The Peppermint Lounge was a popular discotheque located at 128 West 45th Street in New York City that was open from 1958 to 1965. It was the launchpad for the global Twist craze in the early 1960s, and was also where go-go dancing originated.
Original Peppermint Lounge
The Peppermint Lounge opened in 1958 at 128 West 45th Street in Manhattan, New York. It had a lengthy mahogany bar running along one side, lots of mirrors and a dance floor at the back, a capacity of just 178 people, and a gay clientele.
As the Twist craze hit in 1960–1961, celebrities swarmed into the Peppermint Lounge - Audrey Hepburn, Truman Capote, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Liberace, Noël Coward, Frank Sinatra, Norman Mailer, Annette Funicello, even the elusive Greta Garbo - to dance to the house band, Joey Dee and the Starliters. Jackie Kennedy was such an enthusiast that she arranged for a temporary "Peppermint Lounge" to be mounted in the White House. One such event even took place at a meeting of the austere Council of the Organization of American States. A sister club was opened in Miami Beach.
During 1961, Paramount Pictures filmed the movie Hey, Let's Twist, a fictional story of Joey Dee and the Peppermint Lounge starring Jo Ann Campbell and Teddy Randazzo. At the end of the year the Starliters' "Peppermint Twist" became a hit, spending three weeks at #1 in January 1962. This brought the club wide recognition, reinforced later in the year by Sam Cooke's "Twistin' the Night Away" which, while not mentioning the club by name, was about a "a place/Somewhere up a New York way/Where the people are so gay". The movie and soundtrack album also did their part in making the Peppermint Lounge a world-famous venue. Successful singles spawned from Hey, Let's Twist were the title track and "Shout – Part I". Other albums released during this time were Doin' the Twist at the Peppermint Lounge, which was recorded live at the venue, and All the World's Twistin' with Joey Dee & The Starliters.
Artists who performed at the Peppermint Lounge include The Beach Boys, The Ronettes (who made their professional debut here in 1961), The Crystals, The Isley Brothers, Chubby Checker, The Younger Brothers, Liza Minnelli, and The Four Seasons. In the mid‑1960s, the house band was The Wild Ones. The Denos, a traveling roadhouse band, were another featured act. Members of the Starliters later went on to form the Young Rascals.
Both the NYC and Miami clubs were sold in 1965. The New York club was run by Genovese crime family associate Matty "The Horse" Ianniello, who managed many gay bars and strip clubs in Manhattan. It closed when it lost its liquor license on December 28, 1965.
G. G. Barnum's Room
The 45th Street space reopened as G. G. Barnum's Room on July 20, 1978, and continued until November 1980. Male go-go dancers dancers performed on trapezes over a net above the dance floor. G. G. Barnum's Room was a popular meeting place for transsexuals, drag queens and homosexuals. The "G.G." was a reference to the Ianniello-owned Gilded Grape located at 719 8th Avenue, a notorious gay bar which operated from the early 1970s until 1977.
Second Peppermint Lounge
In November 1980, after G. G. Barnum's closed, the Peppermint Lounge name was revived for a new music night club run by Frank Roccio and Tom Goodkind. The DJ was David Azarc. The club featured top international music acts from both alternative rock and the burgeoning hip hop scenes. Some of the regular featured acts were The Cramps, X, The Raybeats, The Go-Gos, Marshall Crenshaw, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Billy Idol, Afrika Bambaataa, The Bangles, The Waitresses, and Joan Jett. VIP guests such as Mick Jagger and David Bowie added to the club's cachet. In March 1981, Yoko Ono visited the club in one of her first public appearances after the death of John Lennon, personally delivering a copy of their last single, "Walking on Thin Ice".
In 1982 the Peppermint Lounge moved downtown to 100 5th Avenue, where it continued for several years before closing in 1985. The building at 128 West 45th Street was torn down in the mid-1980s.
In 1986, Judge Weinfeld sentenced Matthew Ianniello to six years in prison on a racketeering charge that involved skimming over $2 million from bars and restaurants (including Umberto's Clam House, the Peppermint Lounge, and a topless bar called the Mardi Gras, all in Manhattan), secretly owned by Matthew; his business partner Benjamin Cohen of North Hills, L.I.; and seven associates.
- Bill Brewster; Frank Broughton (2000). Last night a dj saved my life: the history of the disc jockey. Grove Press. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-8021-3688-6.
- "A Twist in Time". Vanity Fair. November 2007. Retrieved August 7, 2010.
- "Peppermint Lounge Goes Dark; May Lose Liquor Permit Today". New York Times. December 26, 1965. Retrieved August 7, 2010.
- Bill Brewster; Frank Broughton (2000). Last night a dj saved my life: the history of the disc jockey. Grove Press. p. 188. ISBN 978-0-8021-3688-6.
- History of Gay Clubs in New York, with pictures of the outsides of the clubs:
- Miezitis, Vida Night Dancin' New York:1980 Ballantine (Photography by Bill Bernstein) "G. G. Barnum's Room" Pages 94-102--Has pictures of male go-go dancers go-go dancing on trapezes above a net over the dance floor
- Johnson, Jr., John; Selvin, Joel (2012). Peppermint Twist: The Mob, the Music, and the Most Famous Dance Club of the '60s. New York: Macmillan. p. 254. ISBN 9780312581787. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
- "Ianniello Is Sentenced In Racketeering Trial". The New York Times. February 16, 1986.
- Iggy Pop plays the Peppermint Lounge - 1982 East Village Other ad