Without a doubt, between the years 1975-1985, the Bar Bombay in West Long Branch was the Jersey Shore’s version of Studio 54.
Practically every night, the lines to get into the place would start around 5PM. Patrons guzzled the night away while dancing in place to the disco music that blared out from the bar’s $10,000 Harmon Kardon stereo system, which was custom-fit rack-mounted into a section of one of the bar’s walls.
Mirrors, hanging plants, large rattan chairs, and flashy lighting were the bar’s trademark motif. Professional people from all over the area came to blow off steam, mingle, and just have a good time. Everyone there was dressed to the nines. The bartenders couldn’t get rid of the liquor fast enough.
When Monmouth Park Race Track was open in the summer from Monday through Saturday, the lines outside the doors started around 3 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. and would reach to the edge of Oceanport Avenue and wrap around the building. Many of the neighbors complained to police about the noise that emanated from the club, as well as the parking problem.
The Bar Bombay had its share of celebrities from both the entertainment and sports worlds who bent elbows there. Trainer Johnny Campo (who handled Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Spectacular Bid), jockeys Laffit Pincay Jr. and Angel Cordero, baseball players Darryl Strawberry, Lou Piniella, Bobby Murcer, and show business types like Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder, John Tesch (who covered the Amory L. Haskell Handicap for CBS Sports at the time), comedian Bill Murray, and entertainment entrepreneur Sonny Werblin all graced the Bombay with their presence. Local and state politicians as well as prominent area businessmen would also show up for a more-than-occasional nightcap.
In 1981, I couldn't find a real job after I graduated college. Right around the same time, the bar's management decided to try using club DJ’s for entertainment at night. I had some experience as a club DJ when I attended Glassboro State College, so with unemployment hitting 10% and my summer job at the racetrack ending on Labor Day, I went to work spinning records at the Bombay for $50 a shift. I figured I could work there at night and hit the streets of New York City during the day, trying to find work.
What I thought would turn out to be a temporary job until I could find full-time work turned out to be a four-year run of steady employment for me.
It was non-stop, wall-to-wall dancing and partying to the top dance tunes of the day, like The Human League's "Don't You Want Me Baby", Rick James' "Super Freak", and Soft Cell's "Tainted Love". My work nights consisted of mixing those hits with '70's classics like Evelyn "Champagne" King's "Shame", GQ's "Disco Nights", and Patrick Hernandez' "Born To be Alive", as well as a touch of Motown and dance rock from the Pretenders, The B-52's, and Talking Heads.
Even after I started working at CBS in 1983, I still spun records there another two years until new owners took over and cleaned house. A few years later, the Jersey Shore club scene declined, and the Bar Bombay closed and sat idle for about seven years. It was reopened in 1991 as the now-thriving Zachary’s Restaurant.
The memories of those wild and crazy times will be with me for a very long time.
(You can also follow Kevin Cieri’s blog on his Facebook page, “Jersey Shore Retro” as well as on Twitter at @jsretro).