Mondays on Memory Lane – STARBUCKS USED TO BE A NEW YORK DISCO! – At the height of the disco craze, when there was a disco every few blocks in New York City, themes became the thing to separate a club from the crowd. There were circuses, mermaids, big band swing orchestras, human pin ball fists, ice skating, drag, dancing water fountains, roller skating featured in places such as planetariums, warehouses, garages, factories and even a deserted subway station.
The life span of a club was as follows:
1. Invite the gays and hope it turns into another Studio 54.
2. The straight chic crowd discovers it from their gay friends.
3. The gays leave because it isn’t “in” anymore.
4. The ‘bridge and tunnel crowd’ arrives aka Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Staten Island and (god forbid) ‘Jersey’.
5. The death knell “Tito Puente Night”
On Thursday evening, March 26th, 1981, in a (then) deserted section of the city, at 151 East 45th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues – STARBUCKS Disco opened with great fanfare. In order to attract a gay crowd while not wanting to put off and also attract the straight crowd from the beginning, a theme was needed, so rather than leather, glitz or drag – a cowboy theme was chosen, hopefully equally appealing to both gay and straight. Opening night was a mad house.
The old Danny’s Hideaway (above)
The location itself used to be Danny’s Hideaway bar and restaurant containing four floors where newspapermen, cartoonists and magazine editors used to hang out. The new renovation turned the space into a multi-leveled disco with an identity crisis. There was a working fireplace which remained from the old bar still on the first floor. Since they were desperate to attract all crowds, there was a different atmosphere and music on four floors. A slide connected the floors so that you could fly down the chutes from floor to floor. There was a dance floor on every floor—two of which were disco (one of the dance floors was lighted from underneath ala ‘Saturday Night Fever’), one rock and the top floor was country western complete with a mechanical bull! There was DJ Jim Maxwell on the first floor and DJ Dan (pooch) Pucciarelli on the third floor. With no Studio 54 elitist door policy in place, they pretty much let anybody in since they needed to fill such a big space. $15 got you in the door with free drinks all night…yes, free drinks served in tiny plastic cups which completely littered the floor. It was also one of the very few discos that advertised on local TV stations.
What doesn’t work is to mix cowboy boot wearing, plaid shirted country music lovers with platform shoed, bell-bottomed glittery disco dancers and leather clad rockers. It was a disaster. Each floor’s music blasted the music so loud that it thumped through your chest. Imagine hearing Donna Summer, Duran Duran and Alabama blasting in one building at the same time – insane! The gays/chic Manhattan crowd wrote off the club opening night and the disco life cycle was rapidly overnight sped up to step #4 – ‘bridge & tunnel’. Eventually it turned into an after work hangout for the working class and weekends it was dead. The disco/dance crowd wanted to get dressed up and shine on the weekends, not mix with the working stiffs they were trying not to be, inevitably by 1984 Starbucks Disco closed. Today the name Starbucks is synonymous with the world wide caffeine giant it has become with over 20,891+ locations world wide, 13,280+ in the USA and 172 locations in Manhattan…so necessary for their public bathrooms we have come to seek out.
The invitation reads as follows: “STARBUCKS is a multilevel new western restaurant, disco and cabaret. Designed by Renny Reynolds and lighting by Brian Thompson. Complete with Bucky Bronco, haylofts, hay slides, barbecue pit, waterfall, glass elevator, screening room, wood burning fireplaces, skylighted dance floors and an array of futuristic surprises.”
Invitation design by Greg Porto. Artwork by Dain Marcus