Sunday, December 16, 2007

Look elsewhere, angels...

...to the Times, for an article on the possibility of the Bottom Line setting up new digs in Brooklyn...and to the Bowery Boys, for a sordid Slide back to Kenny's Castaways.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Do you rememba Zaremba?








See more grainy, blurry, faraway Fleshtone fotos here.
I'm about two-thirds of the way through Joe Bonomo's mega-entertaining-and-edumacating Sweat: The Story of the Fleshtones, America's Garage Band (New York: Continuum, 2007). A couple of cringeworthy copy-editing oversights managed to sneak into the final product ("Surfer Bird"? "Bomp Newsletter, run by hip label-head Gary Shaw out of Burbank, California"???), but nevertheless Sweat is a monumental achievement in rock writing, and will soon take pride of place on my streetsyoucrossed research bookshelf as the Ultimate NYC Rock & Roll Tome. I do believe I'll devote the next few entries to some of the joints the Fleshtones called home in their formative years. First, lemme update my old Bond's Casino post--somehow this factoid didn't turn up in my original searchin'...


"On April 16 [1981], the Fleshtones headlined the enormous Bonds International Nightclub in Times Square...An historic link in the move toward rock dancing, Bond's was immense, the biggest disco that New York City ever saw, boasting a capacity of eighteen hundred. The Fleshtones played a 'Spring Vacation Party' in front of an enthusiastic if thin crowd. 'Three hundred fans showed up downtown to go up to see us and dance, and they essentially formed a row two-deep in front of the stage!' Marek remembers. 'It was disheartening to be in such a huge place and not fill it, but the Fleshtones never could.'"


And here's forgotten-ny's recent featurette on another Fleshtones haunt, the Lone Star Cafe--itself housed in a former Schrafft's. After the Lone Star closed, but before the building was converted into a Korean deli, it briefly operated as a music club under a different name in the early '90s. I can distinctly recall seeing some ska shows there, but of course I cannot recall what the joint was called.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Stompers Say Yeah!










Now that I've got a digital camera, I'll let the pictures say my usual thousand words. Here are a multitude of photos from Cavestomp 2007. (P.S: I guess John Varvatos is actually utilzing 315 Bowery as well!!! Even though we passed through the Bowery during part of our record-shopping expedition, somehow I couldn't bear to walk by the block to snag some photographic evidence. Belated RIP Linda Stein.) (P.P.S.: Now I hear the gallery space at 313 will be the new home of rock photo purveyor Morrison Hotel.)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Welllllllll, meet me, baby, down on 45th Street...

Bup-shoo-buh, bup-a-bup-a-shoo-buh...

(Thanks to my hip tipster Flipped Out Phil! Despite the Jackie K. cover I hadn't even perused this month's VF table of contents at the grocery checkout like I usually do!)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Let's swim to the moon, uh-huh...

I promised myself I'd crank out a post before leaving for Cavestomp! so here 'tis.

By the way--check out the Bowery Boys' wonderful blog on NYC history every Friday for a wicked wayback trip through all eras of New York nightlife. They're pros, so Lord knows they'll get to some of the more rockin' joints I've been meaning to cover way before I will! Actually, you'll wanna read it on a daily basis if you're any sort of an NYC history geek.



ONDINE--308 E. 59th Street. Arguably the hippest of the posh mid-'60s East Side discotheques that sprang up in Arthur's wake, this frequent Warhol-crowd hangout is best known for hosting the Doors' first New York gig. According to most sources it opened in 1965 and was co-owned by Jerry Schatzberg and Olivier Coquelin. However, the club's sound engineer and DJ Jim Reeves cites Howard Pratt, Claude Bell and Geist Ely as the owners. Reeves explains some of Ondine's internal workings far better than I can on his site:

"Ondine was an exclusive private discotheque club, pretty much a celebrity-based restaurant and dance club which pioneered a new trend in "happenings" of the era and after a year or so of its existence to the public, the then manager, Brad Pierce, had some connection with industry types, and somehow began to book the current acts. There weren't that may venues then so I guess it was a logical step for all involved in entertainment to take.

Around '64, as a recording engineer at Skitch Henderson's Studio 3 during the daytime, my mentor, Dave Sarser, who had set up private discotheques like Le Club (almost "speak easy"-ish) in the '50's and '60's, assigned me to a new club called Ondine. It was named after an Olympic winning sailboat. I was to install their sound system...I had become the head Discaire (now known as "DJ") as a result and played back to back pop records at night and weekends, stirring up a frenzy of go-go dancers. I also handled the sound for the house band, The Losers, and eventually for transient bands like the Pilgrims, who wore tunics styled after the knickers look of the Young Rascals who started out at the Barge, a sister discotheque in the Hampton's on Long Island. There was Arthur's, another New York disco owned by Sybil Burton, whose house band was the Fuzzy Bunnies. Many clubs followed as the trend caught on like Harlowe's and The Coney Island Pub and Nepenthe and many others.

At Ondine, The Doors, The Druids of Stonehenge, Buffalo Springfield, Jimi Hendrix, The Denims were among the list of performers. Live PA sound systems were just in their infancy then. It was new and exciting. Lots of real action. Bikers outside, mingled with the limousines. Jackie Gleason and Jackie Kennedy and Faye Dunaway would be mingling with Monti Rock III and Eric Burdon and Hilton Valentine of the Animals, while Jimi bit his guitar strings on the 8'x12'x18" stage. What can I say? Sonny and Cher would pop in. We'd hang out together with Steve Stills in the kitchen snacking on staff dinners together. Hendrix and I would go out after the club closed to the Brasserie for late night dinners. That's how it was. Nothing to compare it to then. Eventually it all led to The Cheetah and Studio 54, along with the Fillmore East and the Electric Circus and so on. It was all new to all of us."


The Olympian yacht Ondine was surely named after the water-sprite. And accordingly, the club was decked out in a nautical motif--an "undersea discotheque heavily draped in fisherman's nets," according to Michael and Ariane Batterberrys' On the Town in New York (New York: Routledge, 1999; orig. 1973). (Hmmm...wonder if it looked anything like T.O.'s The Boat?) Some suggestion of this can be seen in these photos of Curtis Knight and the Squires, found on earlyhendrix.com (note porthole beside the head of the guy dancing in front of Jimi).








Reeves offers some details about the club's layout on the Hendrix page: "After the new management (with Brad Pierce) took over, they moved the stage to the south wall. You can see the arched, ship-like rafters above on ceiling and the porthole near the guitar on the stand....Ondine was not at all a large venue. There was a 18' to 22' foot bar at the front and a coat check room across from it. Continuing on to the rear was a 25' x 35'x 9'h room with a stage, dance floor, and beyond that, a fairly large kitchen. There were booths around the perimeter of the room. "The Losers" was the house band. They were a funky blues rock pop band. Joe Nessor (bass and vocal), Tony Sal (Guitar and vocal), Brian Keenan (drums) and Russell ??? (guitar) I think."

Did the superstars in Warhol's firmament dig the place because one of their own was named Ondine? Andy doesn't say, but he does give some of the best available evocations of the club's ambiance in Popism: The Warhol Sixties (New York: Harper & Row, 1980; Pat Hackett, co-author).


"A discotheque called Ondine (just a name coincidence...) opened...at the very beginning of '65, and that was where you started seeing lots of beautiful girls in mini-skirts (they weren't even called that yet, though), short and pleated with stripes and dots and big colors and stretchy knits. Everyone started going to Ondine right away, all the celebs in town. The girls there were beautiful--Gerard picked Marisa Berenson there one night on her very first modeling trip to New York and brought her to the Factory for a screen test. Edie went there all the time, throwing a lot of money around in the beginning when she still had it, picking up the check for as many as twenty people every night..." [p. 99]

"[A]fter working all day at the Factory, we'd usually go out to Il Mio and then to Ondine and wind up at Arthur. A band called the Druids had been playing at Ondine for a couple of months. Jimi Hendrix--this was before he was Jimi Hendrix, he was still Jimmy James--would sit there in the audience with his guitar and ask them if he could play with them and they'd say sure. He had short hair and really beautiful clothes--black pants and white silk shirts...before the bandanna and the twangy guitar and all that. But he was already playing with his feet. [p. 189. Probably misheard in the transcribing; I'm sure he meant teeth. --Ed.]

"In November [1966] the Doors came to New York for the first time and they played at Ondine. When we walked in, Gerard took one look at Jim Morrison in leather pants just like his and he flipped. 'He stole my look!' he screamed, outraged. It was true enough--Jim had, I guess, picked it up from seeing Gerard at the Trip...The Doors were at Ondine because, according to Ronnie Cutrone, who should know--he hung out there enough--the girl who played the records, Billie, knew them from L.A. (She also knew the Buffalo Springfield from the Coast and she got them a gig there, too, right after the Doors...)...After [that], the image of the place went from chic to rocking, and groupies started hanging out there, beautiful girls like Devon and Kathy Starf***er...When you walked into Ondine, on the right was the coat check, on the left was a red leather couch, then there was the bar, and then a narrow strip with tables in it, and then the back room that was the dance floor, with the record booth at the end of it. Jim Morrison got to be a regular there, and the Doors played there again a few times the following spring. Jim would stand at the bar drinking screwdrivers all night long, taking downs with them, and he'd get really far gone--he'd be totally oblivious--and the girls would go over and jerk him off while he was standing there." [p. 189-90]









The Doors had three residency gigs at Ondine--November 1 to 30, 1966, January 19 to 29, 1967, and March 13 to April 2, 1967. Here are some more pics, and here are some of Richard Meltzer's reminiscenses (he refers to Ondine as a "plush clip joint...under the 59th St. Bridge").

[UPDATE 5/16/2010: Just found a fantastic "Pop Eye" column by Richard Goldstein in the March 23, 1967 issue of the Village Voice, covering several cool topics: Zal Yanovsky's rep as an informant; the growing use of psychedelics among musicians; the Toronto scene ("the influx of draft dodgers has given that city's hip community the status of an international mecca"); Joe Tex; the Monkees; the Fugs; a review of an attempted series of happenings called "Rock Flows" at the Broadway Central Hotel; and a fabulously evocative account of the atmosphere at Ondine during the Doors' stand that month.]



Following a one-night Night Owl stand on December 30, 1966, the Buffalo Springfield did a residency at Ondine's from New Year's Eve '66 through to January 9, 1967, as a support act for Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels. According to this Springfield chronology, during one set Otis Redding sang "In the Midnight Hour" with them; during another, a fight broke out between Stephen Stills and Bruce Palmer after Palmer refused to turn down his bass amp.



Unknown gal sharing a confidence with Bob Dylan at Ondine.

Other bands known to have played there include the Daily Flash, Peck's Bad Boys, the Graypes, and the Remains--who recorded their audition for Capitol Records the morning after one of their very late Ondine nights (immortalized on Sundazed's A Session with the Remains).

[UPDATE 5/6/2010: I can't believe I missed any references to the Bobby Fuller Four's engagement, which started on May 2, 1966! The Barbarians apparently played there also. What can I say, the Billboard Google Archives didn't exist at the time I first wrote this. Must do a more thorough Ondine search there soon.]


I'm not sure how long Ondine was open, but I haven't come across any references to it dating later than 1967. Under new ownership it briefly operated as a disco called Together. Both incarnations of the club were frequently shook down by mobsters, including a certain Sopranos cast member.

Not sure if the same building still stands at 308, but apparently the address is currently used by Danny Alessandro, Ltd., a fireplace specialist.



The fabulous That60sGirl.com has a scan of a terrific article on the mid-'60s discotheque scene. There's no direct link, so click on "music," then "dances," and you'll come across it. One of the "discaires" pictured in it, Annette of L'Interdit, was on What's My Line once; it was hilarious to hear Bennett Cerf ask her about the "watutsi" and "frug" (which he incorrectly rhymed with rug).


[UPDATE 5/6/2010: A while back I actually uploaded the WML clip--here 'tis.]




Lastly--the CBGB gallery space is set to become a designer clothing store. No word yet on the fate of the club itself.






If you happen to be in T.O. tomorrow night--BOO!



Friday, October 05, 2007

A few Doll houses

I'm currently working my way through Kris Needs' and Dick Porter's Trash: The Complete New York Dolls (London: Plexus, 2006). It's somewhat more detailed than Nina Antonia's fine Dolls bio of a few years back, particularly on the individual members' pre- and post-Dolls activities. As any good New York rock and roll book should, it discusses some of the jernts where it all went down--and so I'll summarize a few of those discussions here. I've covered a few of these places already, but will offer some Dolls-centric updates to those previous entries.



QUINTANO'S SCHOOL FOR YOUNG PROFESSIONALS: "Although they weren't full U.S. citizens and thus had no need to beat the draft, Syl and Billy enrolled at Quintano's--a well-known Fame-style school located behind Carnegie Hall that groomed students for careers in the performing arts. 'It was sort of like a school for young professionals,' explains Syl, 'a lot of cool people came out.' (One of whom was Mary Weiss of the Shangri-Las.)" [p. 25] While students there, the pair formulated their groovy knitwear company, Truth & Soul. Syl also got a job at a hip men's shop called The Different Drummer, located at 63rd and Lex. "Right across the street from that shop...was this toy repair shop upstairs. It was called the New York Doll Hospital. That's when I first thought of the name...I thought it was a f***ing great name!" Seems like Quintano's was one of those only-in-New-York, only-in-the-'60s-and-'70s institutions, replete with liberal applicant-acceptance policies and lax attendance requirements. Other students associated with it include Bernadette Peters, Andrea Feldman, Rick Derringer, Steven Tyler (who described it as a "school for f**k-ups like myself where you just had to show up to graduate"), and some members of the Left Banke (whose management thought it prudent to re-enroll them in high school as a sort of draft-dodging measure--learned this tidbit off the leftbankism yahoogroup).

NOBODY'S--Not sure where this was, but it was one of the young Dolls' favorite bars. Needs writes that it was "described by Jayne County as a hangout for 'young guys from Queens who wanted to be Rod Stewart.'" [p. 36] [UPDATE 1/16/2008: Two folks have informed me that Nobody's was located on Bleecker Street.]

ENDICOTT HOTEL: A welfare hotel at 81st and Columbus--located near Rusty's Cycle Shop, a bike shop in whose basement the early Dolls frequently rehearsed. Around Christmastime 1971, workers at the hotel were organizing a party for the residents; they heard the Dolls jamming across the street and asked if they'd play in exchange for free food. "Faced with a mainly black and Puerto Rican audience, the Dolls launched into a set consisting of covers such as Otis Redding's 'Don't Mess with Cupid,' 'Showdown' by Archie Bell and the Drells, and other R and B covers. 'They got a real hoot out of it,' recalled Johansen. 'We were terrible, but we felt real proud.'" [p. 39] First and last gig with Rick Rivets and without Syl Sylvain, who was in London at the time.

HOTEL DIPLOMAT: "By May 1972, the quartet had gathered sufficient confidence to make their live debut at a proper venue. This took place at the Palm Room, a basement club housed beneath the Hotel Diplomat on West 43rd Street. At the time, the room showcased rock groups, but it would later become a popular gay disco hangout where Gloria Gaynor was inaugurated as the Queen of Disco in 1975. 'We found out about this benefit for this anarchist that was coming up, a "free somebody" programme at the Hotel Diplomat,' David told Melody Maker in 1978. 'Some kid who had another band told us about it, and we said, "Get us on it!" We didn't play the benefit for political reasons--we played it because it was a gig...That was the first time we ever got dressed to play...just a nice pair of pants and a nice shirt. We got a great response. There were a couple of people from the music business there--Danny Fields for one told me he thought the band were great, and all this heavy stuff, so I figured we would stick to it."...On 29 May, the Dolls made a return to the Palm Room, under the banner 'An Invitation Beyond the Valley.' The event was partly organized by Warhol's organization and featured Jackie Curtis as support...[T]he Diplomat gig would mark the beginning of the Dolls' ascent towards occupation of the niche vacated by the Velvets at the nexus of the Big Apple art/rock confluence...Support at the Palm Room came courtesy of Shaker, who featured Jerry Nolan on drums." [pp. 44-45]

MAN COUNTRY: The band's next gig was at this Brooklyn gay bathhouse--address unknown. "On the first night the band dragged up for the occasion, but most of their potential audience opted to carry on f---ing. The next night they wore leather, which intrigued the revellers sufficiently for them to emerge from their booths." [pp. 45-46]. Syl described this as their first paying gig in a 2005 interview for Creem Online.

MERCER ARTS CENTER: Home of the band's star-making residency, housed in a former grand hotel that would famously collapse in 1973. Thoroughly well-documented elsewhere. [The Modern Lovers opened for the Dolls' '72 New Year's Eve gig...I simply adore the audience member who can be heard marveling "He REALLY means it!" on the live recording of this!]


MY FATHER'S PLACE--19 Bryant Avenue, Roslyn, NY. "A former Long Island bowling alley, which had been converted into a 400-capacity bar and concert venue by promoter Michael Epstein. " [p. 89] The Dolls played there on August 14-16, 1973, returned on April 15 the following year, and possibly did an early '75 date as well. [I hope to attempt a more thorough write-up at some point, but don't hold yer breath...]

THE WALDORF-ASTORIA: "On 30 October [1973], the Dolls hosted a triumphant homecoming Halloween party at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel Grand Ballroom...NBC News reported that a thousand or so punters, some ticketless, smashed the glass doors to pour into the venue." The costume contest (judged by Tommy Tune among others) was won by "a Mae West look-alike and a fan who'd dressed as an exotic alien to win the prize of a night on the town with the Dolls." [p. 96] (The runner-up won a night for three in a Newark motel.) Bob Gruen's All Dolled Up DVD features footage from local CBS news coverage of this event, including blast-from-the-past reportage from Jim Jensen and Joel Siegel.

ACADEMY OF MUSIC: "Mercury stumped up for some promotion and David recorded a radio advertisement that featured him declaring, 'Man, I'm getting tired of seeing your face every night this winter. There's one thing about this winter. We've got the New York Dolls coming to the Academy of Music on Friday night, February 15. We got our own St. Valentine's Day Massacre, honey, since all the deco got stacked up. That's this Friday, honey. You better be there.'...Almost as soon as the Dolls launched into their customary opener, 'Personality Crisis,' the sound system cut out. After a short delay they stormed through a triumphant homecoming..." [pp. 115-6] View part of Bob Gruen's "Lipstick Killers" short, as screened before this gig, here.

CLUB 82: "This had been one of Manhattan's most glamorous drag venues between the 1940s and late sixties, playing host to a bevy of transvestites and female impersonators. Latterly, 82 had lost some of its sparkle once such establishments could operate openly, but still employed a team of lesbians to man the door and bar. In keeping with the spirit of their surroundings, the Dolls dragged up more thoroughly than usual...The Miamis supported and acted as the Dolls' 'gentleman dates.' 'That was the only club that we ever did anything like that, really devised shit,' recalls Sylvain. 'It was run by this lesbian woman who was gorgeous, called Tommy, and ran it like a brick shithouse. It looked all tropical. The Copacabana goes gay, if you will. The center of it was the actual stage, like a square. Completely around the stage was the bar. We would hang down there. The prostitutes were on Tenth Street and after their work hours they would go down to Club 82 and drink down there. They would have like drag shows and performances...Tommy never used to want [rock & roll bands]...But business was bad for them. They needed new fun and excitement again. That's where the New York Dolls came in. They still talk about what we did at Club 82 because it was the most exciting thing going. It came at a time when the Dolls had been on their way up and then on their way down and this was sort of the valley of their career.'" [pp. 118-9]




LITTLE HIPPODROME: Needs' account of the Red Patent Leather shows pretty much reiterates others I've heard, but he also notes that the Hippodrome had a capacity of 2000--somehow I didn't conceive of it as being quite that large. Check out the fab poster at thunders.ca, and actual video on youtube!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Fauxpollo

Should have put these up earlier; it's probably gone by now. A phony Apollo marquee was recently, and surreally, erected on Yonge Street. Apparently it's for a sequel to The Hulk. I wonder if Bruce Banner will break out into song: "Up to Lexington, One-Two-Five, feel green and angry, more dead than alive..."






I had to take one last snapshot of Sam's. Somebody forgot to shut off the twinkling SAM lights at the roofline.

Where ya goin' to?

Another fab Mary Weiss interview, replete with Brooklyn Fox and NY Paramount memories, appeared in the 9/28/2007 issue of the New York Sun. [I'm assuming the author is the same Bruce Bennett, a.k.a. "Il Bruce," of A-Bones and The Hound fame, but perhaps I'm mistaken?]

"It was bizarre," Ms. Weiss said of the Shangri-La's appearances in and among eight to 10 other acts in William Fox's now demolished "Siamese-Byzantine" show palace monument to himself on Flatbush Avenue. "You'd get there in the morning, and the whole cast had to be onstage for the opening. Then you go back upstairs. The elevator never worked and they'd have you on, like, the sixth floor. Then you'd come back down and do your set, five songs, six songs, or whatever. Then you go back up, then come back down for the finale. And you'd do that seven times a day. It's insane, absolutely insane. Murray the K would have it running for weeks. It was a grind."
The upside was, of course, the company that the Shangri-Las' endurance on the pop charts allowed them to keep. "There were so many great people that I worked with and got to meet there," Ms. Weiss said. "The Rascals, the Zombies, Dusty Springfield, Marvin Gaye, you name it." Meeting the headliners at a gig farther up the street at the Brooklyn Paramount was another story. "The Paramount was with the Beatles," she said. "It was weird. They had them on one floor and everybody else on the show on another floor. It was very strange."
Though the Fab Four remained safely cloistered for the bulk of the show, one delegate from either group did eventually go boot to boot. "Mary Ann was backstage and somebody was shoving her," Ms. Weiss said. "She turned around and it was Ringo. So that was some contact, anyway. I almost wanted her to take his drumsticks."

Friday, September 28, 2007

"I did not know that," she said all Carson-like

A while back I heard that the former Gramercy movie theater--my main local screen back when I lived at the Hunter dorms--had been converted to a venue called the Blender Theater at Gramercy, but somehow it completely escaped my radar that Irving Plaza's name was changed to, ahem, The Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza as of last April. Pardon my delayed-reaction flabbergastedness.




Update-o-rama tidbits have been added to the ancient posts on Trude Heller's and the N.Y. Pavilion.

And now a sad farewell to a flesh-and-blood NYC landmark. RIP Bill Peitsch, the most fun-loving rock & roll character I ever met. Whether you saw him onstage or in the audience, if you were somewhere in his presence you were in for a blast. Nobody could liven up a room quite like him, but I understand that behind all the beer-hoisting boisterousness lay a truly kind and generous soul. All's I know is, I knew I'd finally become a bona fide garagenik when he first said "hi" to me. Though I hardly knew ye, I'll never forget ye.




Sunday, September 02, 2007

Ye New Time Music Hall

NY Times, 8/30/2007: Neither Arenas Nor Dives, New Clubs Hope to Succeed with Style.

Thanks to good ol' buddy Bruno for the tip. Savage Cabbage forever!


[EDIT: For a glimpse into my addled expat mind, see also this 9/2/2007 Times article, Dodging Potholes Along Memory Lane.]

Friday, August 31, 2007

Word # 1,001


[Yes, I really should get crackin' on that Schaefer Music Fest post.]
UPDATE: Voice article on the Kristal estate.

Monday, August 27, 2007

More dead Brooklyn knowledge

Forgotten NY does it again by hipping me to the existence of yet another Brooklyn movie-theater-turned-short-lived-rock-venue, the Fortway. Chuck Berry is known to have played there in 1972...any other documented acts?

D.C. is well aware that this doesn't make up for a lack of solid posts as of late. As always, I'm workin' on it!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Only the Dead knew Brooklyn


I've been curious about the story behind Brooklyn's 46th Street Rock Palace (a.k.a. Bananafish Gardens) ever since coming across a reference to it on some Dead site. The ever-exploratory Kevin Walsh of Forgotten NY fame has solved the mystery and given the venue a nice write-up on a page about Alben Square. Some further info is available at cinematreasures.org, as the joint was previously a movie palace (originally the Universal, later Loew's 46th Street). I might try to compile a brief list of show dates at some point. Thanks to reader/veteran NYC cabbie Wayne for the heads up!

UPDATE 1/29/2014:  Here's a photo essay on the current state of the building, courtesy of After the Final Curtain.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sammy, I hardly knew ye...

Not making good on my promises of more prolificity, am I? Can't help it...TCM was finally added to the Rogers Cable roster a few months ago, and after being denied its bounty for six years I NEED to catch up on my classic flicks.

I've got some research simmering on the backburner, but in the meantime, here are a couple of links I've recently encountered on two interesting NYC music figures, impresario extraordinaire Sid Bernstein and former Magicians member John Townley.

Toronto is about to lose one of its own musical landmarks pretty soon, and since I've long nursed a soft spot for the place I'm feeling quite melancholy over it. (Maybe I have become a semi-Torontonian by osmosis after all.) 'Twas inevitable, and I kinda knew the writing was on the wall at last year's Boxing Day sale, when the traditional free coffee and donuts were not proferred. Jeez, where the hell are we gonna go on Boxing Day now? Ah well, at least it reopened after its bankruptcy woes six years ago, allowing me to squeeze some shopping experience out of its iconic edifice.





Though long past its prime by the time I moved to T.O. in 2001--its legendary "one cent Saturday" sales and 2nd floor clearance racks bursting with sealed '60s LPs priced at a buck a piece were well extinct at that point--Sam the Record Man still had enough old-school charm left to make me a regular customer. It wasn't just its idiosyncratic name or its gloriously honky-tonk perpetually spinning neon discs that beckoned me. Bottom line, considering its locale in T.O.'s most mainstream shopping area, it had a pretty damn thorough selection of CDs and DVDs. O.K., cetainly not Amoeba-thorough, but I was consistently blown away by how often I'd find items that I should not have expected to find at such a joint. I also loved how down-home the "decor" was--handwritten display case dividers, autographed walls, copious framed photos of Sam Sniderman posing with past music notables, and most evocative of all, ancient linoleum scuffed by the shuffling of many a rekkid collector. I'll live--there are still plenty of other fine record shops elsewhere in the city, downloading be damned for the time being--but my jaunts downtown will be a helluva lot less fun from now on.




May you stay forever Yonge.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Breusooklyn Feusox, beusaby!

I should probably wait until I track down that elusive copy of Murray the K Tells It Like It Is, Baby before I tackle this topic, but hey, I'm rarin' to go.




BROOKLYN FOX THEATRE--20 Flatbush Avenue at Nevins Street, Downtown Brooklyn. As usual, the gateway for everything you could ever want to know about the Fox's movie palace past is its cinematreasures.org page, but I'll summarize a few historical details here. The 4,088-seat house was designed by C. Howard Crane and incorporated elements of several architectural styles--Gothic, Spanish Baroque, Byzantine, Near Eastern, and Art Deco, according to the keen eyes of cinematreasures folk.





Among its many splendid appointments was a Wurlitzer "Special" organ, one of five identical models often erroneously called "Fox Specials or "Crawford Specials," which were the largest ever built for theaters prior to the installation of an even bigger model at Radio City Music Hall. (Pictured below is Rosa Rio, house organist in 1933.)






The Fox opened on August 21, 1928, as one of five flagship theaters in William Fox's nationwide chain (St. Louis, Detroit, Atlanta, and San Francisco were the other flagships, three of which are still extant). Fox would not revel in palatial glory for very long, however; the stock-market crash, anti-trust actions, and bankruptcy soon forced him to relinquish control of the Fox Film Corporation, which subsequently merged with Twentieth Century Pictures. Fabian Theatres, a Warner Brothers subsidiary, operated the Fox from 1934 through 1966, screening Warner and Columbia product. I haven't seen much evidence of live stage shows in the '30s or '40s, but the theater apparently did host a popular amateur night. Yet according to one cinematreasures mega-expert, the Fox was never a terribly profitable operation:

It had a few good years during the World War II era, and then felt the full brunt of competition from newfangled home TV. Its "legendary" rock-and-roll shows were comparatively few and not enough to offset all the losing weeks in between. It was far too large for its own good, and also had to contend with a "product split" in downtown Brooklyn where it usually ran its programs for at least two weeks and often longer...In its final years, the Fox lost its exclusive first-run status for Brooklyn as the result of the introduction of saturation release. Prior to that, people traveled from all over Brooklyn to the Fox. After that, they could see the same movies in their own neighborhoods.

Unlike this fellow, who elsewhere on the cinematreasures page downplays their significance, I've come to praise the Fox's rock shows, not to bury them. In the magical mythos of pre-'67 NYC rock and roll, their legend looms as large as all those misty-eyed tales of doo-woppers graduating from streetcorners to recording studios, or of songwriters pounding out pop masterpieces in piano-equipped Brill Building/1650 B'way offices. Conveniently coinciding with school holidays, the shows were regularly-scheduled rambunctious rituals for all manner of tri-state-area teens. True, the stars had to deal with a hits-only, all-killer-no-filler, five-shows-a-day format--but by almost all accounts they rarely failed to wow the crowds. Even if the performances sometimes weren't quite as on-key as the records, who could argue with the bargain bonanza of 12-to-20 diverse hitmakers, LIVE and IN PERSON, at $2.50 a ticket?








Alan Freed's last Big Beat blowouts before the payola scandal were staged at the Fox. I imagine that the first, held during Labor Day week (August 23-September 9) in 1958, probably would have happened at the Brooklyn Paramount had Dick Clark not booked that house for a competing event--a booking which ultimately didn't come to pass. However, some researchers speculate that Freed moved to the Fox because the Paramount's management had turned leery of hosting his shows in the wake of reported riots at his May '58 Boston Arena event. In the ad above I can make out the Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry, Frankie Avalon, the Elegants, the Kalin Twins, the Danleers, Larry Williams, the Poni-Tails, Jimmy Clanton, Teddy Randazzo, Jack Scott, Bo Diddley, the Royal Teens, Duane Eddy, Joann Campbell, Ed Townsend, the Cleftones, and Bobby Freeman. This article states that the highest grosses of Freed's career were made during this engagement.





That year's Christmas show, featuring some of the same acts as the Labor Day event, was held at Loew's State in Times Square, but Freed returned to the Fox in '59 for what would prove to be his final Easter and Labor Day extravaganzas. Among the many delights of the comprehensive, must-to-peruse alanfreed.com are scans of ledgers from the two events, which clearly list the acts involved and their earnings. The Easter Jubilee, held March 27 through April 3, included Fabian, Fats Domino, Jackie Wilson, Duane Eddy, Bobby Darin, Jimmy Clanton, Larry Williams, the Cadillacs, Thomas Wayne, the Impalas, the Skyliners, Bobby Freeman, JoAnn Campbell, Sandy Stewart, the Mello-Kings, and Dale Hawkins. The Labor Day show (September 4-13) starred Lloyd Price, Jimmy Clanton, Dion the Belmonts, the Skyliners, the Crests, the Tempos, the Isley Brothers, JoAnn Campbell, Jackie Wilson, Bo Diddley, Ronnie Hawkins, the Mystics, and Santo & Johnny. (Elsewhere I've found references to Danny & the Juniors, the Passions, and the Flamingos as being among the acts.) Dig Peter Sando's memories:

The show would run for ten days. There were five shows a day noon through midnight. Each show was preceded by a B movie. When we arrived at 3:30 a.m. the line was already a half a block long. The mounted police hadn't arrived yet, but the barricades were up to contain the teenagers to the sidewalks. It was a strange scene in the twilight, all these kids, black, white, Hispanic, all with a common thread binding them together, The Music! And everybody was there--all the Rock and Roll stars--sometimes over 20 acts in a show! All for $2.50. No, they didn't play long sets--you would never be bored for a minute--every act came out and did their two or three best hits and went right off leaving the crowd dying for more.




Somewhere along the post-payola line, manic motormouth WINS DJ Murray "the K" Kaufman inherited both Freed's primetime radio slot and his mantle as the premier presenter of NYC package shows. Exact dates and rosters have been difficult to track down. When time permits and if the T.O. Reference Library has the appropriate microfilm, I hope to slog my way through '60s NYC newspaper movie theater ads to see if I can nail down such info. Meanwhile, I'll discuss as much as I've found thus far.

It appears that Murray's earliest M.C. duties took place not at the Fox but at the Brooklyn Paramount (Christmas 1960, co-hosting with Clay Cole and starring Brenda Lee; and July 4th Weekend 1961 with Jackie Wilson) and the Academy of Music (Christmas 1961 with Johnny Mathis, Bobby Vee, Dion, Joey Dee & The Starliters, Gary U.S. Bonds, Bobby Lewis, Timi Yuro, the Isley Brothers, Jan & Dean, and others).





But the Fox soon became Murray's steady venue. This auction site page, which might be gone by the time you click on it, boasts a collection of autographed '60s concert programs and posters for sale, including several Brooklyn Fox playbills. Although the dates aren't given, many performers are listed, making this the best source of info on Fox show bills that I've yet found. I'll reprint the names here, grouping them according to each show, and in the order the programs are listed at the auction site--which is not chronological. My (as Popeye would say) edumacated guesstimates about the years are in brackets after each listing. As always, click on the links for further info/reminiscences.




  • "Show of Shows": Dion, the Orlons, Dee Dee Sharp, the Coasters, the Vibrations, the Dovells, the Harptones, the Ronettes, Steve Alaimo, Chuck Jackson, Little Peggy March, Lou Christie, Johnny Mathis. ['63?]
  • "Holiday Revue": Jan and Dean, the Drifters, the Dovells, Jay and the Americans, the Tymes, Randy & the Rainbows, Ben E. King, Little Stevie Wonder, the Shirelles, Gene Pitney, the Miracles, the Angels, the Chiffons. ['63?]
  • "Big Holiday Show": Marvin Gaye, the Miracles, the Supremes, Martha & the Vandellas, the Contours, the Temptations, the Searchers, Dusty Springfield, Millie Small, Jay & the Americans, the Dovells, Little Anthony, the Newbeats, the Shangri-Las. [Labor Day '64?]
  • "Big Holiday Show": The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, the Lovin' Spoonful, Patti Labelle & the Bluebelles, the Wildtones, the Beau Brummels, Martha & the Vandellas, the Temptations, Brenda Holloway, Patty Michaels. ['65 or '66?]
  • "Christmas Show": Chuck Jackson, Ben E. King, the Shirelles, the Drifters, the Shangri-Las, Dick & Dee Dee, the Nashville Teens, the Zombies, the Hullabaloos, the Vibrations. ['64?]
  • "Christmas Show": Lloyd Price, the Miracles, Wayne Newton, Mary Wells, Martha & the Vandellas, the Duprees, Tommy Hunt, Jay & the Americans, Betty Harris, Ruby & the Romantics, Tommy Roe, Little Anthony & the Imperials, Dale & Grace, the Vibrations. ['63?]
  • "Christmas Revue": Jackie Wilson, the Four Seasons, the Shirelles, the Dovells, Mike Clifford, Johnny Thunder, Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans, Joey Dee & the Starliters, Little Eva, Lada Edmund, the Ronettes, Dionne Warwick, the Earls, the Crests, the Cookies, Sam & Dave. ['62?]
  • "Christmas Show": Peter & Gordon, the Fortunes, the McCoys, the Moody Blues, Patty Michaels, Wilson Pickett, the Toys, Lenny Welch, Cannibal & the Headhunters, the Vibrations, the Spinners, the O'Jays, Bobby Diamond. ['65?]
  • "Easter Show": Joe Tex, Little Anthony & the Imperials, Jay & the Americans, Deon Jackson, Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, the Rascals, the Shangri-Las, Patti Labelle & the Bluebelles, the Gentrys, the Royalettes. ['66?]
  • "The Fifth Beatle presents his BIG Easter Show": Chuck Jackson, Ben E. King, the Shirelles, Johnny Tillotson, Dionne Warwick, the Tymes, the Chiffons, the Kingsmen, Dick & Dee Dee, Bobby Goldboro, Little Anthony & the Imperials, the Righteous Brothers, the Younger Brothers. [Maybe '64, 'cause Murray would be fully exploiting the "Fifth Beatle" moniker that year, but my gut feeling is '65...]
  • "Big Holiday Show": Gerry & the Pacemakers, the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Martha & the Vandellas, the Temptations, the Marvelettes, the Del Satins, the Four Tops, the Righteous Brothers, the Rag Dolls, Cannibal & the Headhunters. ['65?]

See also the "live shows" page on murraythek.com, which has images of covers from other undated programs that don't seem to be represented in the list above. On one of them, entitled "Sid Bernstein presents the Easter Parade of Stars, M.C. and host Murray the K, Special Added Attraction Clay Cole," I think I recognize the likenesses of Chubby Checker, Del Shannon, Freddy Cannon, Jimmy Clanton, Dion, and Ben E. King; can't make out the other folks. On another, for a "Labor Day Show of Stars with Murray the K," I can recognize Jackie Wilson, Etta James, and Jerry Lee Lewis, but can't figure out who the others are. At any rate, it's possible that these events weren't at the Fox.



[UPDATE 5/24/2010: Rejoice! A fellow named Peter A. who works for the Murray the K Archives website just sent me a near-complete list of show rosters, venues, and opening dates--see it at the link or at the end of this post.]


Americana chroniclers/Roadfood raconteurs Jane and Michael Stern distill the essence of Murray's Fox shows like nobody else in their exquisite exegesis on '60s archetypes, Sixties People (NY: Knopf, 1990). In my favorite chapter, "Young Vulgarians," which explicates all aspects of the early-to-mid-'60s Northeastern urban teen experience from Max Factor Erace to sharkskin suits, they write:

At Easter and Christmas, [Murray] put together knockout concerts that had kids ricocheting off the walls at the baroque old movie palace. These were among the last great neighborhood rock & roll shows--before the quantum escalation in scope that happened when the Beatles played to sixty thousand fans at Shea Stadium in 1965. Grand as it was with its vintage velvet seats and crystal chandeliers, the Fox was simply a movie theater with a stage in front of the screen. Teenagers could sit in the fifth row and bouce up and down in their seats and scream as Wilson Pickett sang "In the Midnight Hour" or Lesley Gore moaned, "You Don't Own Me." It was safe and familiar; and even if an occasional scuffle broke out and pocketbooks got trampled and hairdos mussed, it was a gas.

The playbills for these concerts provide a vivid picture of NYC teen life in the early sixties. Scattered among the studio photos of singers such as the Del Satins and Cannibal and the Headhunters are pictures of platters of cold cuts--ads from Regina Caterers of 6401 11th Avenue, Brooklyn; ads for clothing that "guarantees pants that hug you tight" and stores that promise "Man--the selection is hepzee...with the most boss lookin' duds you ever saw." Thom McAn offers shoes in a style called the Voodoo ($4.95), which boasts a "tiny stacked heel that sends out signals."

The shows began with Murray the K walking onstage to signs of MURRAY WE LOVE YOU, MURRAY FOR GOVERNOR, and LUV MURRAY FOREVER. When he paced back and forth, trails of flying love missives followed him--Jujubes, jelly beans, gum balls, change purses, compacts, and combs. He launched into a string of hyperboles to tease his audience about the show they were about to be bombarded with; then, to the delight of all young vulgarians, he trotted out the Murray the K Dancers, led by his wife, Jackie the K.

Jackie's bouffant hairdo soared toward the proscenium arch, scarcely jiggling as she frugged her way across the boards. Jackie the K wore some of the heaviest eye makeup in history--jet black to match her hair. She was an utter fox--a pale-lipped minx all dolled up in bell-bottoms and cuban-heeled boots. Here was a role model for all young vulgarian girls! She was exactly what they wanted to be. No one in today's world even approaches it, except perhaps Elvira, the sexy host of TV horror movies. Jackie the K did not even have to frug to elicit oohs and ahs. Simply standing center stage was enough: the spotlight outlining her immense hair, whitening her pale face, glinting off her long nails, and shimmering against her skin-tight sequined clothes.

(Mrs. K., formerly Jackie Hayes and apparently the daughter of Murray's manager, was married to Murray until the early '70s--her current whereabouts are unknown. Murray later married another Jackie, General Hospital regular Jacklyn Zeman.)



Ronnie Spector's autobiography, Be My Baby (New York: Harmony, 1990, with Vince Waldron; the first few chapters comprise a primary source on golden-age NYC rock and roll teenhood) also offers a delightful evocation of the K show mystique. The Ronettes first encountered Murray in Miami of all places. They were then a struggling girl group with only a few flop Colpix singles and a regular gig as dancers at the Peppermint Lounge to their credit. When the Lounge opened a branch in Miami, the girls were flown down as a feature dance act for opening night. Murray was in attendance, got knocked out by their charisma, and inquired as to whether they ever made it through New York--not realizing he was talking to Harlem natives and regular Swingin' Soiree listeners!

Going to one of Murray the K's rock and roll revues at the Brooklyn Fox was the highlight of any New York kid's week in the early sixties. For two dollars and fifty cents you got to see at least a dozen acts, and these were the top names in rock and roll--from Little Stevie Wonder to Bobby Vee to the Temptations, everybody played these shows. Murray first put us on the bill for his springtime revue in 1962.

They started out as "Murray the K's Dancing Girls," twisting and doing comedy shtick with Murray in between acts. Pretty soon they were allowed to sing back-up for other groups, and then sing their own numbers. During the interminable hours backstage between sets, they'd pass the time by primping to tough-girl perfection, amplifying their already sultry, Spanish Harlem-inspired looks to outrageous extremes. Exaggerated eyeliner, super-sexy slit skirts, and torridly teased tresses became their trademarks, all so that their obvious appeal would register with even the most myopic four-eyed fanboy in the upper balcony. (One wonders whether Jackie the K had an influence on the Ronettes' style, or vice versa.) Despite their lack of hits up to that point, the Ronettes became a sensation at the Fox. One Phil Spector was sometimes in the audience, presumably taking notes--though he pretended not to know who they were when they first came to his office for an audition.

When I look at some of the playbills from those shows today, I'm amazed at the lineup. I still have a program for one of the shows we did a couple years later, in September of 1964, when the artists included the Shangri-Las, Marvin Gaye, the Miracles, the Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, the Contours, the Temptations, the Searchers, Jay and the Americans, the Dovells, Little Anthony and the Imperials, and the Newbeats. All that and a movie for $2.50! Can you believe it?

With all those stars running around, you'd expect the worst ego battles backstage. But actually there was almost always a great feeling behind the scenes at the Brooklyn Fox. Everybody had to do three shows a day, so we all knew we'd be stuck back in the theater for like twelve hours straight. So everyone tried to make the best of it. The dressing rooms were all next to each other on this long hall, so the acts couldn't help but mingle. Diana Ross would come in to borrow our lipstick, and I remember Little Stevie Wonder loved to play tricks on us. "You girls sure look great tonight in those red dresses," he'd say, making light of the fact that he was blind and couldn't have seen our dresses if they were on fire.

Ronnie does admit to some animosity with the Shirelles ("Boy, they were stuck up"), and bemusedly recalls Dusty Springfield's favorite backstage stress-relief technique--flinging cheap dishes (purchased in bulk from a nearby Lamston's dime store) down the hallway until they broke in shards.

The other most exalted goddess of NYC girl-groupdom, Mary Weiss, shares her recollections of Dusty's crockery-throwing prowess and other lore from the Shangri-las' Brooklyn Fox days in her essential interview with the head honchos of her new label, Norton Records:

Mary: [The shows] were real brutal. From early morning until late at night. Seven sets, back to back. You have a record on the charts--there you are...
Billy Miller: There's a story of you putting Murray the K's motorcycle on the roof of the Fox.
Mary: Come on, Murray didn't even have a motorcycle.
BM: But you did hit him in the face with a pie onstage at the Fox.
Mary: That was long overdue! One thing that we'd do at the Fox was if there was a really good group onstage, we'd grab a microphone behind the back curtain and there'd be a four part harmony going on like a chorus. It was wonderful!


[UPDATE 9/29/2007: Mary offers some other Fox memories in this NY Sun interview.]

The Zombies were part of the Christmas 1964 bill. Contrary to Mary's denial, Zombie drummer Hugh Grundy does remember the presence of a motorcycle backstage for "Leader of the Pack." In the liner notes for the Zombie Heaven box set, he claims, "Nobody else seemed to have any gumption as to how to start this thing up, so I used to do it at the appropriate point." Rod Argent's finest memory was of Chuck Jackson's rendition of "Since I Don't Have You," accompanied by improvised harmonies from the other soul acts waiting in the wings. "On the real holidays like Christmas Day itself, there were really very few white kids allowed out, so it would tend to be mainly a black audience. Those days were really brilliant because...all the black acts would stop when they came to a chorus, and the whole audience used to sing." The late Paul Atkinson recalled:

Those shows were "She's Not There" and occasionally one other song, five times a day. So in ten days we'd played "She's Not There" 50 or 60 times. We were rubbing shoulders with all these other great acts, like Chuck Jackson, the Shirelles, and Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles...They did look at us as a novelty at first, it was friendly but it was very much "you guys are flavor of the month"...Patti would wail and we had to follow them. Murray the K said, "Don't worry about a thing, you're English, it doesn't matter what you play!" We went out there and you couldn't hear a thing, we might as well not have plugged in...The Nashville Teens and...the Hullabaloos were also on the bill, and the black acts didn't like them. I mean Chuck Jackson wouldn't talk to them, but he'd talk to us. We hung out in Ben E. King and the Drifters' dressing rooms, and we'd play poker and sing and play guitar--Colin would sing blues and they were impressed...(One of the dancers on the show, Molly Molloy, was to become Paul's first wife.)

Colin Blunstone isn't quoted, but there is a cool photo of him being mauled by a frenzied female fan on the Fox stage.



[EDIT 6/19/2009: Here are some photos of the Shangri-Las from the Christmas '64 extravaganza...look closely and you'll spot a motorcycle, some Zombies, and some Hullabaloos, among other folks I can't recognize.]








Another cinematreasures guy reminisces:

I remember sitting up in the top of the balcony at one of Murray the K's shows. It seemed like I was miles away from the stage. To a kid that place was massive! It cost $2.50 back then to see Murray the K's rock n roll show which also included some lousy movie. If you arrived early you got a free Murray the K album. We would get to the Fox hours before the show started and waited on lines that snaked around the block for a good seat & free l.p. We even got to meet the Shangri-las at one show when they stepped out to get something to eat. They were stuck up and wouldn't give autographs. I think I must have seen every important singer/group of the 60's at these shows.

Some of those free albums, which were either oldies collections or live recordings from previous shows, were issued on Murray's Brooklyn label, an Atlantic/Atco subsidiary. A CD compilation of tracks from a couple of '63 and '64 shows was released on Britain's Magnum label in the mid-'90s. Unfortunately, little in the way of live film has surfaced. The only footage I know of is in Murray's 1965 TV special, It's What's Happening, Baby. This way-out program, produced in conjunction with the Office of Economic Opportunity, featured a mixture of wacky scopitone-like lip-synched videos, a handful of live Fox performances, and frequent Meusurray-messages exhorting kids to either stay in school or, if that wasn't an option, write the OEO for info on youth employment. Clips are available at murraythek.com, and on DVDs about the Supremes and the Munsters (Fred Gwynne appears in Cannibal & the Headhunters' spot). The entire show can be viewed at the Museum of Television and Radio, and I'm sure it's probably a hot commodity on the bootleg '60s-video-trading circuit.








While Murray's concert series was well-loved and presumably profitable, regular movie attendance at the Fox was pitifully low throughout the '60s, forcing the theater to close up shop on Sunday, February 6, 1966; Where the Spies Are was the final flick shown. It reopened for one last Murray blast over the Easter holiday that year, and according to another cinematreasures expert, rock shows continued to be held on a sporadic basis until April, 1968. The house was then rented by the Salmaggi Grand Opera Company for a few months, and a "Humphrey for President" rally was held there in late '68. It stood vacant for a couple of years after that, finding use only as background for a movie-theater scene in the film They Might Be Giants. The building was subsequently purchased by the Borough of Brooklyn and razed in 1970; a Con Edison office block now stands in its place. (A few relics from the Fox survived the demolition. The Wurlitzer Special, or at least its console, was first moved to the Cardinal Music Palace in Fort Wayne, Indiana, but currently resides at Wurlitzer Manor, an inn on the Puget Sound in Gig Harbor, Washington. And a leaded glass window with the Fox insignia is housed at the American Movie Palace Museum of the Theatre Historical Society of America in Elmhurst, Illinois.)






Murray was also associated with a big Long Island discotheque, Murray the K's World, situated in an old airplane hangar on then-disused Roosevelt Field. As we've seen in a previous post, the disco's backer, theatrical producer Michael Mayerberg, had originally sought the Andy Warhol imprimatur for the joint--but ultimately decided to go with Murray's less-freaky image. The club opened in the spring of '66 and featured a trippy multimedia environment designed by USCO, effectively bringing the best of Cheetah-style nightclubbing out to the suburbs. The Rascals, the Isley Brothers, Mitch Ryder, and Gandalf are among the acts known to have played there. Apparently Murray and Mayerberg had a falling-out after a while, whereupon the club was simply called the World. Not sure how long it was open, but as all good Lawn Guyland consumers know, the historic former airfield (point of origin for Lindbergh's transatlantic flight) is now the site of the Roosevelt Field mall.

[EDIT 11/8/2009: According to their '60s tour schedule, the Hollies were the featured band at the World's opening weekend!]



Murray's final package show, "Music in the Fifth Dimension," was held at the RKO 58th Street Theatre over Easter, 1967 (March 25-April 2). By then Murray had helped usher in freeform rock radio at WOR-FM, so the bill was hip to changing tastes. A few familiar folks from previous shows reappeared--Mitch Ryder, Wilson Pickett, the Rascals, and of course Jackie the K and the K Girls in their wild fashion show (Smokey & the Miracles, though booked, apparently never showed up). Among the more revolutionary newbies were the Blues Project, the Hardly Worthit Players, the Chicago Loop, the Mandala, Phil Ochs, Simon & Garfunkel, the Blues Magoos, and, in their U.S. debuts, "the" Cream and the Who, "DIRECT FROM ENGLAND." Legends abound, but it was obvious to all involved that this new kind of rock simply could not be contained within the traditional showbizzy "two songs and yer off--NEXT!!!" framework. Though not a rock concert per se, the coinciding Central Park Be-In on that Easter Sunday was a harbinger of rock-festival-style presentation to come. The RKO 58th Street itself closed down later that year, following its final films, a double feature of The Viscount and The Cool Ones.




Murray apparently staged a "Brooklyn Fox Reunion" show at the Palladium in July 1978, but other than mentions on two Jan & Dean sites, I've found no details about it. Now excuse me while I go do some lone twisting at the submarine races. AH-BEY!


[UPDATE 3/11/2010: A reader named LHM sent in some reminiscences and pics from the '67 Easter show...see them here.]


[UPDATE 5/24/2010: Courtesy of murraythek.com, here is Peter A.'s compilation of opening dates and lineups--with the exception of the 1965 shows, and the actual dates for the '64 and '65 Xmas shows, which have yet to be confirmed. And click here for a couple of short Murray-related posts I put up recently.]


December 29, 1960--The Clay Cole Christmas Show with Murray the K, Brooklyn Paramount: Ray Charles, Neil Sedaka, Dion, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Chubby Checker, the Drifters, the Shirelles, Bobby Vee, the Bluenotes, the Coasters, Jimmy Charles, Kathy Young, Dante and the Evergreens, Bobby Vinton. [UPDATE 5/25/2010: Clay Cole himself wrote in to add that Brenda Lee, Johnny Burnette, Bo Diddley, and the Skyliners also performed.]

April 1, 1961--The Easter Parade of Stars with Clay Cole and Murray the K, Brooklyn Paramount: Dion, Chubby Checker, Ben E. King, the Shirelles, Bobby Rydell, Carla Thomas, Bobby Vee, Johnny Burnette, Jimmy Clanton, Maxine Brown, Freddy Cannon, the Marcels, Rosie, Del Shannon, Little Anthony and the Imperials, the Capris, the Isley Brothers, the Olympics, Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs, Frank Gari, Andy Rose, Johnny Tillotson, Johnny Mathis, Chuck Jackson, the Landon Sisters, Bobby Bongard.

September 4, 1961--The Murray the K Labor Day Show of Stars, Brooklyn Paramount: Jackie Wilson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Etta James, Clarence Henry, Brian Hyland, Ral Donner, the Cleftones, Linda Scott, the Belmonts, Bruce Bruno, the Chantels, Frank Gari, Curtis Lee, the Vibrations, the Regents, Tony Orlando.

December 28, 1961--Murray the K's Twist Party, Academy of Music: Joey Dee and the Starliters, the Vibrations, the Chantels, Bobby Vee, the Isley Brothers, Johnny Mathis, Dion, Bobby Lewis, Timi Yuro, Gary U.S. Bonds, the Belmonts, the Crystals, Jan and Dean.

September 8, 1962--Murray the K's Golden Gasser Show of Stars, Brooklyn Fox: The Shirelles, Chuck Jackson, the Four Seasons, the Ronettes, Bobby Vinton, the Capris, Mike Clifford, the Marvelettes, the Del-Satins, Tony Orlando, Little Eva, the Dovells, the Thornton Sisters, Tommy Roe, the Majors, Fabian.

December 27, 1962--Murray the K's Christmas Revue, Brooklyn Fox: Jackie Wilson, Joey Dee and the Starliters, the Shirelles, the Four Seasons, the Cookies, Mark Valentino, Sam & Bill, the Dovells, Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, the Ronettes, the Earls, Little Eva, the Crests (featuring James Ancrum on lead), Dionne Warwick, Johnny Thunder.

April 18, 1963--Murray the K's Show of Shows, Brooklyn Fox: Dion, Chuck Jackson, the Vibrations, the Dovells, the Orlons, Little Peggy March, Lou Christie, Dee Dee Sharp, the Coasters, the Harptones, Johnny Mathis, the Ronettes, Steve Alaimo.

September 4, 1963--Murray the K's Holiday Revue, Brooklyn Fox: Ben E. King, Little Stevie Wonder, the Drifters, the Miracles, the Tymes, the Chiffons, Randy & the Rainbows, the Angels, Jan and Dean, the Ronettes, Jay and the Americans, Gene Pitney, the Dovells, Dionne Warwick, Dick & Dee Dee.

December 30, 1963--Murray the K's Christmas Show, Brooklyn Fox: Lloyd Price, the Miracles, Mary Wells, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Martha and the Vandellas, the Duprees, Tommy Hunt, Jay & the Americans, Ruby and the Romantics, Tommy Roe, Dale & Grace, the Vibrations.

September 9, 1964--Murray the K's Big Holiday Show, Brooklyn Fox: Marvin Gaye, the Miracles, Martha and the Vandellas, the Supremes, the Contours, the Temptations, the Searchers, Dusty Springfield, Millie Small, Jay and the Americans, the Dovells, Little Anthony & the Imperials, the Shangri-Las, the Ronettes.

December XX, 1964--Murray the K's Christmas Show, Brooklyn Fox: Chuck Jackson, Ben E. King, the Drifters, the Shirelles, Dick and Dee Dee, the Shangri-Las, Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells, the Vibrations, Dionne Warwick, the Zombies, the Nashville Teens, the Hullabaloos.

April 11, 1966--Murray the K's Easter Show, Brooklyn Fox: Joe Tex, the Young Rascals, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Jay and the Americans, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Deon Jackson, the Shangri-Las, Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells, the Gentrys, the Royalettes.

December XX, 1966--Murray the K's Christmas Show, Brooklyn Fox: Peter and Gordon, Wilson Pickett, the Fortunes, the McCoys, the Moody Blues, the Toys, Lenny Welch, Cannibal and the Headhunters, the Vibrations, the Spinners, the O'Jays, the Bloodless Revolutionaries.

March 28, 1967--Murray the K's Music in the Fifth Dimension, RKO 58th Street Theater: Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Wilson Pickett, the Who, the Hardly-Worthit Players, Cream, the Blues Magoos, the Blues Project, Jim & Jean, the Mandala, the Chicago Loop, Phil Ochs, Simon and Garfunkel, the Young Rascals. (Smokey Robinson and the Miracles were also on the bill, but most accounts I've read said they failed to show.)



UPDATE 12/21/2010:  I've been re-reading the cinematreasures.org pages for certain classic NYC theaters-turned-rock-venues, in search of updated rock and roll info.  Few of the posts that have been added to the Brooklyn Fox page since I last visited have anything to do with the Murray era, but I did see one intriguing tidbit about an event in 1967, posted by "Tinseltoes" in March, 2010:  "During the last weekend in January, 1967, the Fox presented a three-day stage engagement of James Brown and his entire crew of entertainers, including the Famous Flames, the Jewels, Butterbeans and Dixie, the Go-Go Dancing Girls, James Crawford, Bobby Byrd, and an 18-piece band. During that Friday through Sunday, performances were continuous. Advertising made no mention of any movies being on the bill."

I also found this picture from the Michael Ochs Archives on Getty Images.  It's on there several times, dated September 1, 1964, January 1, 1965, and January 1, 1970--the September date seems to come closest in accuracy.  The watermark obscures most of the figures, but the following names are listed in the credits: "Marvin Gaye, The Searchers, The Supremes, The Miracles, The Temptations, Martha andThe Vandellas, The Contours, Jay and The Americans, The Dovells, The Newbeats, Little Anthony and the Imperials, The Shangri-las and The Ronettes."  I can make out a few of those folks, but I don't think all of them are present in this shot.  See more Murray pics on Getty here.




UPDATE 2/19/2015: In a recent interview with David Johansen on the Brooklyn Vegan site, he mentioned the Murray shows:  We used to go to shows, and when I was a kid I think they were at the Paramount. A little before that during my brother's time they were at the Brooklyn Fox Theater which was in downtown Brooklyn, and they were called the Murray the K show. Murray the K was a disc jockey in New York who was quite a character, and he used to put on shows that would run for like ten days, and they would have an incredible amount of acts on them, and the shows would run continuously all day, so each show would run like six times a day. Bands and singers would come out and do essentially their current hit or if they had a lotta hits they'd maybe do a medley, but really nobody would be on the stage for more than five or seven minutes. I remember one show I went to when I was in my early teens that had a lot of great acts on it, and all of a sudden Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels comes out, and he just blew my mind, and I thought "Oh man, this is what I gotta do. This is it." I would say that was an epiphany there. I already had an interest in music, but I didn't have any idea that I was gonna continue doing it. I didn't have any idea about anything, really. When he came out, though, he was just such a dynamic performer, and his band was so great I thought "Wow! This is so wonderful! This is the greatest thing that could ever be!"