MARGATE — Around 9 p.m. Thursday night, the crowds on Amherst Avenue make the shift from dinner and drinks at the area’s restaurants to the one spot left for a classic night on the town: Jerry Blavat’s Memories.
“Once you go and dance and have fun — you make the memories. I wanted you to come back and remake those memories for the first time you came here,” Blavat said.
The walls are decorated with photos of Blavat’s friends: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., along with moments from his career on TV. His staff has deep ties to Memories as well, with bartenders and security guards coming back every summer; the same gigs their parents had decades before.
Memories opens to the public around 4 p.m., but the party doesn’t get started until Blavat gets behind the turntables for his Live from Memories radio dance party, playing everything in his music library.
Between shuffling through his 45 rpm records, “The Geator with the Heater” — his longstanding on-air nickname — stops to take photos with fans who approach the elevated DJ booth.
Early in the night, the dance floor floods with couples and friends dancing to “The Bristol Stomp” and “The Twist.” By midnight, the scene turns multi-generational, with Baby Boomers to young millennials hitting the dance floor.
Though for Blavat, his crowd will all be “yon teenagers” — a phrase The Geator uses to describe his young-at-heart fan base beyond their teenage years.
“From Beyonce to Bruno Mars,” Blavat said, “but you have to see it when the crowd sings along. I’ll put on ‘My Girl,’ I’ll put on ‘I Can’t Help Myself’ and everyone will be singing.”
For 47 years, Memories in Margate has been a destination for fans of classic rock and roll and doo-wop to dance with a true Philadelphia legend. But Blavat said crossing state lines was important to keeping the party going.
“The shore points were big in my career,” Blavat said.
While his television show “The Discophonic Scene” was filmed and broadcast from the WCAU-TV studios in Philadelphia in the 1960s, Blavat realized his dance crowds would leave the city and summer down the shore.
Blavat was no stranger to South Jersey and the area was already familiar with The Geator. Blavat’s radio program was already broadcast on WMID 1340-AM.
In 1972, Margate’s Amherst Avenue was a bit different. Blavat said he purchased the former Elbow Room club — one of the seven bars in the three-block strip of the Barbary Coast, with the idea to bring his South Philly rock and roll down the shore.
The area changed, with bars like the Old Tavern, The Beacon and Kelly’s Pub falling by the wayside, but Memories has remained.
“When I bought Memories, people said, ‘Who’s gonna come to see you?’ The answer was the locals. I opened a place for the locals to dance in the winter,” he said.
Memories now runs Memorial Day to Labor Day and still caters to the city-to-shore crowd.
His “Live from Memories” radio dance parties now broadcast locally on WTKU 98.3-FM until midnight and continue to introduce a new generation of shore partiers to “The Boss with the Hot Sauce.”
“Music is a story of life,” Blavat said. “If the music is good, it will bring people together: young and old.” And the music is what keeps him going.
The summer’s halfway point leads into a big weekend for Blavat, who’s birthday celebration coincides with the Fourth of July weekend. Though The Geator will be blowing out 79 candles this year, he still rock and rolls like the young disc jockey who got his start on the Philadelphia airwaves.
“You remember that night in ‘63?” Blavat said over The Four Seasons disco classic, “I was a much younger man then. ... I was 23 ... but I’m still dancing.”
In the summer, Blavat bring his act weekly to The Deck at the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City, The Inlet in North Wildwood, The Starlight and the Avalon Pier. Not to mention gigs taking him back and forth to Philadelphia.
His event schedule rivals performers a quarter of his age. Blavat doesn’t seem to be much different than his days as a Bandstand dancer. He still bops along to the songs he’s been playing for a half a century and hosts one of the most popular dance parties in the area.
“The job that I’ve had is making people happy,” Blavat said.