Review: Playboy’s 1979 Roller Disco & Pajama Party Captivates and Reminds of Bygone Era and Budding Star Dorothy Stratten
Over-The-Top Playboy Special Preserved On YouTube Serves As A Bittersweet Reminder Of A Much Different Era – And What Might Have Been With Respect To Young Bombshell Dorothy Stratten
By TRAVIS MOORE
Published June 3, 2017
The finest and most entertaining time capsule in the whole YouTube universe is Playboy’s Roller Disco & Pajama Party (or “Roller Disco/Pajama Party” for short). [Ed.: Videos are linked on Page 4 of this article.]
Disco? Isn’t disco passe? And isn’t roller skating a lame relic of the 20th century? Maybe so, but this program is a national treasure. And I am not some snowflake, “feminist” Millennial trying to prove how sophisticated and politically sensitive I am by mocking the strange tastes of an older generation. This article is an irony-free zone.
The 1979 Roller Disco/Pajama Party shows a time when people appreciated beauty not just in women but also in manners, music and attire. Perhaps some of it was just a mirage, but it sure looks real to this guy who has watched it at least five times. Adding to the value of the special is that underneath the superficial aura of carefree reverie is the germ seed of a tragedy that some say marked the end of the 1970s and the slow demise of Playboy.
Looking back through the portal of the internet, those under 50 can see what we missed in the 70s. By the early-80s, the world started to change. The fear surrounding HIV (and AIDs) ended the sexual freedom. Outside the bedroom, relations between the sexes began a long, slow descent as feminism started to infiltrate the minds of young women. (Today the sexes are in a virtual state of war.) The war on drugs didn’t even exist in the 1970s, and terrorism was virtually unknown in the U.S. The scourge of our age, the Diversity cult, was not even a buzzword much less a state religion. While the economy wasn’t great, regular American males could marry a young woman, buy a house and support both her and a family.
Also, in contrast to today popular music was infused with all sorts of wonderful and inventive styles. The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and The Who shared the Billboard music charts with genre busting artists such as jazz flugalhorn player Chuck Mangione. Mangione, who is featured heavily as live party entertainment in the Roller Disco/Pajama Party with his outstanding quartet, mixed catchy melodies with virtuoso jazz solo work. Back in the day a handful of his tunes played constantly on the radio and the entire country knew them. They are maligned today (by people pretending to be music snobs) but their accessibility, musicality and beauty are undeniable. (The low-resolution noise people listen to through their earbuds today does not even compare.)
Despite its outlandish name, the Roller Disco/Pajama Party is the evolution of a concept that Playboy invented in the staid late-1950s with the more understated television series Playboy’s Penthouse. Filmed in Chicago, Playboy’s Penthouse used a roving camera to give the viewer the sensation of being a guest at one of Hefner’s sophisticated cocktail parties high above Lakeshore Drive. Party guests included jazz luminaries like Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole along with Playmates. (These also can be found on YouTube.)
Hefner resurrected the format again in color in 1969 with the series Playboy After Dark.