The Bay Ridge site where the popular disco-era nightclub the Penthouse once spun endless hours of Bee Gees and Donna Summer records for the dance crowd has been bought and is in the process of being renovated.
The Penthouse, originally located at 87th Street and Fourth Avenue, moved to 88th Street and Fourth Avenue in 1960 where it remained a fixture in the neighborhood until it closed in 1982. It reopened a year later as Pastels, which enjoyed its heyday during the ‘80s.
In fact, it was in 1977 that the Penthouse was approached by the producers of “Saturday Night Fever” in hopes of filming the iconic John Travolta movie there. Dennis Saleeby, whose brother-in-law Al Hanna owned the club with his partner George Wardi, remembered the producers coming by when the club was busy wanting to talk to the owners.
“They came the second or third week and it was almost becoming annoying,” said Saleeby. “Al looked at me and said, ‘Dennis, get these people out of here, they’re driving me crazy.’ It turned out to be the people from ‘Saturday Night Fever,’ and we chased them out of the room.”
Saleeby worked at the Penthouse as a young man, ultimately climbing his way up the ladder to becoming a partner with Hanna and Wardi in Pastels in 1983.
So Travolta’s Tony Manero, who lived in Bay Ridge, ended up dancing the night away at 2001 the Odyssey Club at 802 64th St., though that never was the producers’ first choice. “They went to the other place, but we outlasted them by many years,” Saleeby said. “So it was okay.”
The Penthouse/Pastels location was a nightclub for 53 years and has often been cited as being one of New York’s longest running clubs along with places like the Copacabana.
Saleeby recalled the famous names who frequented Pastels.
“Garry Pastore was one of the main bartenders and he went on to become an actor,” said Saleeby. “He is currently in ‘The Deuce.’ I spoke with him yesterday and he told me about a time when Sean Penn and Joe Pesci came in and a customer at the bar said to them, ‘Wow you look like Sean Penn and Joe Pesci.’ They laughed and said, ‘Yeah, we get that a lot.’”
Saleeby also remembered other celebrity Pastel regulars including Chaz Palminteri, Steven Seagal, Tony Danza and Mickey Rourke. “There was a VIP room and they would all go up there and not be disturbed,” he said.
Pastels didn’t have its last dance until 1997 — and the music didn’t stop there. It ushered in the new century as a club called Legacy before changing its name to Suite and finally Capri, which closed its doors in 2013.
The space lay dormant for many years before being sold to 437 88 LLC, according to the sale’s Acquisition of Assets, with sources connecting that to Efthimios Zisimopoulos, a.k.a. Tim Ziss, of Axion Management.
Ziss also recently acquired the property where Nathan’s Famous used to stand, though the location is now being turned over to the School Construction Authority and will become a middle school.
“Ziss,” a source told this paper, “has purchased many properties in this area.”
While a Pastels nightclub remains open on Staten Island at 2925 Veterans Road, it’s not quite the same as when the Brooklyn club reigned supreme. And sadly, for those who still love the nightlife, the property, originally slated to be a Chuck E. Cheese, is going to become a Blink Fitness center according to Councilmember Justin Brannan.
So while there may not be a need to break out the white polyester suit, at least the glory days of the Penthouse and Pastels will be “stayin’ alive” in memories.
“If only those walls could talk,” Saleeby laughed. “There are so many stories they could tell.”