Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Spotted Cheetahs Redux

Further to yet another very old post, a while back I received a lovely e-mail from a lady named Valerie who shared some of her memories of the Cheetah. She kindly granted permission for me to repost her text here.

I read with much interest your blog about the Cheetah, Broadway and 53rd Street. As a former Cheetah regular, I enjoyed going back in time and reliving memories.

My friends and I went to the Cheetah every Friday, Saturday and holiday eve nights from 1966 to about 1969. Admission was $4.00 and there was no alcohol served. I understand the original Cheetah was at a location that used to be a roller rink. It was also adjacent to the Ed Sullivan Theater. Before entering the Cheetah, we would look over at a small club next door and watch Gene Krupa play the drums. The new Cheetah opened in October 1968 and it’s location was 52nd Street and 8th Avenue right across the street from Roseland. I also had a chance to visit sister Cheetahs in Montreal and Chicago.

At the Broadway and 53rd Street location I remember a few of the bands that played. Absolutely the best was the Commodores and the Gold Band. I also remember guest appearances by Gary Pucket and the Union Gap, Sham the Sham and the Pharoahs. Also the bands, the Bagatelles and the Chicago Loop. I remember very well when Hair was played but my friends and I were anxious for it to be over so we could dance the night away. Every month it seemed there was a new dance to learn; the monkey, swim, frug and so on.

For a time on Friday nights I remember a motorcycle gang, the New Jersey Aliens, would frequent the Cheetah. Their motorcycles were lined up and parked on 53rd Street. On these Friday nights, I observed the tension between them and a group of Hippies/Flower children who also gathered at the same corner near the Art Gallery. Words were spoken but never any major disturbances. I remember much excitement when Sidney Poiter paid a short visit as a guest.

Bouncers then were body builders, such as Harold Pool and a former Mr. Universe.

The Cheetah shuffle was a blend of dance steps and choreography and I have never seen anything like it since.

The new Cheetah on 52nd and 8th Avenue had two levels. The first floor was for the dance floor and the bands, and there was a soda fountain that was also called the “Poster Room.” The second floor had a small dance floor but mostly tables and chairs around a balcony that overlooked the 1st floor dance floor. There was a very long and beautiful bar but it was never attended or stocked. There was a smaller room that was for a small live band and it was called the “Mattress Room.” In the summer of 1969 I enjoyed so much the bands Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge and Larry Davis and the Marvels.

There were many Cheetah regulars that I knew by first name only. I often wonder whatever happened to them. Occasionally we would try Trudy Heller’s Trik or the Electric Circus in the East Village only to see Cheetah regulars there also. But we would all wind up back at the Cheetah.

I wasn't aware the club had moved to a second location in '68. And they had a Montreal location as well--formidable!

While we're on the subject of wyld, deliciously different '60s NYC nightclubs, check out this Bowery Boys post from a few weeks ago on a truly obscure joint called Cerebrum.


NYCDreamin said...

Hey, Signed D.C., glad to see you're posting here again! I missed you over the past year or so.

I posted a piece on the Cheetah back in October '09 with some video of a set of photos (Hendrix with Curtis Knight and the Squires) and scans from an article on the place I found in an old book. Of course I mentioned your original Cheetah piece as well...Check it out:


Anthony Serrano said...
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