The first time I ever saw a nightclub was in the movie 'Saturday Night Fever'. I was bored stiff - I was too young to understand the nuances of the movie then; I saw it again recently and liked it plenty - and I was terribly disappointed in John Travolta (he was being nothing like the Danny I knew from Grease and Sandy was nowhere in sight). I didn't know what the big deal was with a nightclub - it just looked like an overcrowded avenue with horribly flashing lights, barely tolerable music and badly-dressed people drinking away and hitting on other badly-dressed people.

Naturally I was astonished when I next got reading about popular musicians and music bands and discovered that going to nightclubs was considered 'cool and hip'; that some clubs, like Annabel's in London, Studio 54 in New York and Whiskey a Gogo in Paris, were actually considered the acme spots of hi-fi socialization. People went to such famous nightclubs to see celebrities and rub shoulders with them, to be seen with other celebrities if they were already in that bracket, to be photographed by press photographers, and to be written about by gossip columnists. It seemed a pretty pathetic and shallow way to pass your time, and I started questioning what all the fuss about being famous was anyway. These people got into such incomprehensible and idiotic scrapes. I would come across newspaper reports that the socialite so-and-so had been seen at this club or that, and I would think, so what? I still think that as a matter of fact - waste of newspaper space second only to the news of some football player's girlfriend's tastes in shopping and lingerie and that girlfriend's mother's indignant opinion of the couple's shaky relationship. And only slightly more tasteful than the news of some 18-year old Brazilian going into delirious throes because Prince William groped her in a nightclub and of some 30-year old giving preening sound-bytes to all and sundry because Prince Harry groped her.

Nightclubs, I read, weren't just places people went to socialize and hear canned music/live music, they were a breeding ground for the drug culture and, uhm, for some actual breeding too. People indulged in 'recreational' drugs like LSD, cocaine, marijuana, amyl nitrite and so on, and in casual, sometimes public sex. This may not raise too many eyebrows anymore, but it was apparently ground-breaking behavior back in the nineteen-seventies.

I read up some more on nightclubs and I found out the following -
  • Nightclubs are dependent on local regulations. This means, as per the local rules, they may either close at 11: 30 p.m. or 1 a.m., or may stay open until the wee hours of the morning.
  • Most nightclubs have age regulations and require you to show some proof of your age before you are allowed entry. If you are underage you will be turned away from an over-18 venue and have to wander away to find an under-18 one. Yes, tweens, there are places catering for you, minus the alcohol, drugs and hopefully the sex.
  • You have to pay an entry fee to be allowed inside. There may be concession cards for regular members. Some clubs allow free entry for people who turn up very early, for single women, or on certain special nights. You could also get in free if you are great chums with the bouncer or the owner.
  • Many clubs have a DJ to regulate the music and he/she is often a celebrity in his/her own right.
  • Some clubs have live entertainment, which may consist of a solo singer, a music group or band, a stand-up comedian, a dancing troupe, a strippers group and so on.
  • Nightclubs have extra thick, sound-proof walls and often no windows, to both avoid becoming a noisy nuisance to people in neighboring buildings and to create an illusion of an unending night of fun for the party-goers inside.
With the coming of globalization and all, nightclub culture is making its presence felt here in India. There are some interesting ones in major cities like Bombay, Bangalore and Delhi, but we even have a couple in my small town now (where everyone shows up looking highly self-conscious and shuffle away in mutual embarrassment). It looks like it's not going to be long before we become bona fide members of the notorious global clubhood.

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