Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Dancing on the LES

I went for a walk through the lower Lower East Side the other day, to see what had vanished and what still remains. I passed the wreckage of Gertel's bakery, a heap of twisted metal and rubble behind plywood fencing and a stop work order. Next door, not long ago, there used to be a wonderful candy and nut shop called Kadouri & Sons.

The old signage of the area is quickly vanishing, but this cool Bondy sign remains. And at Eldridge and Canal, I was greatly relieved to find that the Cup & Saucer Luncheonette still stands. I had a grilled cheese (on Pechter's rye) and potato salad.

Directly across Canal from the luncheonette, half a block is being demolished. I later did a little research and found that the "BEN" neon sign once stood for Beny's Authorized Sales and Service. In business for 50 years, the shop was run by Jerry Cohen who repaired lighters like Zippos and Ronsons. According to Curbed, once this structure comes down, a 16-story retail/residential tower designed by Peter Poon will take its place. I recommend you enjoy the Cup & Saucer before this happens. Its days are surely numbered.

Click this link for a Before shot of the above

Right behind the Cup & Saucer, I went into 39 Eldridge where a sign for Happy Dancing Club led me up a set of warped and filthy stairs, past locked doors scrawled with Chinese lettering in magic marker. I came to a slightly open steel door that had no knob. Romantic Chinese music flowed out from within. A homemade shrine sat on the floor, candles flickering.

I definitely got a "this is a brothel" kind of vibe and it took me several minutes to get up the courage to pull the door open. Inside, behind a curtain, Chinese couples danced around in an elegant circle beneath disco lights and red lanterns. I thought: Not a brothel, but maybe a taxi-dance hall? And yet some of the couples were made up of two elderly men. Men and women sat in chairs against the walls. They all turned to look at me when I peered inside.

While I later discovered that this same address did, in fact, once house a brothel, I think this dance hall is legit. A kindly older woman waved me in, smiling. She gave me a business card printed with the name "Zhou" and the number 646-662-3828.

If anyone speaks Chinese, I'd appreciate it if you could call Zhou for me and find out what the deal is. If it's simply a matter of paying a fee to spend an afternoon dancing, I'd like to give it a try--before this mysterious place, like many others, vanishes too.


Anonymous said...

My dad used to eat at the Cup & Saucer once or twice a week. This would bum him out, but not as much as the closing of the Garden Cafeteria on E. B'way way back when.

Laura Goggin Photography said...

Oh, no, I didn't know Beny's was going down...that's a shame. I love the old signage of the LES.

And Gertels'...I happened to get a photo of them right at the moment they were closing - literally - there's an arm pulling the gate down for the very last time. So sad to see these small businesses go.

House of Jules said...

I keep coming back to your blog, hoping to find that instead of everything changing, some developer buys up all of the "old" that is so great about NYC-- but I know that isn't going to happen.

Thanks for documenting what is left, because as is so abundantly clear, nobody is going to swoop in and preserve it!

House of Jules

Anonymous said...

More signs from the LES, some already gone now

Anonymous said...

I used to love going to Koudori. Gil was the son and when his father died he went to Israel for a year, came back re-opened the store but then said it was too sad for him to run it without his dad.
I miss him AND his store.

Anonymous said...

ridiculous anti future decay fetishist.

things change. its normal. life begets death.

move along.

where exactly should the next generations architectural landmarks be constructed, if nothing is to ever be town down? in jersey?

very small thinking here.

Anonymous said...

change is not the problem
the types of changes are the problem

these are not architectural landmarks
they are altars to (shriveled) ego and (narrow) economics

is there an altenative between welfare state and real estate?

and why do we expect schools to close gaps our entire society seems hellbent on creating?

Adam Aleksander said...

Hey guys.
i've been going to happy dancing for years. it is possibly the most unexpected fun you could ever have. You spend the night dancing to chinese love ballads. Yes be sure you bring a partner or date and get ready to slow dance like you're in middle school. Remember when no one knew the right way to do it so they jut faked it? Well, that's oddly comforting and fun.
Occationally they will put on some superfast techno and everyone will line up in front of the mirror.
The middle age chinese clientele will not always dance guy/girl. Ofter you will see 2 guys/girls dancing together. Dare i say it's gay friendly? Just remember the chinese don't do PDA here.

Don't be skeptical, just go try it out. they are very nice.

It is only $5 cover and they only sell water.

Jeremiah Moss said...

adam, thanks for the first-hand info. i always wondered what, exactly, went on up there. sounds great.

Anonymous said...

i just called the lady and she said they moved, the new address is 37 east broadway 6F, open from 1:30pm - 10:30pm!