You Can Tell By The Way I Use My Walk

This walk responds to John Travolta’s iconic strut down 86th Street in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, in the opening of the 1977 film Saturday Night Fever as disco champion Tony Manero. By following in Manero’s footsteps, participants will both search for the residue of his passage and deposit their own relics along the way. This walk is intended to probe how cultural ideas are both reproduced and altered through the practice of walking, and how memories are spatialized along the city’s streets. At Friday’s opening event, participants can view the scene together and chat more about the history and theory that informs this walk.

If you’re unable to attend the opening, please follow these instructions to participate in this ongoing installation:

1. View the opening strut here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-BuZJqlOlc&feature=related

2. Find/create an object that’s evocative of Manero’s walk for you. This can be something you think best memorializes the scene or something that emotionally connects you to it. Choose absolutely anything you find appropriate!

3. Bring your object to Manero’s turf on 86th Street between 18th Avenue and Bay Parkway under the elevated D train in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.  Deposit your object somewhere along your way as you strut, and make sure to look for traces of Manero’s passage as well as relics left by other participants. Eat a double slice of pizza or break into a dance!

4. Leave a description of your object and its exact location on the comments section of this page. Bess will track the fate of these relics over time as they alternatively survive, transform and disappear. Any disappearances will be memorialized with a miniature disco ball.

Photos of some participants’ initial relics:

 

 

A group of walkers move like Manero:

The Aftermath:  My first official visit to the objects, less than two weeks after the initial walks, revealed that only three offerings had survived: the foil eye, the heart sponge and the trash spore. Yet, as I proceeded toward the bench in Milestone Park to place the first disco ball, an alternate form of residue manifested; a delivery van, which was paused at a stop light at the corner of 18th Avenue and 82nd Street, pumped the clear, sweet strains of the Bee-Gee’s “More than a Woman” into the unseasonably warm winter solstice air.  As I placed the balls, they attracted a fair amount of curious attention and a few pedestrians stopped to touch them. In honor of Nick’s aborted hair gel memorial, I boarded the D train with the last disco ball and sent it off on a journey through the city. At the next stop, it was quickly seized by a man who immediately informed the person he was speaking to on the phone about his discovery, with a mixture of joy and incredulity. At the following stop, a friend of his boarded. “I just got on the train and look what I found!?,” he declared giddily. “A disco ball!”  The two proceeded to admire the ball and spin it and all the way into Manhattan the man clutched it lovingly. I left them at Grand Street. And the beat goes on…

   

     

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Comments

  • Jurek  On December 11, 2011 at 2:34 am

    I left my letter “to you” to my disco lover at the parking meter in front of the payless store at 29th bay parkway. great walk!

  • Mike H  On December 11, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    Having never actually seen Saturday Night Fever or been to that particular strip of Bensonhurst, I definitely went with first impressions while watching the video and walking the street… I felt like Manero was underlain with fear and lack of confidence, and the strut was all about projecting an image of confidence and ownership onto the street – leaving his impression rather than letting the street or its characters create any sort of impression on him…

    So I left earplugs on top of a tiger ride outside of a clothing store on the strip – letting Manero block out the sounds of the street and concentrate on the internal music that lets him project the tiger-like self-image that he wants…

    Interestingly, by the time we circled back up and passed the tiger a second time, the earplugs had already been blown off (or knocked off) the tiger and onto the sidewalk – a testament to the irresistible power of the city streets to force change on an individual (regardless of their receptiveness to this change)?

  • Ian  On December 12, 2011 at 2:20 am

    I attached a trash spore (a busted beach ball bound in yarn) to a drainage pipe at the northwest corner of 86th and Bay Parkway.

  • Laureni  On December 12, 2011 at 3:23 am

    I left a “mirror” (actually made of found objects) with an eye drawn on it in front of Cleopatra clothing shop near 20th Ave. It was propped up low down near some metal looking out at the passersby. I felt like this object was appropriate, because to me, the walk was mostly about being seen, but there were also moments of gawking at others.

  • brian  On December 12, 2011 at 4:55 am

    Its a retelling of the iconic picture “an american girl in italy”, sub out the girl for me, the leering men for some gay dancers and italy for Bensonhurst pizza!
    This collage was left boldly in front of Sweet Sensation a candy, fruit and nuts store located at 2082 86th st!
    Tasty times.

  • Nicholas  On December 13, 2011 at 3:49 am

    I never saw the movie, but I know the opening scene via the pop culture second hand cloud, or at least I thought I knew it. I actually thought the movie took place in L.A., which show’s how little I know about it.

    I saw the opening scene a few minutes before, minus the music, so I got a sense of what went on. I think with some wider context, I would understand the meaning behind why the walk was so iconic, but without it, I couldn’t shake the dozen parodies of it I have experience in my life.

    I brought with me a spray bottle of cologne, a cheap knock off from a Duane Reade, called “Mascalino.” No, really, it was called “Mascalino.” Anyway, I was originally going to use a glittery masquerade mask, since the the theme was “dancing” but I realized the name and nature of the cologne, fit the whole thing equally as well. I couldn’t find a decent spot during our walk, so I simply placed it on the bottom of a street light, but then the wind blew it over and sent it spilling into the street.

    So, here’s the deal, Bensonhurst is sadly, kind of a mess with litter. I don’t like litter and try to avoid it as best as I can, so I couldn’t just let it lay in the street. I did the very un-“Mescalino” thing, and picked it up and put it back in my bag.

  • KStheiler  On December 16, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    I left a bad chalk drawing of Tony pointing to Lenny’s holding a paint bucket. (I didn’t want to litter and I found it hard to identify objects as potential walk reliquary since there was do much litter around. I did throw out onto the sidewalk the chalk nub left because I had to draw through liquid and due to proximity of hydrant there was a high probability it was urine.)

  • Wonka Snazzlepants  On December 17, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    Hi Strutters!
    I left an object between Bay 25 and Bay 26, on the north side of the street. It should be readily visible, if it hasn’t been removed. It is on the sidewalk, or at least along the sidewalk, kind of.

  • Matt  On December 17, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    I left a us penny from 1976 and a $5 peso coin underneath a mailbox on 19th ave and 86th st on the Lenny pizza side of the street. I left the penny because it represents the Bensonhurst of yesterday and the peso to represent the international flavor of Bensonhurst today.

    While I was walking I thought about John travolta and how weird it must have been to be the coolest man on the planet for a short time only to watch that cool evaporate like the Italian shoe store that only remains as an awning and a memory. The flesh of John travolta remains but tony maneros appears only as a memory to greatness that was.

  • Rachel  On December 17, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    What a strut to recreate! I thought about Tony’s commanding walk – and how it compares to the cultural experience of strutting down the street as a female. For me, some hot pink lipstick best represented this complex experience – of performing the script of feminine socialization while exploring and giving color to the enduring objectification that perpetuates and accompanies it. Hot pink lipstick is strutting, dancing, liberating, expressing, oppressing, patriarchal, and….sitting on a lamp post at the corner of bay parkway and 18th ave! Thanks for the journey, Bess!

  • Jesse  On December 18, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    I made a 5 x 7 tracing of the frame from 0:33 of the strut with the lyric from 0:40–”feel the city breakin’, and ev’rybody shakin'” written on the back. I deposited my little treasure in Milestone Park, between the slats of the third bench in from 82nd Street–the row closest to the street, but the inward(park)-facing side.

    As I was walking back, I happened to pass the Manger scene reenacted live at the New Utrecht Reformed Church. After stopping to watch for a minute, I decided I needed to have two slices (and free soup!) at Angelina’s pizzeria between 84th and New Utrecht.

    On the train back, the thought of Bess retracing the steps and objects left by everyone and ceremoniously plotting them with commemorative disco balls gave me a bizarre sense of community. Thanks, Bess!!!

  • beth  On December 18, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    This object is on 86th st, near the south corner of 19th ave. There is a lamppost in front of la puebla grocery, not the post right on the corner, but neighboring it. Hugging the base of the post was a chain, and the object is tied to the chain. This object represents Tony’s impeccable grooming. Affixed to the object are three small red velvet hearts, to represent the holy trinity, recalling Tony’s Catholic roots. But they are red velvet because Tony’s holy spirit is one of material pleasure. Praise the luxurious lord!

  • genericxz  On December 19, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    I left a pair of reading glasses in front of Hollywood Tan, to represent the lens through which we see the city as aided by movies such as Saturday Night Fever.

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