Set against the drama of the Great Depression, the conflict of American race relations, and the inquisitions of the House Un-American Activities Committee, Cafe Society tells the personal history of Barney Josephson, proprietor of the legendary interracial New York City night clubs Cafe Society Downtown and Cafe Society Uptown and their successor, The Cookery. Famously known as "the wrong place for the Right people," Cafe Society featured the cream of jazz and blues performers--among whom were Billie Holiday, Big Joe Turner, Lester Young, Buck Clayton, Big Sid Catlett, and Mary Lou Williams--as well as comedy stars Imogene Coca, Zero Mostel, and Jack Gilford, the boogie-woogie pianists, and legendary gospel and folk artists. A trailblazer in many ways, Josephson welcomed black and white artists alike to perform for mixed audiences in a venue whose walls were festooned with artistic and satiric murals lampooning what was then called "high society." In particular, he sought out and developed new performing talent, and he offered musicians and performers the rare security of continuous work for months and years. Spanning half a century from the 1930s to the 1980s, Josephson's narrative depicts both the business and the artistic sides of Cafe Society while exposing the tensions between the club's own progressive interracial openness and the more restrictive social and political climate in which it evolved. When his brother Leon was targeted by the House Un-American Activities Committee, Barney was tarred by the same brush and forced to close Cafe Society. Now out of the limelight, Barney opened a hamburger restaurant, The Cookery, hiring unemployed dancers as waitresses. Featuring scores of photographs that illustrate the vibrant cast of characters in Josephson's life, this exceptional book tells Josephson's personal history in his own words and through illuminating anecdotes, personal interviews, and historical research. A concept ahead of its time, Cafe Society was acclaimed then and now for its revolutionary innovations and creativity, inspired by the vision of one remarkable man.
Subjects: History, Music
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