Disco is cool baby, and here to stay.
On July 12, 1979 a record 50,000 people attended the twilight, double-header baseball game held at Chicago’s Cominsky Park with one goal in mind: to illustrate that Disco—the music genre that rocked the world with dance, movies, and culture—was over. The Disco Demolition Night event, known more famously as “Disco Sucks,” signaled the end of Disco and assured that any music, fashion, or event from the period would be mired in shame and ridicule should it they ever be reintroduced to society. Think I’m kidding? Go ask your parents to help you find some sweet Bee Gees tunes, white suits, and gold medallions and watch them cry in embarassment and shame.
There is really no more fitting place in Charleston to celebrate Disco’s beauty than at The Alley. Founded in 2012 by owners and brothers Jimmy and Chris Poole, The Alley does beautifully what Disco did in its prime: provide the fine folks from all walks of Charleston with entertainment, memories, and pure ecstasy (the feeling, not the drug for all you hardcore Studio 54 lovers). Yes, there are 8 bowling lanes for groups to shame one another after a few rounds of drinks and banter (so crucial since downtown Charleston has lacked bowling since the 1960s), but The Alley satisfies Charleston’s desire for the eclectic experience that combines perfect childhood memories of bowling and arcade games, with the adult demands of a hip bar and wild dance floor. In short, like Disco, The Alley is a lover not a fighter; a true uniter of cultures, races and creeds.
So for its third anniversary, The Alley did what it does best: invite the town out to a big, sexy party dressed out in the finest fashions history and budgets could afford. All we had to do in return was allow a portion of our ticket to be donated to the Be a Mentor Program, and enjoy the show.
As the career gods seemed to have cursed me, resulting in my lack of ability to secure one full-time, decent-paying position, I currently wear four different job “hats.” While this way of life has secured me many stories that could keep Charleston Grit readers entertained for years (see my Palace Hotel Uber story for example), it leaves me minimal time for primping and pampering. Sorry guys, I won’t be that girl who puts on 50 pounds of makeup and perfume for you; I promise it’s made up to you on the dance floor after six drinks.
Disco party night was no exception, as I had to spend two hours digging my car out of mud to finish a medical delivery before getting Disco-Stu level ready. No matter, though, as being an adult is all about compromise and change. After 20 seconds of not giving a damn anymore how I looked, I chose a tan dress and a middle-parted, straight hair look that gave me a “Marcia Brady grew up and makes out at Studio 54” look. Close enough to the idea of the ‘70s and as I’m cheap, I forego an Uber expense in favor of my trusted sidekick and travel companion, my beloved little Japanese car Koda.
“Feel tha Funk!” was a popular phrase used to express one’s desire to feel the music, and arriving at The Alley, I could do just that. There’s just something about hearing The Bee Gees, with their high pitches and tight britches, that gets me feeling ace. Upon entering, I encountered what appeared to be Mister Ed and his grown up assistant working the crowd. After admiring his work and taking photos with him, while remaining very confused as to why Studio 300 had included a horse, I proceeded inside to get my macking on while scoping the scene.
Immediately my nose, trained to detect subsistence since in utero, forced my body to veer right to the food station to scope the situation. This is another crucial facet that The Alley nails so beautifully: the food. Presented to masses for their Disco pleasures were two items famous to The Alley: loaded tater tots and barbecue. For the party, the venue allowed guests to top their tots to their pleasure, while the pork deliciousness could be savored plain or with additional condiments. There was also an appealing bean stew that resembled the type your grandmother would make for a hearty family reunion, and an assortment of sides to compliment the three main offerings. A simplified review of the venue’s food would be best-expressed in five-year-old Lorena form: “More pease, yum!”
After ensuring starvation would not occur that night, I proceeded to what is the heart of any party venue: the bar. This cannot be emphasized enough to those wishing to break into the hospitality industry. You must have a great selection being served by exemplary people. To its credit, The Alley passes both points of this inspection. Due to crowd size I chose to stay in the corner nearest the games and alley, but one can tell when a bar isn’t running great. My bartender had her blonde hair and outfit styled to resemble a groovy hippie that was elegant and made me envious of the extensive amount of prep time she must have had access to. The best part of my admission was that it included 9 tickets to predetermined drinks (Budweiser or wine); I chose to remain with wine as the King of Beers does not rule my taste buds. After two rounds of red I ventured to the bowling lanes to check the groovy scene in play.
Studio 54 had been all about excess. The legend goes that if you remember what occurred there, then you weren’t there. The Studio 300 party dance floor provided a taste of this kind of experience, if only fleeting. Leisure suits, wigs, and high slits notwithstanding, the mix of Disco with beats was hypnotic, even putting this awesomely terrible dancer in a mood to celebrate movement! With the 300 symbol supervising the crowd from above, jive talkin’ was occurring among the crowd, and spirits were being flown in the rails above.
Living in Japan as a child, I was readily exposed to the many unique aspects of the country’s youth culture. My favorite part was Purikura, specialized photo booths that allow the photo takers to explore their wildest fantasies with captions, emojis, and even costumes at some locations, all while remaining cute. So Japanese. As a result, I cannot pass a photo booth without the temptation to spend cash on sexy poses. Fortunately, The Alley made it all too easy, offering a free photo booth inside a VW van. Because only sexy can happen in this setting. And for the four solo pictures of myself inside, it did.
After exiting my outta sight photo booth and adjusting myself to make sure all parts were still tucked in place, I walked outside and began to check my phone messages when he came walking up. He being a complete stranger (and I’m sure he prefers it this way) who keeps magically appearing in my life to the point where if this were a movie, we’d be making out in the corner and sharing how our five seconds of interaction makes us soulmates (seriously, that’s how ALL chick flicks work.) I am referring to the one and only Shep Rose.
I continuted to pretend to check my messages, but he spotted me looking up to see him walking by, and recognized me. Shit, I said to myself.
Here’s the thing: I’m not in love with Shep, and I don’t hate him (I don’t think that’s even possible given the number of women I drive around who mention him, all suspiciously while tugging at cleavage. What is it with your boobs ladies? They stay IN clothing). I’m just honestly a person who, every time I see him, something is going down that causes me to ponder whether he will personally ban me from town or else. It’s like clockwork, or fate, or eating Arby’s gone bad. In this case, only hours before, Charleston Grit had released the true story I provided about a young woman’s plight to secure her future through her cleavage’s union with Shep’s, um, warm personality . So when I recognized that he recognized me I started to walk next to the stair rails and then……..
Instant bear hug. “I liked the article” he tells me.
“Are you sure? Please don’t be upset I can’t afford to be banned from Palace,” I replied.
Hate me all you want, but I need Palace Hotel before my Uber shifts. It will be instant death elsewise. “No it’s cool” he said and walked in.
The joy of being able to live another day was rad, so I went back in to party hardy. I needed a drink after my chance encounter with Death outside, sp I headed to the bar where my cool hippie bartender served me one more wine. Spinning around to go the dance floor, I spotted her. My childhood sweetheart, with whom I shared my frustrations, angers, and dreams. My true love. The only, and only, Ms. Pac Man machine. My father explained to me as a child that, when she waitressed, my mother could play Pac Man for hours and never stop. I fear admitting that she passed this love onto me.
This isn’t my fault. I know that my job is to report on the Disconess of the event, but you can not place a Ms. Pac Man machine in front of someone who, when growing up, was given 5 bucks of credit from her father and personal coaching tips from her mother on how to diminish pretzels and strawberries. You also can not place said machine in front me with all credits paid for courtesy of Studio 300. That blame goes on the owners folks; I absolve myself.
I proceeded to enjoy the next 20 minutes in Heaven, lovingly stroking Ms. Pac Man as she encouraged me to allay my fears and take hold of my destiny in the form of blinking dots. Then, as expected, around level 20 we broke up, and the night’s revelries kicked in. It’s at this point that I fully realized the party was also going on upstairs, so I traveled the ringin’ steps to party level two. Drink six, white wine, was served at the bar upstairs by a queen of the night in the form of my guardian angel who went easy on the portion. It was then that I wandered into the small room to the right of the bar, where I was introduced to the slammin’ phenomenon that is now a decade old—the silent disco.
Forget sliced bread or the wheel, those things don’t matter anymore. THIS is the sweetest thing. All you do is put on headphones and the DJ blasts music in your ears at volumes you feel appropriate. I don’t know the science behind it, but in my own musical world, I am the queen. My dance moves were superb, even worse than Drake’s. The six drinks made the musical microcosm I was in rival Oz in terms of pleasure, color, and ambience. Silent Disco is the future, and as the sexy, awkward introvert I am, I embrace this world with enthusiasm.
Now possessing drink nine, I myself travelled down the magical stairs to the main party, groovin’ with those dancing across the floor. I started syncing my movements with the young lady in a spandex-like, one piece bathing suit who was dancing on the booth dividers. We were soulmates. We match in mind, body, and spirit. She moved, I moved, just like that. Hands in the hair, feet on the ground, hips grinding—it was the perfect first date. Her dark curly Disco wig was flopping as we gyrated to the club beat.
My celebrity encounters with the cast of Bravo's Southern Charm continued, for after a three year hiatus, I reacquainted myself with the lovely T-Ravanation himself, Thomas Ravenel. I’ve known Thomas for 20 years from a distance thanks to my father, a fact I tried to remind him as the beats of music likely introduced during his childhood blare in the background. His eyes grew wide when he remembered who I am. It was clear at this point he'd had as much to drink as myself and all he wanted to do was dance to that funky music white boy! He shook his fists, jerked his body to the swaying music, and began another round of what I call an “imagination party,” dancing to a rhythm only his inner dancer could comprehend. Perhaps he’s a fan of silent disco too? Knowing that he'd already forgotten me, I had no qualms asking him for a photo as well, which he obliged.
I finally caught back up with my dancing machine girl when she jumped down from the booth she was dancing on. It was hard to hear with the music (and drunkenness) but her name was either Abby, or Annie, or Shaniqua. The name was irrelevant. What was relevant is that, like me, she was also an introvert, but in the spirit of the event, she chose to dance to get to know people and enjoy life.
And that, my friends, is what made Studio 300 and the Alley itself so amazing. It's the ability to provide bowling in conjunction with a happening scene and mix of adventure and games that unites the community and keeps it coming back to The Alley. Studio 300 was the celebration of this great institution’s innovation and success, a chance to let your hair down while giving back to a place that brings joy to all walks of life. Just like Disco. And like Disco, let’s hope the Alley never dies, because it’s classic.