Night Clubs

by Bill Newman

Following the end of WW II I became aware of the fact there was such a thing as 'neighborhood night clubs" in Newark and vicinity. These clubs were in no way comparable to the famous spots in New York such as The 'Latin Quarter", 'The Carnival" and other such places of fame.

The neighborhood club usually had a small dance floor, a 3 piece combo, served alcoholic beverages, sandwiches and hamburgers. The highlight of the evening was a show that might include a singer, dancer, a magician or perhaps a juggler. An emcee introduced the acts and kept up a fast line of patter between the acts. If the emcee was good (read that as funny) the show was a hit.

There was a two drink minimum in most places. We all suspected that the drinks were well watered down, this allowed the owners to make a profit and kept the patrons from getting drunk.

My favorite act was 'The Mc Fadden Bros" the large brother played a ukulele and the small brother played a bull fiddle The main part of their act consisted of song parodies on the risqué side. Today they wouldn't raise an eyebrow but in the late 40's every so often it brought a police raid. Most people concluded that the raids were arranged by the club owners and the police. The Saturday night following a raid, the club would have standing room only.

There was a club in back of Weequahic Park called 'The Band Box". It was a small crowded place that usually had a good show. My wife and I were there one night she was sitting facing the stage and me opposite her. She complained that the light on our table bothered her, I turned it off. What a mistake, the house lights came on, a spotlight was focused on us, the show stopped. The emcee asked what we were doing, we became the center of attention for the other patrons.

There was a 'Club Miami" on Clinton Avenue in which Jackie Gleason performed. A fiend of mine told me that Jackie once challenged a heckler to a fight. Gleason was flattened by the heckler who turned out to be Tony Galento, who fought Joe Louis.

The clubs that did not have a show were usually a bit tonier. They had a larger orchestra and played dance music most of the evening. On Rector St. was a fine eating place, "The Roost". It had no entertainment and as I recall it was known for 'not being known". People went there not to be seen by anyone else other than the one they were having a rendezvous with.

Anyone remember this place?

There was a real live place on Heller Parkway 'The Parkway Cottage" featuring Chang Lee and The Zaniacs. Broad St. had 'The Silver Ball". In the nearby vicinity was 'The Melody Club", 'The Peanut Bar", 'The Ivanhoe" and oh so many more.

The club we seemed to favor was 'The Hi Hat" in Bayonne. The emcee was usually above average as well as the entertainment. We spent more that a few Saturday nights there.

In the late 40's and early 50's I had more than my share of 'night clubbing", this includes several of the 'swankier" places in N.J. and New York. Before you draw any conclusions as to the how and whys of these numerous nightclub visits, let me direct you to two 'memories" of mine the burlesque and The Tavern. Most of the visits were made in the line of work.

Not only was I reimbursed for what I spent during the visit, I was also paid for doing it. How would you like to have a job like that?


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