visited brooklyn at that point. Anyway, i watched the movie and recognized almost every scene. Hell, Tony Montero’s house is almost butted up right behind mine. I recommend riding by there at night. The owner got cute and made the address illuminate at night the same red that is used in the opening sequence.
I really liked the article and loved the movie. I remember my boy was 10 at the time and wanted to see it, but I didn’t let him go because of all the language. Little did I know most movies from then on carried the same language. I think the first movie we saw together was ‘Raging Bull’ 3 years later. ,yea, I know…… Anyway, sorry I am rambling……….. It’s a small point, but I remember it said several times the ‘Bee Gees’ come-back started in 1975 with the song Berry wrote called ‘Jive-Talkin’. I’m getting old now, long past ‘Senior Citizen so there is a good to fair chance I am mistaken. Any comments appreciated.
Thanks for writing this article. I’m a big fan of movies, a fan of Saturday Night Fever, and John Travolta and I’m always interested in seeing the location spots. If ever in Bay Ridge, I’ll for sure go to Lenny’s Pizza.
Still a GREAT movie.
But the only thing that still sticks in my craw?
Brooklyn people would laugh him right off the floor with those corny moves!
What, even in 1977?
I thought the White Castle scene was filmed at the White Castle that was located on stillwell ave?
No it was definitely filmed on the corner of 92nd street and fourth ave in Bay Ridge next to the old Harbor Theater
Just read your article. Thank you for keeping 2001 Odyssey alive. The members of the club are still around dancing at other venues around the world. Our own Raphie Dee is now making guest appearences at all the clubs, and of course the manager of the club Philip Eskow is now the CEO of 2001 odyssey disco events, which is a talent and promotion company booking agency. We hope that you will all be around for our 45 years 2001 odyssey disco reunion party sometime in the summer of 2015.
The 2001 Odyssey Disco is having a big Reunion party at Z One lounge 1822 Richmond ave. On STATEN ISLAND N.Y. March 28 Saturday at 9 p.m.
2001 Odyssey Dj Ralphie Dee will spin that night and a John Travolta look a like will be dancing on the floor.
It’s free admission no cover charge free parking . bring your cameras all the crew from 2001 will be there.
Loved the article, thank u so much! Actually I’m also a brooklynite but grew up in the crown heights section closer to the Brooklyn museum, prospect park and the botanic gardens! Yes Brooklyn has definately changed, some for the better and some not! However I use to go to that same club when it was spectrums! Even though I’m not gay( nothing wrong with being gay) , I use to accompany my sister who is gay! I use to have a blast in there! I just asked my sister what the name of the club was because I forgot and I googled it, got you! Lol thanks again, lived the article!
I love love loved this movie and the whole era. My family came from that area in Brooklyn. Those were the days of dancing and good music. That movie was fantastic!!!!
The place that Danny and Stephanie eat was Fisherman’s Corner it was located on 92nd street at the cross of 4th and 5th ave. (located down the block from the old White Castles)it is now a car dealership. I grew up in Bay Ridge and the actors in the car and crew stopped on my block on 93rd and shore road to set up the shot of the car driving along shore road. The actors including Travolta stayed in the car the entire time while my friends and I peered in the car.
Sorry correct location of Fisherman’s Corner was 94th street right on the triangle of 4th and 5th ave
Called Signature Auto Group 9265 4th ave
Sad the way the old places changed..When I watch the movie
Saw movie at sunrise drive in w my babies sleeping in the back seat. It was and will always be my favorite movie. Of course I went to the disco!! Best times of my life!! It’s on tv tonight and I always watch it over n over!!
I also watch it over and over, the movie reminds me of myself in the late seventies, going to clubs while my girlfriend went to college.
Instead of just talking about these great Bay Ridge locations like the 92nd St White Castle and the Fisherman’s Corner restaurant why doesn’t somebody post some old pictures showing these long gone establishments? How about somebody posting a photo of the old Yankee Diner which is now the Car Wash at 93rd St and 4th or the gas station which is now the Dunkin Doughnuts? Come on people go up to the attic or down to the basement and dig up some of those old Bay Ridge neighborhood photos from the 70’s.
I Love, Love, Love Saturday Night Fever. I get so nastalgic whenever I watch the movie. Oh What A Feeling ! I wished I would have visited the neighborhood back then. But I will be visiting very soon…. John did ya hear about the big fan who’s supposedly paying $200k to restore the floor of 2001 Odyssey ?……. Please Do Not Take Down My Reply…….Thank You
Does anyone know if Phillips Dance Studio is still the same, I know it shut down but the upper part was renovated, I was wondering if the lower part where the movie took place has the same look or if anyone can go inside, I was there 8 years ago the stair way leads to the lower portion where the movie was shot and there’s stairs that go up where I believe there’s a business.
Does anyone know what ever happened to the 1964 Impala from the movie…
club was called 802 when i proposed and gave the ring to my know wife for 60 years 61 in april
I viewed the movie“SaturdayNightFever”in Dec.1977.I rejected its dramatization of Disco.I couldn’t relate&refused to accept it as plausible.It conflicted w/my own firsthand experiences in the NYCdisco-scene which had begun in Sept.1976 at reclusive underground clubs to exclusive uptown clubs.At 19yrs,I was too arrogant&entitled to not recognize that Disco reached beyond the geography of Manhattan to the’bridge&tunnel’population of an Italian working-class neighborhood:BayRidge,Bklyn,at a futuristic structure that heterosexuals(exclusively represented in the movie)succumbed to the same disco-bug that infected me.Researching the authenticity of the NYMagazine article by NikCohn entitled ‘TribalRites of theNewSaturdayNight’,the basis of the movie’s storyline,activated some credence to the movie that Disco was not just where I had myself danced.I had to accept that my elitism had skewed my opinion of what had become a favorite movies to revisit w/poignant moments of both sentimentality(my eyes tearing when TonyManero relinquishes the winning dance trophy to the hugely more talented Latino couple exhibiting a far superior display of the tango/hustle)&cringeworthy dialogue(Stephanie’s sincere sobfest“You don’t know what it’s like working in that office,Tony.People ask me questions&all I can say is‘I don’t know,I don’t know,I don’t know…’”).Immortal. It wasn’t until 2002 that I visited the actual club&film location‘2001 Odyssey’,still in operation as a gay-club‘Spectrum’.I lived in hip Williamsburg,had a car,&was adventurous enough to convince others to accompany me to the actual Disco that begun as a mag.article evolving into a movie that induced a Disco-fad.When I located the futuristic&unique but dated 30yr.old club in an obscure industrial-section of the still Italian neighborhood,it was like visiting the delusional but surviving silent-moviestar NormaDesmond on SunsetBlvd.’Spectrum’was in a time-warp.The existing on-location filmset was still standing(JackieOnassis would have advocated it be granted’historical landmark’status like GrandCentralStation),every architectural detail was still intact,albeit a little worse for wear.The DJbooth,Plexiglas multicolored flashing-light dancefloor,theater-like tiered observation area divided by a wrought-iron railing once populated w/tables for those timid or taking a respite from the crowd&energy of the main dancefloor were all now void of any furniture,spectators&dancers to fill the now empty club.The annex bar where Tony escaped to get a drink to cool off from the social pressure while a low beat song“If ICan’tHaveYou”sung by YvonneEllman,providing slow rhythm to a barely grinding topless female dancer perched on a tiny shelf was intact.My visits from Williamsburg/Spectrum were fueled by the fantasy that I,w/my Manhattan pedigree would find a studly working-class ItalianStallion,much like the homoerotic images the director(there were too many to give credit to)of“SaturdayNightFever”that teased male&female members of the movieaudience with Tony’s blackbikini scenes&softer emotional moments(trying to rescue a suicidal member of his entourage providing homoerotic tension).I never met anyone at’Spectrum’for the year I frequented.RIP 2001Odyssey/Spectrum.
Unfortunatley I wasn’t born in the 70’s, I was born in 1991, but if I’d been alive then I would have defintely gone there. I love the Bee Gees and John Travolta and it’s one of my favorite movies ever!! It’s shocking that they were allowed to demolish such an iconic building. Were there no developers that saw the potential of re-opening it as a brand new club? Idiots.
I agree, another is the dance studio, look at it now, these locations should have been preserved, Saturday Night Fever is one of my all time favorite movies and I love the Bee Gees, perfect combination ! I have been trying to find out if you could go to the dance studio, I know the surrounding area is a vegetable market but what about the stairs that go down to the studio, can you go down the stairs ? I know the studio closed several years ago but I would love to visit it if the owner would let you, let me know if you can go there , I live in Johnson City Tn., it’s not that easy to visit the location, Thanks Mike…..