Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Cleveland Nite Fever

Several weeks ago, I posted a link to a set of 70s New York nightlife pix by Allan Tannenbaum. Not long thereafter, I fielded this comment:

There was a disco called Nite Moves at Playhouse Square that was the Studio 54 of Cleveland. My former wife and I would finish our work on a Saturday, change clothes, smoke a joint or few, then head down there to dance until breakfast.

Coke snowed from the private rooms. Sex on the couches in the back. Boys and girls, girls and girls, boys and boys. Anything, everything went ... A little slice of heaven in downtown Cleveland never to be recaptured again, I'm afraid.

When I started shaking the trees about the Nite Moves Disco, which was only open for about 20 months in the late 70s, I couldn't believe what fell out. I gathered it all up and wrote Goodbye Sister Disco for this week's Cleveland Free Times.

People, if you read it for no other reason, read it for the Gypsy story.

For a companion blog, here are some photos, all of which came from issues of Cleveland Disco News: The Nite Moves Membership Newsletter.

In the photo below, check out Nina Blackwood on the far left. She was crowned Queen of Nite Moves during the "La Nuit plus Fantastique" Mardi Gras party in 1979. Elsewhere in the publication, Blackwood is listed as a "local disco DJ and classical harpist." Who knew the Yellow Brick Road to MTV started with a glisando in Cleveland?

An excerpt from the club invitation to that party:

Our only dress code is fulfill thy fantasy—do what thou whilst! All nymphs, satyrs, mermaids, Norse deities, voodoo queens, harlequins, southern belles, shameless hussies, camp followers, French quarter bohemians, wild Indians, mystik knights of Comus, familiar spirits, farm animals, garden vegetables and creatures from the black lagoon will be afforded special treatment. Don’t hold back!

Now dig this ad from inside the newsletter. Got Pearle Vision, baby? Not in today's papers and magazines--more proof that the Internet didn't invent casual nudity.

Tons of celebs and local sporting heroes frequented Nite Moves. This photo features club owner Barry Weingart, left, football legend Jim Brown, center, and club owner Robert Hammer.

Grace Jones at Nite Moves in October 1978, proving that breast implants ain't all they're cracked up to be:

1620 Euclid Avenue is now a parking lot adjacent to a Christian Science Reading Room. They're going to have to do quite a bit of reading in order to blanch out all the beer from Alpine Village (Herman Pirchner, incidentally, turned 100 last year), all the champagne from Nite Moves, and all the sin from the nefarious after-hours parties.

I had a blast doing the Nite Moves story. I'm not the first writer to take on the notorious Disco, however. In its day, Nite Moves was often in the local media. Nite Moves founder Robert Hammer told Jane Scott, "'The Disco Craze is just beginning,'" in June 1978.

Maybe that was a bit optimistic, but it sure was fun while it lasted.

Send your comments or letters to the Free Times Editor Frank Lewis here.


Satan said...

where the hell is everybody

pun intended

Anonymous said...

I went to a Rolling Stones concert in September 1972. I regained conciousness round about 1987. I heard about disco, thanks for the story. "A wasted mind is a terrible thing." Dan Quayle.


Amy L. Hanna said...

Great article, Erin. I enjoy cultural time capsules like this one.

ajooja said...

I wish I had experienced those days but I was just too young.

Of course, those days in my neck of the woods would probably look more like "Hee Haw" than "Studio 54."


awesome article. now i know why you've been so damn busy!!!!

Anonymous said...

Extremely well written article. Well done, Erin. A great description of an era gone by.

For me, disco sucked. I hated it then and I still do, but to each his/her own.

The Retired Army Guy

Mone said...

to bad I was too young back then... sure would have liked it there!

What I didnt get Erin is why would Men finger tiny brown glass vials in the pockets of their polyester pants? What was in them?

Ken Houghton said...

Jalapenos, mone. And Coors beer, which was considered chic at the time.

NOW I know where Target got its logo from, though.

Velvet Fog said...

Nice article Erin! I love that photo in there with the people sitting on the yellow couch type thing with the caption that reads something about how you looked determined what you paid. That creep dude in the blue suit at the end of the sofa must have paid a small fortune. Crikey!

Kamper said...

Great piece. Now take on Swingos!!

Norm said...

Fun. Great article. I hated disco with a passion because it was almost all recorded music, and my band couldn't get gigs to save our little teenage lives. Plus I was the kid in the Led Zeppelin shirt ... *chortle*

Two editorial things: The link to the Alpine Village story is misformatted (it's in UBBcode or something, not HTML) and one patron talking about drug use is quoted as saying "discrete" when almost certainly she meant "discreet."

Norm said...

All the little chicks with the crimson lips go
Cleveland rocks, cleveland rocks
... (Ian Hunter, round the same time)

EBEZP said...

Happy Valentines Day Erin!

Erin O'Brien said...

Hi Everyone and thanks. Back then, Mone, everyone carried their cocaine around in these tiny little brown bottles. I think they held a gram.

There are tons more pictures in the print edition, so if you're in Cleveland, definitely pick up a copy.

I thought the guy at the end of the couch looked like Borat. I'll bet he had to pay about $20 to get in!

This completely kicked my ass, but it was a lot of fun!

I hope everyone had a great Valentines--


Anonymous said...

Reading the article was fun. I was one of the folks who, along with some others from a group of dance students from Chardon, used to come to the Club on Saturdays with our several changes of clothes to dance for the Weekday Fever show being taped there. We had so much fun doing this; we used to dance at the Rare Cherry in Willoughby(later the Cosmopolitan), which was still far for most of us to go since we all lived in Geauga County. I also recall a place called King Tut's or something like that that we used to go to that was nearby downtown; I can't find any information on that place, however.
I don't recall ever being at the Nite Moves at night. All of us that came there would have danced there all day during the taping, would go home to get cleaned up and go to the Rare Cherry and close that place.
It was an exciting time for me and my wife then and it brings back many fond memories.

Hank the Tank said...

Thank you Erin for the great stories about Nite Moves. No I never made it there, I was too young (18). But I used to frequent The Big Apple in Northampton, OH in those days (along with Skateland in Johnstown, PA).
OK so The Big Apple was never as wild as Nite Moves but we sure gave it a good run for the good times.
Oh and we've found Lee Bortel, former Big Apple owner.
I did include links to your articles in my BLOG article on Memories of The Big Apple Disco. Check it out, hope you enjoy it.

I put a listing for The Big Apple on You might want to see about putting one up for Nite Moves.
God Bless You.

Robert Hammer said...

We are coming up on July 27th,2013
to the 35th anniversary of the Grand Opening of Nite Moves.I was friggin' 27 years old,& had manifested this dream/fantasy of designing,owning & running this amazing Disco/Nightclub.My partner Barry Weingart was also a visionary & while working fulltime in the computer industry supported me financially & shared the motivation & vision to see Nite Moves become the amazing club that it became.What a time in my life.IF you want to say hello or share any Nite Moves stories,my email address is
Warmly,Robert A.Hammer Founder/designer/partner Nite Moves Cleveland 1978-1979

Wendy said...

Erin, I googled Nite Moves longing for some photos and articles and your blog was at the top of my search results. I loved reading your account which brought back many memories. Where are your photos? Is there any way for me to see them? Thanks again for the great memories!

Erin O'Brien said...

Wendy, if you're out there, email me at eobnow[at] and I'll hook you up.