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Relive glory days of disco

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Once upon a time Disco 40 had the hippest boogie in town.

The line outside stretched for blocks down Front Street.

Inside, Harvey Wallbangers flowed and cool cats like John Lennon and Burt Reynolds made appearances.

The doors are closed now, but fans can relive the glory days at a special Disco 40 night at Docksiders on Saturday.

• Regulars at Disco 40 called Jane Vickers “furry” because of her big hair.

There was so much of it, that if she took a photo it wouldn't all fit in the frame. She started going to the Front Street club when she was young. Just how young she won't say; she's now a respectable development officer at Warwick Academy.

“Disco 40 figures in some of my best teenage memories,” she said. “They were the greatest of days.”

These days her three children roll their eyes when she reminisces about “the good old days” at the club, located near where Docksiders is now.

“We talk about it all the time,” she said.

A few weeks ago Lionel Richie's song Three Times A Lady brought her to a halt in a store. She used to wait all night for slow songs like that.

“I said to the store clerks, ‘Doesn't that take you back to Disco 40?'” she said. She spent the next 20 minutes chatting with them about it.

The brief exchange gave her an idea for a Warwick Academy fundraiser, a pop up Disco 40 night.

The club opened in 1978, the same year the movie Grease came out. Olivia Newton John wore black leather pants in the movie. Mrs Vickers and all her friends immediately tried to imitate her by sewing black satin pants to wear to Disco 40.

There were other nightclubs back then — The Club above Little Venice, The Deep at Elbow Beach — but Disco 40 was the place to be.

Mrs Vickers said the draw was a lack of much else to do. “It was a much more social time,” she said. “There were only two television channels. At Disco 40 we could hear live music at the 40 Thieves downstairs and then come upstairs and dance the night away.”

• Many youngsters of the era met their future spouses at Disco 40.

Maria McLeod's first meeting with Peter Smith didn't go well.

“I had just brought a camera for $79,” she said. “That was a lot of money in those days. I'd just gotten my first job as a bank teller. I rested the camera down and we were drinking Yellow Birds.”

Along came Mr Smith, dressed in a white T-shirt with a bow tie drawn on it. While trying to chat up Mrs Smith and her friends, he knocked a drink all over her camera. “It was ruined,” she said. “I was so upset.”

She tried to get his name and number to make him pay for it, but he was evasive. He promised to pay her back, but somehow never did.

“I kept seeing him at the club and asking him for the money,” she said.

Eventually they became friends and started dating.

“For our first anniversary he bought me a new camera,” she said.

• If you didn't know how to do the hustle, Ed Christopher was the man to meet at Disco 40. He gave lessons just before the club opened each night.

Mr Christopher, now the Hamilton Town Crier, said: “I was known for my dancing back then and was a draw for other people, so I got in for free.”

Celebrities met in a special part of the club behind a blue velvet rope.

The 60-year-old was a regular back there too.

“I danced with Brooke Shields at one point,” he said. “She was really young at the time and came in with Burt Reynolds. Last year she was in a show with my son, Nicholas, in New York. I went up afterward and said hello. She remembers going to a club in Bermuda back when she was a teenager.”

He couldn't cite the one song that made him rush to the floor. According to Mr Christopher, there were too many great ones to choose from.

“I loved anything by Earth Wind & Fire,” he said. “I loved the songs Ring My Bell and Last Dance. It was a great atmosphere. Everyone came out to party. It was standing room only most nights. Everyone was either drinking or just partying.”

Shiny suits and bell bottoms were his uniform back then,

“Me and my best friend Mike Tear used to open up Disco 40 with a roller-skating routine. After we did that we would call people on to the dancefloor for the first song. There was a big ball in the ceiling with all this crazy lighting. It was like going into a New York discotheque.”

• Raj Tolaram and his friends thought they were clever sneaking into Disco 40 at age 15.

Then one day they turned around and there was mom and dad. Busted.

“I think I might still be grounded,” joked the 51-year-old.

But once he and his friends were of age they became regulars.

“I can't actually remember some of my best memories there,” he quipped.

He said Tony Brannon and his father Terry were blessings to teenagers at that time.

“We were desperate without the lights, the dancefloor, the mixing of Bermuda. It was wonderful,” he said. “It was a great place to just meet people and friends. It was a great place to be and a great place for all age groups.”

• Mark Orchard remembers Disco 40 as a “magical” place.

He was 17 the first time he went, a year younger than the legal entry.

“It was the place to be,” he said. “It was always a lot of fun and all my peers and friends were there. There were other clubs, but Disco 40 was the jewel in the crown.

“There were a lot of bright colours and bell bottoms. I think there was a phase where there was a lot of neon glowy stuff. It would be quite dark in there, so you needed to wear something that would flash and help you stand out.”

He said there was a good cross-section of the community, and never any violence.

“It was always a shock when the lights came on at 3am and you got to see who you were dancing with,” he said.

• Tony Brannon was the man controlling the velvet rope at Disco 40.

His father Terry owned the 40 Thieves Club downstairs, which provided live music.

“He'd been in that business since 1962,” said Mr Brannon. “Tom Jones, Gladys Knight, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin — dad brought them all here. But in 1978 I said I was going to change it and we should do stuff differently.

“It was the time when Saturday Night Fever came out; MTV had just come out.”

Some people weren't pleased when he opened Disco 40.

“Fans of my dad hated the fact that his son built a discotheque,” he said. “But other than that it killed. The popularity just caught fire. We caught the mood and what the trend was.”

The doors closed in 1988.

“After ten years, things started to change,” he said. “The diamond had lost its polish a little. There was a recession.”

Mr Brannon thinks now would be a great time to open something similar.

“But I won't be the one to do it,” he laughed. “I'm 65 now. Someone else will have to do it.”

He was thrilled about the Disco 40 Pop Up event at Docksiders.

“It's really been taking me back down memory lane,” he said.

Join the fun from 9pm to 3am at Docksiders. Tickets, $60, are available on and include one drink. Proceeds go to the Warwick Academy Alumni Association.

Reviving disco: from left, Kerri Moorehead Lamb, Jane Maddock Vickers, Terri McDowell, Ken Vickers, and Paula Smith Wight (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Groovy times: from left, Gwen Isbrandsten, Jon Vickers, Jane Vickers and husband Ken Vickers in the 1970s (Photograph supplied)
Flare for fashion: Tony Brannon rocking his flares in the Seventies (Photograph supplied)
Back in time: Peter and Maria McLeod Smith in 1980 (Photograph supplied)
Hitting dancefloor: from left, Jane Maddock Vickers, Terri McDowell, Ken Vickers, Paula Smith Wight and, in front, Kerri Moorehead Lamb (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published October 03, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated October 03, 2016 at 8:00 am)

Relive glory days of disco

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