FRIDAY NIGHT FEVER: 2001 Odyssey

To get you in the mood for the weekend, every Friday we’ll be celebrating ‘FRIDAY NIGHT FEVER’, featuring an old New York nightlife haunt, from the dance halls of 19th Century Bowery, to the massive warehouse spaces of the mid-90s. Past entries can be found here

How can I continue to do this series without featuring the most iconic dance floor of all-time, the primary-colored, flashing plastic spectacle from 2001 Odyssey, best known as the dance club from “Saturday Night Fever”?

Recently minted drag queen John Travolta once took his iconic swagger to this club, formerly at 802 64th Street, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

That sparkly floor was actually built for the movie. Director John Badham was inspired by a similar floor at a private supper club in Birmingham, Alabama, seen by some Southern residents as a landmark.

However the club itself was a mainstay for disco dancers in the Brooklyn neighborhood, many of whom were brought on as extras in the film.

You can literally say disco saved this club. It was formerly the lounge act stage called the 802 Club that in its heyday spotlighted the likes of Jerry Vale and even Christine Jorgensen in her own cabaret act. Falling on hard times, the owner’s son took over the place, wrapped it in mylar and hung up a disco ball. 2001 Odyssey was ready to disco.

And in the process, it changed disco. On top of starring in the Citizen Kane of dance music films, 2001 Odyssey brought in all sorts of up-and-coming talents to perform, like Gloria Gaynor and the Trammps. The clientele itself defined what we might call one of the ‘disco archetypes’. Or as defined by the owner Chuck Rusinak:

[We used to call them cuigines.] A cuigine is somebody that would wear a huckapoo shirt, a pair of dance shoes. Very secure of himself, a womanizer, a little bit of a tough guy too. “Don’t mess my hair up, otherwise you got a problem. I get a baseball bat.”

If Manhattan disco was drug fueled, glitzy and celebrity driven, the Brooklyn disco scene — led by 2001 Odyssey, L’Amour, and other clubs — was the world of the ‘regular joe’, with the focus more on sex and appearance, less on glamour and notoriety. Or, according to 2001 Odyssey bouncer Vito Bruno:

The guys back in those days, even though they were broke, they were dripping with their gold chains. …. Back in those days, the girls got dressed up. They got decked. The girls liked the tough boys. The toughest, meanest guy always got the girl. It’s kind of like the animal kingdom.”

2001 Odyssey wained in the wake of the death of disco, and in the late 80s it became a gay club, Spectrum, which still kept the disco floor but catered to an entirely different audience. It eventually closed in 1995.

And the famous disco floor? The Spectrum tried to auction it off in 2005. (Could you just imagine trying to install it in your living room?) However, the aforementioned bouncer Vito Bruno claims that he won rights to the floor a few months previous, for the whopping sum of $6,000. A judge promptly stopped the auction, and as far as I can tell, Bruno is now the proud owner of a piece of cinema history.

Don’t frown however; you can do your own moves on a very similar floor at the Guggenheim Museum! Their present exhibit The Shape of Space (through Sept 5) features an installation by Piotr UklaÅ„ski — Untitled (Dance Floor)– which emulates, in a far greater color palatte, the legendary dance floor. Needless to say, this is one of the museum’s most popular pieces. (See picture below.)

Nerve does an excellent job in digging up some of the old 2001 Odyssey crew for their recollections of the place. And if youre interested in checking out some other Brooklyn ‘Saturday Night Fever’ locations, check this out.

7 replies on “FRIDAY NIGHT FEVER: 2001 Odyssey”

Just found this cool blog and i have some history for you…I loved Spectrum..it became my obsession on Fri and Saturday nights when i was in my 20s. Every once on a while it as also a Thurs and Sunday hang out as well. Anyhow…being a regular- my young adult crush/good friend/boyfriend obsession- was the lighting man there for a a while-and having hung out in the booth with him and the d.j., when he moved out of state and suggested that I take over for him- since I was so familiar with the manual lighting board. When I agree he mentioned it to the manager and the owner who immediately gave me the position telling him that was a good idea. Will I have many stories of my own and I met incredible one hit wonders and managers and celebrities singers songwriters you name it it was a great experience I did it for about 3 years on top of my 9 to 5 ….but my point is…. of course loved the building and the setup and it was a very big and nice club it really was it was a great outlet and venue and the building itself was just the perfect discoteque that was copied all over the world and it was a pretty big area… we used to go in a couple of hours before the club opened to the public..the staff that is… wed get a briefing the bartenders would stocks their bars the DJ would bring in his records the manager would make sure everything was copacetic the resident drag queen would start getting dressed or what have you and I used to repair all the lights that went out which were quite a few considering the amount of wear and tear they got every week from manually being turned on and off…. excetera excetera…. that floor let me tell you was one of the biggest pains in the asses plain English hahaha to repair the lights underneath… if a light was out it never had the same effect even if one light was out that everybody would come and look for.. being the famous floor that it was and it really didn’t dance to the music properly so each tile which was either 12x12or 16 by 16 off hand I don’t remember but they were pretty large had 4 Cans if you’re familiar with that lighting term time and basically it was a very easy cheap light that was two screws that you would attach pretty easily to two stationary wires very simply however it was never three or two cans in one tile out it was always one in this tile and one in that tile and each tile had about 6500 screws you had to take out and each screw was about the length of the JFK Runway..lol… so it’s very frustrating changing that floor however it was always worth it seeing the people dance on it and actually controlling it with manual buttons you could put it on automatic and it would just basically do a simple pattern not even to the beat like it would do today it would just do a steady variation of colors but if you knew the music and you had some kind of ear or rhythms which although may sound conceited I did and still do… you can manually manipulate the borders and patterns of the lights and it would be noticed especially on a crowded Saturday night after the show when everybody was tanked up and ready to dance and the first couple of songs the DJ played after the show was like eat is a biggest hit of the week or a hugely famous 70s classic that just made magic and I really miss that place I have never been to another club that was similar looking as big and as fun as that and I’m so sorry… from what I understand ….they demolished the building …whoever bought it …and in researching a bit if its history…. that particular building was always a dance venue from the forties starting as a ballroom dance hall..and what a shame that it was demolished instead of becoming a landmark as a piece of Brooklyn history ..Famous Brooklyn history from decade after decade… and what a great reunion it would be if it was still in existence….. a huge part of my early impressionable adult life. Feel free to contact me anytime via email to learn anything I was aware of for those two and a half 3 tears that I worked there and about eight or so years that I frequented there. Definitely the best Disco in town… and to whoever designed that floor I apologize if your ears were burning in the 90s because I cursed you out every time I had to lift up a piece of that floor lol.

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.

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