Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Midtown strutter's ball(room)

HOTEL DIPLOMAT--108-116 W. 43rd Street, just west of 6th Avenue. Haven't located any historical details on the hotel itself, though it does apparently have a file at the New-York Historical Society. I gather the place had a rather, uh, diplomatic policy when it came to events bookings and clientele. At various times it played host to jazz performers (such as Miles Davis and Albert Ayler), salsa bands, Libertarian conferences, Chilean solidarity meetings, civil rights poets, Abbie Hoffman drug busts, art exhibitions, and drag balls. On motherboardsnyc.com, Hattie Hathaway remembers, "I was friendly with the desk clerk and took many johns there, though it was a fully operational normal hotel...There was even a fully operational coffee shop that included that archaic NYC phenomenon--the soda jerk--who made fierce cherry-lime rickies and egg creams. People would come from all over the city for them." A decadent-but-classy discotheque called Le Jardin operated in the basement during the mid-'70s. But I'm most concerned with the rock shows held in the hotel's ballrooms, ca. '69-'79.

A late '60s pamphlet attributed to George Metesky entitled F*ck the System, which gave advice on how to scam free stuff in NYC, advised the following: "The Group Image--Performs every Wednesday night at the Hotel Diplomat...and you can get in free if you say you have no money (sometimes). If you promise to take your clothes off it's definitely free. If you ball on the dance floor, you get a season's pass."

The MC5 headlined a benefit for the Liberation News Service on May 13, 1969. Also on the bill were Children of God, the Pageant Players, and the Pablo Light Show. Dig the power-to-the-people poster.




Robert Christgau mentions some kinda hippie benefit show featuring Communications Workshop and Season of the Witch in this July 30, 1970 Village Voice article.

From Nina Antonia's Too Much Too Soon (London: Omnibus, 1998): On May 29, 1972, the New York Dolls played their second date in the Palm Room of the Diplomat Hotel, where the Pox had debuted. Adjacent to the Times Square porn palaces and peep shows, the Diplomat gig was organized in conjunction with the Warhol crew and featured Jackie Curtis in a support slot. At the bottom of the bill was a band called Shaker, whose drummer, Jerry Nolan, rather impressed Billy [Murcia...how prophetic.-Ed.]. The event, advertised as an "Invitation Beyond the Valley," garnered a couple of lousy reviews in the theatrical sections of local papers. Some of the Dolls' very early appearances baffled critics who were unsure as to whether they were a theatrical troupe, a rock act, or both.

The Dolls played the venue again on March 16 the following year; openers were the Brats, featuring erstwhile Doll Rick Rivets.

KISS booked the Diplomat themselves for some of their earliest Manhattan dates--July 13 and August 10, 1973. Check out the flyers here and here. Click here for personal recollections from Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons (who describes the Diplomat as "a hotel for hookers and junkies"). Click here for fan/observer accounts and photos from the gig, offering a rare glimpse of primitively primordial KISS kostumes.



Television also played a couple of their earliest gigs ever in the hotel's Crystal Room--April 5 and 10, 1974.



Seems like the place was a haven for hip-hop's originators as well--Kurtis Blow writes of watching Grandmaster Flash DJ there ca. 1977 in the liner notes to Rhino's History of Rap Vol. 1.

The Buzzcocks, Mission of Burma, and the Monochrome Set, September 15, 1979.

The Police, with The The, in the Grand Ballroom, September 27-29, 1979.

Neon Leon, dates unknown.

That's all the names I've been able to track down thus far, though there were surely others. What became of the Diplomat is unclear; this site claims the building is "now home to many of the North African/Senegalese," whatever that means--but I'm skeptical.

UPDATE 7/20/2007--Just discovered magictramps.com, which has images of flyers for three shows the Magic Tramps played at the Diplomat Ballroom. Can't purloin them, you'll have to click on the link to see them. The years weren't clearly listed, but hints were given in fine print on each flyer; my guesstimates are in parentheses.
  • Satan's Celebration: A Rock and Occult Festival, Halloween Night ('72?), with Elephant's Memory (probably sans John or Yoko), Ruby and the Rednecks, Chris Rush, White Satin, Suzan Bader, Satan the Eternal Fireman, and various witches, occultists and psychics.
  • The First International Costume Glitter Ball, Saturday, December 30 (1972?), with Satan's Angels of the Universe, Shaker, and the Harlots of 42nd Street.
  • "Strut Yo' Stuff," an "Easter Parade" show on Sunday, April 14 (1974?) with Canon, Street Punk, and the Harlots of 42nd Street.
I also recently found two archived NY Times articles that shed more light on the history of the building.

UPDATE 5/23/2010: I am appallingly late in discovering this, but blogger NYCDreamin' of This Ain't the Summer of Love wrote a much more detailed and exhaustive account of Hotel Diplomat history in early 1999. He kindly acknowledged my post, but truly went to research lengths that I could not achieve...or rather (perhaps more accurately), that I in my laziness could not be bothered with. Bravo!!!

UPDATE 9/17/2013:  You'll want to get your mitts on the latest KISS tome by Ken Sharp, Nothin to Lose: The Making of KISS 1972-1975, which includes a lengthy discussion of the band's stint at the Dip.  By the way, I located a bunch of Hotel Diplomat ads while I was perusing the Voice archives a couple years ago--just click on the Hotel Diplomat tag on the list at the right to see them.  Also, get a load of these goodies I found on the Bay last night.






21 comments:

Anonymous said...

i could swear that i walked by it while it was being demolished..
about 10 years ago..

Art said...

I was in Shaker with Jerry Nolan. We played many gigs with the Dolls, mostly at the Mercer Arts Center. Jerry and I were close friends. I called Jerry "Murray" and he called me "Sid". It was an inside joke. Amazing days

Dave said...

Hi Art,

Do you know of ANY existing footage of ANY of the early 70s NYC bands or the Mercer Arts Center?

Cheerz,
Dave

Anonymous said...

I have fond memories of dancing at the Diplomat in the Crystal Ballroom during the late 60's to a wonderful band! The Italian dances took place on Saturday night for years and my friends and I couldn't get enough of their music. What a great singer, too! Can't remember the name of the band or the singer.

Anonymous said...

I saw the Idols (Jerry Nolan and Arthur Kane's band) on Halloween 1978 at the Diplomat. Openers were the B-Girls and the Senders. Big ballroom with a balcony. Room for dancing and hiding out to do....

Luke Sky said...

Those Police gigs in 1979 - the other support band was my band Fashion from Birmingham, England. The The were a New York band not the later UK band - they were really nice blokes. These 3 gigs were the start of a Police/Fashion tour that ran through to The Hollywood Palladium gig on November 22 1979. There's quite a lot of NY reference in my upcoming book "Stairway To Nowhere" http://www.myspace.com/fashionlukesky

Cheers
Luke Sky

homeopathy eczema said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

The Hotel Diplomat held regular Rock & Roll Conventions in the late 1970 (1977-1981?) once or twice a year. It usually ran for a 2-day weekend. A lot of dealers with booths selling their records, photos, buttons/badges, and various music memorabilia. They always had at least 2 live shows each day. I recall seeing Ronnie Spector and The Lenny Kaye Band there. They also had films of concerts and promotional music videos (this was pre-MTV). There was a New Wave vibe to the conventions back then. The building itself was somewhat run-down but it's previous glory days were still evident. I guess it never made landmark status, I think prehaps it should have. Now the building is gone.- AlexNYC

Art said...

Hey Dave,

Sorry I haven't responded. Yes, I have a picture of my band, Shaker, with Jerry Nolan. Follow the link below.

Art

http://lh5.ggpht.com/_olT_lecej1E/SjOpoQNAa2I/AAAAAAAAFto/kTlYtQhN-QM/s400/Shaker%20%28front%29-1.jpg

Anonymous said...

Thinking of those amazing times in NYC during the 70,s.Couldn't believe how empty the first 2 nights of 3 where for The Police at
the Diplomat in 1979. Was a great moment.Saw the shows with my dear friend Matt Dike who took some great black and white pictures of the band.I have some somewhere.Thought I would share a moment.Miss the old City.

James said...

I saw the British neo-ska band The Selecter at the Diplomat on Memorial Day weekend in 1980. We had no problem attending *cough*crashing*cough* the after party held upstairs on the floor above and opposite the stage area.

I also recall attending a convention in October (thereabouts) 1979. There was some big draw there which required waiting in line on the sidewalk outside. For the life of me, I can't recall what the draw was.

jim rader said...

Obscure rock venues like the Diplomat
really trip me out! My most interesting yrs in NYC were the first ones,like '73-'75. The atmosphere was seedy, washed out, post-'60s...but it was at least a fucking atmosphere. Music was CHEAP--$3 covers,not much even then.
The streets were more dangerous then, too...that was the downside.

jason castlebury said...

What was it like in the grand ballroom at the hotel diplomat?
Did you know that it was built as and for the NY Elks lodge #1???? Email me jmcdrums@aol.com
I would love to hear your story about the hotel diplomat for sure. Reason is I am a member of the Elks and would love to have more of an accounting of that old building!

jason castlebury said...

I would love to hear your story about the grand ballroom in the hotel diplomat.
Email me at jmcdrums@aol.com

jason castlebury said...

Do you have any of the pictures of the grand ballroom of the hotel diplomat?
If so email me at jmcdrums@aol.com

jason castlebury said...

Any one have any inside pictures of the Diplomat Hotel?

Anonymous said...


CLUB-82 OR THE BIJOU THEATRE TURNED INTO A GAY PORNO THEATRE IN THE 1990'S AND THEN CLOSED IN 2008 FOR RENOVATIONS. IT REMAINED SHUT FOR YEARS AND JUST REOPENED IN 2013 AGAIN AS A GAY -XXX- MOVIE THEATRRE. THERE IS PLENTY OF SEX GOING ON DOWNSTAIRS IN THE BOOTHS AND NEARLY PITCH-BLACK GROPE ROOM. WALK-IN LEVEL IS THE MOVIE SCREEN WITH GAY PORN FILMS. DOWNSTAIRS MOANS 'N GROANS COME FROM EVERY ANGLE...LOAD-FILLED CONDOMS ARE STREWN ABOUT, EMPTY LUBE TUBES, POPPERS, EMPTY BOOZE BOTTLES AND THE OCCASIONAL STRAY DILDO !IT IS ONLY OPEN AT NIGHT (FROM 8 PM UNTIL 4 AM) ADMISSION IS $ 14.00 AND IT STILL HAS NO KNOWN TELEPHONE NO. IT'S KINKY, IT'S QUEER & IT'S FABULOUS !

jason castlebury said...

If you have any pictures of the interior any where inside the Diplomat Hotel?
Would you donate digital scan copies and send them to this email address pretty Please!
Email jmcdrums@aol.com

Anonymous said...

James mentioned an event in October 1979 where there was a long line to get in. That event was The Ramones and I was there. They were one of the bands booked to play at the Rock Ages Rock'n'Roll flea market. The venue wouldn't open the doors, the line on the sidewalk was endless (although I was toward the front), and various Ramones kept driving around the block in a van taunting the crowd. At one point, someone broke a window on one of the doors to the place. There was a lot of pushing, too. Fortunately, when we did get in, the band was great although it was very overcrowded in that small room.

A couple of months later, several people died in the infamous stampede outside The Who's show in Cincinnati. When I heard about that, I thought about The Ramones show a couple of months earlier. The same thing could have easily happened there.

In May 1979, New York Gong played at another Rock Ages convention at the Hotel Diplomat. I thought that it was an evening show but it was at 4:00 and I got there just as the band was breaking down. I count missing that show as one of my big regrets.

jason castlebury said...

Its great to read these stories of the Diplomat Hotel.
But, it would be even nicer if some one came up with interior photos or self made video's that have not been
seen!
I have a bunch of photos & different found videos of movies & a concert shot in the old Lodge Room / Grand Ball Room.
I would really like to ask any one who reads this how much I would like to get more
photos or video's that were shot inside the old Diplomat Hotel.
Its getting harder & harder to find any pictures or video's made inside the Diplomat back then!

Any one who reads this can you help me find more items to share?
Or if you have photos or video of the interior of the Hotel Diplomat would
be nice enough to help this frustrated Diplomat historian out?
I love the Diplomat and loved to talk about its rich history.
I never got the chance to see it in person and I know some like to tag it as a dump.
That decay happened because the owners at the end didn't take care of the place and invested nothing
in its potential and its future. Thats why paint was pealing and couches with holes in them.
Rats & roaches filled the Diplomat in some areas.
With all of that the Diplomat had some much to offer and was a New York piece of beauty
like so many other buildings like it that were neglected by there owner!
I extend to you one last time if you know of anything from that building or have pictures / video of the interiors of
the Hotel Diplomat please don't hesitate to email me, seriously!
I feel pretty heart broken still to this day that it was knocked down because of greed!
That Myself & others will never get to enjoy the architectural bliss that was inside the old New York Elks Lodge #1
/ Hotel Diplomat.
Please help me get more on this wonderful place.
I need some help on this...

jmcdrums@aol.com

That is my email address & don't hesitate to send anything you have!
Pretty Please?!?!?!?

Mothra R said...

Holy Crap. I googled "Hotel Diplomat" to try and get the exact dates of these gatherings so I can recreate my own timeline of the 1970s (I am pretty sure I started attending AFTER the Son of Sam was caught). I lived in Irvington, NY in the late 70's and attended high school there. These things were almost the only thing I lived for as I was discovering all the obscure 1960s music then (I was definitely one of the Disco Sucks crowd then. Not sure it it is just me but music sucks so bad now, that Disco actually sounds great).

Anyway, I too remember seeing Ronnie Spector. I literally watched the movies all day long because there was no other way to see that stuff. Even if there had been MTV they wouldn't have shown old British Invasion and Garage clips. I continued to go even after they moved the shindig do the Pennsylvania and then the Roosevelt.

I don't know why, but these types of things just aren't as much fun anymore. I considered going to The Monkees conventions and The Fest, but it feels more like you are on The Love Boat. Ha ha. Oh Well, the Ramones Exhibit in Queens is definitely worth the schlepp.