We ad agency messengers fight for the uptown deliveries because they take us past the Metropole Bar. During the day, its doors are kept wide open so passers-by can watch the rock bands play but, more importantly, watch the caged and fringe-skirted go-go girls shake their money-makers. We gawkers must stand behind a yellow line on the sidewalk to let pedestrians pass. Tourist husbands pretend not to look as outraged wives pull them past this go-go Gomorrah. At night, the Metropole closes its doors and the girls go-go topless.
My favorite band of the summer is the Eggheads. They wear monk cowls and have their heads shaved like Friar Tuck. And, man, they put on a show that is clean outasite. (That meant “very entertaining” in 1965 parlance.) They and the go-go girls dance the Monkey, Frug, Swim, Jerk, Hitchhike and Watusi in perfectly synchronized moves. It is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I can tell from the way they look at each other that the “with-it” guys in the band are “making it” with the “swingin’ chicks” in the cages and I seriously consider taking up the bass.
I spend the clammy days delivering invoices and sample ads to midtown bars, eateries, niteries and the new style of sexy nightclubs called discotheques. Picture this scene straight out of Mike Hammer–
Sunny day. I go into a cave-like club where the chairs are on the tables, the janitor is sweeping up, the bartender is taking stock and a chanteuse is auditioning for the owner. He is seated alone, tie undone, sleeves rolled up, working on a highball and worrying over the receipts.
I live this scene in the world-famousPeppermint Lounge, “the Home of the Twist” – plus the Copacabana, Latin Quarter, Roundtable, Roseland, Arthur, Upstairs at the Downstairs, the Rat Fink Room and, my favorite, the Santa Claus Bar.
I was too young to watch the strip-show at The Barracuda Lounge but sometimes I happened to be standing just outside the entrance at show time. From there, I heard the saxophone blare of Night Train and caught glimpses of bleach-blonde bouffant hair and sequined gowns. And, I spied spike hi-heels at the end of long, sinewy legs. Boy, was my face red when I discovered that all of that belonged to the Jewel Box transvestite revue. Guys in Drag! Very popular at The Barracuda. And, my unbigoted Granny mended the G-strings of all the strippers – male and female. Also popular were the Italian boy-singers who beat “Volare” to death. Less popular were the earnest folk-singers hoping that protest songs would make a comeback.
Surprisingly some top-name comics used the Barracuda to polish material for The Ed Sullivan Show. One night, I managed to loiter in a back hallway and see an unknown comic named Rodney Dangerfield read his jokes off a stained napkin. He was hilarious. I then saw him mercilessly heckle a then-unknown but now-very-famous comic. They almost duked it out right there. It was a vivid introduction to the vicious world of stand-up.
By far the most popular act to play the Barracuda was a comedy-harmonica ensemble that featured a midget. They had starred on TV and in Vegas but like protest-singers, comedy-harmonica ensembles that featured midgets had become passé. Showbiz is cruel that way.