Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Savoy Ballroom 1

some clips of dancers there (a group performing the Big Apple and Al Minns, a Charleston, Shimmy, and Snakehips expert). Some history from streetswing
The Savoy Ballroom ...

Owned by "Gangster" Moe Paddon who some say was just a front for Chicago's Al Capone and managed by Charles Buchanon . Opened its doors on December 14th, 1926 and closed in 1958. The Savoy was a two story ballroom which spanned the whole block of 140th. Street to 141st. Street on
Lenox Avenue in (Uptown) Harlem, New York . The Savoy's marquee (as seen above) extended out over the side walk and had a fabulous marble stairway leading into the Ballroom.
The Savoy was pink on the inside and had a good size foyer as you entered the building, was very well ventilated (Air-conditioning not yet invented), and had modern furniture of the times and mirrored walls. The ballroom itself was huge, had two bandstands, colored spotlights, and a dance floor that was rectangular in shape (nicknamed the track) and was over 10,000 square ft. of spring loaded, wooden dance floor. The floor had to be replaced every three years due to the tremendous use it went thru.
Originally, the bar only served soft drinks, Beer and Wine, no hard liquor was served in the early years at the Savoy. The soda fountain bar served up Ice Cream drinks and dishes such as Banana Splits, Sundaes and Floats. Over 150 employees would work the Savoy during a week and the owner would make well over $250.000 a year during it's heyday. The Bouncers at the Savoy would be dressed in Tuxedo's and make about $100.00 a night. There were many fights at the Savoy, Males and Females, but was considerably less than most of the other Ballrooms (including the Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan) due to the excellent work of the bouncers at the Savoy.
The Savoy could and very often would hold up to 4,000 people with about 15% of the people being white. Depending on who the band was, the ballroom would more than double its capacity. When Benny Goodman played the Savoy and did battle with Chick Webb, it was reported that there was approximately 25,000 people waiting to get into the ballroom (Webb won). The Orchestra's were paid $1,200 a week to play the Savoy. Unfortunately today there is no trace of the ballroom ever being in that location but there is work being done to have a plaque laid in its place.
The club was only open to the public five nights a week, with two days were reserved for private Parties/Functions. The normal cover charge was between $0.30 cents to $0.85 cents in the early 1930's. During the depression the cover was lower and the Savoy would setup free Holiday dinners for the homeless or poor folks in the area for free.
You could become a member of the Savoy by purchasing a membership of certain Savoy dance clubs called the Lindy Hop Club, the 400 Club, or the Old Timers Club and receive a discounted admission. There were always employed dance hostesses around that would dance with you or be available for private lessons. You did not have to be 21 to gain entrance to the ballroom although most parents would not let you go. At midnight the place was just starting to jump and was open till 3 a.m. (So as the folks catching a play or whatever could still come dancing after.)


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