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'We're here to boogie' World's Largest Disco benefits Camp Good Days

Paul Luzzi was in a powder blue leisure suit, white belt and white shoes.

Carol, his wife, wore a shimmering halter top and palazzo pants, along with iridescent eye shadow.

"We're here to boogie," Carol Luzzi said.

The Lewiston couple -- high-school sweethearts in Niagara Falls during the disco era -- weren't alone.

They were among 7,000 people at the 14th annual World's Largest Disco in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center Saturday night. The event sold out in 20 minutes after tickets went on sale last month, with all proceeds benefiting Camp Good Days and Special Times, the summer camp for kids with cancer.

Sequins, short skirts, Afro wigs, wide and wider collars, medallions, boas and patent leather platform shoes were some of the fashion statements of their day unearthed in the VIP room and cavernous convention floor.

Occasionally a barbed-wire arm tattoo or belly button piercing intruded on the '70s look.

Dancers poured onto the dance floor in both rooms as the music pulsed with the dance-oriented pop that once made disco an international phenomenon. Disco fell into decline by the early 1980s, in part because of a backlash by rock fans who rejected the prominence of electronic drum beats and synthesizers, and because of criticism for the hedonistic drug culture that came to surround it.

But it was disco's glory years that were being celebrated in the Convention Center, and in the VIP room the band Disco Duck performed dance hits such as "It's Raining Men," "Le Freak," "Bad Girls" and "I Will Survive." Upstairs, "I'm Coming Up" and "Walking in Rhythm" had bodies swaying and shoes tapping.

Although there have not been security problems in the past, a powerful security presence was in force, with dozens of armed guards on elevated platforms.

Organizer Dave Pietrowski defended the practice.

"One of the reasons we don't have any problems is we have an overabundance of security," he said.

The disco gala marked a return visit for Patrick and Margaux Frawley of Wheatfield.

"This is where my wife first kissed me, seven years ago today," said Patrick, wearing a pink tuxedo with velvet trim and fuchsia shirt.

"It was our first date, and we've been married three years," Margaux said, before offering a correction.

"Only he kissed me."

Posters behind a makeshift bar featured such '70s stars as Suzanne Somers, John Travolta, Donna Summer and David Cassidy. Two from that era also were present in person: Erik Estrada, the motorcycle cop from the television show "CHiPs," signed autographs, while Karen Lynn Gorney of "Saturday Night Fever" also made an appearance.

One of the quirkiest outfits belonged to the leisure suit-wearing Scott Watterson of Depew. His Afro wig stood 3 1/2 feet high, and he had 5-inch transparent lifts in his platform shoes that each held two plastic fish.

Wayne Lewis of Silver Creek wore a velour leopard-skin print with matching hat, gold metallic glasses and lots of bling that made him a ringer for Rick James.

Lewis, a Bennett High School student during the height of disco, looked back on that era fondly.

"I was there. My time, oh yeah. Definitely my time."

e-mail: msommer@buffnews.com

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