Tuesday, July 5, 2011

☞ REMEMBER: The Ubangi Club

The other venue that the notorious Gladys Bentley performed in around the Harlem Renaissance years was the Ubangi Club that was at 131st Street and 7th Avenue. There are not many images that we have seen of the shows that reportedly featured a cast of 40 (with some cross-dressing involved) but the above postcard of the band performing at the club has lot of the musicians in compromising positions.  Another famous photo of a notable nearby theater in Central Harlem helps further provide the exact location of the club which appears to have been part of a famous complex. More clues after the jump.

An image of the play Macbeth directed by Orson Welles on opening night shows the Lafayette Theatre with a crowd out front and the Ubangi Club sign can clearly be seen in the background. The famous theater has been altered beyond recognition in modern times but the Ubangi Club building is still intact today: LINK. Connie's Inn would also have been housed right next door so this entire complex must have been the place to visit in the late 20s and early 30s.  By 1943, Ubangi moved to midtown and the Harlem space apparently was replaced by Rhum Boogie: LINK


  1. OK, please forgive an old dude his lamentable "slowness" but now that I've looked at this photo for the third time, I GET IT! OMG! And imagine, this was a postcard! Wow, men dancing together even in the 30's! for all to see. One wonders at the 'scandality' this must have mustered up! And yet we think we are so progressive.

    These dudes actually look like they are having a good time! I remember a bar on Eighth Ave named Andre's, that catered to a gay crowd back in the day. It had a huge bar but peeping through the window, you didn't see dudes dancing at all, just sitting around, talking & drinking.

  2. I believe that the Ubangi Club actually opened in the space formerly vacated by Connie's Inn in 1933.

    By the way, the best reference for this sort of thing is the entry under Jazz Clubs--New York in the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, which you can get used online for less than $20.

  3. @Jonathan, looking at photos now of Connie's Inn, the marquee is on the far south side of the building so one would assume the entrance would be located there. With that said, the old Cotton Club had a corner marquee but the entrance was further up on Lenox.

  4. I just had a look through Hank O'Neal's Ghosts of Harlem, which has great info about the locations of the jazz clubs, pictures of the clubs when they were in their heyday, and pictures of the buildings more recently--amazing!