Cafe Society

Cafe Society : The wrong place for the Right people

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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." Featuring scores of photographs that illustrate the vibrant cast of characters in Josephson's life, this exceptional book speaks richly about Cafe Society's revolutionary innovations and creativity, inspired by the vision of one remarkable man.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 456 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 27.94mm | 657.71g
  • Baltimore, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 0252081811
  • 9780252081811

Review quote

"Fascinating story of the founder of New York's Cafe Society nightclub. . . . Highly recommended."--Choice "The lineup of talent [Josephson] discovered and presented (Billie Holiday, Jack Gilford, Hazel Scott, Lena Horne, Zero Mostel and Josh White, among others) is so astonishingly hot that it makes you want to rush into the street and flag down a time-traveling taxi to take you to either the venue in Greenwich Village or its larger satellite Cafe Society Uptown."--Shelf Awareness "Josephson was a great raconteur with a love for music, artistic people, and progressive politics. Photographs of the performers, as well as photos of the colorful and cartoonish murals that graced the walls, add to the evocation of a freewheeling ambience in a Depression-era cabaret."--Booklist "We're different from other nightclubs. You go to these places, I won't mention names, but the initials are Stork Club and El Morocco. The cigarette girls come around and sell you little doggies, gardenias and other insults. Well, we don't have anything like that. We have a cigarette girl too. She just sells cigarettes. But we have something they don't have. We have another girl following our cigarette girl . . . calling out, 'ashes, ashes.'"--Jack Gilford "This beautifully crafted book hypnotizes the reader with the magical notes of a bygone era and gives one the sensation of actually having experienced one of the most extraordinary eras in contemporary history. It is a superb tribute to the artists and musicians whose talents have made the world we live in a brighter place."--Lee Gabler This highly entertaining and historically informative book will bring a lump to the throat of those who attended the jazz and comedy performances at Cafe Society Uptown and Downtown, and warm appreciation from those who learn about Barney Josephson's contribution to the success of some of the world's greatest jazz entertainers.--Carl Reiner
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About Barney Josephson

Barney Josephson (1902-88) was a night club impresario in New York City. Terry Trilling-Josephson is a former actress, speech-language pathologist, and associate professor of communications and performing arts, The City University of New York.
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