Latin Casino

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Latin Casino
"Show Place of the Stars"[1]
Latin Casino Theatre Restaurant Cherry Hill New Jersey 1960's Media Image.jpg
Latin Casino Theatre Restaurant Cherry Hill New Jersey
Former names

Latin

located at 1309 Walnut Street Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1950)
Location Cherry Hill, New Jersey (1960)
Type Dinner theater Nightclub Showroom
Genre(s) Entertainment
Built 1960
Owner Dallas Gerson and Dave Dushoff
Construction cost $3 million (1960)
Seating type Showroom Tables & Booth seating
Capacity 1,500

The Latin Casino (1960–1978) was a Philadelphia-area nightclub that first opened in 1948 at 1309 Walnut Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Many top entertainers performed at the Latin including Harry Belafonte, Jimmy Durante, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Milton Berle, Lena Horne, Pearl Bailey, Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, and Joey Bishop. The Latin was a very popular Center City nightclub for a decade.[2]

In 1960, Owners Dallas Gerson and Dave Dushoff, relocated to nearby Cherry Hill, New Jersey and built the plush 1,500-seat, Vegas-style dinner theater renamed from the "Latin" to the Latin Casino, although casino gambling was not included. It was considered one of the fanciest, hippest dinner nightclubs experiences of that time featuring dinner, drinks and a showcase of top entertainment.

Following a period of strong popular success, the Latin Casino finally closed in the summer of 1978 as an indication of an end of era and a symbol of the evolution of Pop culture. Five months later, at the height of the disco craze, it reopened as an exotic disco club, Emerald City (inspired by the Wizard of Oz fabled city Emerald City). Success was short lived and was converted to a venue for progressive rock bands and finally closed in December 1982 and later demolished for commercial use.[2]

Background[edit]

The Latin was a famous showroom for showcasing entertainers like Cherry Hill Estates neighbors Bobby Darin, Al Martino, and Frankie Avalon (whose family had ownership interests in a popular pizzeria "King of Pizza" diagonally across Route 70). Stars that appeared on stage and frequented the area were Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, Richard Pryor (who recorded his 1975 album ...Is It Something I Said? there), Frank Sinatra, Pat Cooper, The Temptations, The Supremes, Liza Minnelli, Tom Jones, Donna Summer, B.B. King, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Connie Francis, Don Rickles, Gloria Gaynor, Della Reese, Eddie Fisher, Trini Lopez, Allan Sherman, and Engelbert Humperdinck.

There were several celebrity incidents that drew media attention. On September 29, 1975, Jackie Wilson suffered a massive heart attack while playing a Dick Clark show, falling head-first to the stage. He was singing his hit "Lonely Teardrops" and was stricken just after the line "My heart is crying, crying." Wilson became comatose and was taken to Cherry Hill Hospital; he lived in a nursing home until his death at age 49. Brenda Lee broke her neck onstage during a June 12, 1962, performance, and eventually recovered in time to graduate high school. Tom Jones was also once jumped outside the back door following one of his performances by two fanatical Italian women going by the name Canni. Mr. Jones was not hurt but the ladies were banned from 'The Latin' and from any Tom Jones performance.

The celebrities and orchestra players performing at The Latin often drank at the Rickshaw Inn lobby bar long past the official 2:00AM "last call" mandated by the NJ ABC; but this was winked at by local officials.

The supper club was originally located at Juniper and Walnut Streets in center city Philadelphia; frustrated by Pennsylvania's restrictive liquor laws and conflicts with city officials, in 1960 the owners moved it five miles east to a new building on Route 70 in Delaware Township, New Jersey (soon to be renamed Cherry Hill), diagonally across the highway and the Seashore Line tracks from Garden State Park. Some of the first acts who played The Latin were Patti Page, comedian Sammy Shore, and Johnny Mathis.

In 1978, with nightclubs in a general state of decline and competition from casinos in Atlantic City imminent, the Latin Casino was converted to a disco called Emerald City that boasted a neon light show over the dance floor that cost in excess of one million dollars. After a couple years Emerald City shifted from disco to rock club, hosting major and up-and-coming acts of the time such as The Rolling Stones, James Brown & The Famous Flames (who recorded their 1967 album, Live at The Garden, there[3][4]), Aerosmith, The Ramones, Ultravox, Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, Alice Cooper, Madonna, The B-52's, The Go-Gos, Squeeze, Joan Jett, Dire Straits, The Romantics, UB40, Joe Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, The Psychedelic Furs, George Thorogood & the Destroyers, Blue Öyster Cult, and Prince on his debut tour. The Cure played their first ever American show at this venue on April 10, 1980. It was torn down in the mid-1980s after a fire. The headquarters of Subaru of America were then built on the site, opening in 1986.

The menu[edit]

The menu reflected the Pop culture choices of the 1960s. The artwork for the menu cover was an ink drawing of the exterior facade on a background of drink glasses, music notes, and star like asterisks. In the inside cover the management stated "The Latin Casino offers the ultimate in facilities for Banquets, Conventions, Trade Shows, Fund Raising Events of every type. Group size may be from 20 to 2000."

The two page menu had a variety of American styled selections intended to attract the crowd seeking entertainment excitement, as well as the large groups for banquets or a grand place for various celebrations. On page one of food and listed on the left hand page were six headings that included 9 Appetizers, 2 Soups/Salad, 12 Entrees (lobster & steaks), Vegetables, 6 Desserts and 3 Beverages (no soda), with a final comment by the management of May we suggest an after dinner drink. On the right hand page of the menu was a Section entitled, From Our Chinese Kitchen. It offered 13 oriental entrees and several side dishes. A final item ending this page outlined in a long rectangle was a special menu selection of a “Complete Polynesian Dinner.”

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Latin Has Stage Presence In Local Pop Music Lore". Articles.philly.com. 1992-01-28. Retrieved 2013-08-11. 
  2. ^ a b "South Jersey Had Its Day As Performance Hot Spot The Action Today Is On The Waterfront. Before Mtv, The Latin Casino Was The Place To Be.". Articles.philly.com. 2011-12-28. Retrieved 2013-08-11. 
  3. ^ "Live at Garden: James Brown: Music". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2013-08-11. 
  4. ^ "VVN Music: James Brown's Live at the Garden Being Reissued in Expanded Edition". Vintagevinylnews.com. 2009-08-30. Retrieved 2013-08-11. 

Coordinates: 39°55′21″N 75°02′38″W / 39.922479°N 75.043976°W / 39.922479; -75.043976