The Latin Quarter, Copacabana: Night Life in NYC

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Stage directions from Act I, Scene vi of How to Succeed: 

HEDY LARUE is standing stage center. She is a dish. A beautiful dish. She is dressed somewhat like a Latin Quarter showgirl who has struck it rich. Not very loud, not very bad taste, but just too much of everything. She stands perfectly poised in a statuesque pose. MEN begin to enter as though drawn by some invisible cloud of perfume.

A brilliant description of the musical’s bombshell comic character,  “Latin Quarter showgirl” is a particularly evocative image–especially with a bit of historical context.

Lou Walters (yes, that’s Barbara Walter’s father) opened the Times Square location of his soon-to-be famous nightclub in 1942. According to USA Today’s history of the nightclub:

“It was located in a historic wedge-shaped building at 1580 Broadway, best known for its big neon signs. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the Latin Quarter Nightclub was known for its festive floor show that featured chorus girls and can-can dancers, and headliners that included Frank Sinatra, Frankie Laine and the Andrews Sisters. It rivaled the Copacabana, which had opened two years earlier, in attracting the rich and the famous of post-World War II New York.”

The Quarter’s repute waned in the 1950s, when Walters retired and the acts started to rely more heavily on chorus lines and show girls than big-name celebrities. It closed in 1969 after its chorus girls went on strike. It has undergone a series of name and location changes since then, but it was finally reopened as the Latin Quarter Nightclub in 2003. 

During its most famous and reputable first decade, Latin Quarter showgirls embodied all that was glamorous and glitzy about New York nightlife. It is worth noting that Hedy LaRue’s character is referred to using two famous and competing New York nightclubs: the Latin Quarter, and later, the Copacabana, where she worked as head cigarette girl.

Many of New York’s most famous nightclubs maintained a degree of exclusivity, with cover charges and strict dress codes to ensure a high quality of clientele. The following gallery provides a glimpse into the nightlife of New York City, including the Latin Quarter and Copa, the very places where the executives at World Wide Wickets may have enjoyed themselves after a long day at the office:

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