November 10, 1940 was opening night of the legendary New York nightclub known as The Copacabana.
Powerful English press agent Monte Proser, who had represented Flo Ziegfeld, Walt Disney, and Maria Montez, was the original promoter of the Brazilian themed club, which was located at 10 East 60th Street, near Central Park and many fashionable hotels. It was the height of the Latin craze, the period when Disney was doing movies like The Three Caballeros, when Orson Welles was commissioned to make It’s All True and Americans were embracing the music of Vincent Lopez and Xavier Cugat. The club’s restaurant served Chinese food, and there were floor shows with the Copacabana Girls, with headlining singers and dancers. The eponymous 1947 movie with Groucho Marx and Carmen Miranda raised the club’s profile even more. By then, the club’s mob backer Frank Costello had edged Proser out, and replaced him with his own people (Joe Gallo and Jules Podell). Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis debuted there in 1949 and were a smash. Other major acts who played the club included Frank Sinatra, Joe E. Lewis, Sammy Davis Jr, Nat King Cole, Jimmy Durante, Perry Como, Billy Eckstine, Buddy Hackett, Peggy Lee, Pat Cooper, Danny Thomas, Harry Belafonte, and Johnnie Ray.
Originally segregated, the club later became known for breaking the color line with the Berry Brothers, and later presented acts of the rock and roll and Motown era like Sam Cooke, the Supremes, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye and Martha and the Vandellas. In tribute to the original Copacabana, the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas also had a famous “Copa Room: for many years. The original New York club closed in 1973.
In 1976, the Copacabana reopened, now reinvented as a disco. Barry Manilow immortalized it in his popular 1978 song, which later became a 1985 TV movie, and a 1994 musical. The club has opened and closed and changed location many times since then but it is still a going concern. Their official website is here.
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