Michael O'Harro is at work in his small office down the hall from his discotheque, drained of sound and music by daylight. Work consists of reading The New York Times, the local dailies and the Wall Street Journal, "all the stuff on the trends" in a half dozen magazines and keeping tabs on his projects - the plans for a national disco radio network, for a disco in Lake Placid during the winter Olympics, for the mobile disco system, for the chain of teenage discos, for a male version of the "$1.98 Beauty Pageant."
O'Harro and his assistant, Devon Dupres, and his deejay, Cheryl Bauer, are at work coming up with questions to ask the contestants in the Miss Georgetown pageant. "A macho man you've never met has just sent you a dozen red roses," reads one of them. "What would you do and why?" A desultory discussion of the disco scene also is under way.
Zouhair Attoue, a 24-year-old Lebanese graduate student from Zaire, also is in attendance. O'Harro considers him the archtypical denizen of the disco world and Attoue is asked why he goes to discos nearly every night. "To meet people, of course," he says. "Particularly women. Of course you don't go to have conversations with them, you're not there to get to know them."
Dupres breaks in with the ironic look of someone in the business of nurturing illusions she no longer believes in. "That's just it," she says. "Disco is just a lot of games, everyone come to act out a fantasy, no one wants to take the time or the commitment for a relationship.
"I met a man once, and we started talking. I was talking about Kierkegaard and Kafka. He looked at me and I asked him what he was thinking. "I was just wondering," he said, "whether I should start a meaningful relationship or just get my rocks off.""
"I know what you mean," says Attoue as he coils his gold chains around his hands. Even his chest hairs look as if they carry a designer label. "The women, they all say, "Zouhair, I love you, I want your lips to be mine," and I understand that. But love - love can take years."
And giddy infatuation, with places as with people, can disappear in a day "Remember," says Mike O'Harro in his manual, "you can become the in place only as long as the wrong people are excluded from your club." And only as long as the right people don't stray away, caught by the coquetry of yet another place to ditch reality for an hour or two.
There are other bigger, fancier and flashier places than Tramps around now, and while there are those who say Mike O'Harro always will be the ultimate survivor, there are others who wonder whether he might have missed the latest wave and wonder where he'll come to shore.
"We all get just a couple of chances in this business," says Tom Curtis. He has been around the bar business as long as O'Harro and now is one of the owners of the embryonic Polo Club which is supposed to open in about a month in the Carlton Hotel. "Mike should have gone on to something more classy. His problem is he's still into wet T-shirt contests."
Now Curtis has more than a casual interest in writing a dirge for disco and announcing he has seen the future and it is private clubs. Because private is precisely what the Polo Club will be. Curtis says, "Disco is the greatest thing that happened to the mediocre guy ever. He can't talk but he can dance. All the Rays become Raouls for the night and real you is put on hold. But it's not chic anymore. It's become devaluated to just another place for the latterday barflies - now they're all disco dollies."
O'Harro, of course, disagrees entirely and he sings an earnest song to the importance of his work. "Of course it's not frivolous," he says. "It's a tremedous service. Gloria Steinem has been to my club. It's not a heavy business, but I wasn't put here to solve the energy problem." CAPTION: Picture, Michael O'Harro, by Harry Naltchayan