Tag Archives: persian room presents

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


 

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!

hqdefault

 

 

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

 


 

LAMBERT, HENDRICKS AND ROSS

Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross

Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross

Formed in 1957, the vocal trio of Dave Lambert, Jon Hendricks, and Annie Ross brought something entirely new to jazz: a heightened hipness and swing based on taking big band instrumentals and adding words to them.  Until Ms. Ross left the ensemble, roughly five years, in 1962, they were as the title of their first Columbia album proclaimed The Hottest New Group in Jazz.

 

Dave Lambert died in 1966 at age 49 –the result of a highway accident in which he was trying to help someone—but his two partners, Jon and Annie are very much still on the scene. At 84, Annie continues to sing on Tuesday nights at the Metropolitan Room in New York and just released a new album, To Lady with Love.  The Metropolitan Room recently held a tribute to her, in which singers and musicians took to the stage to sing her praises, and her longtime friend and fan Tony Bennett was in the house. Jon continues to write songs and to sing them, often in the company of his daughter Aria—in an updated version of the original group—Jon Hendricks and Co.; he just celebrated his 93rd birthday with his debut at the Cafe Carlyle.

 

LHR, as their fans call them, were major favorites of Hugh Hefner. They appeared no less than three times on Playboy’s Penthouse:

 

October 31, 1959 – with Larry Kert and the cast of Broadway’s West Side Story.

 

February 13, 1960 – with Tony Bennett, Joe Williams, Count Basie and the Basie rhythm section, as well as comedienne Phyllis Diller.

 

April 16, 1960 – a real all-star show, which also co-starred Tony Bennett as well as The Jonah Jones Quartet,  The Four Freshmen, Bob Newhart, harmonica virtuoso Larry Adler, folk singer Pete Seeger, and the team of Dick Haymes and Fran Jeffries.

 

We’ve been able to find five numbers by Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross on Playboy’s Penthouse, and, based on Annie’s dress, they all appear to be from the February 13, 1960 show, just a short while before the opening of the first Playboy Club in Chicago.

 

Here are all five (compiled from three different sources) in a YouTube playlist:

 

 

 

  1. “The Spirit Feel”—As you can see, the clip opens with a great shot of Annie, Hef, and Tony enjoying a drink before Hef introduces the trio.  This is a 1957 composition by vibes master Milt Jackson that was quickly taken up by Ray Charles—who called it “Hot Rod”— and then Count Basie.  In fact, the Genius and the Count both played it at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958 and 1959 respectively. It’s one of the harder-to-find LHR items; they recorded it on a 1958 United Artists single that, as far as we know, has still never been reissued.  Although most of the LHR numbers have lyrics by Jon, this is mostly a scat number, in which Dave and Jon go at it, while Jon does one of his well-known signatures—miming a saxophone as he scats.

 

  1. “Twisted”—Annie doesn’t get much to do in the first number, but she makes up for it here, taking over with a solo number.  This is her 1952 vocalese classic “Twisted,” based on a composition and solo by tenor great Wardell Gray.  This version is unique in that it features a piano solo by the one-and-only Count Basie, and that’s no small thing.  Looking at Annie here, the men can’t help but wish that she had been in Playboy – and we do mean the magazine, as well as the TV show and the clubs.  In fact, during the recent tribute evening at the Metro, singer Marion Cowings said, “If you wanted to hit on a girl, it was a surefire move to tell her that she looked like Annie Ross.”

 

  1. “The King” –Jon takes center stage, but only to introduce everyone, including Basie’s All-American rhythm section with guitarist Freddie Greene, bassist Eddie Jones, and drummer Sonny Payne, as well as Lambert, Ross and vocalist Joe Williams.  They sing Jon’s royal homage to Basie, “The King,” which has a complicated lineage: this is Jon’s vocal version of a 1946 instrumental by Basie, which is itself a variation on an earlier, more-famous “Jumpin’ at the Woodside.” LHR performed “The King” with the Basie Orchestra on their 1958 album Sing Along with Basie, while “Woodside” was on their 1957 album Sing a Song of Basie. I told you it was complicated!  The trio becomes a quartet here, with Big Joe towering over the other three, and all four singers scat their fool heads off.

 

  1. “Doodlin”—This is an LHR classic, but also something of a rarity, having come out on the flip side of “Spirit Feel.”  It’s also the first of many times that Jon wrote lyrics to a Horace Silver composition.  It’s one of his most ambitious dramatic narratives as well—working as a companion to “Twisted” in that it’s a highly humorous characterization of what is clearly a neurosis.  When Dave starts his solo – singing in the voice of a Brooklyn-ese waiter (“Do youse doodle all day?”)—he pretty much steals the show, but not for long when Annie takes her solo, she quickly steals it away from him.  Both Sarah Vaughan and Mark Murphy recorded this lyric, among others.

 

  1. “Everyday”—It was called “Everyday” on the Sing A Song of Basie album jacket, but most Basie fans would know it as “Everyday I Have the Blues.”  The song had a long pre-Basie lineage, but it was Big Joe who brought it into the band when he joined in 1955. It’s the only song that LHR sang on both of their first two albums, Sing a Song of Basie and Sing Along with Basie.  They do it here like they did on the Sing Along album, in which the trio sings not so much with Big Joe but around him – it’s especially impressive to see how Jon in particular, answers Joe with incisive commentary that was played on saxophone in the 1955 Basie record. And watch Annie rather beguilingly chirp out the “bleats” that were originally played by the whole trumpet section in the final section.  It’s a moving finale to what amounts to a fantastic 23 minute segment.

 

Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross

Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross

 

LHR used it as the leadoff track on:

 

1.26 [26] Playboy’s Penthouse: Air-dates:

16Apr1960 WBKB-7, Chicago, Sat. 11:30pm-12:30am (Chicago Tribune)

21May1960 WOR-9, NYC, Sat. 11:30pm-12:30am (New York Times)

 

Guests:

Clancy Hayes (guitarist)

Lenny Bruce (comedian)

The Jonah Jones Quartet (jazz musicians)

The Four Freshmen (vocal band, quartet)

Bob Newhart (comedian)

Larry Adler (harmonica virtuoso)

Ann Henry (singer-dancer)

Dick Haymes and Fran Jeffries (husband-and-wife entertainers)

Pete Seeger (folk-singer)

Tony Bennett (singer)

Lambert, Hendricks and Ross (vocal jazz trio)

 

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

 


David Brenner

David Brenner

Sadly, David Brenner passed away March 15, 2014, but I had the good fortune to talk with him in August 2013, about the performers who entertained at the Playboy Clubs from 1960 until 1988. David shared many ‘Playboy’ stories as well as other observations he formed during his career. He talks below about his very early years and his thoughts on working for the mob.

“Almost all the guys that started at the same time as I did were friends. We were lucky because there were only about a dozen of us—actually, someone counted, and there were something like 265 fresh comedians trying to catch a break at that time. Which really wasn’t a lot, the last I heard, there were somewhere between fourteen and seventeen standup comedians in America today.  And back in the early 70s’, about twelve of us hung around together.  We were all new faces—Jimmie Walker, Freddy Prinze, Steve Landesberg, Bette Midler, Steve Martin, David Letterman, Jay Leno, and a few others.

“We were all unique—we couldn’t trade our act. I couldn’t say to Jimmy Walker, ‘Listen Jimmy, I’ve got a sore throat, could you take over for me tomorrow? I’ll give you my act, No! We were all different. That was an advantage. Each one of us had a special personality, but we supported and nurtured each other.  Today it’s dog eat dog. Back then we’d come from the Village or the Upper East Side, and met for breakfast or after our shows, and we’d sit down and feed each other jokes. I remember once saying to Steve Landesberg, ‘I think I have a joke for you Steve, I can’t use it.’ He says, ‘What’s that?’ I said, ‘Jewish duck hunters. There aren’t any Jewish duck hunters.’ And he did this routine on Jewish duck hunters. I laugh to this day when I think of it—what a brilliant thing he did with it. You never see that today. They steal from each other like thieves!

“I’ve had to call a few people for stealing my material. It’s one thing if I give it away, but another if they just take it! One night I was watching an HBO special of a big star, and he did a seven minute chunk of my material verbatim.  This guy is famous for stealing, so I called his manager,  and said, ‘You know, I saw your boy last night on HBO. Funny stuff.’ He said, ‘Yeah, he loves you.’ ‘Yeah okay,’ I said. ‘You know me. I’m a neighborhood guy. We didn’t have lawyers in my neighborhood. We had the Bambino Club. Tell your client that if he ever does one line of anything that’s mine again, I’m going to rip his legs off, shove them up his ass, and he’ll be the shortest living comic around.’

“This guy still runs when he sees me, but lately  I’ve gotten to the point where I try not to get so upset. I have a line that I pop into my head to relax me, and that is, ‘I can create faster than anyone can steal.’ End of that story!

“I was the young kid in the seventies, and was very fortunate that some of the seasoned veterans took me under their wing and opened doors for me. Shecky Greene, Red Foxx, Johnny Carson—all those guys were so kind to me. Buddy Hackett got me a gig in Vegas, and I spent my career making money there in Las Vegas thanks to him. Like I said, you don’t see that today.”

While David was telling me about working Vegas, I had to ask him about working for the mafia because—well, because everyone knows Bugsy Siegel built Las Vegas. “Please,” he said. “They were grand! Here’s how it worked. You’d finish your run in the showroom in March, right? And a guy with no neck and a nose that touched his ear would come over and say, ‘Yo, Dave, I wanna talk to you a minute. You’re funny. Very funny. What are you doing the last two weeks in July?’ I’d said, ‘Why are you interested in what I’m doing in July?’ ‘Well, I was wondering if you’d work my joint, you know.’ I, of course would ask, ‘what’s your joint? Which hotel do you run? Sometimes he’d say he was the overseeing chef—but really he was from the mob in Chicago.

“It would continue with me saying, ‘Talk to me, what are you offering?’ We’d work out our deal, how much money, plus a car at the airport—a nice convertible. Sometimes I’d ask, ‘Do you still have the boat on the lake?’ ‘I’m not giving you the boat! Maybe one day, but I’m not promising nothing!’ We’d go through a litany of things like that—the show, specifics about the opening act and on and on. And the last word he’d say was, ’Alright, so we have a deal or what?’ I never knew what ‘or what ‘was, but I’d say, ‘We’ve got a deal,’ and he’d put out his hand and we shook.

“This is the amazing part—along comes the second week of July. Without hearing from him since the day I shook his hand, I’d get my own airfare— because that’s what you did then— and fly to Las Vegas. When I landed, there was a car waiting to take me to the hotel. My name was in big letters on the marquee. I had a beautiful suite with all kinds of stuff they’d put there for you. Everything was exactly like they told you. They never broke one word—nothing on paper—all on a handshake. They treated you like royalty with enough food in my dressing room to feed another country—‘Yo Dave, you never know, someone drops by your room, you want to be able to offer him a meatball!’

“Then the corporations took over, and even with a contract seventeen pages long, you never get everything they promised. Something would be wrong, so my agent would call and say, ‘Wait a minute, we have a contract. it’s in the contract!’ And they say, alright, sue us! Playboy was old school; they treated you like the mob treated you. That’s what was great about them. They treated you right!”

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

 


 

The Persian Room Presents with Richard Skipper

At The Persian Room Presents press event at the Plaza Hotel on March 7, 2012, Richard Skipper of the blog Richard Skipper Celebrates interviewed many of the stars of the book. This included Broadway and performing legends such as Tommy Tune, Carol Lawrence, George Marcy, Eve Plumb, Julie Wilson, and Marge Champion. Author Patty Farmer also talked to Skipper about her favorite story from the Persian Room…  check out the video to find out what it is!

 

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