It is almost inconceivable today, but in the 1920s Greenpoint had as many as eight Vaudeville theaters. Some of the buildings still survive, but with other uses.
In the days before most homes had a radio, Vaudeville theaters provided cheap non-stop entertainment with shows lasting for up to 15-hour stretches. In those days families were often larger in size with people crammed into their tiny dwellings like sardines. Vaudeville theaters provided an escape from these overcrowded apartments.
By 1911, records show a theatre at 153 Green St. It shows up in later records as a 400-seat theater either called the Arcade Theater or The Greenpoint Arcade Theater, but it did not last.
Starting in 1927 with the arrival of the first talkie moving pictures, many of the Vaudeville theaters also served as movie houses. The largest theater was the RKO Greenpoint Theater on the corner of Calyer and Manhattan Avenue, which seated more than 1600 people and resembled an opera house with boxes, arches murals and terracotta designs on the ceilings. There were three levels of boxed seats on either side of the stage, and two balconies. The RKO hosted first-run double features after becoming a movie house.
The other day, I gave a talk on the Irish history of Greenpoint, and a long-time Greenpointer offered me a new twist on a famous old Greenpoint legend.
Before diving into the story, lets get acquainted with the story’s protagonists. The legendary scandalista Eva Tanguay was a Vaudeville legend who came to perform at the B.F. Keith’s Theater at Manhattan Avenue and Calyer Street sometime around the turn of the century. Notorious as the “I Don’t Care Girl”—the title of her signature song—Tanguay established herself as the queen of Vaudeville in 1901 with the New York City premiere of her controversial show “My Lady.” The Lady Gaga of her day, Tanguay was brazen, impudent, and shameless in the eyes of the Prudish. Some of her hit songs like “It’s All Been Done Before But Not the Way I Do It” and “Go As Far As You Like” boldly suggested illicit pleasures. She wore a shockingly revealing dress made entirely of pennies and filled her act with racy double entendres. Greenpoint’s Mae West, who later became equally notorious, was an early admirer who later incorporated many elements of Tanguay’s act into her own suggestive performances. Continue reading →
Though Greenpoint’s industrial history gets dredged up on the regular, it’s less often that we talk about its former status as a thriving hub of theatre and vaudeville. Today, the world is still a stage, but these illustrations done for the New Yorker are beautiful and surprising.
Is Yelp! holding a mirror to racist attitudes toward gentrification? A study compared restaurant reviews in the two rapidly changing neighborhoods of Greenpoint and Bed-Stuy, and it seems as though “ethnic charm” means something different depending on where you’re brunching.
The blowback from the NuHart rave was apparently not enough to stop Jack Daniels from relishing the noise complaints it generated last week on Huron Street. Looks kind of fun though — not going to lie.
Here they come! Greenpoint’s priciest condos! The building comes complete with its own regal-sounding condo tower name: The Gibraltar. Hopefully it will come to represent the “limit to the known world” of escalating real estate prices.