In the end, there were no celebrities.
No Liz Ray looking Dyn-O-Mite in spandex cha-cha pants. No Sylvester Stallone swilling $1,000 worth of Blue Nun. No Telly Savalas buying wine for the house. Or Olivia Newton-John surrounded by bodyguards. Or Cher downing vodka and grapefruit juice. No Marilyn Chambers passing out 8-by-10 nude glossies of herself. No Pele doing a Portuguese pogo dance, or Charo koochee-koochee-kooing.
There were no senators or congressmen. No bevy of beauties spilling Dom Perignon on their dates' Qiana shirts and chest chains. There wasn't even a line to get in. It was just Michael O'Harro, the Dick Clark of Disco, and a crush of the old crowd arm-in-arm on the tiny dance floor of Tramps, the internationally known Georgetown nightclub he opened nearly seven years ago that shut its doors forever Saturday night.
It was the night disco died: Saturday Night Funeral.
The last rites came at 3 a.m., with 42-year-old O'Harro perched on the deejay booth like an extra from "A Night to Remember" watching the sinking Titanic, crying, "Remember us, remember us . . . " while the final thumpa-thumpa-thumpa of Donna Summer's "The Last Dance" spun the disco decade to a close.
"I'll tell you what it feels like," says O'Harro, delving deep into the emotional reserve of his sybaritic soul. "It's more traumatic than losing a girlfriend."
Lori Estep, model and former Miss Maryland with a halo of platinum hair, a glitzy Hiawatha headband and a blouse that buttons at the navel, smiles vaguely and says nothing. She is O'Harro's girlfriend. She was 15 when the club opened. She yawns. How many more eras are there?
"I cried all the way here," says Eleanor Raabe, in shiny Reagan-red miniskirt.
"I remember when you couldn't even MOVE in here," says Libby Anderson, a former Tramps waitress who flew in from Florida for the funeral. Several years ago, Anderson held a "Busting Out" party for herself here to celebrate a breast implant operation.
"It's not just a disco," says tuxedoed general manager Darioush Kehyari over the din. "It's an institution."
Could it be only two years ago that Newsweek magazine proclaimed that from Podunk to Peking, the world was hustling at 125 beats per minute, with 20,000 disco clubs in the United States alone?
Just in case no one thought of it, someone (most likely O'Harro) wrote on the blackboard by the front door: The End of An Era.
Cathy Rodriguez was 27 the night she met her future husband Isadoro at Tramps. It was Valentine's Day, 1977. She was an airline stewardess. He was a bouncer. The music was thumpa-rhumba-thumpa and Cathy didn't know how to dance to the Latin beat. Isadoro held her in his arms and guided her through the steps. It was love at first Latin hustle.
They were married a year later. They stopped going to Tramps.
"The crowd started changing," says Isadoro. "It became more a college crowd, younger and a little bit more vulgar."
When e'lan opened -- a K Street disco that has since closed -- Cathy and Isadoro Rodriguez joined. Then they had a child. They stopped going to discos.
"I think Tramps was a very elegant club," says Cathy. "But I think that period's over. They started wearing blue jeans and T-shirts. Before it was suits and cocktail dresses. I kept thinking it would be nice if it went back to the way it used to be."
Now Cathy's 32 and Isadoro's 35. She still works for the airline. He's an attorney. On Saturday night they came to Tramps to say goodbye, she in a pastel cocktail dress, he in a business suit. They sat at a banquette sipping their drinks demurely, their eyes glazed by the ghosts of the past. At the table sat Cathy's parents.
"It's sad," says Isadoro, watching part of his youth succumb to the cultural wrecking ball. "I did a lot of growing up at Tramps."
"Tramps like us, baby we were born to run."
Several days earlier, Mike O'Harro was sitting in the living room of his Arlington home, sifting though 12 scrapbooks filled with 1,500 pages of discobilia.
A year ago, O'Harro was told the lease was up on his Georgetown location, formerly the home of Billy Martin's Carriage House. The site housed two O'Harro ventures: Tramps, and a rock 'n' roll club for college students called Scandals. He says he couldn't find a suitable location to reopen Tramps, although he plans to find another spot for Scandals.
O'Harro says the closing of Tramps, which he modestly characterizes as "the greatest disco in the world," means the end of night life as we know it in Washington.
"People have been calling me up, saying, 'Whadda we gonna do, where are we gonna DANCE?' "
Since the premiere of the downtown disco in October 1975, O'Harro says nearly 50 clubs have opened and closed. "Zanzibar, Images, Boccacio, East India Club, Sundown, Ziegfields, uh, let's see . . . "
He turns another page in the scrapbook. "Tattooed Lady, Paradise Cafe, Silver Bird, Casablanca, French Underground. Uh, I made a list once. I should be able to remember. Uh, Vegas, Bogies . . . "
But Tramps held on to the end. Too long, some would say.
"It had kind of gone downhill lately," says 23-year-old Cindy Manion, who won three beauty pageants, lost two boyfriends and had her very first drink -- all at Tramps.
"Discos are dead," says Manion. "I guess people are going to the country-western clubs like Bronco Billy's and Annie Oakley's. Also, Nathan's an elegant Georgetown bar is real big now."
But Tramps was more than a disco. It was rite of passage. It was the Duke Zeibert's of Dance, the Sans Souci of Sweat. Above all, it was a microcosm of Washington in the '70s.
"It represented an era of people showing off," says O'Harro. "It became the era of total party atmosphere. It was the beginning of a different form of drug culture: cocaine. It stood for elegance. It became the era of the white three-piece suit with no tie and gold chains. Elegance. Dress up. The era of the Bee Gees and John Travolta."
"Stayin' Alive, Stayin' Alive. Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah, Stayin' Aliiiiive."
O'Harro takes a gulp of white wine, the '70s beverage of choice.
" 'Hot' was a big word. 'Boogie' was another. Party People. Pretty People. BP's. And everyone was selling it. Disco Roller Skating. Everything was centered around the beat, this thump-thump-thump beat dance. Lose yourself in lights and sound. High energy became important. You didn't go to a discotheque to get drunk. You didn't go to get high on drugs. You were there to get high on an atmosphere.
"The ENERGY! And the deejay was in the control booth, able to bring them up or bring them down and make them SWEAT! It was self-gratification and self-expression. The '70s was fantasy land. It was a playground. An amusement park for adults to play out their fantasies on the dance floor."
O'Harro knows what he's talking about. He IS the '70s.
Born in California, voted "Least Likely To Succeed" in high school, self-described "nerd," O'Harro tapped the '60s singles scene with his pseudo-sincere "Gentlemen's II" bar before discovering the secret of the self-gratifying '70s with Tramps. He boogied all the way to the bank, the disco grossing more than $5 million with the owner realizing a good chunk of it.
Owner of fast cars and lover of nubile girls ("19 is about right"), O'Harro's credentials include Cosmo magazine "Bachelor of The Month" and one of the National Enquirer's Ten Most Eligible Bachelors. His latest coup was being named one of "Washington's Lousiest Lovers" in Washingtonian magazine.
"I would have been insulted if I wasn't in it," he says. The only thing that hurt, he adds, was when they said his house looked like a discotheque. He surveys the living room, with its raised dance floor by the hearth, the banquettes against the wall, the stereo speakers hanging from the ceiling, the bearskin on the wall. "Do you think it looks like a disco?" he asks, looking worried.
Some blame the economy, some blame the arrival of suburban night life for the demise of the disco. Some say the fad is over.
"Right now, there really isn't any kind of music or trend that everyone's going for," says 26-year-old Twyla Littleton, O'Harro's former girlfriend who moved to California several years ago to pursue a film career. She wasn't there for The Last Dance. She was making a Hawaiian Punch commercial with Donny and Marie.
"The other day I went in there and it was totally empty and it kind of hit me that it was closing and I looked around and I remembered all the wonderful times I had there," she says.
The time Lillian Carter came in and wound up spinning records in the deejay's booth. The night Peter Wolf, lead singer of the J. Geils Band and Faye Dunaway's ex-husband, showed up in dungarees and a football jersey, licking a double-dip ice cream cone. Margaret Trudeau, Peter O'Toole, Tom Courtenay, Peggy Fleming, Fleetwood Mac, Robert Altman, Cliff Robertson, Stephanie Powers, Keith Carradine and Lloyd Bridges. Marisa Berenson sending back the bottle of champagne because it wasn't good enough. ("It was Dom Perignon," O'Harro recalls.) Even feminist Gloria Steinem couldn't stay away. All this has been recorded by O'Harro in his scrapbooks.
There were disco movies, disco restaurants, and at Tramps, the activities included beauty pageants, fashion shows, dance contests and private parties, with invitations stating the dress code: "European Chic" one year, "Superstar" the next, "Ultra Sleek," "Easy Elegance," "Sassy Class," to the March 1980 "New Wave."
There were Tramps T-shirts, Tramps Vamp "Girl Of The Month," a Tramps newsletter.
"It broke my heart that it was closing," says Twyla Littleton. "It was almost like belonging to a rec center."
Outside the Georgetown building, there is scaffolding covering the facade. It is hard to tell there is anything behind it. O'Harro says the building is being renovated and will house shops, or maybe a restaurant. Or maybe a hotel.
"They're tearing down the drive-in and putting up a high-rise," says O'Harro, staring into his drink. The records are still spinning, running into one another until the sound becomes one continual thumpa-thumpa-thumpa. Friends are coming over to greet him.
O'Harro puts his arm around a blond. "Come over here and show everyone how beautiful you look," he whispers to her. She turns around. She is not beautiful -- merely attractive in a flashy sort of way, with too much makeup and hair teased to a wild fluff and a face that has seen too many evenings turn into dawn.
"I'm not giving up," says O'Harro, as the music ends. "I'm not quitting. I want to keep on dancing. I love clubs. I love the night life." He pauses. "Maybe I'm in a time capsule. Maybe I'm still in the '70s."