Super Trouper beams are gonna blind me
But I won't feel blue
Like I always do,
'Cause somewhere in the crowd there's you.
--from Super Trouper, Abba, 1980
“What’s this?” Dafan the usher asked, when two seven-foot-long stage lights arrived in the theater lobby from a lighting supply truck one September afternoon in 1976. “Super Troupers,” said Dean, “State-of-the-art spots used in all the great concert halls around New York...the Garden, the Palladium, Nassau Coliseum...”
“...an the 'George!" Dafan added with a broad grin.
The St. George Theater was about to have two back-to-back disco-driven concerts that night, the main feature a then-young singer, Chaka Khan.
“Why they called Super Troupers?” Dafan wondered.
“Dunno,” said Dean, “...just always have been. Wait ‘til you see’m fired up tonight — they sure will be super.”
The two spotlights, which took the entire three-person usher crew two trips to haul up seven stories to the projection booth, would bathe the stage in that unmistakable bright blue light Dean had come to love at Madison Square Garden a few years before. In that brief interlude, he’d been working backstage, watching the iconic lighting director, Chip Monck, position three troupers for the One-to-One concert. The lighting genius fired the lights up at a 45-degree angle, towards massive lucite mirrors suspended overhead.
There’d be no massive mirrors or special lighting effects that night at the St. George. Neither concert would fill more than a third of the auditorium. Renting the Super Troupers had been an affectation, an unnecessary expense, but, despite that, what the hell... a lot of fun. In the booth towards the end of the second show, around 1 A.M., the union spotlight operator, a friend of Dean’s from the city, played with the lens of one Trouper, adjusting its beam to less than two inches.
“Look,” said Bob, as he caught a single one of the many four-inch silver discs on Chaka Khan’s glittering belt.
The light danced across the stage, like fire. After the failed concert, the singer’s manager appeared in the booth, “How’d you get that amazing effect off Chaka’s costume?” There’s no business like show business!
There are two interesting side stories left to tell:
1. The Super Troupers we rented were no longer state-of-the-art, despite what Dean told Dafan. The rented light units, relied on the same ancient Carbon Arc system, which powered our antiquated projectors, requiring actual fire to create light. Super Troupers in the better venues already used Xenon bulbs, safer and more powerful than Carbon Arc.
2. Although the concert was hardly a financial success, it brought great joy to one of the floor managers, Big Jimmy Williams, a follower of Chaka Khan, who dressed especially for the concerts that night in a white suit with diamond stud earrings and a maroon silk shirt. For weeks afterwards he’d walk up to me or Dean or anybody, smile, and chant, “Khan...Chaka Chaka Chaka, Khan...
Four years later, when Abba released Super Trouper, I thought of Chaka Khan and Jimmy.