Hot Spots for Harlem Nightlife
The Cotton Club was one of the most famous nightclubs in Harlem. It was in operation during Prohibition as well as during the Jazz Age. Many black entertainers including Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, amongst others, performed there, for the generally white audience. It was considered a swanky place to be on Sundays for "Celebrity Night" in which such white luminaries as George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Mae West and Jimmy Durante, made appearances. The club at this location was originally opened in 1920 with the name Club De Luxe; it was renamed The Cotton Club in 1923. The club briefly closed in 1925 for selling alcohol, but re-opened soon after. The Cotton Club officially closed its doors in 1940.
The Savoy Ballroom was open in Harlem from 1926 until 1958. It was a very popular dance venue and many dances, including the Lindy Hop, became famous there, making it the "Home of Happy Feet". It was also viewed as the Uptown alternate to the Roseland Ballroom on 52nd Street and considered a great alternative to the Broadway dance revues. The Savoy had a different theme for every night of the week: Tuesday was the "400 Club", reserved for serious dancers; Thursday was free admission for women; Saturday was "Square's Night" because of the crowds of Downtowners on the dancefloor, and Sundays were the most glamorous, with celebrity appearances. The Savoy was the most democratic of the dance-halls and clubs, since everyone mixed on the dance floor without regard to class or racial distinctions; however, this mingling changed as soon as the music stopped and patrons returned to their tables.
The Apollo Theater opened in 1913 or 1914 as a burlesque theater. The building was sold in 1934 and renamed the 125th Street Apollo, after an Apollo Theater that had been established in Harlem in the late nineteenth century. The theater shortly after merged with the Harlem Opera House. There were amateur nights at The Apollo, where a seventeen-year-old Ella Fitzgerald made her debut on November 21, 1934. The Apollo is regarded as having launched her career, as well as that of Billie Holiday and, much later, those of James Brown, Diana Ross and The Supremes, The Jackson Five, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Aretha Franklin, as well as numerous others. The venue fell into disrepair during the 1960s and 190s, was converted into a movie theater in 1975, was reborn as a live theater in 1983 and is still a thriving music venue today.