Tag Archives: persian room

The Plaza Gets Ready to Celebrate 110 Years

This is so cool…  I didn’t even know that the Plaza Hotel was doing this.  Special rates, special perks, and a copy of my newest book, Starring the Plaza!!!  Check out the ad and book your room today.

 

Celebrate 110 – The Plaza, A Fairmont Managed Hotel


 

234 Playboy Laughs with Patty Farmer

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Patty Farmer is an entertainment historian who has authored the new book ‘Playboy Laughs’ chronicling the history involving Playboy magazine and stand up comedy. The recently deceased Dick Gregory got his big break performing at the Playboy club in Chicago and used to have to take the bus to get there because he was so broke when he started. For all the criticism that has fallen on Hugh Hefner for being sexist he doesn’t get enough credit for breaking the color barrier in terms of hiring performers at his clubs and models for his magazine at a time when the United States was racially segregated. In this episode we talk about my own personal history with Playboy magazine and how the Playboy interviews were a very important part of my entertainment apprenticeship. We discuss the rise of George Carlin and Lenny Bruce who performed at the Playboy clubs and which entertainer who couldn’t keep his hands to himself. This important period in American entertainment history and the history of American censorship is but a distant memory for those who remember and this is a conversation I was happy to capture for the Smart Camp audience. So put on your bunny ears and you fluffy slippers and find out why the  Playboy empire was a crucial component in the history of American comedy. It is my pleasure to present to you now the one and only Patty Farmer!

To enjoy the conversation that I had with the wonderful Tom Rhodes on Tom Rhodes radio, click here.


 

Patty Farmer’s “Playboy Laughs: The Comedy, Comedians, and Cartoons of Playboy” on WGN with Rick Kogan

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Rick talks to the great Patty Farmer about her new book, “Playboy Laughs: The Comedy, Comedians, and Cartoons of Playboy.” The two discuss how underrated the Playboy publications are and how much Playboy and Hugh Hefner did for entertainment. Patty talked about how, from 1960-1980, Playboy provided a stage for countless comedians and entertainers.

Feel free to listen to the interview in its entirety by clicking here.


 

Back with New Books Network to discuss Starring the Plaza – Pt. I

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Joel W. Tscherne, Host of New Books in Film talks with Author Patty Farmer about her latest book, Starring the Plaza: Hollywood, Broadway and High Society Visit the Worlds Favorite Hotel.

To listen to part I of this II part interview, click here.


 

Back with New Books Network to discuss Starring the Plaza – Pt. II

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Joel W. Tscherne, Host of New Books in Film talks with Author Patty Farmer about her latest book, Starring the Plaza: Hollywood, Broadway and High Society Visit the Worlds Favorite Hotel.

To listen to part II of this II part interview, click here.


 

Back by popular demand, Patty Farmer and Lainie Kazan.

Big Barda Miracle 4-16 by Lainie Kazan

Big Barda Miracle 4-16 by Lainie Kazan

Lainie Kazan may be the only woman who launched a business career by posing in the all-together for Playboy magazine!  By 1970, she was a headliner who had already had a vast experience in a wide range of entertainment media – from three shows on Broadway (The Happiest Girl in the World, Bravo Giovanni, and Funny Girl), starred in nightclubs (like the Persian Room), had recorded five long-playing albums of her own, and starred on top-rated TV variety series like The Ed Sullivan Show and the Dean Martin Show;  in fact, in her December 1968 Sunday night appearance (in which she sang her famous Judy Garland medley of “The Trolley Song” and “Gotta Have Me Go with You”), Ed Sullivan took a particular delight in telling his vast audience that her father was Russian and her mother was Turkish (both parents were Jewish).  Lainie herself was not only exotic, but as many observers have pointed out, whether on TV, in a club, an album, or even in a photo, she always seemed a little bit dangerous.

Lainie Smiles

Lainie Smiles

Lainie launched a long relationship with Playboy enterprises when she posed nude in the October 1970 issue of the magazine; the result of a photo session that transpired in the illustrious Plaza Hotel—Lainie performed at the hotel’s legendary Persian Room as well as living at the hotel.  (In the tradition of the time, there was no full-frontal nudity yet, but she wasn’t hiding much.) That one particular modeling job would launch a vast cause-and-effect. It cemented her ongoing, very productive collaboration with the Playboy brand – as she told us, within five years, she would be the only artist – impresario  to open her own room-within-a-room in the Playboy Club circuit – that happened when “Lainie’s Room” opened in the Los Angeles Playboy in 1975 and then again in the New York club a few seasons later.

lainie kazan body & soul

Another collateral benefit was for comic book readers and fans of the superhero auteur Jack Kirby; not long before, the widely-praised artist and writer had switched allegiances from his long-standing job at Marvel comics (where he had played a key role in the creation of the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Mighty Thor, and dozens of other iconic creations) to the company’s arch-competitor, DC comics. His most dramatic creation was a whole universe of new characters, which he called “The Fourth World,” at the centerpiece of which was a “super group” he called the New Gods. The first of these New Gods to star in his own title was “Mister Miracle” (aka “Scott Free”) and in issue four of that series, Mister Miracle’s love interest was introduced; rather than a demure gal Friday like Superman’s Lois Lane, the new girl god on the block was “Big Barda,” a highly imposing six feet of both pure muscle and sheer sex appeal.  She went around pummeling bad guys in Asgard-ian like body armor, but Kirby went out of his way, in her first two appearances (Mister Miracle #4 October 1971 and #5 November-December 1971) to show her in a bikini-like get up as well.  It was no surprise to anyone when Kirby eventually admitted that he was a Playboy reader and the physical image of Big Barda was directly based on Lainie’s image from the October 1970 issue.

Liza Minnelli with Husband and Lainie Kazan

Liza Minnelli with her husband and Lainie Kazan

Thus the image of herself in the buff would have vast consequences and many rewards for Lainie. But, ironically, those rewards were not monetary – at least not immediately so.  Lainie told us that it simply never occurred to her to ask for any kind of payment for her services in posing.  To be honest, that doesn’t sound like the Lainie we know, but then of course, we didn’t know her back then.  From the looks of those images – both in Playboy and Mister Miracle – we wish that we had!

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You can read more stories in my books Playboy Swings and The Persian Room Presents

 


 

Julie Wilson at the Copa Part 1:

Julie Wilson starting her song by pretending to read the Kinsey Report

Julie Wilson starting her song by pretending to read the Kinsey Report

There were supper clubs and there were supper clubs.  And they don’t exist anymore.  What they call a club today has almost no connection with the legendary supper clubs of the great years.  There were the big, fancy rooms for high rollers, like the Copacabana and the Persian Room at the Plaza Hotel  just across the street, and the jazz clubs like Birdland, Basin Street East, and the Village Vanguard (although originally it also had folk singers and comedians in addition to jazz), and the more intimate nights spent at small cabaret rooms, like Upstairs at the Downstairs, where the audience was poorer but somehow more exclusive – that was where you went if you wanted to impress your date with your taste rather than your money.  But all of these venues were more akin to a Broadway revue than anything you’ll find in Supper clubs today; today you just get one singer or specific show for 70-80 minutes; from the 1940s to the 1960s, you got a whole show, multiple singers, comics, dancers, and a star headliner.  (Even the jazz clubs offered multiple acts in a single show.)  Like the old Cotton Club in the pre-war days, the Copa particularly aimed to give customers a show to compete with what you could see on Broadway, and not only that, the top-flight supper clubs offered the four D’s as well: dinner, drinks, dancing, and dress-up.

Two clubs that emerged around the early war years were the Copacabana on 60th Street, right off Fifth Avenue, and the Latin Quarter, which opened in the site that  had been the Times Square Cotton Club in 1942.  Our great friend Julie Wilson was a part of both of those establishments, which was around the time she first arrived in town from her native Nebraska – years away from being the legend that she is today.  Around 1945, Julie got a job at the Latin Quarter, singing in the chorus.  Normally when you think of a chorus in a nightclub, you think of a line of dancing girls; but this was a singing chorus.  It seems like a distant memory that some nightclubs were so well-appointed that they actually could hire a mixed choir to sing behind the star vocalist.  And that was Julie’s first major job, not long after she landed in New York, New York.

After working for a few months, she was hired away from the Latin Quarter, to do essentially the same job at a higher salary by the Copacabana. “Well, who wouldn’t?  Wouldn’t you? I mean, for fifty dollars more?  She told us, “You worked seven days a week. You did two shows a night. It kept you off the streets. Ha!”

Julie’s first memory of The Copa is the way that the shows were directed and choreographed by Doug Coudy: “The guy that was our leader and our coach. He’d say, ‘Alright. Put your shoulders back and down. And keep your posture.  I’ll never forget.” She later added, “The chorus girls had a little routine. They were real good dancers.  Doug was very nice to us.  But he was a nut about posture—the correct movements and all that.  He’d say ‘shoulders back and down!’ So we all developed good posture. I passed that on to so many girls. They’d say, ‘How did you get that good posture?’ I said, ‘Somebody told me what to do!  Take a deep breath. Put your shoulders back and down.’ That’s it. For life.”

Julie Wilson 1956

Julie Wilson 1956

 

You can read more stories in my books Playboy Swings and The Persian Room Presents

 


 

Lonnie Shorr

Lonnie Shorr

Lonnie Shorr

 

The southern comedian, Lonnie Shorr—whose delivery has often been compared in the tradition of Will Rodgers—worked the Playboy circuit for two straight years. He told us, “I’m glad I did! It was a great learning experience and an opportunity to perfect your act —although you never really reach perfection.

 

“I found my niche working for Playboy because you did so many shows for them. It was a ‘floating‘ schedule because usually you did two shows a night. But if the last show had an attendance of fifteen percent of the room capacity, you had to do another show! In other words, if the room sat a hundred people and you had fifteen people in the audience—you did another show. So theoretically, you could be doing a lot of shows!

 

Lonnie Short and Juliet Prowse

Lonnie Short and Juliet Prowse

 

“One thing about Playboy that was different from the way things are today is that you couldn’t use four letter words. Nobody did that. If you did, you had an unfavorable report written about you. This report was sent to the company headquarters in Chicago, and if you received too many bad write-ups you were dropped from the circuit, and no one wanted that. There were guys that were a little suggestive, but no cursing.

 

“The Playboy Clubs were one of the few places we worked that had standards, very high standards for everyone—the staff, the Bunnies, and the entertainers. The other day, I had a guy from one of our local newspapers ask me about the entertainment scene today, and I told him I thought that the  Playboy principle of entertainment was what they needed today in some of these other clubs.

 

The Playboy Clubs always had two acts—once in awhile they’d have three acts in the bigger clubs. It was a place where you could go and see a show and, at that time the prices were really nominal –then you could go downstairs and listen to some music while actually talking to the person you were with. That’s the kind of place we could use nowadays.”

 

Lonnie Shorr

Lonnie Shorr

 

You can read more stories in my books Playboy Swings and The Persian Room Presents

 


 

Lainie Kazan

lainie kazan body & soul

Lainie Kazan – Body & Soul

Lainie Kazan may be the only woman who launched a business career by posing in the all-together for Playboy magazine!  By 1970, she was a headliner who had already had a vast experience in a wide range of entertainment media – from three shows on Broadway (The Happiest Girl in the World, Bravo Giovanni, and Funny Girl), starred in nightclubs (like the Persian Room), had recorded five long-playing albums of her own, and starred on top-rated TV variety series like The Ed Sullivan Show and the Dean Martin Show;  in fact, in her December 1968 Sunday night appearance (in which she sang her famous Judy Garland medley of “The Trolley Song” and “Gotta Have Me Go with You”), Ed Sullivan took a particular delight in telling his vast audience that her father was Russian and her mother was Turkish (both parents were Jewish).  Lainie herself was not only exotic, but as many observers have pointed out, whether on TV, in a club, an album, or even in a photo, she always seemed a little bit dangerous.

Lainie Smiles

Lainie Smiles

Lainie launched a long relationship with Playboy enterprises when she posed nude in the October 1970 issue of the magazine; the result of a photo session that transpired in the illustrious Plaza Hotel—Lainie performed at the hotel’s legendary Persian Room as well as living at the hotel.  (In the tradition of the time, there was no full-frontal nudity yet, but she wasn’t hiding much.) That one particular modeling job would launch a vast cause-and-effect. It cemented her ongoing, very productive collaboration with the Playboy brand – as she told us, within five years, she would be the only artist – impresario  to open her own room-within-a-room in the Playboy Club circuit – that happened when “Lainie’s Room” opened in the Los Angeles Playboy in 1975 and then again in the New York club a few seasons later.

hqdefault

Lainie Kazan – Lainie Kazan

Another collateral benefit was for comic book readers and fans of the superhero auteur Jack Kirby; not long before, the widely-praised artist and writer had switched allegiances from his long-standing job at Marvel comics (where he had played a key role in the creation of the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Mighty Thor, and dozens of other iconic creations) to the company’s arch-competitor, DC comics. His most dramatic creation was a whole universe of new characters, which he called “The Fourth World,” at the centerpiece of which was a “super group” he called the New Gods. The first of these New Gods to star in his own title was “Mister Miracle” (aka “Scott Free”) and in issue four of that series, Mister Miracle’s love interest was introduced; rather than a demure gal Friday like Superman’s Lois Lane, the new girl god on the block was “Big Barda,” a highly imposing six feet of both pure muscle and sheer sex appeal.  She went around pummeling bad guys in Asgard-ian like body armor, but Kirby went out of his way, in her first two appearances (Mister Miracle #4 October 1971 and #5 November-December 1971) to show her in a bikini-like get up as well.  It was no surprise to anyone when Kirby eventually admitted that he was a Playboy reader and the physical image of Big Barda was directly based on Lainie’s image from the October 1970 issue.

Liza Minnelli with Husband and Lainie Kazan

Liza Minnelli with her husband and Lainie Kazan

Thus the image of herself in the buff would have vast consequences and many rewards for Lainie. But, ironically, those rewards were not monetary – at least not immediately so.  Lainie told us that it simply never occurred to her to ask for any kind of payment for her services in posing.  To be honest, that doesn’t sound like the Lainie we know, but then of course, we didn’t know her back then.  From the looks of those images – both in Playboy and Mister Miracle – we wish that we had!

Big Barda Miracle 4-16 by Lainie Kazan

Big Barda Miracle 4-16 by Lainie Kazan

 

You can read more stories in my books Playboy Swings and The Persian Room Presents

 


 

Duke Hazlett

Duke Hazlett as Bing Crosby

Duke Hazlett as Bing Crosby

Duke began his career as a Sinatra tribute artist at the Le Bistro in Atlantic City. He told me that when he sang there, the club would put a sign outside saying “If you like Sinatra, you’ll love Duke.” Sinatra also played in Atlantic City, but when he did, it was next door at the 500 Club and he’d often quip to his audiences, “If you like Duke, you’ll go cuckoo over me.” Duke continued, “Frank, on occasions when we’d meet was always nice to me and would kid me by saying, ‘Just remember, I’m still the Chairman of the Board—but you can be the Vice-Chairman.’”

Dukes voice wasn’t the only similarity to the famous Rat-packer; he was also synonymous in appearance. And he was so convincing and his performance such pure fun that he was invited as a guest on the most popular variety shows, including The Steve Allen Show and Jack Parr Show. He was also induced to take part in an entertaining subterfuge. As Duke tells it: “I was working at a club in Chicago and Hef [Hugh Hefner] would come to see me because he was a Sinatra fan. Well, this one night he told me that he had been looking forward to having Sinatra perform at his upcoming Jazz Festival, but Frank’s plan changed and he couldn’t make it. However, he had an alternative that he needed help with. He wanted me to appear and do a few of the songs I usually did in my show. I told him I’d be overjoyed to do it just because it sounded like so much fun!

“The night came—August, 1959. The search lights were crossing in the sky as I walked down the aisle with a brigade of twelve police officers escorting me to the stage. I had a trench coat flung over my shoulder and a straw hat with a white band cocked on my head. As soon as I hit the stage, Count Basie’s Band started up and I swung into “Come Fly With Me”—and the crowd went wild, just wild! I received a standinDuke Hazlett

g ovation and Mort Sahl—the MC—introduced me afterwards by my real name, saying, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Duke Hazlett.’ But people hear what they want, and the next day one of the Chicago newspapers reported that Frank Sinatra had appeared at the Playboy Jazz Festival and did a fantastic job! I’ve appeared since at many prestigious clubs and engagements and been on some wonderful shows, but that’s the one time I relive over and over.”

After waiting this famous clip from the Steve Allen Show let me know if you would have been fooled into thinking you just saw Frank Sinatra at the first Playboy Jazz Festival in 1959.

 

You can read more stories in my books Playboy Swings and The Persian Room Presents