El Morocco Blue, New York 1961
El Morocco was a legendary and glamorous New York nightclub frequented by the rich and famous from the 1930s onwards. It started out as a speakeasy on 54th Street and, after the repeal of Prohibition, became a super-sophisticated restaurant and nightclub - “the place to see and be seen.”
People came dressed in all their finery to see celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Errol Flynn, Maurice Chevalier, Clark Gable, Gary Cooper and Paulette Goddard let their hair down in a fantasy jungle that was decorated with white palm trees, a crescent moon and zebra-striped banquettes.
There were two bands – one played rumbas and mambos and the other played songs by Gershwin and Porter.
There was also a hierarchy in the table arrangements. The first table on the right was the best and owner John Perona took the second table, according to Nanette Fabray, a Broadway stars in the 1940s who spoke to the New York Times. “You didn’t dare go unless you were perfectly turned out.”
In the same article, the late Diana Vreeland, the longtime editor of Vogue, recalled a particularly memorable evening when Clark Gable, star of Gone with The Wind, turned up at El Morocco at the height of its chic. As the red velvet rope was lowered at the entrance to allow them to pass.
The film star took Vreeland’s hand and said: “hold on to your hat kid, this place is gonna blow!” “The place went berserk, I mean berserk!” she recalled. “The stress! The people leaning out over their tables! It was almost animalique, like a roaring zoo.”
In the 1960s, El Morocco moved to a four storey townhouse on East 54th Street – this menu is from that era. In the following decades, the nightclub was sold to various owners.
There is now a condominium on the site where the elegant El Morocco once stood.
Courtesy Private Collection.
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