Grab your granny ... reincarnation beckons for the iconic Jackie O’s

DJs Eric Forsyth (left) and Sean Brennan
DJs Eric Forsyth (left) and Sean Brennan

The iconic logo; the 80s music; grab-a granny nights ... nobody over a certain age could forget Jackie O, the nightclub that’s become part of local social history.

The original building on Kirkcaldy’s Esplanade is now but a memory, having been reduced to rubble almost four years ago, but its legacy is about to live on.

Another well-known nightspot, the former Ambassadeur Snooker Club and Styx Bar in the town’s Victoria Road, has been transformed by its new owners, the City Hotel Group, into a replica of the club that once drew revellers from all over Scotland and stars of the day such as Dollar and Sister Sledge, not to mention DJs like Kid Jensen and Gary Davies.

The group has lavished some £300,000 on the venue in order to recreate as faithfully as possible the original Jackie O.

It has its opening night this Saturday – and it’s an occasion that’s particularly keenly-anticipated by Sean Brennan, one of the key figures behind the venture and a DJ at the original club.

“There’s a huge appetite for 70s and 80s music nowadays,” he said.

“Not only will Jackie O’s look the same as its heyday, but we want to create the same atmosphere that made it so popular so that older people can re-live the experience and younger ones can find out what all the fuss was about!”

Music columnist and well-known local DJ John Murray is one of the thousands who have fond memories of the club.

He said: “Jackie O’s was designed to be the new nightclub for Kirkcaldy.

“The name derived from the former first lady Jackie Onassis when Jack Kennedy’s widow married Greek millionaire Aristotle Onassis.

“She was already a fashion icon and this presence was to suggest sophistication and the nightlife of the rich and famous.

“It was essentially a refit of what was the Garrison, which had been looking tired but had still been packing in the crowds.

“As the Garrison Discotheque, the management had to put up with draconian licensing laws, which required patrons to be offered a ‘meal’ at 11pm to allow the bar to stay open longer than the pubs.

“This continued in the Jackie O era and consisted usually as a slice of spam and some lettuce served on a paper plate complete with plastic fork in return for a voucher issued at the entrance.

“The low ceiling and dance floor lighting made the place impossibly hot,” John continued.

“And as most of us attended after normal closing time it was standing room only. The dance floor was sunk from the seating area and the boys on the hunt would circulate the floor then dive in to dance at the change of a record. “The girls, who danced in pairs, just required a tap on the shoulder and it was dance on – until the record changed. This was courting 1980 style.”

Over the years the company changed hands several times, and was once owned by Granada, who also owned the Hippodrome in London’s Leicester Square.

Bosses there were puzzled as to why Jackie O was so busy on Wednesday nights, so sent their management north to investigate.

The answer was, of course, grab-a-granny night, when the club would be flooded with patrons of a more mature outlook.

Jackie O’s also gave us the Time Tunnel, a corridor of mirrors and lights which became disorientating at best after just a couple of drinks. “It was basically a link to the other lounge bar with a separate DJ and sound system and was housed behind what was Hotel Ambassador,” explained John.

“DJ’s I remember include Alan Law (who introduced us to the Timewarp), Sgt Pepper (a real showman who included fire eating in his act) and Dave Lorenzen.”