TDB: The Gazebo
The Gazebo Image

The Gazebo

September 25, 2019 | Carol Campos

1984 was a good year for me—thankfully way different than the way George Orwell described it in his novel. I was a junior in high school and, as an upper-classman, I felt a sense of confidence that was lacking just a mere year before. I was older, wiser, and certainly cooler. I lived in a pretty little town about an hour outside of Boston. Looking back, it was a very innocent time. Thanks to the movie Flashdance, cut-off shirts and sweatshirts were all the rage, as were popped collars and neon everything. Posters of Michael Jackson and Prince adorned my bedroom. Naturally I had planned on marrying Michael Jackson after “Thriller” came out but now, at the ripe age of 17, I laughed at how silly that was (although I didn’t take down the posters AND I continued to spend money on pins with his picture to pin to my jean jacket).

I grew up in a town that was very “white bread,” with very little diversity. In my entire class there were maybe 5 non-white students. For the majority of my classmates it was expected that, after finishing high school, we would head to college, earn a degree and settle down and have kids just as generations had done before us. I was the consummate people-pleaser so I went with the flow. But in 1984 a movie came out that changed the trajectory of my life. That movie was Breakin’. The movie is so bad that it’s good. Though break-dancing had been around for years, it was just coming to my attention. I was fascinated.

I put on a jean skirt which fell just below the knees and a red button-down shirt. I looked like I was headed to 3rd period English class. I was clueless.

Roughly, the plot of the movie is about this young, privileged white woman named Kelly who befriends two break-dancers from the “wrong side of the tracks”, Turbo and Ozone, and they teach her “their” way of dancing. They enter a competition and…well I’m sure you can guess how it ends. I wanted to be Kelly, as did many other girls my age. But the point is, after this movie came out, break-dancing “crews” started popping up in a large town nearby. It was also at this time that an under-20 nightclub opened up called The Gazebo. For weeks, every Monday, I would hear the popular kids in my class talk about this club. There was good music, kids from other towns, and break-dancing battles. What?! Sign me up!

It wasn’t until the spring of my junior year that my friends and I finally got up the nerve to go to The Gazebo. I remember it very clearly. I put on a jean skirt which fell just below the knees and a red button-down shirt. I looked like I was headed to 3rd period English class. I was clueless. The club was part of a much bigger building called the Chateau de Ville. I remember that my stomach was in knots as we parked the car. I think I was nervous about running into my own classmates and getting a look like “what are YOU doing here?” (which NEVER happened, by the way). Outside there was a staircase that lead to the entrance.

As I entered the club, the first thing I noticed was how dark it was. As you walked in, there was a bar area. I remember it being a long narrow horse-shoe shape, but I can’t be sure. What I do remember is that there were only two people sitting at it: a beautiful Puerto Rican girl with her boyfriend. They were both looking sharp—both dressed to kill. I immediately regretted my outfit choice and, based on the look she gave me, she agreed. I recognized her and her boyfriend right away. I had seen them at the movies and at the mall many times. There are only so many places you can go as a teenager and certain people stand out. As pretty as she was, she always looked bored or annoyed. I couldn’t have known that 6 years later she would become my sister-in-law. We are still close to this day and laugh about those times. But on this day in 1984 she was a stranger and she had ZERO use for me.

My friends and I made our way through the club, not knowing where we were going, but following the kids ahead of us like badly dressed lemmings. To my left was the dance floor and at the far left was an actual gazebo. The music was loud and the dance floor was full. I continued looking around, wide-eyed. I must have looked like a tourist visiting Times Square for the first time. I glanced at the DJ booth. I could barely see him through the glass. A Hispanic guy dressed in all black stood next to the booth. He had a serious expression and his arms folded in front of his chest. Did the DJ need his own security? I was careful not to make eye contact.

That first night at The Gazebo I barely danced. Mainly I people-watched. I noticed that most of the white kids stood on one side of the club and everyone else stood on the other. Yet on the dance floor, everyone danced together. It was odd, yet nobody seemed to question it. I scoped out a boy I thought was cute and then agonized over the fact that he was dancing with a girl from my school. I felt invisible and definitely not like Kelly from Breakin’. Things took a turn for the better when the break-dancing started. Just like in the movie, the dance floor was cleared and the “battles” began. To me those break-dancers were like movie stars. Everyone surrounded them and cheered. As Herbie Hancock’s “Rock It” started playing, I glanced back at the DJ booth. Mr. Friendly was still standing there, like a spider in the shadows.

Soon after my first visit to the Gazebo, summer began. As always, I went to Long Island to spend the summer with my Dad. This was the first summer ever that I felt like I was missing out on something back home. My friends would send me letters of who was dancing with whom and what they found out about this break-dancer or that one. I was so jealous. When summer ended, I anxiously entered my senior year. That first Saturday my friends and I went to The Gazebo. By this time, I had watched enough Madonna videos to give me tips on how to dress for a club. I was so excited! But halfway through the night, a fight broke out between kids from 2 different towns and it was rumored that guns were involved. The police came and to my horror, The Gazebo was shut down, never to be opened again.

A few months later another under 20 club opened at the same location, but on the other side of the building. It was called “The Other Side” (no joke). Although I, along with hundreds of other kids, were happy to see it open, it wasn’t the same. For most of us, The Gazebo was our first taste of clubs and dancing with people from different backgrounds than our own. When I think of it now, it’s like remembering a movie I once saw—even better than Breakin’. I witnessed drama, heartbreak, laughter and incredible dancing. My memories of that little club will always stick with me. Oh, and remember the guy I mentioned standing by the DJ booth? He was only 16. How do I know? He became my husband! How’s that for a Divine Breadcrumb?!

Please join the conversation...

Thank you for contributing! Please follow our guidelines to make this a safe, comfortable space for all.
View our comment policy for details.

Please log in to comment.

Don't have an account? Create one now!

Simon L. | 9/25/2019

Wow!! Carol, you really have described gems of your experience as a 17 year old! As for the Gazebo, it sound like a great place for music; except for the potential and imaginary sound of a Colt 45 be fired at the ceiling. Although that was my first thought, not the reality! I really do love your descriptions; you bring your teenage days' to life! And 1984! Everyone was waiting to see what would happen. George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair) could have been able to foresee the future! 'Big Brother is Watching You'! Scary? That was before CCTV and smart 'phones! The mid-nineteen eighties were vivid for the new dancing style; rock and role become less trending and as your describe, break-dancing was the in thing! Carol, as normal, you describe your earlier days, with passion and also humor. I guess I'll have to write about the year when I was 17.............1963!!!! Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones et al. You made my day reading your magical blog! Wonderful. Perhaps 'Big Brother is Watching You' could have been replace by @Here's lookin' at you kid'!! Simon

Dawn D. | 9/25/2019

I was actually one of the breakdancers that went to the gazebo every weekend. My friend and I were the only two girls at that time that entered the breakdancing scene in Framingham. The best days of my life and yes, some if the most embarrassing as well. Lol

Rob S. | 9/27/2019

I wouldn't put the Gazebo on the level of Roller Inc in Ashland but I will say that it was a game changer for me and all of my friends. My first love Madonna and girls from everywhere. I try to explain to people how my childhood was and how we had so many friends from so many different towns and backgrounds and we all got together over music and skating and dancing and it was usually drama free. There were so many kids doing all the same things, what a blast the 80's were. I have satellite radio in my car and my 11 and 9 year old kids tell me "80's on 8 dad!" as soon as we get in the car. Almost every song i hear from the 80s brings a smile to my face.