Last Dance

IT WAS THE LATE 1970s, troubling times in many ways — hostages in Iran, gas more than a dollar a gallon, Jimmy Carter pleading with a nation to conserve electricity. Legions of young people chose to leave their problems behind by wriggling into gold lamé jumpsuits and doing the hustle. And for some of us around here — western suburbs, twenties, on the party circuit — that meant just one thing: Faces.

[sidebar]A former supper club along Route 2 in Cambridge, Faces was an unlikely runaway success for the four Martignetti brothers — sons of one of the liquor-store magnates — who’d decided to take a chance on disco.

Faces became the place to go: a big-city club in the suburbs where the dance floors were packed, the bars well stocked, and the parking free. There were hulking, tuxedoed bouncers and bartenders, cocktail waitresses in miniskirts darting through crowds of revelers, and the DJ up in his booth, spinning vinyl back when vinyl was all there was. On Friday and Saturday nights, 2,000 gyrating, satin-draped bodies busted their best moves across three parquet dance floors and shimmied up to one of five bars. For nearly 15 years, Faces reigned.

And then, it rotted — before our very eyes. The Martignettis closed Faces in the early ’90s but, claiming they were hamstrung by zoning issues, refused to tear the place down. In time, huge white letters began to tumble from the once-proud Faces sign that still stands like a warped beacon over Route 2. Graffiti marred the formerly pristine building. Plywood went up over broken windows. Cracks in the parking lot sprouted waist-high weeds. For two decades now, the shuttered nightclub has been thumbing its ugly nose at commuters, a bizarre monument to a time that seems like just yesterday but also an entire lifetime away.

Now, at long last, Faces is slated for demolition this spring. So, as we bid a collective adieu to this most hated — and beloved — landmark, we take a wistful look back in the words of those who knew the place best.

Eileen Doherty | Patron  In those days, the drinking age was 18. I graduated high school in ’75, when I was 17. I had to wait until the next summer to go. A big crowd of us would go five nights out of seven. They were closed two nights a week, and that’s when we’d stay home and sleep.

Mark DeAngelis | Manager  I was one of those people who grew up at Faces. I started working there right after high school as a bouncer. It was the place to be, inside or outside of Boston. That place would be absolutely packed on Friday and Saturday nights. The whole place, with standing room, held close to 2,000 people, and we did standing-room-only for a few years in the ’80s. The line would start to build outside the front of the building, all around the corner. We used to open at 9 at night. Being in my forties now, that’s when I like to be in my pajamas.

Dave “Mull-T” Barstow | Bartender  You know Studio 54? We were the Boston version of that. You got dressed up — the best it could be — the nice clothes, the bling, the money. Even if it was all fake, for that night everyone lived like a rock star.

  • JoAnna

    I’m from Arlington, but am 28 so I missed the Faces hey-day. It’s always been talked about amongst my friends as a curiousity, and it’s so great to be able to read this!

  • Thomas

    I think i lived closer to Faces than anyone.. I obtained a fake ID with the help of my older freind and snuck in there just to hob knob and pretend I was older and famous. Truly and awesome Disco.

  • Denise

    Hi, I worked at Faces as a waitress. We did not scurry around in mini skirts, we wore tuxedo shirts, pants, bow ties, heels and big hair! The owners were very protective of their waitresses and wanted us to look respectable. The crew of workers were great friends and many marriages came out of the experience. We loved it! It was great! I think we all would do it again. What a great group of patrons and what a wonderful experience, but not in miniskirts. Just wanted to set the record straight…that is from 1979-1984. I’m just saying…

  • John

    I don’t remember the short skirts or tuxedos. I won my first dance contest at faces. The owners were a little tough on the patrons, and many received vicious beatings. This is more of the reason why the place closes and not due to zoning issues.

  • Jack

    John – what a ridiculous thing to say – that the place closed due to “vicious beatings” by the owners. What happened – you get turned down by a waitress once? Kicked out for having a fake ID? Poor guy.

  • Dan

    I was a teenager in the early 90s, and by that time Faces had devolved into a punchline. Don’t get me wrong: it’s great to read about the club’s heyday, and this article has been an interesting read all around… but it seems to skip the part where people associate it with raging tackiness in it’s later years (at least, that was reputation in my high school scene).

    Also, who could forget the infamous radio spots that ran for years and years with the different male voices all saying “Faces!… Faces!… Faces!” at the end.

  • bill

    I worked at faces 6 nights a week and on my day off I hung out there. It was a great place to meet people and just have fun dancing. People dressed to the max back then. Three piece suits and facny dresses were the norm at Faces. contridictory to studio 54, Faces was not a magnet for drugs and cocaine. It was just plain fun and great music. Those too young to have gone there…you missed a lot. CUDOS to the Martinetti brothers. Thanks for all the fun and great memories!

  • Pat

    A friend of mine from the area let me know that it was torn down. I DJ’d there for a few years after Steven Burke (a consummate pro). We had a little resurgence there in the 80′s. Staff was a lot of fun… so many memories (some are blurry with the fog of time!)