Disco Fridays and Stayin’ Alive in a Pandemic

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“On Fridays, Papa’s all about the boogie.”

It was a succinct statement, offered by my nine-year-old granddaughter, Molly, as she summarized an evolving tradition in our home. Back in the days when we left the house to go to work, Disco Friday began weekly, in the early evening, as Tim scrolled through the Sonos app on his iPhone. He’d stop on Studio 54 Radio and songs like Evelyn “Champagne” King’s “Shame” ushered in the official start of the weekend.

At first, I thought Tim’s Disco Friday thing was a stunt designed to make me laugh at the inherent irony. I first met him in the late 1970s, at the height of the disco era. I spent my weekends at clubs like the Flying Machine in downtown Boston or Faces in Cambridge, while Tim, a hardcore rock and roll fan, went to The Ark, on Boylston Street, or further down the road to MaryAnn’s, a notorious Boston College hangout. While I collected 33 rpm singles of songs like Chic’s Good Times, he tended toward full-length albums of Led Zeppelin, the Stones, and Kansas. He allegedly loathed disco so much that, in our early dating days, any suggestion that we might go to a club together met a frosty reception. Besides, Tim’s wardrobe of flannel shirts and jeans would never pass muster against the well-dressed disco crowd. I soon gave up, separating my disco life with my girlfriends from my dating life with Tim. I will loosely and inaccurately paraphrase Rudyard Kipling who said,  “Oh, disco is East, and rock is West, and never the twain shall meet.” Yet, despite our musical differences being miles apart, we married, setting our intolerance of each other’s musical tastes aside. 

In time, Tim softened to my passion of dance music. Perhaps my subtle musical ‘death by Shalimar’ caused the shift, but, eventually, he joined in on my disco adventures, even attempting to learn a few dance moves. But our joint love of the night life and the boogie was short lived. The era of the 1980s mantra, “disco is dead,” and the birth of our babies collided. We traded our “oogie oogie dancin’ shoes” for footie pajamas, and unbridled boogie nights for nights full of boogers, spit up, and inconsolable babies. 

Over the years, I often lamented my lost disco days, that is, until our purchase of Sonos speakers brought the boogie back from the dead. Now a lifetime later, every Friday brings me back to the dance floor as DJ Timmy C cues up the tunes. Before the pandemic, Disco Friday had even seeped into the ride to school with my grandchildren. Blasting “It’s Raining Men,” we kicked it up a notch by dangling a disco ball from the sunroof. Molly and Declan took turns pointing a cell-phone powered, multicolored disco light at the orb. I wondered what passing drivers thought as the glare of the sun-struck, mirror ball blinded them. It’s an unexpected thrill to be hit head on with the excitement of a disco-on-wheels, especially for a week-weary driver on a Friday commute.

Now, as the pandemic rages on, the mirror ball sits darkened in the trunk of my car. It’s been ten and a half months since the Mami’s Disco-on-Wheels went the way of the real Studio 54, the Flying Machine, and Faces, all now defunct, but luckily Disco Friday lives on. Now that we are home day and night, the Friday disco kicks in at 9 a.m. and sometimes continues until Tim switches the Sonos to Sunday morning jazz. In those forty-eight hours, the “four-on-the-floor” rhythms of non-stop Candi Staton, Gloria Gaynor, Rick James, and the Trammps fill the house with pulsating beats and catchy lyrics. It’s 1978, a less complicated time, all over again.

As the months wear on, more than ever, I look forward to being another week closer to the end of our isolation. “Stayin’ alive” and avoiding the virus wear on my nerves but Fridays always energize me. I never expected Disco Friday to be our lifeline in the pandemic. But maybe DJ Timmy C knows best: to get through these tough days, a little BeeGees, and a lot of boogie, might be just what we all need. 

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