Remember when John Travolta was cool? Yes, there was a time where John Travolta was “cooler than a polar bear’s toe nails” and as popular with the ladies as any of the leading men robbing women’s hearts today. In 1977, Travolta took over pop culture with his most iconic performance in Saturday Night Fever as Tony Mareno, a 19-year-old Italian kid from Brooklyn. From Sunday to Friday, he was a nobody, working a dead end job with seemingly no ambition, but on Saturday nights, he was a king who reigned over a disco dance floor (we assure you back in ’77 this was cool). We present an ode to disco, the Bee Gees and strutting–here are NYC locations used for Saturday Night Fever.
1. Lenny’s Pizza
The opening scene is one that everyone should know: Travolta strutting down Bay Ridge with the Bee Gees “Staying Alive” playing in the background. It is one of the most famous opening scenes in cinema history and one that many have paid homage to since the film’s release. It was also one of the hardest; initial shooting of the scene had to be scrapped because everywhere the camera would go, there would be schoolgirls in the shot, gawking at Travolta. Many of the scenes shot during the day had to be done as early as dawn to avoid public disturbances.
The first time we hear Travolta is when he orders two slices (eating them one on top of the other) from this neighborhood pizza joint that still exists today. Lenny’s Pizzeria has been in business since 1953 and still carries a picture of a young Travolta on its wall. Fun fact: the young lady working in the shop is actually Travolta’s younger sister Ann.
2. Tony’s Workplace
Tony’s casual walk through Bay Ridge leads him to his job at a hardware store on 7305 Fifth Avenue, where he is sent out to get a can of paint for a customer (played by Travolta’s own mother). The store pays people on Monday so the workers will have money during the week and not waste it all on booze and girls.
The film’s Fifth Avenue store is still a department store, but has gone through new management and renovations since the late 70’s.
3. The Manero Home
Tony’s house, where he lives with his overly religious mother (whose spaghetti sauce doesn’t drip or taste), his abusive and out-of-work father, younger sister sister and grandmother is on 221 79th Street in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Today, the house looks very little like the one in the movie.
4. Phillips Dance Studio
Tony gets free studio time inside this Bensonhurst dance studio since he brings the owner a lot of customers (whom he scores with 65% of the time). At Phillips, he trains with his dance partner Annette (Donna Pescow), who idolizes Tony and wants to marry him, mostly because her four sisters are all already married. The studio is also where Tony talks to the film’s love interest Stephanie for the first time, with no luck.
The studio has been closed and there’s no word on what became of the space at 1301 West Seventh Street, which looks largely abandoned from the outside.
5. Fisherman’s Corner
Tony successfully gets to speak to Stephanie and gets her to not only agree on being his dance partner, but to go out for coffee, or tea in her case. We learn that Stephanie is actually somewhat of a rising star, lounging around with the likes of Lawrence Olivier. She talks down to Tony, which makes the conversation hostile at times.
The awkward yet by-the-numbers ordeal takes place at what was once Fisherman’s Corner on the corner of 94th Street and Fourth Avenue. The coffee shop/bar has been closed for decades, now serving as a Mazda dealership.
Tony and the boys decide to play a cruel joke on Annette. They drive up to the Verrazano Bridge and decide to start dancing on the skylights and edges of the bridge. Each of them pretends to fall off the bridge, which leads to Annette rushing to the edge to see what has become of the love of her life and his cronies, only to find out that they just kneeled down, laughing at her gullibility and fearful expression.
The full name of the bridge is the Verrazano-Narrows bridge, named after the French explorer Giovanni di Verrazano and the river below the bridge. Completed in 1964, the 13,700-foot-long bridge has the title of longest suspension bridge in the U.S, surpassing the Golden Gate Bridge by 4,720 feet.
Good things the boys did not run into any of the falcons living on the bridge–would have been a lot less fun!
7. White Castle
As Brooklyn’s artisan food scene did not exist in the 1970’s, Tony, his knights of the dance floor and his love interest go to White Castle, of all places. The brand, which has clogged arteries for almost 100 years, is known for its small burger sliders. This year, Time dubbed White Castle sliders as one of the most influential burgers of all time. The White Castle once stood on 92nd Street between Third and Fourth Avenues in Bayside, Brooklyn, but has since closed down.
8. 2001 Odyssey
The 2001 Odyssey disco club (named after the Stanley Kubrick science fiction classic) at 802 64th Street is where Tony and his friends rule. He is such a legend for his great dancing, that women come up to him and offer to wipe the sweat off his forehead. The club was also the scene of a crime during filming, when some of the neighborhood youths threw a firebomb at the nightclub. Luckily, no one was hurt.
The iconic light-up floor was actually added in by the production team and remained once filming wrapped. The location became a gay club known as Spectrum, which was closed and demolished in the late 80’s.
To know where he still dances disco on the weekends, contact the author @TatteredFedora