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.
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.