AskDefine | Define discotheque

Dictionary Definition

discotheque n : a public dance hall for dancing to recorded popular music [syn: disco]

User Contributed Dictionary



French discothèque


  1. In the context of "slightly|_|dated": A nightclub where dancing takes place.



Extensive Definition

A discothèque, is an entertainment venue or club with recorded music played by "Discaires" (Disc jockeys) through a PA system, rather than an on-stage band. The word derives from the French word discothèque (a type of nightclub). Discothèque is a portmanteau coined around 1941 from disc and bibliothèque (library) by La Discothèque, then located on the Rue de la Huchette in Paris, France. Previously, most bars and nightclubs used live bands as entertainment.

1960s and early 1970s

By the late 1960's, American versions of the discotheque starting to catch on, and with these clubs, the demand for new dance steps such as the Frug, the Merengue, and the Mule skyrocketed.
Record labels feverishly rushed out whole albums of music to monkey or limbo by, or else mimicked the discotheque effect by assembling compilations of everything from the foxtrot to the boogaloo. Dance instructors got in on the act, releasing LPs such "Killer Joe's International Discotheque."

1970s and early 1980s

By the late 1970s many major US cities had thriving disco club scenes which were centered around discotheques, nightclubs, and private loft parties where DJs would play disco hits through powerful PA systems for the dancers. The DJs played "... a smooth mix of long single records to keep people “dancing all night long” " Some of the prestigious clubs had elaborate light organs, which converted audio signals into colored lights that throbbed to the beat of the music or even glass-floored dance floors with colored lights.
Some cities had disco dance instructors or dance schools which taught people how to do popular disco dances such as "touch dancing", the "hustle" and the "cha cha." There were also disco fashions that discotheque-goers wore for nights out at their local disco, such as sheer, flowing Halston dresses for women and shiny polyester Qiana shirts for men with pointy collars, preferably open at the chest, often worn with double-knit suit jackets.
In addition to the dance and fashion aspects of the disco club scene, there was also a thriving drug subculture, particularly for drugs that would enhance the experience of dancing to the loud music and the flashing lights, such as cocaine (nicknamed "blow"), amyl nitrite "poppers" , and the "...other quintessential 1970s club drug Quaalude, which suspended motor coordination and turned one’s arms and legs to Jell-O." The massive quantities of drugs ingested in discotheques by newly liberated gay men produced the next cultural phenomenon of the disco era: rampant promiscuity and public sex. While the dance floor was the central arena of seduction, actual sex usually took place in the nether regions of the disco: bathroom stalls, exit stairwells, and so on. In other cases the disco became a kind of “main course” in a hedonist’s menu for a night out."
Famous 1970s discotheques included "...cocaine-filled celeb hangouts such as Manhattan's Studio 54 ", which was operated by Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager. Studio 54 was notorious for the hedonism that went on within; the balconies were known for sexual encounters, and drug use was rampant. Its dance floor was decorated with an image of the "Man in the Moon" that included an animated cocaine spoon. Other famous discotheques included the Loft, the Paradise Garage, and Aux Puces, one of the first gay disco bars.


Today the term discothèque is usually synonymous with nightclubs in France because disco music is still very popular there, but in contemporary English usage it is now very dated, because nightclubs have not been commonly called "discos" since the early 1980s. The term "disco" was originally a 1960s US abbreviation of discothèque, a place where "disco music" was played.

Some historical discothèques

  • Ad Lib, in London, opened 1963 by Nicholas Luard and Lord Timothy Willoughby
  • La Discothèque, in London, opened 1960
  • Chez Regine, in Paris' Latin Quarter, opened 1957 by Régine
  • La Discothèque, in Paris (on rue Hachette), opened 1941
  • Whiskey à Go-Go, in Paris, opened 1947 by Paul Pacine
  • 2001 Odyssey, in Brooklyn, New York (was rechristened as The Spectrum in 1987; club demolished in late 2005)
  • Arthur, in New York City, opened 1965 by Sybil Burton at site of the defunct El Morocco
  • Aux Puces, in New York City, one of the first gay discos
  • Cheetah, in New York City, at Broadway and 53rd Street
  • Civic Theatre Disco in New Orleans owned and operated by Glen Tortorich. A converted Art Deco theater was billed as the world's largest disco accommodating over 1500 and referred to as the Studio 54 of the South.
  • Dlux club Caspe
  • Down The Street, in Asbury Park, New Jersey, open until 1999
  • Electric Circus, opened 1967 on St. Mark’s Place
  • Il Mio (an Italian "discoteca"), in New York City,
  • L’Interdit, in New York City
  • La Dom, downstairs from Electric Circus; run by Andy Warhol
  • Le Club, in New York City, opened 1960 by Olivier Coquelin, a French expatriate
  • Ones Discotheque, New York City 1972-1982. Owned and operated by the Zimmerman family, Ones was noted for its amazing disco sound system, outrageous neon, and its refusal to knuckle under to organized crime. It was the longest running discotheque in Manhattan at the time it closed in 1982.
  • Peppermint Lounge, in New York City, opened 1961
  • Shepheard's, in New York City,
  • Studio 54, in New York City, which was notable for its sexuality, and was operated by Steve Rubell; depicted in the 1998 film 54; parodied in the 2002 movie Austin Powers in Goldmember as Studio 69.
  • Zhivagos in Dublin from the early 1970s to the mid 1980s
  • The Loft, in New York City, opened 1970 by David Mancuso
  • The Sanctuary, in New York City, a famous early-1970s gay disco; part of the movie Klute was filmed there
  • Whisky a Go Go, in Chicago, corner of Rush and Chestnut, opened 1958
  • Whisky a Go Go, in West Hollywood, California, opened 1964


The term disco, which is a shortened form of discothèque, refers to a specific style of pop music that was derived in U.S.A. from funk and soul, and to the dance styles popular in 1970s disco clubs (e.g., "The Hustle"). In Europe the same term used for the European Disco productions, that had 50s and 60s Europop influences. Later, those European productions (mostly Italian and German) were named "Euro Disco" and "Disco" was only used for the U.S.A. productions.

See also


External links

  • 365Mag - 365 Mag and e-zine about electronic music
  • - An online dance music magazine
  • - All times dance music charts (begins with 1974)
discotheque in French: Discothèque
discotheque in Spanish: Discoteca
discotheque in Danish: Diskotek
discotheque in Italian: Discoteca
discotheque in Georgian: დისკოთეკა
discotheque in Japanese: ディスコ
discotheque in Dutch: Discotheek
discotheque in Norwegian: Diskotek
discotheque in Russian: Дискотека
discotheque in Slovak: Diskotéka
discotheque in Thai: ดิสโก้เทค
discotheque in Polish: Dyskoteka
discotheque in Yiddish: דיסקאטעק
discotheque in Chinese: 迪斯科

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

amusement park, ballroom, cabaret, cafe, cafe chantant, cafe dansant, casino, dance floor, dance hall, dancing pavilion, entertainment industry, fun-fair, juke joint, night spot, nightclub, nitery, resort, roadhouse, show biz, show business, supper club, tavern, theater, watering place
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