Disco is staying alive in Lillehammer on ah, ah, ah, ah, Storgata LILLEHAMMER '94

February 27, 1994|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Writer

DOWNTOWN LILLEHAMMER, Norway -- Disco lives on the Storgata, Lillehammer's Bourbon Street on ice.

But the polyester suits have been replaced by ski pants and sweaters. Donna Summer is no longer big, but John Travolta will never be forgotten.

Ah, ah, ah, ah, stayin' alive, stayin' alive. . . .

"Disco is big, especially among the older men who are divorced or single," said Adelheid Wiegand, 20, of Lillehammer. "What are the best pickup lines? There have been no pickup lines since the Olympics started. You just find a guy dancing on top of a table with a big Viking hat."

The Storgata is the happening place at night in Lillehammer. It's almost three kilometers long, and its face has changed just for the Olympics.

Once a corridor for novelty and specialty shops, it has become an entertainment haven. Plumbers and electricians have converted workshops into pubs. Stores that once closed at 5 p.m. are open till 10 at night.

Ten-foot trolls walk the Storgata, sharing songs with drunken Vikings. A children's choir sings only a few feet away from several poor men blowing wooden flutes for money.

Pizza is rare; salmon is the specialty. Salmon in salad. Salmon pudding. Salmon on the pizza. Even a McSalmon sandwich at McDonalds.

Two women are introduced as Peaches and Herb.

Both are white.

"Crazy, huh?" Wiegand said. "A lot of things have been changed around on the street just to make money. When the Olympics are gone, half the pubs will vanish. But for the time being, this is the place to be."

The Storgata gets crowded as darkness falls, which is 4 p.m. here. People are already standing in line at the discos. Brenneriet is one hot spot; Marcello is the other.

But this is not traditional American disco. Strobe lights and mirrors are in place, but the Norwegians mix any kind of music.

Guns N' Roses. Aerosmith. U2. Michael Jackson.

There really is such thing as Hammer-Time here.

"The audience ranges from 22 to mid-50s," said Thor Bjerke, 23, who works for Norwegian Telecom in Oslo. "All the entertainers that are big in the States are big here. Hammer is the major rapper."

When told that disco had died in the United States, Bjerke replied: "Really? I didn't know that. I remember John Travolta. What a guy. I thought it was still kicking."

Pubs are the second-best hangouts.

The Haakan and Velkommen Bar are two favorites, but the strangest is called The Plumber, where the owner put his plumbing equipment in the basement and replaced piles of elbow pipes with kegs.

The most popular beer is Ringnes, and it costs $5 a bottle. If you prefer mixed drinks, The Hot Shot rates high. Price: $6. Top Viking food (there really is no such thing) is spekeskinke (pork).

"It's kind of wild to go there and see how he put this thing together with nuts and bolts," said Tom Anderson, an insurance salesman from Wyoming, who is standing in a long line outside The Plumber. "It's pretty unique, and I bet you he is making a fortune."

Sometimes, a stroll is nice. There are a lot of clothing stores,

particularly ones with those handmade Norwegian wool sweaters.

Sweater prices range from $93 to infinity. The Norwegians knew the world was coming.

"We usually don't sell men's apparel, but we're selling men's sweaters because that's what people want," said Bjorn Christiansen, 17, a salesman.

"We're staying open late, and even on Sundays. We never did that before."

Were the prices jacked up for the Olympics?

"To be honest, no," Christiansen said.

There are restaurants, jewelry stores and even an Esso station (nearly $4 a gallon) along this stretch.

Walking it, though, can be a little troublesome.

The street is usually crowded, especially when the Norwegians have a big medal day.

Take Friday for instance. Norway won five medals. By 6 p.m., a number of Norwegians were already on the Storgata with a painted red cross (from the Norwegian flag) on their faces, singing Norwegian fight songs.

They would occasionally mix in a chorus of "Popeye the Sailor Man."

The street is also filled with costumed characters, from Vikings and trolls to bare-chested men waving the Norwegian flag.

The hustlers are here, too, scalping tickets and raffling off cars. T-shirt prices range from $14 to as high as $32 for the ones with the official Olympic logo.

A street hustler will sell it to you for $10.

It's a hustler's paradise, people from all over the world on one little street. Eating, laughing and spending big money.

"It's great," Bjorn said. "I've never seen it like this. Everybody is having a good time. We're dancing in the streets."

) And at those discos, too.

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