Saturday Night Fever 30th Anniversary

Excess Hollywood: ’30 Years of ‘Saturday Night Fever’

“Saturday Night Fever” premiered Dec. 14, 1977, and defined the moment disco held in popular culture. Director John Badham’s snapshot of the 1970s disco craze, set in gritty pre-Giuliani New York, tells the story of 19-year-old Tony Manero (John Travolta, in the role that made him a film star) and his pals, whose lives revolve around Saturday nights at a Brooklyn disco. Polyester shirts, big hair, thumping music, touch-dancing, sexual promiscuity and the drug subculture were all part of the disco scene and “SNF” captured it all. Disco was dead by the 1980s but the movie remains a classic.

Text by Frank Mastropolo (AP)

(Fotos International/Courtesy Getty Images)
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John Travolta

Arguably his best role, Travolta’s Tony Manero is a paint store clerk by day (his walking scene carrying paint that opens the film as “Stayin’ Alive” plays is unforgettable) but Tony’s the king of Saturday night on the dance floor of the 2001 Odyssey disco, worshiped by his pals and pursued by the girls. White, wide-lapelled suit, immaculate hair (“Will you just watch the hair? I work on my hair a long time”), in love with a secretary working in Manhattan, Tony is a working-class guy looking for something else, something better. Today Travolta is bigger than ever (and I do mean bigger), starring in 2007’s “Hairspray.”

(Fotos International/Courtesy Getty Images)
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Studio 54

Named for its address on Manhattan’s 54th St., Studio 54, left, was the creation in 1977 of flamboyant Steve Rubell, right, and his low-keyed partner, Ian Schrager, to his left. Entry to the disco was closely guarded by Rubell, where celebs like Mick Jagger, Debbie Harry, Halston and Andy Warhol were regulars. The club was notorious for rampant drug use and sexual encounters in the balcony areas. The club closed soon after Rubell and Schrager were arrested in 1979 and later jailed for skimming cash in a tax-evasion scheme. Rubell, 45, died in 1985 and Schrager has continued a successful career as a hotelier and real estate developer.

(Courtesy Getty Images)
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Bee Gees

As you watch how tightly woven the Bee Gees’ songs are to “SNF’s” action, it’s hard to believe Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb never saw a script from producer Robert Stigwood before recording “Stayin’ Alive,” “How Deep is Your Love,” and “Night Fever,” (all No. 1 singles) as well as composing “More Than a Woman” for Tavares and “If I Can’t Have You” for Yvonne Elliman. The “SNF” soundtrack became the biggest-selling soundtrack in history and the high point in the Gibb brothers’ long career. After Maurice’s unexpected death in 2003, the “Bee Gees” name was retired. Barry and Robin today continue to perform independently and with other artists.

(Michael Ochs Archives/Courtesy Getty Images)
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Donna Summer

Called the “Queen of Disco,” Donna Summer teamed with pioneering producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte in 1975 for the notorious “Love to Love You Baby,” a 17-minute-long track that featured Summers’ orgasmic moans and groans. Though banned by some radio stations as too explicit, it still became a huge hit. Summers cranked out hits like “I Feel Love,” “Bad Girls” and “Dim All the Lights” well into the 1980s. Summers appeared in 1978’s “Thank God It’s Friday,” a ripoff of “SNF” that critics (rightfully) attacked like mad dogs. This year, Summers was nominated for inclusion by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

(Fotos International/Courtesy Getty Images)
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Village People

French composer Jacques Morali created the Village People, which broke out in 1978 with the hit “Macho Man.” Famous for the different costumes each member wore (an American Indian, a construction worker, a sailor, a biker, a cowboy and a police officer), the group’s name is a nod to the gay community of New York’s Greenwich Village. Cop and lead singer Victor Willis wrote all the group’s hits, which included “In the Navy” and their biggest smash, “YMCA.” The group appeared in the 1980 film/nuclear bomb “Can’t Stop the Music.” The Village People still performs, but all of the original members have been replaced.

(Courtesy AP Photos)
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KC and the Sunshine Band

Formed in 1973 by lead singer Harry Wayne Casey (“KC”) and bassist Richard Finch, Miami’s KC and the Sunshine Band produced funky, danceable disco hits like “That’s the Way (I Like It),” “I’m Your Boogie Man” and their first smash, “Get Down Tonight.” KC’s “Boogie Shoes,” originally a B-side to “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty,” was re-released and became a hit after it was included in the “SNF” soundtrack. After a long hiatus (and a split with Finch), KC came out of retirement. The band appeared in the 2003 film “The In-Laws” and is back performing its catchy, high-energy hits.

(Michael Ochs Archives/Courtesy Getty Images)
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Rod Stewart

By the late 1970s, disco was no longer just music spun by DJs in dance clubs; thanks to the success of “SNF,” major record labels were now marketing disco to the masses. When rocker Rod Stewart released 1978’s disco-influenced “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy,” it became a number one hit for four weeks. But hard-core rock fans criticized Stewart as a sellout, deserting his bluesy roots for disco. Stewart wasn’t the only one catching flak; the Stones (“Miss You”) and Paul McCartney (“Silly Love Songs”) also produced danceable disco hits in 1978. Though his audience is getting creakier, Stewart remains one of the biggest-selling singers in history.

(Central Press/Courtesy Getty Images)
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Chic

Disco/funk band Chic, the creation of NYC writer/producers Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, broke out on 1977 with “Dance Dance Dance.” With a variety of sophisticated ladies singing lead, Chic continued recording disco anthems like “Everybody Dance” (1977), “Le Freak” (1978) and “Good Times” (1979). As the disco fad fizzled, guitarist Rodgers and bassist Edwards disbanded Chic in 1983 but reformed in 1992. Four years later, Edwards died while on tour. A legendary producer, Rodgers has worked with artists like Diana Ross, Paul Simon, Madonna and David Bowie. Rodgers, who still tours with Chic, this year was executive producer of the “Halo 3” video game soundtrack.

(Keystone, Fabrice Coffrini/Courtesy AP Photo)
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The Day Disco Died

In the late 1970s, there was a backlash by rock fans against disco, stoked by Chicago radio DJ Steve Dahl, who would pretend to blow up disco records on air. Dahl and Mike Veeck, marketing director of baseball’s White Sox, came up with a brilliant promotion: “Disco Demolition Night.” On July 12, 1979, fans were asked to bring their disco records to the park, where they would be blown up by Dahl in center field of Comiskey Park. What could go wrong? After the blast, 20,000 fans, many perhaps bombed themselves, rioted and destroyed the field. Disco faded fast after 1980, replaced in popularity by rap music.

(Fred Jewell/Courtesy AP Photo)
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Article reprinted without permission. Please visit ABC News for original article.

Thanks to Suzanne McSweeney for the article submission.

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