F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover and "close
associate" Clyde Tolson open a file on one Leon Josephson, recently
excommunicated from the American Communist Party due to his unsanctioned
participation in an attempt to assassinate Hitler during his early rise to power in 1933.
Leon a subversive, a Jewish lawyer and activist who defends causes that are counter to the
established social order. Leon backed union organizers and defended striking
laborers...and now he and his associates were financing a radical new night club in New
York's Greenwich Village, a cabaret that would feature jazz music, social satire, and
integration between blacks and whites for the first time in the country... an
establishment whose owner would be none other than Leon's younger brother Barney
is determined to neutralize Leon,
and to see to the demise of Barney's Cafe Society.
shoe salesman Barney Josephson visits 1930s Berlin,
where he delights in its cabarets that feature satirical comics who cleverly lampoon the
political climate. It is worlds apart from New
predictable nightclub fare, clubs usually run by the mob. Barney dreams of a new kind of New
club featuring jazz, top-notch talent, and comedians with a topical bent
it will also
be a club that is integrated on both sides of the footlights.
This revolutionary idea becomes reality in 1938 when Café
Society opens in Greenwich
With the aid of Columbia Records producer John Hammond, opening night features cutting
edge jazz musicians, comic/MC Jack Gilford, and Billie Holiday, who later debuts
Strange Fruit here. Barney goes on to showcase such talent as Lena
Horne, Zero Mostel, Imogene Coca,Alberta Hunter, Big Joe Turner, Count Basie and many,
The club pulls in mostly artists, students and workers but not
profits, so Barney opens another, swankier club on Park
that attracts the mink stole and tuxedo crowd. He pays off his debts on both clubs in 11
weeks. After the war, while other clubs flounder, the two Café Society nightspots are
wildly profitable with quality talent, and are meccas to celebrities, the working class,
students, and the intelligentsia.
the races is, to say the least, too radical to some who visit the club or read the weekly
accounts in the gossip columns of Walter Winchell and Dorothy Kilgallen. For others, the
Café Societies success is deemed subversive. It isnt long before the
fast-changing political climate of the 40s threatens Barney
and those close to him. Forceful political tactics are felt from both J.
Edgar Hoover and the House Un-American Activities Committee. HUAC summons Barney to
testify and the FBI wages a harassment campaign, photographing all who enter and leave his
venues. It isnt long before intimidated customers stay away. By 1950, Café Society
Uptown and Downtown are dark.
Dorothy Kilgallen Hoover, Tolson, et.al.. Walter Winchell
Barney Josephsons daring experiment ends, he vows to open another club someday, and
indeed does so years later with the Cookery, again in Greenwich Village, where he brings
retired performers, like Alberta Hunter, back to the stage to new audiences and popularity
that packs the room and whose performances are broadcasted in the media and are
bestsellers at record stores. The Cookery is Barney Josephsons fitting swan song as
one of New
most original impresarios.
eerie 'spirit' of Billie Holiday below!