Scoopy’s Notebook, Week of July 5, 2018

Hein-Jan Keijer, right, from the Netherland Club of New York, heard a radio special by David Brent-Johnson, left, one evening about Cafe Society, broadcast from the latter’s NPR station in Bloomington, Indiana. Brent-Johnson originally recorded the hour-long show in 2003, after having read a book about the groundbreaking club, which has since become a kind of “obsession” to the DJ. Last month, they unveiled a plaque to Cafe Society, presented by the city of The Hague. Photo by Mandy deMuth

Props for Cafe Society: Strange coincidences were once kind of the thing at Cafe Society, a legendary club that broke the race barrier when it opened in 1938 at 1 Sheridan Square. While Uptown the Cotton Club was strictly segregated, the late Barney Josephson broke new ground when he opened Cafe Society, not only bridging the racial gap but also bringing together some of the most famous names in American music and comedy during the place’s decade-long run. “Strange Fruit,” the anti-racist protest song — about the lynching of blacks — was first performed there by jazz singer Billie Holiday. Eighty years later, David Brent-Johnson, a jazz enthusiast and NPR radio DJ, found that Cafe Society, it seems, still inspires some kind of hoodoo. “I said to my friend who was taking my around the city, ‘We gotta find where Cafe Society used to be.’ And we did find it, but we were struck that there was no marker,” he recalled at the recent event on 1 Sheridan Square, which strangely had a very white crowd. A week after that visit to New York, Brent-Johnson got a call from Hein-Jan Keijzer, from The Netherland Club of New York, who had been listening to a rerun about Cafe Society on the Indiana native’s radio show, “Night Lights.” Brent-Johnson was contacted a few weeks later and informed that the Dutch club was going to put up a plaque in honor of  the cafe and Piet Mondrian. The Dutch artist went to the club in his later years and was inspired by it to paint “Victory Boogie Woogie,” his last, unfinished work, Keijzer recalled. In addition to Holiday, other jazz greats that frequented the club included Lena Horne and Sarah Vaughan. Cafe Society also got a name for its boogie-woogie pianists, such as Albert Ammons, Meade Lux Lewis and Pete Johnson, along with blues singer Big Joe Turner.

Keep rocking the shots: Another East Village icon is on the way out, though not quite as soon as previously thought. This time it’s the Continental, the cheap-shots dive bar at 25 Third Ave. near St. Mark’s Place, that was started in 1991 by owner Trigger as a rock and punk music venue that hosted such artists as Joey Ramone, Iggy Pop and Patti Smith. The place’s final night was set for Sun., July 1, before the whole corner of the block is to be torn down by new owner Real Estate Equities Corporation, to build one big “boutique office building,” which The Real Deal reported in November. In the days leading up to July 1, however, Trigger told The Villager that he is now being allowed to stay until early October after finally hearing back from the developers about his request to remain until they get permits to demo the buildings. Before getting the extension, Trigger told us that nothing special was planned for the final night, though many bands asked about playing. “I’m sure we’ll be going late, later than usual,” Trigger said. “It’ll be a big emotional thing for me and the staff.” Now that send-off is delayed at least another few months.

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