The Bygone Era of Cabarets and Supper Clubs

June 22nd, 2015

For a brief period, cabaret entertainers were the cat’s meow of nightclub entertainment. Between the 1940’s and 1960’s, elegant ladies in elaborate costumes performed synchronized dance routines for nightclub patrons. During the late 1960’s this form of nighttime entertainment fell out of fashion, and clubs of this type closed their doors. The night clubs and dazzling floor shows may be long gone, but the legacy of the chorus girl still remains.

Originally created in Boston in 1937, and later in New York City, the Latin Quarter opened its doors in Miami Beach in 1940 under the direction of Lou Walters, father of acclaimed journalist Barbara Walters, and his partner E.M. Loew, theatrical mogul and owner of the “Loew’s Theaters” empire. During the winter months, the nightclub was a mid-century mecca for snowbirds and a-list celebrities. Three nights a week, high-kicking chorus girls performed alongside entertainers like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis, Jack Benny and Tony Bennett. The Latin Quarter prided itself in having the best and most beautiful dancers in the world.  The famous nightclub even had a slogan for their dancers: “Latin Quarter Dancers of Today, Hollywood Stars of Tomorrow.”



Les Violins

Les Violins performer. Photo courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.

Opened in the 1960s, Les Violins Supper Club was popular among local exiles who missed the allure of Cuba’s nightlife. The venue featured singing waiters, strolling violinists, Latin chorus girls, as well as other performance artists.

Mai-Kai Dancers

Mai-Kai Dancers. Photo courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.

The Mai-Kai Restaurant, located at 3599 North Federal Highway in Oakland Park, Florida, is one of the last original dinner shows in South Florida with its “Grand Polynesian Palaces of Tiki” still in operation today. Built in 1956, the Mai-Kai was inspired by the famous “Don the Beachcomber” tiki restaurant chains. This retro restaurant is famous for their kitschy tiki decor, tropical cocktails, and “Polynesian Islander Review” dinner show, which is the longest running Polynesian dance show in the continental United States. The Mai-Kai’s show and atmosphere is still much like it was in the 1960’s where hula dancers in grass skirts are still swaying their hips to the exotic musical beats of the South Pacific.

Ursa Gil-

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