Today in History: Tribal Rights of the New Saturday Night

| June 7, 2019

Saturday-Night-Fever-magazine-778x1024When it came out, we had no idea it was based on a story, true or fabricated… but the movie was certainly all the rage, and little did we know, the actual writing behind it.  A mega star was about to be born just under two weeks before Christmas Day, 1977 — and his fame would rise, as the cinematic drama-romance lodged in crowded theaters throughout the country. Saturday Night Fever had two runs, the first with an “R” rating, and a second, in 1979, with a toned-down”PG”, cut to attract a wider audience — and that it did.

On June 7th, 1976, British rock critic Nik Cohn published an extraordinary piece entitled, “Tribal Rights of the New Saturday Night” in New York Magazine. Inspired by a visit he made to the 2001 Odyssey, a disco club in Bay Ridge, where he observed  young man standing in the doorway. Cohn was reminded of a teen gang in Derry, Ireland, and a London mod friend named Chris. Although Cohn’s piece was believed to be true at the time of publication, he actually used literary techniques and subjective perspective  — reportage with literary license — so successfully that his piece was adapted into the American drama film, Saturday Night Fever, directed by John Balham and starring John Travolta as Toni Manero, and Karen Lynn Gorney, as Stephanie Mangano. The film featured the music, dancing, and subculture of the disco era and was recognized by the Library of Congress, who added the poster and soundtrack to its collections. Little wonder that the Edlab Seminar last week opened its soundtrack with the Bee Gee’s theme song, “Staying Alive” — hats off to to the seminar coordinators, I nearly jumped out of my seat, knowing that this blog was coming!

With the exception of Nik Cohn’s story, “Tribal Rights of the New Saturday Night”, the following articles are drawn from Proquest Historical Newspapers, which informs and inspires classroom teaching and learning.

Tips:

Images:

  • Cover of New York Magazine, June 7, 1977. “The Bogus Magazine Story That Gave Birth to Saturday Night Fever”. Flashbak.
  • Special Slide, Courtesy of EdLab Studios

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