BRODWAY RHYTHM AND THE HOLLYWOOD RESTAURANT: MAY, 1931
It's a chilly night in New York City. The month is May, the year is 1931. (At least it seems like it was chilly--plenty of topcoats are worn by the men). The Fox Movietone sound-on-film crew has decided to film some random nightlife footage in old Times Square. Movie's like 'The Front Page', 'My Sin', 'Dance Girl Dance' are showing in the movie palaces, along with 'Vitaphone Attractions'. People cross the street heedless of traffic. Streetcars still exist on Broadway. Car horns really do make that "ahh-uhh-gahh" sound. There isn't a I-Phone in sight.
We are at various different corners, among them Broadway and 48th Street where we see a sign for a place called 'Hollywood Restaurant'. Now, this is especially intriguing to me because I collect old New Yorker Magazines and am fascinated by the front-of-the-book theater/nightclub/entertainment listings. I've noticed the 'Hollywood Restaurant' mentioned a few times, with the comment that they have a 'rough and ready revue'. This is code for 'almost naked chorus girls' and made me curious about what kind of place this joint really was. To keep it simple, it was a new-style nightclub that didn't charge a cover or even a minimum--as the depression sank in, the nightclub era of the 20s began to suffer as it was simply too expensive an evening. The 'Hollywood', however, decided to go in for bulk--they charged for food, a small 'bottle fee' (it was prohibition so you brought your own booze and they dispensed it with a seltzer bottle standing by at your table) and the entertainment was on the house. But the house was massive--it must have been the entire floor of the building we see pictured as it supposedly could fit almost a thousand customers inside, Most importantly, the entertainment wasn't Helen Morgan doing torch songs sitting on a piano or Harry Richman doing his debonair dances. No, the entertainment was near-naked and leeringly presented VERY young ladies. If you're interested in seeing what a typical review in the Hollywood Restaurant looked like, click on the below and go to 8:35. (There is much else in the below video that deserves attention but nothing quite as salacious and troubling as the Hollywood Restaurant stuff). It's the only actual documentation of the Hollywood Restaurant that I've ever come across and it 'beats the band', as the saying once went. Thanks again to my new favorite Youtube poster Guy Jones (his real name? Or a Nom De Tube?) for discovering and presenting these invaluable and haunting archaeological finds.
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Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 12:23 PM