Ask anyone who lived in Atlanta in the late 1970s or ’80s what was the city’s most notorious dance club, and they’d tell you The Limelight. Like New York’s Studio 54, it was where you dressed your most outrageous to see and be seen, that is, if the door staff deigned to allow you in. Sharks swam and tigers stalked under the dance-floor for a while. And its fame stretched far beyond Atlanta, attracting Andy Warhol, Grace Jones, Mick Jagger and more. Located in the heart of Buckhead, it’s the reason Atlantans always will call that Kroger on Piedmont the “Disco Kroger.”
This Saturday night, some of the Limelight’s original DJs, set designers and club attendees are hoping to recapture the glittery over-the-top excitement with Deja Vu Discotheque, a one-night reunion dance party at Center Stage. The event not only promises the same over-the-top interior design and light show but also features original Limelight DJs Randy Easterling, Noel Aquirre and Aron Siegel, as well as Atlanta icon, DJ Lydia
Prim and live performances by Pamela Stanley singing her ’80s hit singles such as “I Don’t Want to Talk About It” and “If Looks Could Kill.” Attendees will also get a sneak peek at the trailer for LIMELIGHT, a documentary about club founder Peter Gatien, a one-eyed Canadian entrepreneur who also created upscale discos in Miami and another incarnation of Limelight in New York. A silent auction benefits the Starlight Children’s Foundation of Georgia
To get you in the mood for some serious disco dancing, ATLRetro asked a few folks who experienced the original Limelight to share a few memories:
Scott Cloud: For those who weren’t lucky enough to experience Limelight, it is difficult to find the words to describe the magical spell that was cast over Atlanta’s nightlife. First off, there was never the guarantee you would make it past the throngs of hopefuls, waiting outside Limelight’s gilded doors. If you were one of the Chosen Ones, you would soon realize those weren’t ordinary doors you were being escorted through. They were actually portals that transported you into an alternate reality and universe constructed of glitter, glamour and a whole lot of creative energy.
Everyone was a celebrity at Limelight, and you never knew who you might run into. Andy Warhol… Grace Jones… Mick Jagger… The entire club was a VIP Room, and you were immersed in an environment never again recreated in a nightclub. You weren’t merely a guest at Limelight; you were a participant in a night-long theatrical experience. Nowhere else could you dance above a shark tank, tigers or mermaids… Or experience a blizzard one moment, and a sea of bubbles the next… It was a visual smorgasbord everywhere you looked – living art displays, human mannequins, performance art and dazzling shows. Every visit to Limelight would herald a different experience. You never knew what to expect.
Set Designer K.P. Hendry: The outrageous theme parties had never happened before, even in my imagination!” says KP, referred to then as the club’s “promotional wizard, KP de Limelight.” Fellini would have been proud” as the scenes unfolded at the first anniversary bash over 30 years ago. “LA DOLCE VITA by way of SATYRICON sets created a glittering, glamorous and mystifying party of epic proportion,” the press noted. Bare as You Dare, Jungle Fever, Wet & Wild and Sunday T-Dances kept the club packed back in those days, Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine Party probably being the most notable. Everybody was a star at the see-and-be-seen disco of the decade. Custom costumes were provided for thousands of guests who checked not only their clothes but also their day-to-day personas at the door. Couple that with Limelight’s unprecedented
DJs spinning their dazzling disco beat, through a spectacular sound system with an electrifying light show and it is no wonder, everyone still loves Limelight. The larger-than-life energetic experiences exploded every evening. It was amazing to see and feel the transformation. August 6, at Center Stage, we will honor Club Creator Peter Gatien whose brilliance brought together the dancers of the day who left their inhibitions at the door.
Deja Vu Discotheque: Limelight Revisited. Center Stage. Ages 21 and up only. Doors open at 8 p.m. for V.I.P. ticketholders ($60) and 9 p.m. for general admission ($35). Tickets are available at www.limelightatl.com.
Note: All photos courtesy of K.P. Hendry.