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Two decades of disco fever

Published Oct. 2, 2005

Oh, no. Can it really be 20 years since John Travolta doused himself with cheap cologne, zipped up those excruciatingly tight pants _ polyester, of course _ and set the entertainment world afire with his swivel-hipped dance prowess in Saturday Night Fever? You bet it can be. You can almost hear 60-million baby boomer backs popping as they try to re-create his loose-jointed antics and their youth.

Tonight, Saturday night, fittingly, a SNF reunion will be in Brooklyn's Bay Ridge, where the movie was filmed. Nearly all the film's stars will be there, and rumors are flying that Travolta himself may show up.

+ John Travolta (Tony Manero)

Popular legend has it that Travolta's career took a dive after Saturday Night Fever and wasn't resurrected until 1994's Pulp Fiction. Truth is that even though the 43-year-old Travolta has had his share of flops _ did anyone see Eyes of an Angel or Shout? _ his lean period also included several semi-hits. Grease, made the year after SNF, was bigger at the box office, while movies like Urban Cowboy and Perfect did much to keep his hunk image alive. If there is a movie that really saved Travolta's career, it was 1989's Look Who's Talking. It was mocked by critics, but made nearly $300-million worldwide and won Travolta a spot in the family movie Hall of Fame.

+ Karen Lynn Gorney (Stephanie, Tony's sophisticated new flame)

Gorney, who turned 53 this year, virtually disappeared from movies after SNF. But after a flirtation with rock music, the theater-trained actress returned to the stage, where she has worked steadily. She has established herself as a Shakespearean actress of some note, performing in King John, Hamlet and Richard III. She also appeared in 1990's The Hard Way _ directed by SNF director John Badham _ and the 1996 film Ripe and has re-created one of her stage roles for the upcoming release of The Cottonwood. Gorney lives in New York with her husband, pianist Mark Toback, and their three cats. For more information, check out the Gorney Fan Club Web site:

+ Donna Pescow (Annette, Tony's much-maligned former dance partner)

The Brooklyn-born Pescow's career took off after SNF, culminating in her assuming the title role in the short-lived Angie TV series. She's done a bit of film and theater since, but TV has been her best friend. She's had guest appearances on Clueless, NYPD Blue and Pauly and has directed several episodes of Harry and the Hendersons. It's worth noting that Pescow, 43, appeared in All My Children in what is touted as the first gay story line on U.S. daytime TV.

+ Bruce Ornstein (Gus, Tony's pal who gets beaten up early in the film)

Ornstein appeared in several episodes of LA Law and Hooper and went on to direct a short film called Jack and His Friends in 1992. The Los Angeles phone number listed as his primary residence has been disconnected.

+ Barry Miller (Bobby C., the gang wimp who later falls from the bridge)

Miller has not only been busy since SNF, he's been quite successful, winning a 1985 Tony Award for Broadway's Biloxi Blues and garnering a Golden Globe nomination for the TV series Equal Justice. He's also appeared in several big-name films: Fame, The Last Temptation of Christ and Peggy Sue Got Married. Like every actor, though, he's had his dogs, like the unwatchable The Pickle.

At the moment, says his agent, the 39-year-old actor is "out of the country working on a film."

+ Joseph Cali (Joey, Tony's best friend)

"Acting is still my real love," says the 47-year-old Cali, who was raised in the Bay Ridge neighborhood where SNF took place. Though he continues to act and do voice-overs, Cali's primary work is as the head of Cello Music and Film Systems, an LA-based firm that designs screening rooms and recording studios. January will find him on-screen in Suicide Kings, with Christopher Walken and Laura San Giacomo. In 1983, he was stung with a Razzie nomination as worst supporting actor for The Lonely Lady. But he survived the indignity, going on to appear in several series: Melrose Place, LA Heat and Hunter, among them. Unlike some SNF alums, Cali adored his experience. "It gave me my start and I can only say good things about it."

+ Paul Pape (Double J, the handsome tough guy of the group)

In the wake of SNF, Pape made occasional guest appearances on TV series, including a guest spot on Donna Pescow's series, Angie. But he soon disappeared from the entertainment radar screen. He popped up again in 1995, though, doing voice-overs, most notably in Jackie Chan's First Strike.