🐈⬛ Catwalk: John Travolta
Against all odds John Travolta wins the girl in the vibrating dress.
EXT. SUBWAY OVERPASS, OUTSIDE OF A LAUNDROMAT, 1977 - DAY
It’s the greatest two hundred yards of foot travel in the history of cinema. Dancing will be a focus later on, there will be a white suit, an extended arm, and somebody will jump off the Verrazano.
I am never ever, ever going to get a girl before this guy. And by “I”, I mean you. If you were forced to walk along swinging a paint can, stuffing your face with pizza, sporting a gold chain, and wearing nylon bellbottoms it’s not going to happen. And in the next five minutes or so, you’re going to learn he pulls this off and still lives with his parents.
Let’s start a list and add “living with your parents” to reasons you’re never going to walk down any street with the same level of confidence he does, let alone win his girl. And by “his” girl, I mean any girl in the Borough of Brooklyn. If you’re not him, you'll never be able to surmount these obstacles.
In Act I of the title credits “Tony Romero” enters stage center to The Bee Gees Stayin’ Alive. His body pumps up and down like a piston - or something related and rhythmic.
I don’t know where you personally went with that, but the character is taking his pet shoes for a walk. His feet - also characters in this film - kick the lens like boxing gloves.
The salivating camera pans from his feet to his hair, pausing briefly on an expanse of ‘70s-wide shirt collar. If his feet are fancy-free, his hair is under house arrest, gelled into a shape that will protect his head in a dancing mishap. Add “crash test hair” and “aeronautical collars” to the list of handicaps he overcomes on this strut to immortality.
When they say the camera “loves” someone, they are talking about Romero’s shoes. The close ups on his pet shoes now span the width of a drive-in movie screen. Women are passing out in the vehicle next to you. The bass player is trying to give CPR and only making things worse. Barry Gibb is shrieking for a medic.
Romero stops to let his shoes check out other shoes in the show store display window. His shoes are like friendly dogs. Please view here. I won’t ask again. Then pencil in “cheap… shoes… with… two… inch…. heels” to your list.
Romero stops by for a sidewalk service slice of pizza. There's chitchat with a girl at the counter. She knows him. Probably he went to high school with her before dropping out.
“Hiya, Tony. Two or three?”
“Two, two, gimme two, d’as good.” (“That is good.”)
Whoa, hardcore Brooklyn accent. Wasn’t expecting that.
Romero stacks the pizza slices vertically, chews vigorously. That sometime his high school friend knows he stacks pizza three slices high is concerning.
Your wife is tapping at the passenger window. Her hands are full of drive-in stand concessions. She missed the whole thing. Not altogether a bad thing. Anyway, she’s safely back in the car, nothing spilled in the car entry concession handoff, the Bee Gees fade out, and the movie begins.
No, wrong, it doesn’t.
You would really do me a favor by watching this first so you can tag along. This is getting to be a heavy lift.
The second he leaves the pizza joint and steps his foot back on the sidewalk, the Bee Gees are back in business. Because for Romero to even shift his body weight is to fire up a soundtrack. Remember those little vacuum cleaner things you pushed around the living room as a small child and you made all the color balls jump in the plastic dome when you moved it? Well that’s Tony Romero. I have to stop saying “Romero.” This is a scene about John Travolta. Come on, people.
Anyway, The Brothers wail away in high-register castrato, precisely zero male threat to our hero. This all goes on forever, but in a good way, until every woman in New York City - #hohohochuckle #notManhattan - falls in behind Travolta in a Michael Jackson video triangle. They pour out of bodegas and baggage stores, stumble around subway overpass columns. Their arms windmill through the air as they launch themselves over police car Chevy Impalas like Starsky and Hutch.
Travolta drops into a clothing store to buy a blue shirt on layaway. Add "buying stuff on layaway" and “Dress Shirts $5” to the list of things that will make it impossible for you to ever walk with this much confidence.
“As long as it doesn’t turn into a 20-year mortgage,” says the clothing shop owner. While you work through the downpayment, amortization and interest rates on a $5 shirt, Travolta lets his shoes run around off leash, and now the film actually does get started.
Of course, it doesn’t.
We're stayin’ alive! Stayin’ alive! The walk has now become Shakespearean in vision and scope. We are completing the narrative arc of his pet shoes’ three act character transition. #yesiknowtherearefiveactsnotthree. In Act I Travolta made an abrupt dance floor 180 to follow a woman going the opposite direction. (This was the first time we really got to see his shoes in action.) This first act woman he only followed for a second or two, before his paint can swung him in a great arcing pendulum back to work.
But the woman in Act III is a DNA-certified, raven-haired Italian American vision.
Whereas he pistons up and down like something familiar and rhythmic, she weaves from side to side like she’s in a getaway car. You can observe all this whether you're following from the vantage point of Act II or getting a forward preview from Act IV. She wears some kind of vibrating dress, possibly from the electricity coming off of wire clothes hangers.
Very few women can get their hands on these glowing dresses. They are only sold deep in the heart of Italian neighborhoods, in Brooklyn, under subway overpasses, and next to stores with Minolta SLRs and Texas Instrument calculators in the window displays. #bornin70sorearlier.
For that matter, very few men can get their hands on these dress either. But when this second dress passes, Travolta hits a disco force field. His pet shoes snap him on his leash and chase him after her.
He passes in front of her and pivots to look back. Then he is walking backwards to get a full view from an Act V that her expression makes damn sure he’ll never be in the audience for, but not before he blocks her way from an angle that is decidedly not 2023 degrees. #probablybornin90sorlater #firingrangeofuniversity
Several lists, hopefully none with my name on them.
His The Act III girl #woman #90sorlater scowls at him, then rolls her eyes, but then she can't help but give in to a smile #hahgotcha as she navigates around him.
Still, he knows to quit. #okthatsalittlebetter. #littleisitalicized. He’s lost the B train pavement hustle.
In a master stroke of chin-up defeat, he adjusts his crotch as he gives up, reverses course, and heads back to his job as a clerk at the paint store.
I’m 50/50 on whether the crotch adjustment is deliberate or instinctive. Make that 90/10 or possibly 10/90.
By the end of the play within the play in the Saturday Night Fever credits, the Travolta strut has knocked the camera so far sideways that it is shooting from a gurney parallel to the sidewalk.
He has knocked every last Manhattan nightclubber - along the entire length of the Catwalk bar that you’ve completely forgotten about - onto the ground like pins in a 40-lane Flatbush Avenue bowling alley.
Film buff trivia note for those of you haven’t followed a word of this. And this is the last time I’ll ask. In the final stretch, the name of the title track is spelled incorrectly. There is a “g” instead of a Brooklyn Apostrophe after the “n.”
Add “caring about spelling mistakes” to the long list of why you - and by “you” I mean every last one of you pistonless snobs sitting at the Catwalk bar - will never, ever, ever be this cool, or walk like that, or win a girl in a vibrating dress.