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July 1, 2007

The last dance at Copacabana

 

The infamous Copacabana closed its doors early this morning to make room for the extension of the New York City subway line.

The club has been in this location for 5 years after first being founded in 1940.  This is truly the end of an era, assuming they don't make another comeback elsewhere!

When the last dancer walked off the floor of the Copacabana early today, it marked the end of a landmark that had repeatedly restyled itself since 1940 - and may do so again.
The Copa spent five years at 34th St. and 11th Ave. before closing its doors because of the proposed extension of the No. 7 subway line.

With reggaeton blaring from the speakers and college-age kids lining up outside, the scene was world's away from its earlier incarnations.

Before the move to the far, far West Side, the Copa occupied a more intimate venue on E. 60th St. off Fifth Ave.

It was a mecca for sharp dressers who found themselves shimmying alongside celebrities while a big-name act - everyone from Frank Sinatra to Tito Puente - performed onstage.

Plenty of comedians headlined there over the years, including Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.

"But the Copa was always about the crowd - the people who went there to dance," recalls Latin music historian Joe Conzo.

"Everyone, men and women, were always dressed to the nines. There was no such thing as just going there to watch. You had to dance," adds Conzo.

"And you had to be a big-name entertainer to perform there."

The place became a huge part of the city's sports lore in 1957, when an entourage of New York Yankees and their wives and dates - including Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Hank Bauer and Billy Martin - brawled with another group of men inside the club.

As the story goes, the men had been yelling racial slurs at headliner Sammy Davis Jr., and the Yankees came to his defense.

Barry Manilow's hit 1978 pop song about a showgirl caught up in a tragic triangle further ingrained the club in pop culture history.

The original venue, which opened in 1940 and was reputedly mob-controlled, lost a little of its luster as a glitterati go-to spot over the years, especially after the Copa moved to a larger space at 60th St. and 11th Ave. in the 1990s.

But it never lost its ability to attract dance-crazy crowds.

By the '70s, it had become a place where younger, predominantly Latino patrons came to flirt, mingle and show off their best salsa dance moves.

Copa owner John Juliano is looking for a new, smaller spot in which to reopen - possibly in the outer boroughs.




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Comments

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