Monday, April 18, 2016

Showman's Jazz Club

Showman's jazz club has been in Harlem since 1942. They've hosted many of the greats, including Sara Vaughan, Eartha Kitt, and Duke Ellington. With 74 years under their belt, they are Harlem's longest running jazz club -- after the wasteful and tragic destruction of the elder Lenox Lounge.

Last week, Showman's posted the following "farewell" announcement on their Facebook page:

Reader Carrie Butterworth sent in the tip and followed up with some questions for the owners. She reports: "Mona Lopez and Al Howard are selling the business so they can retire."

Lopez and Howard have been running the club for the past 38 years. (Howard was one of the NYPD detectives who took the call when Martin Luther King was stabbed by a woman with a letter opener. He was also a supervisor on the hunt for Son of Sam.)

Showman's has moved three times since 1942. Their original building, next to the Apollo, was destroyed by fire. "After playing at the Apollo," writes Butterworth, "the musicians used to go next door and play their own music, hence the name Showman's."

They were pushed out of their second location by the Harlem USA mega-development. And they've been in their current spot on 125th since 1998.

Washington Post photo

Butterworth says, "What I and so many other people enjoy about this bar is the sense of community and family. It's full of regulars--Harlem old-timers and people who are friends with the musicians--who show up every time to support their friends. If it's your birthday, they'll have a cake and some chicken and rice.

A lot of the new jazz clubs charge you a cover, then you have to buy dinner or drinks, and then they throw you out after the set, unless you want to buy another table charge. At Showman's, there's only a 2 drink minimum per set. You can stay all night. The barmaids, or as they call them 'star-maids,' know what you drink, and have it ready."

She does not know who is buying the building. However, she adds, "they claim they'll keep it as a jazz club."

Let's hope they do. Rezoned by the Bloomberg administration, 125th Street is being destroyed by chain stores and other developments. Let's hope the new owners keep Showman's accessible, affordable, and welcoming to all, just as it has always been.

1 comment:

Tal Hartsfeld said...

Here's to hoping that the new owners don't turn this establishment into a mere cliche facsimile of the "old place".