At the famed discotheque 2001 Odyssey in Bay Ridge, a group of dancers became known as the Faces. They were regular guys in dead-end jobs during the week, but inside the club, they were celebrities. For research (and probably a little bit of fun), Travolta started sneaking into 2001 Odyssey only to be instantly recognized by all of the kids inside. His character Vinnie Barbarino in “Welcome Back Kotter” already felt like he was one of them. To actually be able to investigate the scene, Travolta was forced to wear dark glasses and a hat as a disguise.
For anyone that’s ever been in the same public place as a celebrity, word gets around fast. Getting spotted out on the town can turn into a situation quickly, especially in South Brooklyn during the late ’70s. Fortunately, Travolta was able to study the behavior and dance moves of the Faces dancers enough to base his character’s brashness on how confidently they peacocked around the club. “Their girlfriends would come up, and they’d say, ‘Hey, stay away from him, don’t bug Travolta,’ and they’d actually push the girls away,” Travolta told Vanity Fair. “Tony Manero’s whole male-chauvinist thing I got from watching those guys in the discos.”
The character of Tony was reportedly based on Vincent, the dancer and leader of the Faces who had appeared on “American Bandstand.” Vincent worked at a hardware store selling paint, just like Tony in “Saturday Night Fever.” When he was dancing at 2001 Odyssey, Vincent was once even mistaken for Al Pacino. Of course, the poster for “Serpico” hangs in Tony’s room while he gets ready to go out on the town.