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Vintage, Antiques, and Dancing in New York City
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Vintage in NYC
I have to confess, I have lived in the city for more than six years, and I still don't know everywhere to go for vintage; but I do have a few tried and true places. (Also, I tend to have a different standard for the places that I shop, because I don't wear everything that I buy. I work as an apparel designer, and I buy a lot of vintage clothes to use as research and development tools for my work. I cannot resist a dress or jacket that is beautifully made, but might be ripped, or faded, or on its last legs. My closet has become a place where old dresses go before they die.) Most of my choices are geared towards women's apparel.
Also, try the East Village, specifically 6th St. between Ave. A and Second Ave. I have found some neat things just walking up and down the streets on a lazy afternoon. In the same area , there is also Screaming Mimi's, Lafayette St., below Astor Place), and a shop that I can never remember the name of: it's on Fourth Ave. at 10th St., (I think, I walk by it all the time, but my memory fails me as to the exact location), it's called either Quilter's Corner, or the Quilted Giraffe, depending on who you ask. They have some nice vintage items; the selection is small, but a bit eccentric. My friend Angie went in there last week and bought a really cute apron from the fifties.
Below Houston there are a few upscale vintage shops, most carry old designer garments, and are more for the collector looking for a vintage Chanel suit.
Uptown, there is Alice Underground, (Upper West Side),
and on the East Side there a number of thrift shops where you can
find all sorts of castaways from rich ladies' closets.
Specifically, try the Irvington Institute Thrift Shop,
Second Ave., in the lower 80's). Good Luck!
Vintage in NYC:
Shopping in New York is like Lindy Hop in Herrang. We dove headfirst into the Big Apple's mercantile waters for two reasons (1) you can't dance during the day and (2) I found a book at a junk store last June. The book is:
Ralph M. Hower, History of Macy's of New York: 1858-1919. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1946.
The book is a fascinating account of R. H. Macy, a Nantucket whaleman who went broke at least five times before inventing the department store. The Red Star that is the symbol of Macy's (since well before Lenin) comes from a similar mark tattooed on the arms of Nantucket whalers. Later, the store was taken over by the Straus family, and the book goes into some detail on the passing of Isidor Straus on the Titanic as he firmly insisted on "women and children first." The book also provides keen insight into retail selling and the management of complex organizations.
But, most of all, it details the history of New York commerce, particularly at the time of all those gorgeous cast iron buildings on Lower Broadway. The book begins the original Macy's at 14th St on Union Square and ends with the move to 34th St on Herald Square and its evolution into the "World's Largest Store."
Thus, our first stop was Macy's. We stopped in at the Visitor's Center and I brandished a copy of the book to a surprised young PR executive. Apparently, corporate history is not a required subject and the young man was fascinated by some of the tidbits that I had gleaned. We got a little "off the record" tour of the innards of the building, including an area on the fourth floor where the remnants of the complex pneumatic tube system for delivering messages could still be seen. We also had a good time talking to several men who were repairing one of the old wooden escalators on the upper floors. They have been in continuous service since 1902. Although Macy's has had its ups and downs recently, the store still packs an overwhelming wallop as 10 whole city-block sized floors pander to your every need.
After that, we headed to Greenwich Village and found several excellent vintage clothes store. We were very impressed with the selection and the fact that all garments had been carefully marked for size and sorted by genre. Selection was extensive although prices were quite high (about $25 for good ties and $200 for good suits.) Large sizes were available in most styles. Here are some of the stores that we visited:
Of these, Star Stuck and Andy's was most in tune with the 1930s and 1940s. Alice Underground had a lot of stuff from the 1950s. Iceberg is the definitive store for militaria. If you need any insignia, patches, medals or the like they are the store for you.
One might ask,"Where does all the Art Deco go?"
In 1969, I lived at 116 Spring Street sort of before it was SoHo. As we were walking along, I ran into Eddie Buk, an acquaintance from the past from both New York and Carnegie Tech. He showed us his store which specializes in scientific, industrial and technological artifacts. Any of you with an interest in old brass microscopes, bunsen burners, retorts or other turn-of the century scientific apparatus should bring a well-filled wallet to E. Buk , 151 Spring Street (212)-226-6891.
Finally, I can't even begin to express my regard for all the small little stores in the Village that sell fresh cheeses. Alas, it was impossible to bring home any of these delights. My partner has caught onto the Italian custom of "sampling" at cheese stores. The absolute very best fresh and smoked mozzarella was to be found at Joe's Dairy 156 Sullivan Street (212)-627-8780. This stuff makes your heart sing with joy! We got a half pound of each and some crusty bread and feasted while we watched the people and dogs at Washington Square in the absolutely wonderful weather. I'm sure that we didn't even scratch the surface, but there sure is a lot of stuff to buy in New York. Just bring money.
Zoot Suit Fabric
Going to Manhattan was Tuan's idea, so hats off to Tuan!! We drove up in Erika's Jeep on Friday evening and stayed at her parents house on the West side near 125th St. (very interesting people - both are professors of anthropology at Columbia University, and their apartment is cluttered with fascinating American Indian carvings and other artifacts). The next day we scoured the garment district between 8th and 7th Avenues and 39th and 40th St. Lots of cool fabrics, but alas nothing that grabbed us so much that we had to buy it. If anyone is interested, I found what I considered the most interesting material at the following two places:
Our search was cut a bit short on Saturday, but we got a pretty fair idea of what was available. Solids were no problem. But finding bright, sharp two-tone striped fabric was surprisingly difficult. In the end, none of us found exactly what we were looking for, though we got close.
The next day we went looking around Delancey where many fabric stores are located. This turned out far less promising than the garment district. Most of these stores only sold woolens for conservative style mens suits. A big disappointment was Beckensteins which boasted one of the worlds largest selections of woolens. Not only did their stuff seem too tame and expensive (much of it had to be ordered from England), but the people were surprisingly brusque and unhelpful (they did not allow us to cut any swatches). Don't waste your time here.
Tricia Reneau's Dancing Trip to New York
I just got back from a business trip to NYC. Many of you have been there, danced that. Nevertheless, here are some tips: Sunday night, of course, is the dance at the Continental Club at Irving Plaza. This place will make you feel as if you're in a movie--plush, red velvet booths, tassled lampshades and dark corners to hide in. Many dancers were veterans of bygone eras us young folks can only dream about. I swung out with Frankie Manning, Charlie Meade, and even Dawn Hampton. One man, whose name escapes me now, was at least in his late sixties and very slight in build. Even so, he hoisted me on his hip and slung me into a lock-up! What a rush!
The Louisiana Bar and Grill in the East Village is the place to go on Monday night. Give me a couple of drinks and I will swear we were doing a scene straight out of the movie Swingers. The band jammed a Dixieland version of Sing, Sing, Sing and folks were swinging in the aisles, waiter stands--any free space they could find. Like L.A., people in New York like to dress in retro attire when they go out dancing, which made the whole event quite the spectacle. This is one venue that is not to be missed when in NYC on a Monday night.
Tuesday night, I did not go dancing but instead went to a work-related party at the Supper Club on 47th Street near Times Square. This is another joint with ornate design, booths tucked behind heavy blue velvet drapes and a wooden dancer floor tailored for vintage dance parties. The business crowd at my event stood around and wolfed down miniature crab cakes, but I've heard it said the swing group in NYC once tried to rent the place out for a dance, only to be put off by the high costs. Too bad, because The Supper Club could be the site of a phenomenal dance party worth a one-night trip up to New York.
Wednesday night, Paul Grecki gives lessons at the Sandra Cameron Dance Center in the East Village. I slipped into a lesson and had a lot of fun. Afterwards the gang hangs out for general dancing--much like Dancer's in Bethesda. A group then headed over to The Village Gate on W. 52nd Street between 8th and Broadway. This famous jazz joint moved from the Village to 52nd Street recently and is a perfect venue for dancing. The floor is wood and the ambience is jump/jive. Large photomurals of jazz greats like Billie Holliday, Duke Ellington, and Benny Goodman line the foyer walls. The cover is just $5 for a live band. Apparently, 52nd Street used to be called Jazz Row (or something like that) in the 1940s, and there is now an attempt to bring the area back to its former greatness.
Finally, I want to say that the New York lindy hop crowd is one heck of a group. Everyone was so friendly and excited to have a Washingtonian around. Some of the dancers are real up-and-comers too. Many of you remember Roddy and Caitlin from the ASDC (both are covered with tattoos). This couple just started dancing a year ago and are headed for the big time. She's an extraordinary follower and an awful lot of fun to dance with. I even got her to do a kip with me! (I kipped her.) The guys couldn't believe it! Anyway, let's all make sure we extend our utmost hospitality to this crowd. They are first rate!
Addendum, November 8, 1997
This weekend, I had the pleasure of dancing again in New York City, specifically at the venerable Supper Club. Some of you may remember my review from this past April when I attended a work-related, non-dance event at The Supper Club. In that review, I noted how incredibly posh dancing could be at this locale. As most of you know from the Upcoming Events section, The Supper Club does now, indeed, offer dancing. And let me just say, if not for the unsurpassed shopping pleasure that comes with the territory, The Supper Club alone warrants a trip to New York City.
The Club sits on 47th Street just west of the excitement and glitz of Times Square. If you ever wanted to try time travel and experience the posh nightlife of the 30's and 40's, this is the place. The decor ranges somewhere between kitsch and glam deco with walls painted electric blue and adorned with crescent moon, frosted glass lamps. Tables sit among palm trees or are tucked behind heavy velvet drapes. The 2,000+ square-foot dance floor and adjoining stage sit in the center of it all.
Early in the evening, the 17-piece Tony Corbusciello big band weaves ballads and classic swing tunes. After 11:00, the entertainment changes to a more contemporary swing band--in Saturday's case, the band was the Flying Neutrinos. Personally, I prefer the sounds of the big band, as I always do. During the early evening period, young and old in sequins and glitter glide about the dance floor and complete the glamorous scene. These are not Lindy Hop dancers, per se, but are nevertheless fun to watch.
When the late evening entertainment arrives, the dance crowd changes dramatically. In comes the young, the energetic, the black and white shod crowd, with their wild, uninhibited moves that sometimes--and sometimes don't--characterize the Lindy Hop.
I arrived early in the evening and dined in one of those velvet draped booths. The food was delicious, although I do not recommend the desserts. In between bites of perfectly cooked lamb chops, I whirled around the dance floor in my newest, red satin vintage dress. By the time the Flying Neutrinos came on, I had had one too many glasses of wine and wound up sitting out most of the remaining evening.
Our good friend and regular NYC correspondent, Jennifer Comar, arrived around 11:00 with a small group from the Big Apple Lindy Hoppers who had just performed at a benefit dance marathon. Also in attendance were Paolo and Janice whom D.C. dancers may remember as the first place winners in the Open Classic Lindy Hop at the VSO this year. I was also delighted to see Natalie, the famous boogie woogie acrobat and oh-so beautiful Frenchwoman, whom I had the pleasure getting to know while in Sweden this past summer. (Having made many trips to NYC in the past year, I feel as though the New York Lindy Hop crowd is regular family, and I am thrilled they come to D.C. as much as they do.)
But I digress. The point, however, is that if you're looking for a different sort of place to go dancing--a place that affords all the glamour of the big band swing era--this is it. And because the New York Lindy Hop crowd are regular patrons, a visitor will not be left standing on the sidelines, although one would certainly enjoy that, too. A word of caution: The Supper Club's upscale environment demands an upscale wallet. The cover charge is $15 before 11:00; with dinner and cover, I personally dropped a cool $65.
Two other quick notes: While in New York, ask Jennifer where to get an Asagio cheese bagel. An impeccable hostess, Jennifer treated me to one of these delights, which had my mouth and stomach wanting more. Also, for those of you with more money than you can handle and a need for vintage gowns, don't miss The Fan Club on 19th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. This way upscale consignment shop has vintage and contemporary dresses, shoes, coats, wedding gowns--you name it--formerly owned by Hollywood stars and other uppity-ups. Prices range from $175 up, however, expect to pay $500 to $750 for that gown you are planning to wear at next year's Belmont Ball. And while you're there spending the dough, might as well go and wear it to The Supper Club.
Our Dancing Trip to NYC
Our trip was built around one of my partner's very infrequent free Saturdays. We began the trip with a very nice train ride. About two months ago, we found a "Skotch Traveler" set at an estate sale. Unused in mint condition, this is a clever little picnic hamper which the brochure says "is ideal for short train trips." Indeed it is. Famous as an upscale luxury item in the 1940s, the small insulated plaid case (trademark of the "Skotch" line) holds two very large thermos bottles and a little plastic container. We put together a bunch of "fancy" sandwiches (no crusts), some pastries from Bread & Chocolate, fresh figs, iced tea for one thermos, and coffee for the other. We began our feast after the stop in Baltimore when we would have about an hour and a half uninterrupted run to Philadelphia. The seats in Metroliner Club have airline fold-down tray tables, which we covered with napkins that we were given to us on the last night of the River Club. The only thing missing was candelabra which, I was told, is frowned upon by Amtrak. This is the way to go to New York.
Debra had recommended the Beverly Hotel (125 E 50th St at Lexington, 1-800-223-0945), indicating that Doc Scantlin and the Imperial Palms Orchestra often stay there. We were not disappointed. The Beverly is just across the street from the Waldorf and has easy access to the subway. It is a short walk from all the big attractions on Fifth Avenue. Our room at $139 was a bargain - it had a little kitchenette. There were lots of big thick towels. Most important, our room faced the fabulous G.E. Building with its ornate polychrome terra cotta tile facade and the "crown" of stylized art-deco representations of electrical emanations. Not only that, we were in close proximity to a large number of architectural treasures - the Seagram Building, St. Bartholomew's Church, St. Patrick's Cathedral, the Palace, the U.N. -- stay at the Beverly just for the architecture nearby. It also helps that they offer a complimentary continental breakfast.
But, our target for the evening was Rockefeller Center and the legendary Rainbow Room. This is the last 1930s night spot that is unchanged and uncompromised in the city. Here is a description from about 1948:
"For the price of a drink the visitor could enter the crystalline confection of the 'Rainbow Room' The faceted mirrors framing the windows of the bar made marvelous space-defying illusions out of the myriad rhythms in the city lights below. For the price of a meal, the visitor could move from the bar into a restaurant unequalled in its setting and in its elegance. Elena B. Schmidt, the room's unheralded designer, had created a masterwork of the period. The splendid food was at first accompanied by some of the stars of international cabaret---Lucienne Boyer, Beatrice Lillie, and the Jolly Coburn Orchestra. By the end of the 1930s more modest performers were entertaining, but the visitor could see people who had become famous through radio, such as the highly popular Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy."
Alan Balfour, Rockefeller Center: Architecture as Theater, McGraw-Hill, 1948, p58
I first visited the Rainbow Room in 1969, wearing a Nehru Jacket. I was there in 1977 in a conservative blue suit. This time, my partner had on a basic black Victoria's Secret dress and I wore my "Casablanca" white dinner jacket. The place had not changed a bit---and never does. The headwaiter always has white tie and tails, the waiters always wear pastel tailcoats in every hue of the rainbow. The music never stops. When one band replaces another, the musicians slowly shift--the piano players will switch, then the bass player, etc. However, the best part is the Dance Floor-- it is circular and ROTATES very slowly (counterclockwise). The floor has elaborate inlays with a stylized compass rose at the center. Tonight, there were two bands, a latin group and a rather hot swing band.
We began with an assortment of hors d'oeuvres which covered a large range of tastes--lobster tails, pate, caviar, etc. The food was great, but the service was astounding. The tidbits were served on an art-deco plateau which looked like it had been machined out of a single block of hotel silver (it weighed about 20 pounds). There are individual salt and pepper cellars with little bakelite spoons. The china is a special pattern made for the Rainbow Room by Mikasa. Since we don't drink, we got the waiter to fix us up with a bottle of mineral water hidden in an ice bucket. As our food was presented, the swing band started up with a hot number (Jumpin' at the Woodside). The floor cleared and we hit center stage with a throwout, flying lindy whip and a fish flip. As in other venues, the house was ours. The waiters didn't seem to be so disappointed that we didn't drink.
We danced until about 1:00 and our waiter wanted to know if we wanted dessert because "the kitchen closes at 1:30". I had just got a payment from a client, so I put my foot into the abyss and said, "Have the chef surprise us." We did a "duo" shim sham to Stompin' at the Savoy and our waiter summoned us back to the table -- the chef had prepared Baked Alaska for us, but the thing was shaped like a musical note -- and brought out on fire. We have a photo of that.
We gave out a bunch of web-site cards, chatted with guys in both bands, got a tour of the kitchen, showed Charleston to the Headwaiter and generally enjoyed the hell out of the evening. The bill? Well, I bought a car in 1962 for less money than the bill, but it was a one in a lifetime experience and it stings just a little bit less since we are able to share it with our readers. Save your spare pictures of dead presidents and go to the Rainbow Room!
New York is so well-behaved these days that we walked home -- a guy in a white dinner jacket and a girl in a short black dress -- and nobody hassled us at all. More about the return of civilization to the Big Apple below.
We spent Saturday chasing down vintage clothes and we have shared our results in an article in the Dance Forum. Of note in the afternoon, we revisited one of my old hangouts, Fanelli's Cafe (94 Prince Street, 212-226-9412) This place has been in business since 1872 and is just beautiful. It has NEVER been updated, trendified, or anything. You go there for coffee and omelets. Period. A wonderful, untouched place. No Yuppies allowed.
On Saturday night, my partner put on a white 30s dress and I wore the yellow zoot suit. We got to Lincoln Center just in time to hear Indigo Swing take off. The plywood dance floor was really crowded, so we moved to a pavement (I think it's some sort of marble) area at the side to get room enough to swing out. After the first flip we gathered a crowd and met a whole lot of new people. It must be my partner's legs because our dancing isn't that good. But we did give out a whole slew of website cards. The guys from Indigo Swing remembered us from California. They invited us to join them at a 2:00 gig at Coney Island High (St. Marks Square). The boys finished at about 8:00 and were replaced by the DMP Big Band, who were good but nowhere near as hot as Indigo Swing.
At 10:00 we were looking for someplace to eat and one of our new friends suggested The Supper Club (240 W. 47th St, Near Times Square 212-921-1940) This place is in the restored ballroom of the Edison Hotel, and may be just about the perfect club dance venue. It has a large stage, big sprung dance floor and the bar is well out of the way in the back. There are two levels with lots of seating off the dance floor. We were pleased to dance to the New York Big Band.
The zoot suit got some attention and the band leader played One O'Clock Jump just for us. We met an older couple named Jill and Sid who know Tom and Debra--and---were Lindy Hoppers in the 1940s. We had a good time chatting with them, several other couples, guys in the band and Andy Cortes, the manager. He really wants to get the swing dancers into the place. This is really a nice place for dancing.
The band quits at 1:00, so we had an hour to kill. We went for a stroll through Times Square. This place has really changed since the massive cleanup -- the streets were filled with happy people who really seemed to be enjoying themselves. There was some swing music coming out of the Disney store, so we did a few steps, again drawing a crowd. Of all the things, "zooting" at Times Square is my favorite memory.
Coney Island High proved to be a letdown---the band was great, but the place is an "alternative" venue like the Black Cat or the 9:30 club. There was very little room for dancing and there was a huge crush of people. The "Martini Nation" seems to want the clothes and the props of the 1940s but not the dances.
We spent Sunday morning at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum looking at a retrospective on the life of Henry Dreyfuss the industrial designer who along with Raymond Loewy, Otto Kuhler and Norman Bel Geddes gave us life as we now know it. These four guys designed EVERYTHING---steamships, locomotives, cars, planes, even the Spacelab on a grand scale, but lots of little things that we take for granted, like the Ritz Cracker box, office machines, appliances and the like that are part of our everyday environment. The show focuses on the detailed study and planning that went into five of Dreyfuss' most successful product designs: the round Honeywell thermostat, John Deere tractors, the Polaroid camera, the Princess phone and the Big Ben alarm clock.
After the show, we walked two blocks down and looked over the outside of the Guggenheim Museum. Frank Lloyd Wright has to be appreciated for the details. This was his last public building, completed in 1959. While its "inverted cone" mass is quite incongruous with the turn-of-the century mansions with which it shares the neighborhood, it is truly an awesome structure. Again, the details of execution are simply magnificent.
No trip to New York is complete without a ride on the Staten Island Ferry. What is best is that the ferry is now free in both directions. One passes by the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and the return trip gives a glorious vista of the southern tip of Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge. You can't beat it at the price, but we got a bonus---on our return, it was time for the "sailing of the cruise ships". Ocean liners depart at about 5:00 and are escorted out of the harbor by tugs and fireboats shooting up huge fountains of water. We got a picture of a fireboat with its arches of water framing the Statue of Liberty.
On the way back, we took the Lexington Avenue line to 125th street which was approximately under the former location of the Savoy Ballroom. A fellow as playing music on a guitar and we did a few steps in the station before our train came to take us back to the hotel. This was a great weekend. We even got to do (a little) Lindy Hop in Harlem.
Just a Note on NYC Swing
I'm not sure if you remember Roddy and Caitlin, who came down for the Flying Home weekend, and who had on the red outfits during the Sunday night jam [Ed Note: How could we forget?] circle? Well, Caitlin is the NYC correspondent for Swi ng Time Magazine, and her connection pulled us all downtown to see the California boys. It was much better than the following night at Lincoln Center; the synergy between the dancers and the band was really wonderful. But the Rainbow Room sounds wonderful as well. We missed each other that Saturday at Lincoln Center - the lindy crowd was over next to fountain to the left of the dance floor.
A note on the swing scene in NYC. What you experienced at
Coney Island High is very typical of what is going on now
the city. They have no cabaret license, which in the city means
dancing. They had been getting away with having dancing up until
the evening that you dropped in- I guess they finally got in
trouble and from what I understand, the dancers are no longer
welcome. There is definitely a division between the dancing
many of whom "dress", and the retro crowd. It's hard
explain, but it has a lot to do with the politics of the people
are promoting the parties and the bands. A few of us are working
very hard to pull the two factions together, but sometimes the
divisions that already exist are impossible to bridge. There are
a few spots where the two mix quite happily, though; one of them
being the High Life restaurant on 1st Avenue and 72nd St.
One or two Saturdays a month, our friends Gerry and Neal put on a
swing evening in the back room, which is done up in art deco
with round booths and a nice, if small, dance floor. There is
usually a band, and most of the crowd make an effort to dress, if
only to keep that night a little classier than an average
P.S. In September, The Supper Club will be hosting a swing "battle of the bands", (it happens every month at different venues around the city). It is really the first time an old style dance venue will be hosting the "new" generation of bands, so it should make for an interesting evening. I'll let you know the details when I find them out.
Metropolitan Vintage Fashion and Antique Textile
We drove New York City to attend the Metropolitan Vintage Fashion and Antique Textile Show, a long drive which was definitely worth the effort.
Imagine walking into a department store in the 1930s where a wide variety of clothes in most sizes are displayed and you can picture this show. I know how much garbage we have to root through to find one usable vintage garment. This show represents the sum total of all the searching conducted by thousands of people for a year, all coalesced into one place. Even at minimum wage, the prices charged for these garments do not come near reflecting the massive amount of labor that has gone into finding, sorting and organizing this material. In brief, we were in Hog Heaven. You would be, too. Believe me, it is a real treat to have a real selection when you are buying vintage garments. There were 44 booths of treasure covering every period from Colonial to Disco. Some of the real standouts for 1930s and 1940s vintage clothing are:
We spent four hours at the show and enjoyed every moment. Now, for the ladies who might have trouble dragging a boyfriend to an event like this: it is apparently a custom for women to attend this show wearing a slip as an outer garment so that they may easily try on things. I would like to say that a very large number of extremely attractive ladies followed this practice. The bruises on my shins from my partner's kicks will attest to this. (I was wearing dark sunglasses most of the time, and apparently my eyebrows kept popping up above the shades...)
If you missed this show, you have several options in the future:
After the show, we took the train to the heart of Greenwich Village. In particular, we wanted to visit Joe's Pizza (233 Bleecker St, at Carmine 212-366-1182), rated "best in Manhattan" (two others alleged to be better are in Brooklyn) in the 1997 Zagat Survey. This is a small corner carryout with very little atmosphere. The pizza, on the other hand was excellent. Thin crispy crust, real tomato sauce, dripping with olive oil. We went to Ferrara (3 Greenwich Ave 212-367-7500) for dessert and coffee. This place has been there for more than 100 years and is so identified with Cannoli that it makes a token appearance in all three Godfather movies.
While walking back through the Village, we discovered Second Childhood (283 Bleeker St, 212-989-6140) which has to be the best high end toy store in the world. My partner found a stove for the kitchen in one of her dollhouses and thought that she had gotten a bargain. (I still don't understand dollhouse furniture--I have turned down REAL stoves at that price...) On the other hand, I was stunned to see a real live table place-card holder from the Stork Club. This is a little wooden statue of a stork wearing a top hat. You NEVER see nightclub paraphernalia. It was a steal at $75. These things were carved in China and broke easily so it is very rare to see one in perfect shape. There were also carved bamboo swizzle sticks that are also extremely rare.
For the trip back home, I bought a copy of the New York Post just to get my occasional fix of New York tabloid journalism. It turns out that they are running the London Times cryptic crossword puzzle every day. (It makes sense because Rupert Murdoch owns both papers.) Tina Connors and I both go nuts for these things which may be the most elegant way to waste time that has ever been devised by man. It is always a treat to spend a day in New York.
Laura Stark and Scott Seymour's Trip to New York
Since we had to be in New Jersey last weekend, Scott and I decided to go into NYC and find some swing dancing on Saturday night. Our original plan was to go to the Supper Club, but a JACKET IS REQUIRED and Scott didn't have one on (he looked otherwise fabulous, of course). Instead we went around the corner to the more casual Swing 46 (349 W. 46th St. between 8th and 9th Avenues. 212-262-9554) where the attire included everything from jeans to cocktail dresses. If I had anticipated writing this review, I would have paid more attention to the details. Here is what I can tell you about the place:
There was no cover charge but Swing 46 is a dinner club and the price of a table is dinner or $10 plus two drinks per person ($6 or $7 each). If you don't want a table you can sit in the bar, but you can't see the band or the dance floor from there. We had already eaten elsewhere so I can't personally speak for the food, but we did overhear someone gushing about her dinner to the hostess as we were leaving. I would take that as a good sign. Our waitress, Jennifer, was great and made sure we had lots of water. We were there on a Saturday but it wasn't a "swing night" - they offer jazz/swing music every day of the week and live music almost every night.
The band on Saturday was the Camaros. We missed the first set and came in during the lesson (East Coast). Apparently there is sometimes a lesson and sometimes not, however, I think there is always a lesson if the Camaros are playing. I really liked the them. I think there were six of them, including two female vocalists, and I believe they were playing mostly originals. Their music is very danceable and very Lindy friendly. One of singers even changed into saddle shoes and climbed down from the stage to dance.
The wood dance floor is small and the room gets very warm when the dancing gets going, so bring a hankie. The night we were there the floor stayed full but never got too crowded. Being so new to swing dancing, I am a bad judge of the level of dancing in a room. There was a mix of people doing Lindy and jitterbug and I thought it was fairly good. Everyone was friendly and they were all good partners. There were some people on vacation from England who were quite good lindy hoppers and a few French guys who were incredible jitterbuggers. I can tell you that Scott and I didn't sit down very much and I think we danced with each other only a couple of times. Scott especially was being booked for dances way in advance.
I would definitely go to Swing 46 again. It would also be a
great place to take non-dancing bar hopping friends as it has a
hip, low-key atmosphere.
Jeff Booth's Trip to New York
By: Jeff Booth
I was in New York on November 24-25, 1997 while everyone here
at Club Heaven and Vienna Grille so I thought I would tell you
what I did. On Monday night (Nov 24), Poole had a show at the
Lounge. It was well attended and I thought we played well.
We finished our set at 9:00 so while the rest of the band went
for dinner, I ran down the street to Louisiana Community Bar
and Grill with a few people from the record label. The dance
floor was crowded and it seemed like only a few couples knew
lindy. I danced mostly with my friends who were eager to learn,
but later I did find a lady who was kind enough to dance four
songs in a row because I had to leave by 11:00. The band was the
Flipped Fedoras and they were great. Kind of an Indigo
Swing sort of thing. The best part was NO COVER! A free night
of dancing is always a winner in my book.
On Tuesday (Nov 25), we walked around all day going to music
such, but I did make it to Cheap Jack's vintage clothing.
I found a great pair of 40s pants for only $40! After a long and
tiring day, we made it over to Coney Island High for
another Poole show, but I think the day took its toll as we were
not nearly as good as the previous night. Anyway, that's all. I
hope everyone at home had as much fun as I did.
Mr. Fierer goes to the Big Apple...
Last weekend, my good friend and dance partner, Daniel Fierer, came up to NYC to see an old friend who was passing through for a day on his way to somewhere else. When he told me about his plans, I said, "why not make an entire weekend out of it? There is a bunch of stuff going on, and wouldn't you rather see these places firsthand rather than hearing me talk endlessly about them with no frame of reference"?
So, Daniel was in town from Friday through Tuesday. I guess that when he got back to DC, he was gushing so much about his great weekend, that Frank e-mailed me asking me where was my review of this happening since Daniel never writes anything? I, of course, was just the hostess, and figured that it was Daniel's responsibility to communicate his experiences onto the rest of you, but since you both have been so good to me, I won't let you down.
FRIDAY January 16, 1998
The original idea was to have Daniel intercept Frankie Manning at Lindy Hopper rehearsal and have him autograph his Life magazine article on the "Congaroos". Turns out Frankie was out of town, so I left a message at his cousin's apartment asking Daniel to just meet up with us at Windows later on that night. Well, he was so disappointed that he would miss watching us rehearse, (???), that I said, fine, show up at the end of rehearsal, but don't complain about waiting for me to get ready afterwards. (This is the problem with living in Brooklyn and having a life in Manhattan -it's even more complicated to plan an evening out because I can't just run home and change, so I end up dragging my dress around in a garment bag, then the rest of the makeup, shoes, curlers, stockings, evening bag etc. are packed alongside rehearsal clothes in a big bag. Its a good thing I work at a clothing manufacturer because I am constantly ironing my own clothes in our sample room upstairs). Anyway, Daniel showed up and got to see what it was like to really bust your butt and work on a routine - We try to rehearse the way Frankie prefers, which is to make everything a performance so that when it's time to actually perform, it feels just like a rehearsal.Easier said than done, especially after we've run Stops for the seventh time in a row. Well, he waited, and I was able to transform myself from "sweaty tired girl" into "ready for a night on the town girl" in less than a 1/2 hour, (must be a new record for me), and we made it down to Windows on the World in time to catch The Delegates, which is a band put together specifically to play for dancers at dancing tempo, (Neal Corl, who is responsible for getting them together, is my friend who used to sponsor the now defunct nights at Hi Life, which was my favorite place to go last winter). The plan for Friday was to do Windows first, then head over to the Supper Club to see the Blues Jumpers do a late night show. My good friend Roddy made a rare appearance this evening, and I had a great time because there were more guys present than girls, and for once they all knew how to dance! The only bad thing about Windows on Friday is that the DJ between the sets plays disco and salsa music for the tourists, but I still dance because I like to do salsa and all that other stuff. A girl cannot survive on swing alone in the big city!
Then it was midnight, and time to head uptown to The Supper Club. Janice and Paolo, (from the VS Open), were there, and we took turns jamming in the corner, (first, Paolo and I would go out, then Daniel would grab Janice and move us off the floor, then Paolo and I would come back and push them off - it was like a mini Cat's Corner). Daniel remarked on how weird it was to be in a place where he wasn't the odd man out because of his vintage style - at the Supper Club, you're the odd man out if you don't dress of the period. No jeans allowed in this joint, please. The Blues Jumpers were great, as usual, and it was alot of fun to introduce Daniel to the scene on a good dancing night. We ended the evening by me giving a lesson in following, and he insisted that I lead him for more than one song so that he could finally try to work on his swivel! I didn't get home and in bed until about 4:30, but we had a great time, and the weekend was just beginning.
SATURDAY January 17, 1998
This is the day Daniel spent with his friends from Minnesota, (I guess they went to the Natural History Museum - there were two young boys, so the object of the day was to keep them entertained while Daniel spent time with the older members of the family). He was up at the unseemly hour of 9:30; I managed to sleep in until around 11. Ellen Werther was also in the area last weekend and I spent some time on the phone trying to persuade her to come out dancing that night, but to no avail. She was up to clean out her mom's apartment, and promised that on her next visit she would be more in the mood to dance. The dance that night was held at the 92nd St Y; sponsored by Bill Kline,(my VS Open partner) and Angie Whitworth, they hold a swing dance in the second floor ballroom on the 3rd Saturday of every month, just in case you're in town one of these days. It's one of the few independently sponsored dances, and although it costs a bit more, and it feels like a high school dance sometimes, I go because we need to support the little guys here in the city. The promoters have made swing into such a scene that it's refreshing to head up to the Y just to dance rather than to see and be seen. Daniel showed up around 9:30 PM, ready to swing after a day on the town.
We had our second evening of listening to the Blues Jumpers, who are absolutely my favorite band here in the city - I could dance to them for a week straight and still not get sick of them. Finally, we got a chance to work on some easy aerials, (we get to dance together only about every two months or so, and I feel bad because I know that when we do the jams at Glen Echo and America he wishes we could do something more dynamic than a few crazy swingouts, or an aerial that I lead), but don't expect anything too spectacular the next time I'm in town - we did a few variations on tosses, and the fish flip, ( we call it a side or sidecar flip), and I guess he's used to the girls not really jumping because one time he just whipped me around and I went flying backwards after the landing - it's a good thing that Roddy was there to hold me up. I think he's trying to work on a version where he just uses his knee to get me around, but I told him to save it for next time. He was also trying to get me to do an air step he's done with Tricia, but we just did some sets because I have this rule about doing aerials that I haven't seen.
We called it an early night as we were both exhausted from the night before, and the next day was the flea market and Irving Plaza. When we left the Y, it was starting to snow, and after I warned Daniel not to walk across the park, I got a lift back to Brooklyn with Roddy, who had driven one of his old cars up to the dance. It still has the original tube radio that takes a couple of minutes to warm up after you turn it on, and we listened to WQEW as we drove through the snowy city streets towards home.
SUNDAY January 18, 1997
I gave Daniel a call that morning to make sure he had some shoes that he could wear in the snow, because when I looked outside, it was still snowing and the trees were covered. But, it's been so warm up here in the city that the snow hadn't stuck to the ground, and it turned out to be a good day for browsing.
We opted to do the indoor portion of the Flea Market, which is located in a parking garage between W24th and W25th Streets. If you've ever shopped with Daniel then you know how he pays attention to the details, which I kind of like because he always manages to find something that I would have missed. I'll let him tell you what he bought, because if you really wanted to know, then you'd ask him anyway. After a few hours, we made our way downtown to W5th St., where Michael Savoia has his shop. Savoia makes a lot of custom suits for the older "hat" crowd, and he carries very high end vintage accessories. Most of his clientele, though, works down on Wall Street and can drop a couple of thousand easily on a custom made suit. Needless to say, Daniel didn't buy anything, but I think he enjoyed seeing the shop.
Then out to Brooklyn, where we had dinner, and I entertained him with videos and photo albums and my dress and hat collections until it was time for Irving Plaza. The band that night was Roy Gerson, which draws one of the bigger crowds at Irving, so there wasn't a lot of room, (and it was slippery - we've been having that same problem with the slick floor that you guys were having at Glen Echo). I wore my ugly rubber soled shoes just to get some traction on the swing-outs. Of course, I had these shoes on, and wouldn't you know there was a photographer from Self magazine taking pictures of us, (and our feet), all night! I kept saying to Daniel "here come your friends again" because it seemed like they were specifically following him around - he was dressed much nicer than the other guys in attendance, (look for the photos around April.
I made him dance with the other girls from the Lindy Hoppers, and he got to witness Bob Crease and Angie do a crazy jam to "Jumpin' at the Woodside". Donald Gardiner showed up to do his usual routine of watching and not dancing. Dawn Hampton was also there, holding court with the other older dancers in the far corner of the dance floor. We have a weekly ritual of doing the Shim Sham with the band at the top of the third set, so it was fun to be able to show an outsider how we do it in NYC.
MONDAY January 19, 1998
I called in sick today because I was exhausted and under the weather from such a crazy weekend, (and being outside all day Sunday didn't help me feel any better). I had given a list of vintage stores to Daniel so that he could spend the day out by himself before we were set to meet for dinner and dancing later on at Wells, up in Harlem.
Well, wouldn't you know it, at around 3 in the afternoon, I get a phone call - he's at the Family Jewels, and he needs my help - how soon can I get there? Boy, he's lucky that I like to shop! I put on my dancing outfit and met him at another store, Darrow on W19th St., and for the rest of the afternoon we tried on clothes, poured over accessories, sifted through racks, and had a good time. Then back to the Family Jewels to solve a purchase dilemma that he was having over several coats; by the time we got out of there I was starving and barely standing. We went uptown to his cousin's neighborhood and ate a huge pasta dinner, (he ate most of it), and around 10:00 we finally made it up to Wells, which is on Seventh Avenue between 132nd and 133rd Sts.
I had never been up to Wells, although I have heard about it from many of the dancers in NYC. It's a small, unpretentious restaurant and jazz club - not very fancy, and the only place to dance is on a carpeted floor. I had peach cobbler, (so so) and Daniel had sweet potato pie, (no complaints from him) with ice cream, (the kind they cut from a block). I do have friends who have eaten the specialite du maison, chicken and waffles and they say it's good but extremely filling! But the real reason to go to Wells on Monday is for The Harlem Renaissance Orchestra; and also because this is where the older dancers, like Frankie Manning and Charlie Meade, go to hang out with their friends and have a good time.
We were seated at the last open table, way in the back of the room, and just as we got settled, the band started to play "One-o-Clock Jump"; we just looked at each other and said, how can we not dance to this - it sounded so good! Our table was away from the dance floor, and the walk to the front was a bit intimidating, especially when I saw Charlie Meade and all the older dancers from Irving seated at the table closest to the band! Well, luckily, Daniel had no idea who these people were, and he just started to swing me out - once we caught the music we were oblivious to the carpet and the small floor. Then I realized that the people in the restaurant were all standing and cheering us on! I'm sure that I was bright red from embarrassment.
The band is just amazing, and it was one of the best versions of the song that I have ever heard. When they ended, we moved off the floor in deference to how great they had been, and all the people at the tables were telling us how great our dancing was, and finally when we got back to our table, the waitress came over and told us she hadn't seen anyone dance like that since she was a kid! Of course, I had to tell her that Frankie was my teacher, and that made her even happier.
We danced to another fast song, (ask Daniel the title, it's a rarely played Count Basie tune - when it started, he came running out of the bathroom all excited because he had never heard it played live, and we had to dance to it!), then the band started to play more be-bop and slower numbers. For one song, I was the center of a mini jam, ( no aerials in this place!) as some of the older dancers passed me from partner to partner.
Then, the regular crowd did a version of the electric slide that made me never want to do it in public again, (now I know why Frankie likes it so much!). Later on, a Japanese couple came over to have their picture taken with us because we were "such good dancers". I really had a great time, but the night ended so quickly, (we did get there an hour after the band had started.
Afterwards, even the band members came over to us to tell us how much they had enjoyed our dancing. The whole evening was one big ego trip for the both of us. The people there are so friendly, and they love to have dance visitors; but the key is that it's a small place, and should be visited as a couple, rather than having a big group of people. It's wise to bring your own partner. It is also a good place to go if you truly enjoy the music, the way Daniel does. I felt like a good hostess because I had matched him perfectly with this venue.
So, that's it. How can you condense four days into one
review? Hopefully, more DC folks will come visit in the future
so that I can continue to show off the Big Apple to my
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