Hollywood Hot Spots 1949-1963

Sight seekers,
Hollywood in the 1950's was my playground!
My dancing debut took place at the 'Club Luau in Beverly Hills with my first Wife, Janine Shepherd, and my last appearance as an exhibition dancer took place in 1984 at the very same club in Beverly Hills when I dropped my partner, Ronnie Hawks on her head in an aborted aerial; my only excuse, I had not danced since 1963 and in 1984, I was 65 years old.
But now let me take you on a personal tour of the dancing Hollywood hot spots of the 1950's, and I'll weave you a Magic Carpet (not a Magic Pill) and take you for a ride on some of my dancing escapades that you'll never forget. But please keep in mind, I will be telling you only of those people and places that I personally experienced. If someone chooses to call my stories 'Self-aggrandizing', I prefer the more appropriate word 'Autobiographical'. So let me take you on my Magic Carpet (without my Magic Pill) and help you to vicariously live one hell of an exciting sex filled Swinging time that this country boy born in a town so small, it doesn't exist any more, but brought up in the toughest neighborhood in Brooklyn where many of my playmates either were assassinated by their own Mafioso's or else ended up electrocuted by the State of New York. And my childhood side kick was none other then Ramo D'ambrosia, who eventually became the highly loved and respected Capo of the Profacio Family in Brooklyn and whose younger brother Sally Dee, in the 1960's became Regional Capo. Many of my teenage playmates were on the wrong side of the law but somehow, my guardian angels kept me clean (or I was the fastest runner) and I ended up being a legitimate Public School Teacher. Now that you know where I'm coming from, hang on to you seat belts as I take you on my Magic Carpet (minus my Magic Pill) on a fast and furious swinging trip from one end of Hollywood, Alvarado Street; to the other end, Beverly Hills.
I haven't had breakfast yet and it's 3:20 pm. I'm going to take a break and continue this Swingng Hollywood trip first chance I get. To be continued...!
Black Sheep
Hollywood hot spots, part II

Sight Seekers,
Although my first night club appearance was at the Beverly Hills 'Luau', I want to save that story for the last of our itinerary of 'Hollywood Hot Spots', and begin with the night club that really gave my dance studio a phenomenal jump start; Jerry's 'Casa Alvarado on 6th Street just east off Alvarado Street.
This night club was only a block from my first humble studio on at 400 Alvarado on the corner Maryland, so this club was where my wife, Janine and I spent many evenings dancing.Within a few days the patrons were beginning to ask us to do various Ballroom exhibition dances and eventually we began teaching free classes at the club which created some entertaining evenings with drunks staggering into the lesson and asking me where the john was or some idiot trying to molest my wife during the lesson, or some chick trying to induce me outside to join her for a dooby. It was a rough environment, but somehow I felt at home there and the men soon took a liking to Janine and began treating her like a Jewish Princess.
One Saturday Janine and I did the Frank Veloz Argentine Tango that we had been taught at his studio. That very next Monday, we had seven new students come to our studio and pay for beginner's courses in cash. I hired one of my students who I had been teaching at the V & Y studios, and our Mom and Pop dance studio was on its way.
I took the sudden success for granted until several weeks latter I had occasion to ask one of our daily regular students, "Paul, I haven't seen the Green Brothers around for weeks and can't get in touch with them." Paul Sweet was a 6'5" blond amiable guy who was always in a happy mood. Paul asked me, "What do you want with the Green boys?" "Paul,. they gave me $500 cash each for a dance course and never showed up for their lessons." Paul looked at me with his chin tucked into his neck so he could see me better since I stood a head below him, "Joe, they are both in the Joint." I wasn't sure what Paul meant so I asked, "What joint?" Paul shook his head side by side slowly as if answering a stupid question. "The Pokey, the clink, the hoosegow, the cooler, you know, the jail!" I looked innocently at him in disbelief, "But Paul they seemed to be such nice gentlemen." Paul chuckled slightly, Joe, they are heist men. Don't you know that half your students are ex-cons straight out of the joint?"
To be continued
Nick's Playhouse

Magic Carpet Riders,
I never planned to have a dance studio; it happened more on impulse, more on circumstance thrown into my lap. My wife Janine and I left the V&Y Dance studio where we had been happily teaching for about a year, and went out on our lunch break. Out of the clear blue sky Janine suggested we take in a movie, so we bought a bag of pop corn, sat off to the side of the near empty movie house, threw off our shoes and rested our poor aching feet up on the seat in front of us and never went back to V & Y.
We were fortunate enough that the patrons at the Casa Alvarado began throwing money at us for dance lessons the first time we danced on the crowded floor to the juke box music. And our living room and dining room in our duplex had excellent hard wooden floors just ideal for two little studios. Janine, always the business lady, suggested since I had my mornings free that I go find a part time job.
It had been my good fortune to run into an huge empty store just around the corner on Alvarado across from Mc Arthur Park, with a sole man in it sawing some planks of wood straddled over two wooden horses. The view through the big bay window was inviting and my curiosity drew me through the open door and I found myself being greeted by a well built man with straight black hair and a very white strong toothy smile..
When I asked, " What are you building?", Nick with a thick Greek accent said, "I'm going to build a long bar across this wall", and with a grandiose wave of his hand painted the wall with his chest high elongated semi oval bar some thirty feet long.
Before I had a chance to respond, Nick added with a quizzical wrinkling of his brow, " Hey kids, I needs a boy to open the joint up for me in the morning. I pays $5.00 from 8 in the morning to 12 o'clock lunch time." And so I got a part time job, five minutes into my search without ever asking for it. And 'Nick's Playhouse' was to turn out to be one fun place to work with enough beer drinking characters to serve to create a dozen sit-coms.
To be continued.
Nick's Playhouse, Part II

Magic Carpet Riders,
That first week as the morning bar tender at Nick's Playhouse, that summer of 1950, I met Rita Heyworth's Grandfather, the maestro of the Cansino Dancers whose two sons at the time were running their own dance studios in the Beverly Hills and Westwood areas as the leading Flamenco Instructors. Antonio came hobbling into Nick's Playhouse slightly bent over his cane, sat at one of the tables at the edge of the dance floor and tapping his cane on the floor with an imperial air got me to running around the end of the bar to get his order.
After serving him his bottle and glass and collecting his quarter, the 80 year old man pulled out a pair of castanets, laid them on the table, and in rasping voice asked. "Would you like to buy these castanets? I carved them myself!" I did not realize at the time that he was so improvised, but when I asked him if he ever was a dancer, he suddenly stood up with a straight back, laid his cane on the table and announced with pride, "I am Antonio Cansino, and I can still dance". And with that slipped on his castanets and began dancing a flamenco clicking his heels rhythmically in concert with the clacking of his castanets, performing with the energy of a young man.
I ended up buying his hand made castanets and within weeks was having him teach my wife an me a Spanish Folk dance at our studio. A month or so later he died in a hovel of a room just one day after I shaved his stubble of a beard as he lay in his death bed. One of the last things Antonio Cansino said to us was, "You are my last students!"
To be continued!
Black Sheep

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