Sunday, October 18, 2009

At the Copacabana...Just The Place For Getting Dreamy and Starry Eyed

For New Yorkers, with June 27, 1933, seeing the repeal of the Prohibition Act, or as some called it, "The Noble Experiment", the funeral of liquor was over!  The outcome of a temperance movement in social reform was miserable failure! The wake which followed was still in full swing when the Copacabana Club opened November 10, 1940 at East 60th Street in a sweet little town you may know, New York City.

This hot spot, with the haute monde of night club goers, is where folks finally came out to play, to see and be seen. Not too likely any regular GI Joe or dreamy, starry eyed gal  fresh off of the street could enter through the portals of the Copacabana or Copa, as it was fondly named.  Being somebody or knowing somebody was the only ticket inside!  Why, wit dripped out of a bottle of booze faster than money flowed out of the hands of dames and millionaires once across the hardly sanctimonious threshold of the Copa!

The atmosphere inside the Copa was electric charged!   Everywhere, were the shady ties to the mob, in sharp contrast to dames' diamonds and baubles glittering in competition with the steady flow of the best hooch and champagne around.   Meanwhile, in any and every place at the bar, or on the dance floor, deals were being made, history was being re-written and everyone was clamoring to meet stardom, fame, millionaires and satisfaction! The smell of cigar and cigarette smoke filled your senses with pure pumping adrenalin!

The Copa was surrealism at its finest and believe you me,...not in the least filled with modest embellishments of any nature! Hibiscus patterned hot and red dresses moved in a blur amidst shimmering evening gowns on the dance floor. Black to white tux and black pearl buttons blended into the uniforms in cloistered star filled corners. Inside, you weren't going to find any ersatz fixtures amid the psalm fronds and cloak checks, this was first class all the way. The whole "joint" was lit upside down with excitement at the titillation of "risque" behavior! This was New York City after all! What a hot spot!

Here in the Copa, thwarted careers stayed hidden under a cloak of mystery and pure patent leather shine while passions played out like unblemished emeralds among formidable gangs of whos' who. These urbane folks had a penchant for danger and excitement all mixed up with understudies and wanna be's and some of the toughest , sharpest "big shots" around.

If you were lucky enough to be announced upstairs at the Copa, well , you had actually made a laudable debut that said "you had arrived"! Hubba, Hubba! Naivete out of the window, savvy was your middle name, you drew flies like honey and you became, without a preponderance of doubt,  a legend!  Wink wink!

The saavy Copa, now silent, still evokes memories and dreams for the club goers of the Copa!   Showgirls that nobody could keep their eyes off of, Chinese foods-in of all places the Copa- and the surreptitious connections with the Mafia types remain history. From Tallulah Bankhead to the Copa dancers, from Merengue meets the Jitterbug and Swing, to the survivors of the '29 stock market crash, life went a lot faster at night in the Copa!

How's that for attitude and style from the era of our parents and grandparents?