Amusements In New York City
( Originally Published 1940 )
The theaters of New York are many, and with a few out-standing exceptions, they are all pretty much alike. Those devoted to legitimate stage performances are rarely large, and although the hit shows will be advertised as having run for 500 nights on Broadway, with the exception of one or two, the theaters are not on Broadway at all, but grouped on the side streets just north of Times Square. The theatrical district is bounded roughly by the streets between 40th on the south, and 53rd on the north, and by Sixth Avenue on the east and Eighth Avenue on the west.
There is no reason for describing them to you. Except for minor variations in decoration, they are fairly uniform in design. Which ones you will visit will depend on what happens to be playing there.
It is always difficult to get seats during the first few months of a successful production, and you will usually have to pay a premium for them. As this premium of 75 cents for an orchestra seat is uniform among the better agencies, you might just as well resign yourself to paying it, apply to the theater ticket agency in your hotel, find out what nights it is possible to se-cure seats for the play of your choice even at the premium, and then make your plans accordingly.
But if the production has been running several months, you may be able to get seats either at box office prices, or at a reduction at Leblang's Theatre Ticket Agency at 42nd Street and Broadway. This place is really a Broadway institution, and you should drop in some Saturday night between 8 and 8.3o to see it, whether or not you intend to buy theater tickets.
Opera, Concerts, and Movies
There are some old, established houses, devoted to music, opera, or movies, that you will wish to see and where you are sure of finding good performances. I list a few below.
METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE, Broadway and 40th Street.
Once when passing this musty old brick structure with two out-of-town friends I said casually, "That' the Metropolitan." They didn't believe me. Certainly there is nothing about the exterior, or the somewhat faded gilt of the interior, to indicate that this old building houses the premier opera company of the world. Performances are given only during the winter months from late December to late March. Prices on weekdays run from $1.00 to $7.00, except on Saturday night, when the top price is $4.00. There are no regular performances on Tuesday nights. The house is almost solidly subscribed, but tickets can be obtained through agencies, or you can always stand, usually with several hundred others, behind the orchestra. Standing room is $ 1.50. As the number of "Standee" tickets is limited, people wait in line for hours before popular performances for the privilege of buying them.
CARNEGIE HALL, Seventh Avenue and 57th Street, is the home of the New York Philharmonic Society, and an appearance here indicates a performer is one of the world's greatest concert artists. Again an old brick structure that "doesn't look it."
TOWN HALL, 43rd Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. Smaller and more modern than Carnegie Hall, it is famous for its forums, lectures, and music.
RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL, Sixth Avenue and 50th Street. Advertised as "the Show Place of the Nation," which is exactly what it is. Whether it should be listed as an amusement or as a sight is difficult to decide. Probably it is both. Performances are continuous, with three stage shows daily. Absolutely not to be missed by any visitor. The best place from which to see the theater is the top balcony. Take the elevator up, and then walk down to see the great staircase and lobby, one of the sights of New York. And be sure to see the "Lounge" in the basement under the main lobby. Evening prices are 99 cents for all seats except the first mezzanine. (For some reason that is the fashionable name for a balcony at the moment—Heaven only knows why!) Here seats are reserved, and cost $1.65.
ROXY THEATER. The original "Cathedral of the Motion Picture," now somewhat moth-eaten. The prices are low; the stage shows are surprisingly good, although naturally not up to the perfection of the Music Hall; and you can spend hours puzzling as to what the style of the architecture should properly be called.
GOLF is played on numerous links around the city belonging to various clubs. There are public links at Pelham Bay Park, Van Cortlandt Park, and the Mosholu Golf Course in the Bronx; at Clearview, Kissena, and Forest Park in Queens; at Dyker Beach in Brooklyn; and at Silver Lake and La Tourette in Richmond (Staten Island).
SWIMMING is available at many pools and beaches. The pools at the St. George Hotel (most expensive built), Hotel Shelton and Park Central Hotel, are perhaps the most convenient for the visitor. The waters around Manhattan Island are thoroughly polluted, although in summer you will see boys swimming in them at about every spot where it is possible to climb in and out of the rivers. For sea bathing the beaches at Coney Island, being the most accessible, are the most crowded. JONES BEACH, 3 3 miles from New York on Long Island, can be reached by either bus or your own car. It really ranks as a sight. Jacob Riis Park, also on Long Island, a smaller edition of Jones Beach, and is generally more crowded.
Big League BASEBALL iS played at either the Polo Grounds in Manhattan, the Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, or at Ebbett's Field in Brooklyn. Consult either the newspapers or Cue for schedules.
POLO at Meadowbrook is famous not only as a sport, but as a sight. The Long Island Railroad runs special trains from the Pennsylvania Station to all important matches.
RACING on various tracks is also readily accessible. Once more I refer you to the newspaper or to Cue for the details of dates and events.
Many great SHOWS and EXHIBITIONS are held not only at
Madison Square Garden, but at the Grand Central Palace, on Lexington Avenue just north of the Grand Central Terminal. Here the Automobile Show, the Sportsman's Show, and like exhibitions are usually held.
TENNIS is available on numerous courts. Ask your hotel for the address of the nearest one.
The CAPITOL and the STRAND, both on Broadway in the upper forties and lower fifties, are the first of the huge movie houses of Manhattan. To be visited only if you want to see the show.
LOEW'S ZIEGFELD, Sixth Avenue and 53rd Street. This house was built by the great Ziegfeld at the height of his fame. Al-though now devoted to movies, and not first-run pictures at that, the decorations by Joseph Urban make the theater one of the sights of New York.
There are many neighborhood movie houses in New York showing FOREIGN FILMS as a regular practice, and other houses, mostly small ones like the World, just off Times Square, and the Filmarte at 202 West 58th Street just off Seventh Avenue, which feature the cream of the importations. Here you will find many films which will hardly be shown outside of New York. The bookings change so frequently that any further information would probably become antiquated while this book was on the press, so consult Cue for last-minute information as to what is playing in both the movie houses and the theaters.
Besides theaters and night clubs, New York offers many other attractions, some permanent and some seasonal. For instance, there is MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, the home of the great- est sporting events, the biggest spectacles, the biggest conventions, and of the CIRCUS, which usually spends three or four weeks there in the spring. In the summer many of the events which in the winter are held in the Garden itself are moved to the open-air Madison Square Garden Bowl across the river in Queens. The Garden is at Eighth Avenue and 50th Street, and is best reached by either the Eighth Avenue Independent Subway or the West Side I.R.T. Subway, in both cases by local trains to the 50th Street Station.
HORSEBACK RIDING is a popular amusement in the parks. Your hotel can not only make arrangements for a horse for you, but will have the horse delivered to one of the park entrances, and picked up again after you have finished your ride.
FISHING 1S possible from many ocean-going boats, which take the anglers out for a day on the banks. Two leave East 77th Street at 7:15 A.M., and others leave from Sheepshead Bay. You can get the latest schedules from Cue.
FOOTBALL, HOCKEY, BASKETBALL, and, sports of that nature are largely seasonal. Cue will give you information as to whether they are being played, and if so, where.
And if there is any one of your pet amusements I have failed to mention, look in the classified telephone directory, or in Cue. It is there!
Night clubs come, and night clubs go—chiefly I think the latter. The visitor to New York's night spots is inevitably misled by appearances into thinking that most of New York's millions spend their evenings dashing from one haunt of cafe society to another. They don't. In the first place, most of New York's millions haven't the price, and in the second place it would bore them to tears.
The numerous night clubs in New York are supported by a limited number of New Yorkers, and by a horde of visitors. But it is the few New Yorkers of cafe society who are the important customers, for they are the ones who get their names in the paper, and consequently are the ones followed by the crowd.
This limited class is fickle in its attachments, and while a few places like El Morocco and the Stork Club seem more or less perennials in New York's garden of deadly night shade, most enter the class of hardy annuals. In one of the fifties there was a rather ramshackle old building, occupied by shoe-repair establishments, small newsstands, and little businesses of the like. Then it was converted into a night club, with a well-known name over the door. The rest of the story is best told in the words of the newsboy on the corner—with no attempt to reproduce the rich -New Yorkese of his dialect. "My father," he told me, "paid rent on a bootblack stand in that building for seventeen years. Then they kicked him out, and spent a lot of money rebuilding to put in a night club. It lasted three weeks."
In listing the night clubs I have therefore tried to limit myself to the ones which have lasted long enough already so that they will stand a better than even chance of still being in existence when you read this book. In addition to night clubs, I have included those places where people are likely to be found late at night for the dancing, the entertainment, or just for companionability, and from a dislike of going to bed.
I have not cluttered up this chapter with directions on how to get there. If you can afford a night spot you can afford a taxi—and if she is along, all dressed up, you will take a taxi whether you can afford it or not. That may apply to the rest of the night's entertainment as well.
To get the latest information about the entertainment offered, what orchestras are playing, and so on, consult the latest issue of Cue.
In most of these places there is a cover charge of $1.50 or $2.00 per person.
CAFE LOUNGE, Savoy-Plaza Hotel, Fifth Avenue and 59th Street. Dancing, and intimate entertainment. Formal dress optional.
EL MOROCCO, 154 East 54th Street, famous with cafe society. Although James Reynold's brilliant murals are no more, the food and entertainment remain. It still ranks among the few absolute tops. Better dress.
FEFE'S MONTE CARLO, 40 East 54th Street. Right up there with El Morocco and the Stork. Must be in formal dress.
IRIDIUM ROOM, St. Regis Hotel, Fifth Avenue and 55th Street. Dignified, even a little stately, and the haunt of people of position of the class who are not anxious to have their pictures in the papers. Sometimes elaborate entertainment, but not of the "chorus" type. Must dress. In summer this room is closed, and the roof is open instead.
LA RUE, 45 East 58th Street. Expensive, exclusive, delightful for an evening of dancing, and the best of French food. Better dress.
PERSIAN ROOM, Plaza Hotel, Fifth Avenue and 59th Street. As you would expect in the Plaza, perfection of music, food, and dignified entertainment. Must dress.
RAINBOW ROOM, far up in the R.C.A. Building. The view over New York at night alone is worth the $ 1.50 cover charge (after 10 P.M.). The shows here always seem to succeed in being amusing, but never vulgar. (In the summer the strict rule about formal attire is often relaxed. Should dress. Don't miss this one if you can possibly afford it.
SERT ROOM, Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, Park Avenue and 49th Street. So called from the famous decorations by the artist of the same name, this is one of New York's more distinguished places for late-evening entertainment. Must dress. In summer the Starlight Roof takes its place.
STORK CLUB, 3 East 53rd Street. Always crowded with a faithful clientele, and expensive, this is perhaps one of the two most famous night spots in New York, El Morocco being the other. Formal dress optional.
Not So Dressy, and Sometimes Not So Expensive
Cover charge, if any, is rarely over $1 00 to $ 1.50, although some places have a minimum charge a la carte running up to $3.00. Cover and minimum charges are usually increased on Saturday nights.
ARMANDO'S, 54 East 55th Street. Intimate, with good food, music, and entertainment. Smart and small.
BARNEY GALLANT'S, 86 University Place. Not too expensive, Greenwich-Village atmosphere, good food and entertainment.
BEN MARDEN'S RIVIERA. Not in New York at all, being just across the river at the New Jersey end of the George Washington Bridge. Gorgeous view of New York, elaborate floor shows, and a minimum of 43.50! About tops of its kind. Summer only.
BILLY ROSE'S DIAMOND HORSESHOE, 235 West 46th Street.
Not too refined, the entertainment at present is just risque enough to shock you pleasantly, and the minimum from $i.00 to $3.00 varies sensibly with the location of your table. The food is all right enough, but nothing to get excited about. The show's the thing here.
BOWMAN ROOM, Biltmore Hotel, Madison Avenue and 43rd Street. Always good music, and popular with the younger set.
CAFE ROUGE, Hotel Pennsylvania, Seventh Avenue and 33rd Street. Usually a "name" orchestra.
CASINO-ON-THE-PARK, Essex House, 16o Central Park South. Not a very dressy place, but on the reliable side for dine-anddance or for supper.
DELLA ROBBIA ROOM, Vanderbilt Hotel, Park Avenue and 34th Street. Very quiet, pleasant surroundings, and good food. A nice place to go when you do not feel like noise.
EMPIRE ROOM, Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, Park Avenue and 49th Street. Very much like the Sett Room, except for decoration, and except that formal dress, is not required.
LINCOLN BLUE ROOM, Hotel Lincoln, Eighth Avenue and
44th Street. Nice room, good music, but suffers somewhat from its location.
MONTPARNASSE, Madison Avenue and 79th Street. Some-what away from the center of things, and much patronized by the smart inhabitants of New York's most expensive residential section, the Upper East Side.
PALM ROOM, Hotel Commodore, Lexington Avenue and 42nd Street. The big-hotel type of place, usually with a splendid orchestra. Winter only.
RAINBOW GRILL, R.C.A. Building. The informal relative of the haughty Rainbow Room. Gives you the same view, service, and food in a less formal atmosphere.
TAPESTRY ROOM, Park Lane Hotel, Park Avenue and 48th Street. Popular for dinner dancing. Winter only.
TERRACE ROOM, Hotel New Yorker, Eighth Avenue and 34th Street. Always features a "name" band, and considers every-thing else secondary. Somewhat jitterbug in atmosphere.
VERSAILLES, 151 East 50th Street. Expensive, but with good floor shows, good food, and an air of gayety. Justly popular.
Not Dressy, Generally Less Expensive, and Good Fun
CAFE SOCIETY, 2 Sheridan Square. Very Greenwich Village, Negro "swing" music, but always good and up-to-the-minute entertainment.
CASINO RUSSE, 156 West 57th Street. Picture-book Russian with a good orchestra.
COTTON CLUB, Broadway and 48th Street. Harlem has moved downtown. At the time of writing, the electric sign advertises "50 Tall, Tan, Terrific Gals." It is as good a description as any. After ten o'clock the minimum is $2.00.
18 CLUB, 20 West 52nd Street. Intimate entertainment somewhat free in its humor. Expensive.
EL CHICO, 80 Grove Street. More Greenwich Village, this time with a Spanish flavor in food and entertainment.
GLASS HAT, 130 East 50th Street (in Belmont Hotel). I have good reports on both the food and the music.
KIT KAT CLUB, 152 East 55th Street. More Harlem moved downtown. Always good entertainment. Popular in the early hours of the morning. Minimum $ 1.50.
HAVANA-MADRID, 1650 Broadway (between 50th and 51st Streets). Cuban-Spanish atmosphere with a strong dash of Broadway, as the name and location would indicate.
JIMMY KELLY'S, 181 Sullivan Street. Another of the places designed for people who want to sit up just about all night. Rowdy in atmosphere, but lots of fun.
BEACHCOMBER, Broadway and 50th Street. The tropics come to Broadway—or do they?
LA CONGA, 205 West 51st Street. More or less Latin, but good entertainment just the same.
NICK'S, Seventh Avenue and 10th Street. A Greenwich Village place featuring dancing with all the latest tricks of orchestra. Always up to the minute.
VILLAGE VANGUARD, 178 Seventh Avenue South (at 11th Street). Still preserves a lot of the story-book Greenwich Village atmosphere. Original entertainment.