Elks in Paris

In 1990 Jennny Livingston released a documentary called Paris is Burning that revealed to theater goers the rich underground ballroom scene in Harlem during the 1980s.

The film focuses on one key venue for the ballroom scene – the Imperial Lodge of Elks at 160 West 129th Street – just east of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.

Where does voguing come from, and what, exactly, is throwing shade? This landmark documentary provides a vibrant snapshot of the 1980s through the eyes of New York City’s African American and Latinx Harlem drag-ball scene. Made over seven years, Paris Is Burning offers an intimate portrait of rival fashion “houses,” from fierce contests for trophies to house mothers offering sustenance in a world rampant with homophobia, transphobia, racism, AIDS, and poverty. Featuring legendary voguers, drag queens, and trans women—including Willi Ninja, Pepper LaBeija, Dorian Corey, and Venus Xtravaganza—Paris Is Burning brings it, celebrating the joy of movement, the force of eloquence, and the draw of community.

Today the space is no longer an Elks Lodge, but a church:

And, for a fantastic examination on how post-Civil War drag balls led to Harlem Renaissance era extravaganzas, and then to Voguing in the 1980’s, see this great article:

https://www.history.com/news/drag-balls-house-ballroom-voguing

Harlem Lane

Harlem Lane was originally a trail that the Lenape people used to travel from what is now Central Park up to Inwood and The Bronx. This trail is one we travel today, but the name has changed (and the route somewhat modified) to St. Nicholas Avenue.

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/M141/history#:~:text=As%20with%20many%20of%20Manhattan’s,road%20on%20June%2016%2C%201707.

Ebay has a color lithograph print of Harlem Lane in the 19th Century for sale:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/164978894229?mkevt=1&mkpid=0&emsid=e11021.m5055.l9429&mkcid=7&ch=osgood&euid=0a697cf467434cb3b75dd5f061814e33&bu=43000789878&ut=RU&osub=-1%7E1&crd=20210725035834&segname=11021&sojTags=ch%3Dch%2Cbu%3Dbu%2Cut%3Dut%2Cosub%3Dosub%2Ccrd%3Dcrd%2Csegname%3Dsegname%2Cchnl%3Dmkcid

Harlem Jazz Clubs: 1920-40


If you’ve ever wondered where the scores of jazz clubs were during the Harlem Renaissance, this map is the best I’ve seen:

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Here is the list with more details:

HARLEM JAZZ CLUBS, RESTAURANTS, and BALLROOMS from the 20’s-40’s:

• Alamo Club (1915-1925) 253 West 125th St (basement) b/t 7th and 8th (aka Alamo Cafe; Jimy Durante)
• Alhambra Ballroom (1929-1945) (aka The Harlem Alhambra) 2116 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard (7th Avenue) at 126th Street (built in 1903 for vaudeville. In 1929 it opened an upstairs ballroom featuring jazz performers like Bessie Smith and Billie Holliday that closed in the 1960’s.
• The Apollo Theater 253 West 125th St. b/t 7th and 8th Avenues
• Baby Grand Cafe (1945-1965) 319 West 125th b/t St Nick and 8th (1964 phone book) (Club Baby Grand)
• Bank’s Club (located on 133rd St. )(more info to come)
• Barbeque Club (restraunt above The Nest at 169 West 133rd (established 1923)
• Barron’s Club – Clark Monroe opened clark Monroe’s Uptown House in the 1930s at 198 West 134th St (at 7th Avenue)in the basement. The building formerly held Barron WiIlken’s Exclusive Club (aka Barron’s Club, where Duke Ellington played early in the 1920s. It later beacme the Theatrical Grill, managed by Dickie Wells. Later that became the Pirates Den then the Red Pirate then finally, Clark Monroes Uptown House. At that point the entrance was moved from 2275 7th Ave to 198 west 134th.
• Basement Brownies (1930-1935) 152 West 133rd St. b/t 6th and 7th Avenues
• Brittwood Bar 594 Lenox at 141st, next to the Savoy Ballroom.
• Capitol Palace 575 Lenox at 139th St.
• Clark Monroe’s Uptown House 198 West 134th St.between Lenox Avenue and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard (7th) (building still there). – Clark Monroe’s Uptown House, sometimes shortened to Monroe’s Uptown House or simply Monroe’s, was a nightclub in New York City. Along with Minton’s Playhouse, it was one of the two principal clubs in the early history of bebop jazz.
Clark Monroe opened the Uptown House in the 1930s at 198 West 134th St in Harlem, in a building which formerly held Barron’s Club (where Duke Ellington worked early in the 1920s) and the Theatrical Grill. Monroe moved the club to 52nd Street in 1943 (next to the Downbeat Club., says one book)., and opened a second club, The Spotlite, in December 1944. (Wikipedia)
• Club Harlem 145th and 7th (1952?)(more info to come)

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• Connie’s Inn (1923-1934) 2221 7th Ave at 131st St. (131st and 7th was “The Corner”) (1964 Connie= Conrd Immerman – Lithuanian – unlike the Cotton CLub it wasnt whites only)(connie was in the basment, above it was a bar
• Cotton Club 644 Lenox Avenue at north east corner of 142nd
• Count Basie’s Lounge (1955-1964) 2245 7th Avenue NEC 132nd St.(building still there)
• Covan’s (aka Covan’s Morocco Club) 148 West 133rd b/t 6th and 7th Avenues
• Dickie Wells Shim Sham Club (1932-1942) (in the same space as The Nest) (169 West 133rd)
• Edith’s Clam House (aka Harry Hansberry’s Clam House or just The Clam House) – 146 West 133rd St. b/t 6th and 7th Avenues
• Gee Haw Stables 113 West 132nd Street b/t Lexox and 7th Ave. The after hours club was so-named because there was a sculpted horse’s head at the entrance. Much of Art Tatum’s God is in the House LP was recorded here on a tape recorder in 1941.
• Golden Gate Ballroom (1939-1950) 640 Lenox Avenue at West 142nd St.
Harlem Opera House 209 West 125th St. at 7th Avenue
• (Harry Hansberry’s) Clam House 146 West 133rd (1928) b/t Lenox and 7th Ave.
• Havana San Juan 138th and Broadway (1960)(more info to come)
• Herman’s Inn (145) 2493 Seventh Avenue b/t 144th-145th Streets
• Hoofers 2235 7th Ave (basement of Lafayette Theater/Dancers Bojangles Robinson)
• Hot Cha 2280 7th Ave NWC 134th (Hot Cha Bar and Gril) (CLub Hot Cha)(Where Billie Holiday staryed)
• Lafayette Theater 2227 7th Ave. (The Rhythm Club that was under the Lafayette became the Hoofer’s CLub)

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• Lenox Lounge (Zebra Room inside) from 1939 – 288 Lenox b/t 124th and 125th
• Lincoln Theater 58 West 135th Street b/t 6th and 7th Avenues (1909-1964)
• Mexico’s 154 West 133 (basement) b/t 6th and 7th Avenues

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• Minton’s Playhouse 206 west 118th at St. Nick. south east corner of St Nicholas Avenue (building still there)(1938-1974; reopened 2006); Jazz Club and bar located on the 1st floor of the Cecil Hotel (210 West 118th St.)
• Monroe’s Uptown House see: Clark Monroe’s Uptown House – 198 West 134th Street
• The Nest (aka The Nest Club – men played in Bird outfits, sang “Where do the young bird’s go – to the Nest!”) 169 West 133rd (basement) – (opened in 1923-1932)) later the Rhythm Club (upstairs The Barbeque Club)
• The Palace Ballroom (aka The Rockland Palace Ballroom; originally the State Palace Ballroom) 280 West 155th at 8th Ave.
• The Plantation Club 80-82 West 126th Stret between 5th Ave and Lenox
• Pod’s and Jerry’s 168 West 133rd b/t 6th and 7th Avenues
(1925-1935)(better 1928-1948 or 9) (Officially The Patagonia; later The Log Cabin)(Greet you with “Hi Pod’ner” and Wild West Jerry)
Pod’s and Jerry’s, officially the Catagonia Club, was a cabaret and jazz club. It was one of the thriving speakeasies during the Prohibition era when the street was known as “Swing Street”. It was established in 1925 by Charles “Pod” Hollingsworth and Jeremiah (Jerry) Preston. After the end of Prohibition in 1933 the club was renamed The Log Cabin, which was one of the last clubs to close on 133rd street in 1948, long after its demise.[Wikipedia]
• Radium Club (Happy Rhone’s Radium Club 1920-1925; 654 Lenox b/t 143rd-144th)
• Reuben’s 242 West 30th St. b/t 7th and 8th Avenues (a small piano club; Art Tatum played here. Owned by Reuben Harris who played along with two whiskbrooms over a folded newspaper)
• Renaissance Ballroom (150 West 138th b/t 6th (Lenox) and 7th Aves (1915-1964)
• The Rythm Club (came after The Nest and before the Hoofer Club) (169 West 133rd) (later moved to 168 West 132nd 1932 then was later taken over by the Hoofer’s Club)
• St. Nick’s Jazz Pub 773 Street Nicholas Ave. – (since 1940: renamed The Pink Angel in 1950); renamed in the 60’s)
• Savoy Ballroom (1926-1958) 596 Lenox Avenue b/t West 140th and West 141

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• Showman’s Bar (Showman’s Jazz Club) 375 West 125th (It was originally located next to the Apollo Theater at 267 West 125th Street, where it was a hangout for the performers. Showman’s moved 3 times in 42 years.)
• Small’s Paradise (aka Ed Small’s Paradise) (1925-1980’s)(basement) 2294+1/2 Seventh Avenue at the south west corner of 135th Street. (This later became Big Wilt’s Small’s Paradise; Now an International House of Pancakes is in the space.)
• Snookie’s Sugar Bowl (a luncheonette in Harlem during the 1950′-60’s.(more info to come)
• Sugar Cane Club (aka Small’s Sugar Cane Club) (1917-1925) 2212 5th Ave at 135th (entrance through narrow underground passage)
• Sugar Ray’s (2074 7th Ave b/t/ 123-124 (owned by boxer Sugar Ray Robinson)
• Theatrical Grill (198 West 134th St.; Clark Monroe opened the Uptown House in the 1930s at 198 West 134th St in Harlem, in a building which formerly held Barron’s Club (where Duke Ellington worked early in the 1920s) and the Theatrical Grill.
• Tilllie’s 148 West 133rd (chicken waffles and jazz)(1926)(later it was Monette’s Supper CLub where legend has it that John Hammond 1st heard 17 year old Billie Holliday (fm NYT) (Now, since, 2006, it’s Bill’s Place – a small jazz club)
• The Ubangi Club (1934-1937) 2221 7th Ave at 131st St.) The Ubangi Club was opened in 1934 by Glady’s Bently a famous lesbian singer who sang in tux and tails. Her club took over the space that had been occupied by Connie’s Inn from 1923 to1934. Both clubs were in the basement.
• The Yeah Man (1925-1960) 2350 7th Ave at 138th St.

To see the full list of NYC jazz clubs, and to get some great images of Harlem scroll way down the bottom, here:

https://popspotsnyc.com/jazz_clubs/

Mike, The Knife Sharpener

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Mike is planning to return to our neighborhood this Wednesday. We’ll put out details when we know more.

Great prices, great sharpening, just in time for the holidays (even though we have much smaller celebrations this year, it is still great to have sharp knives for cooking!)

The Dark Tower

A’Lelia Walker’s home at 108 West 136th Street (from 1885-1931) – one of the key cultural nodes of the Harlem Renaissance – was known as “The Dark Tower”. This residence became famous for the lavish salons which she hosted – drawing in writers, musicians, and artists during the 1920s. It was named after a sonnet by the poet Countee Cullen:

From the Dark Tower

We shall not always plant while others reap
The golden increment of bursting fruit,
Not always countenance, abject and mute,
That lesser men should hold their brothers cheap;
Not everlastingly while others sleep
Shall we beguile their limbs with mellow flute,
Not always bend to some more subtle brute;
We were not made to eternally weep.

The night whose sable breast relieves the stark,
White stars is no less lovely being dark,
And there are buds that cannot bloom at all
In light, but crumple, piteous, and fall;
So in the dark we hide the heart that bleeds,
And wait, and tend our agonizing seeds.

 A’Lelia Walker was the only child of Madam C.J. Walker, an entrepreneur and hair care industry pioneer who is recognized as America’s first self-made female millionaire.

Her Irvington, New York, home, Villa Lewaro, is a National Treasure of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

With her inheritance, A’Lelia purchased these two townhouses on West 136th Street and combined them into one residence with a new façade:

Cultural soirees for the Harlem and Greenwich Village “glitterati,” white and black, serving caviar and bootleg champagne and providing entertainment by queer performers and others like Alberta Hunter, Jimmy Daniels, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, W.E.B. Du Bois, Muriel Draper, Nora Holt, Witter Bynner, Andy Razaf, Taylor Gordon, Carl Van Vechten, Clarence Darrow, James Weldon Johnson and many others attended and reveled in the Dark Tower’s glamour.

Langston Hughes later wrote that A’Lelia’s parties “were as crowded as the New York subway at the rush hour.”

In October 1927, the Dark Tower—envisioned as a private membership club—officially opened in a room within the Walker Studio, which had now expanded to the second and third floors of the townhouse.

One year after opening, in October 1928, the Dark Tower closed. Walker had begun charging for food and refreshments, which was a hard adjustment for many to make. She continued to rent the townhouse out for events, and she continued her arts patronage and philanthropic endeavors. But in 1929, the market crashed. Fewer parties were thrown during the Depression.

Walker died in 1931. After that point, the townhouse was rented out to the City of New York, which used the space for a health clinic. Then in 1941, the townhouse was demolished. In its place, the New York Public Library built what would become its Countee Cullen Branch.

For more check out the fantastic Code Switch Podcast.

First Lady Michelle Obama Reflects on The 2020 and 2016 Elections

“This week, I’ve been reflecting a lot on where I was four years ago. Hillary Clinton had just been dealt a tough loss by a far closer margin than the one we’ve seen this year. I was hurt and disappointed—but the votes had been counted and Donald Trump had won. The American people had spoken. And one of the great responsibilities of the presidency is to listen when they do. So my husband and I instructed our staffs to do what George and Laura Bush had done for us: run a respectful, seamless transition of power—one of the hallmarks of American democracy. We invited the folks from the president-elect’s team into our offices and prepared detailed memos for them, offering what we’d learned over the past eight years.

I have to be honest and say that none of this was easy for me. Donald Trump had spread racist lies about my husband that had put my family in danger. That wasn’t something I was ready to forgive. But I knew that, for the sake of our country, I had to find the strength and maturity to put my anger aside. So I welcomed Melania Trump into the White House and talked with her about my experience, answering every question she had—from the heightened scrutiny that comes with being First Lady to what it’s like to raise kids in the White House.

I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do—because our democracy is so much bigger than anybody’s ego. Our love of country requires us to respect the results of an election even when we don’t like them or wish it had gone differently—the presidency doesn’t belong to any one individual or any one party. To pretend that it does, to play along with these groundless conspiracy theories—whether for personal or political gain—is to put our country’s health and security in danger. This isn’t a game. So I want to urge all Americans, especially our nation’s leaders, regardless of party, to honor the electoral process and do your part to encourage a smooth transition of power, just as sitting presidents have done throughout our history.”

Drug Testing of Newborns and Parents

NEW YORK CITY COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS LAUNCHES INVESTIGATIONS INTO THREE MAJOR PRIVATE HOSPITAL SYSTEMS’ PRACTICES OF DRUG TESTING NEWBORNS AND PARENTS
The investigation seeks to determine whether the hospitals’ policies and practices target Black
and Latinx parents and infants
NEW YORK—Following concerns from advocacy groups regarding drug testing practices that
may disproportionately target Black and Latinx parents and infants, the New York City
Commission on Human Rights announces investigations into Montefiore, Mount Sinai, and New
York Presbyterian hospitals, which, collectively, have facilities in the Bronx, Manhattan,
Brooklyn, and Queens. The investigations examine the hospitals’ policies and practices
regarding drug testing of pregnant people and newborns to assess whether those policies and
practices demonstrate discriminatory racial bias against Black and Latinx families. The
Commission-initiated investigation seeks to root out and end any such discriminatory practices.

https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/cchr/downloads/pdf/press-releases/Hospitals_Press_Release_11-16-2020.pdf

Aaron Douglas

The esteemed Harlem Renaissance painter Aaron Douglas has two of his amazing works up at the Whitney Museum.

These large 5′ square works are signature examples of his mature style – one that you might recognize if you visit the Schomburg which owns a number of his pieces.

To learn more about Aaron Douglas, see:

https://www.nga.gov/collection/artist-info.38654.html

And to visit the Whitney, see:

https://whitney.org/visit

NYC’s Open Storefront Program

The Open Storefronts program is available October 30 to December 31, 2020. 
The Open Storefronts program assists existing ground-floor storefront businesses who want to use outdoor areas on a temporary basis.  The program allows eligible businesses to conduct activity on sidewalks, on roadways in the Open Streets: Restaurants program, or a combination of both.  To learn about siting requirements for storefronts and sidewalks, who is eligible and FAQ CLICK HERE