03/07/1994 at 01:00 AM EST
A Film critic Gene Siskel has seen Saturday Night Fever 20 times in the 16 years since it made John Travolta, until then a Welcome Back, Kotter sweat hog, an international film star. "I like Fever because it's a classic coming-of-age story," says Siskel, 48. "And it's foulmouthed and tough, as young people are." But, honestly, how many youths have the sexual charisma of then-23-year-old Travolta, playing a working-class kid who spends his nights at the local disco? How many have the swift, silken moves to match the Bee Gees' dance-floor falsettos? And who else ever looked like that in a white polyester suit? Ask Siskel. He bought the Travolta original at a fund-raising auction for $2,000 in 1978. (It's now valued at $100,000 plus.) "It's an off-the-rack, white polyester suit, purchased in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where the film was made," explains the costume's curator, who lends it out to museums and has never worn it himself. "But over the years, seven or eight friends of mine have put it on." Invariably, they strike the classic Travolta pose. "One arm up, one down," says Siskel. "It's so cute. It's a riot."