Photo: Georges Biard

Régine, Founder Of The First Disco: Dead At 92

The self-described Queen of the Night and inventor of the modern disco, Régine has died. She was 92.

Born Regina Zylberberg in Belgium, Régine is credited with inventing the disco and requisite disc jockey that reinvented nightlife for the stereophonic age.

In an interview with the BBC as reported in the New York Times Régine stated:

“When the music stopped, you could hear snogging in the corners.” “It killed the atmosphere. Instead, I installed two turntables so there was no gap in the music. I was barmaid, doorman, bathroom attendant, hostess, and I also put on the records. It was the first-ever discotheque, and I was the first-ever club disc jockey.”

Régine spun that initial club, Chez Régine, into an empire of 20-plus clubs worldwide and a singing career when she opened her New York club, Régine’s, in 1976 on the ground floor of the Delmonico Hotel.

“Everyone said, ‘You’re crazy to open in New York; the whole place is going to go plop in the river,’” she said in 1999. “I am the one who saved this city from bankruptcy. I made it happy again.”

Originally only letting in glitterati, the hostess/owner eventually admitted regulars at a steep cover charge to hobnob with the likes of Andy Warhol, Brooke Shields, and Joan Collins. Legend has it that that Mick Jagger was once turned away at the door for wearing sneakers.

With competition from the likes of Studio 54, the Régine’s franchise lost its glamour and edge in the ’80s. Bob Collacello said in 1999 “She wasn’t giving out Quaaludes to movie stars, she didn’t have bartenders with their shirts off.” “She didn’t have what people wanted when the times changed.”

Regina Zylberberg spent the last part of her life in Paris, managing a handful of clubs and continuing to perform.

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Author: Saul Goode

Photo: Georges Biard