February 4, 2019 5:02 am
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The Legendary Disco Dancefloor

(Paramount, 1977) On December 7, 1977, the disco craze reached the height of its popularity with the release of Saturday Night Fever, the story of a working-class youth from Brooklyn with a natural gift of dancing. Based on a 1975 New York Magazine story entitled “Tribal Nights of the New Saturday Night” by Nik Cohn, the film was revolutionary for its time, exposing the seedy, sex-filled world of young and disaffected Brooklynites while romanticizing their carefree nights at a local discotheque. Sprinkled with raw language and shocking sexuality for its time, it was both a critical and box-office success. For the thrilling dance scenes which would drive the action in the film and tie the plot together, director John Badham searched throughout New York for an appropriate dance club, one that was not too flashy and true to the work-a-day lives of the main characters. He chose a small club in Brooklyn, the 2001 Odyssey dance club, as a perfect fit with its simple décor and intimate gallery. Only minor alterations were made to the lighting and background walls, and most of the club was kept unchanged – a ready-made set. One major set piece, however, was custom built for the production. A key component of the film, and the piece that would ultimately become as iconic as the lead characters themselves, was the illuminating dance floor, presented here. Badham remembers this as one of the single costliest expenses of the entire production – $15,000 – a testament to the importance it would command in the context of the entire film. The floor was designed so that it would light-up rhythmically with the music, and cinematographer Ralf Bode personally chose the primary colors of red, blue and yellow to best complement the actors on film. Constructed by a local company, the floor was delivered and installed at the 2001 Odyssey club shortly before principal photography began in March, 1977. While the sets and locations were being ironed out, twenty-three year old John Travolta rehearsed for months to perfect the complicated moves he would so effortlessly perform once the cameras began to roll. He insisted that the dance scenes be shown in wide, full-length shots so that the audience would know that it was he, and not a double, who was working the floor. Because of this single editorial suggestion, the dance floor became an integral part of the action, and was prominently featured in nearly every moment of every exciting dance number. The film debuted on December 7, 1977, and instantly struck a chord with audiences the world over. Eventually grossing $285 million, it vaulted Travolta to silver-screen stardom and earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor (he ultimately lost to Richard Dreyfuss for The Goodbye Girl). The Bee Gees, whose soundtrack became a cultural phenomenon in and of itself, enjoyed four #1 hits from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, and the album sold 20 million copies world-wide – up to that time, the best-selling album in music history. The Disco Era had found its voice in spectacular fashion. Roger Ebert’s original review of the film perfectly captured this defining moment of the 1970s:“The movie’s musical and dancing sequences are dazzling. Travolta and Miss Gorney are great together, and Travolta does one solo (in an unbroken shot) that the audiences cheered for. [John Badham’s] camera occupies the dance floor so well that we really do understand the lure of the disco world…” Today, the floor remains exactly as it was constructed for the film. It measures approximately 24 ft. wide x 16 ft. deep x 1 ft. high, and is composed of the twelve 4 ft. x 8 ft. plexipanels secured to a wooden frame matrix which houses over 300 separate light compartments, each with colored incandescent bulbs. The lights are illuminated by the use of the original “light organ” as designed for the production, which is included. The floor has remained in use at the famed Brooklyn dance club 2001 Odyssey (which later changed its name to Spectrum) since Saturday Night Fever wrapped production in 1977. It has been disassembled in modules, and is located in Brooklyn, N.Y. Due to its size, interested bidders will please note that crating and shipping charges will apply. Perhaps the most enduring image of the 1970s is Travolta striking a confident pose in his signature white suit while stretching a pointed finger towards the sky, the disco lights dancing beneath his feet. This legendary dance floor has since become an important icon of pop culture, an instantly-recognizable set piece that will forever be linked with one of the greatest dance performances in film history. Estimate $60,000 – $80,000

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