Boogie Nights

Posted on January 20, 2010 

Boogie Nights

Some say the dance-club scene started in the 1960s in New York City, with discotheques—Regine’s, Le Club, Shepheard’s, Cheetah, Ondine, and Arthur, which was opened by Sybil Burton after Richard Burton left her for Elizabeth Taylor. Arthur—named after George Harrison’s quip in A Hard Day’s Night (“What would you call that hairstyle?” “Arthur”)—featured D.J. Terry Noel, who may have been the first person to play two records simultaneously to create a mix. Arthur drew the same celebrity crowd that had been slumming at the Peppermint Lounge, a hustler bar off Times Square, where Judy Garland and Jackie Kennedy did the Twist with dance instructor “Killer” Joe Piro.

Some say the 1960s Parisian club scene—Chez Castel, Chez Régine—started it all. These were sophisticated spots where, by the end of the decade, one heard such erotic songs as Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin’s steamy duet “Je T’Aime … Moi Non Plus” and Isaac Hayes’s dreamy, 12-minute version of “Walk On By.” But most agree that none of this really mattered until the early 1970s, when gay underground dance clubs in New York—the Loft, Tenth Floor, 12 West, Infinity, Flamingo, and, later, the Paradise Garage, Le Jardin, and the Saint—spawned a disco culture that brought with it open drug use, on-site sex, and ecstatic, nonstop, all-night dancing.

No one who was there then and is still here now remembers it the same way. The clubs, the music—the experience is recalled in an almost psychedelic haze. Flashing strobe lights, amyl nitrite, quaaludes, swirling sweating bodies, and a pulsating, four-to-the-floor (boom-boom-boom-boom) high-energy rhythm—all energized by the music that became known as disco.

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