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Village Gate

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Title: Village Gate  
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Subject: National Lampoon (magazine), Tom Lehrer, Salsa music, Nigger (1964 book), Richard Pryor, Herbie Mann, Jonathan Larson, Paul Krassner, Medeski Martin & Wood, Eric Douglas
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Village Gate

The Village Gate was a nightclub at the corner of Thompson and Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, New York. Art D'Lugoff opened the club in 1958, on the ground floor and basement of 158 Bleecker Street. The large 1896 Chicago School structure by architect Ernest Flagg[1] was known at the time as Mills House No. 1 and served as a flophouse for transient men. In its heyday, the Village Gate also included an upper-story performance space, known as the Top of the Gate.[2]

Throughout its 38 years the Village Gate featured such musicians as John Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Bill Evans, Dave Brubeck, Vasant Rai, Nina Simone, Herbie Mann and Aretha Franklin, who made her first New York appearance there. The show Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, debuted at the Village Gate in 1968.

History

In the 1960s, radio DJ and Latin music advocate Symphony Sid hosted a regular Monday night concert at the Village Gate "Monday Nights at the Gate" featuring the best of New York's thriving Latin music scene. As salsa music began to grow in popularity, the Alegre record label began to host quite a few events at the Village Gate - many of which resulted in live recordings. Some of the live recordings from the Village Gate that made a huge impression were the Alegre All-Star (and later Tico All-Star) Descarga sessions. The "Salsa Meets Jazz" series at the Village Gate was a seminal part of the history of New York Latin music. In 1977, WRVR Jazz and Latin music DJ and Jazz musician/conga drummer Roger Dawson created and hosted a weekly event that brought top Latin bands together with a guest jazz soloist. Mr. Dawson named the event "Salsa Meets Jazz". Sonny Stitt with Eddie Palmieri, Dexter Gordon with Machito, Dizzy Gillespie with Tito Puente, James Moody, Wynton Marsalis, Bobby Hutcherson, David "Fathead" Newman, Slide Hampton, Pharaoh Sanders to name a few, all jumped in to "jam" with the best Salsa bands of the time with no rehearsals and the musical results are legendary.

The club hosted a benefit for Timothy Leary in May 1970 that featured performances from such counterculture luminaries as Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Allen Ginsberg. In 1971 Madame made her debut on the arms of Wayland Flowers, performing in the high camp Kumquats, The World's First Erotic Puppet Show.

From 1971 to 1973, a musical comedy revue called National Lampoon's Lemmings had a successful run at the Gate. It starred future comic notables John Belushi, Chevy Chase Garry Goodrow and Christopher Guest, and lampooned the 1969 Woodstock Festival, which had taken place upstate two years earlier, calling it "Woodchuck" and equating the entire hippie generation with lemmings bent on self-destruction.

Let My People Come opened at the Village Gate Theater in 1974. The show broke all box office records at the Village Gate and played for 1,167 performances. Its transfer to the Morosco Theatre on Broadway was not as successful though, and closed after 106 performances. It was nominated for a Grammy in 1974 and has appeared all over the world.

From 1988 to 1991, the improvisational comedy troupe Noo Yawk Tawk performed at the upstairs theater. The group was conceived and directed by Richmond Shepard, a world renowned mime, actor, comedian and teacher. All of the performances for Noo Yawk Tawk were entirely improvised. Characters may have been repeated but never the sketches or the dialogue. The audience always set the scene and conditions for each improvisation so every performance was different. The cast included Stan Taffel, Marc Kudisch, Debra Wilson, Eric Douglas, Garry Goodrow, Miguel Sierra, Ken Dashow, Nola Roeper, Bonnie Comley & Richmond Shepard. Taffel would go on to win three Emmy Awards for his performances in The News In Revue on PBS. Kudisch earned a Tony nomination in 2002.

The Village Gate name was again used in 1996 at 240 West 52d Street. Art D'Lugoff, Co-Producer of the show A Brief History of White Music was looking to rent the space in a site formerly occupied by the Lone Star Road House. That incarnation and the show lasted until 1997. In 1998 the 52nd Street location was taken by a brief reincarnation of Max's Kansas City.

The Village Gate closed its Greenwich Village location in 1993. The ground floor is currently occupied by CVS/Pharmacy. The off-Broadway capacity Village Theater, which hosted performances of the musically themed Love, Janis, Dream a Little Dream, Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, and Escape From Bellevue, occupied the sub-level performance space until Fall 2007. In Spring 2008 the space was re-opened as a multi-use performance venue and gallery bar called (Le) Poisson Rouge.

Notable productions

The Top Of The Gate a.k.a. Village Gate (Upstairs):

The Village Gate Theater a.k.a. Village Gate (Downstairs):

  • Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris (1992)
  • The Real Live Brady Bunch and the Real Live Game Show (1991)
  • Further Mo' (1990)
  • Sid Caesar & Company: The Legendary Genius of Comedy (1989)
  • Sing Hallelujah! (1987)
  • National Lampoon's Class of '86 (1986)
  • El Grande de Coca-Cola (1986)
  • Lies & Legends: The Musical Stories of Harry Chapin (1985)
  • Shades of Harlem (1984)
  • Orwell That Ends Well (1984)
  • One Mo' Time (1979)
  • Sterling Silver (1979)
  • Nightsong (1977)
  • 2 by 5 (1976)
  • Let My People Come (1974)
  • National Lampoon's Lemmings (1973)
  • A Quarter for the Ladies' Room (1972)
  • Salvation (1969)
  • Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris (1968)
  • MacBird (1967)

The Village Gate 52nd Street

  • A Brief History of White Music (1996)

Recordings

Notable albums recorded live at The Village Gate:

The Village Gate was a stop on the Greenwich Village Walking Tour, in part because Bob Dylan wrote A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall in September 1962 in a basement apartment occupied by Chip Monck, the Village Gate lighting engineer and future compere and lighting designer of the Woodstock Festival.

References

External links

  • NYC Architecture article
  • Village Gate to Swing Again
  • Biography for Art D'Lugoff
  • Ivan Black papers, 1887-1979 Music Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
  • Off-Broadway Theater IOBDB.com

Coordinates: 40°43′43″N 73°59′59″W / 40.728492°N 73.999719°W / 40.728492; -73.999719

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