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Set against the drama of the Great Depression, the conflict of American race relations, and the inquisitions of the House Un-American Activities Committee, Cafe Society tells the personal history of Barney Josephson, proprietor of the legendary interracial New York City night clubs Cafe Society Downtown and Cafe Society Uptown and their successor, The Cookery. Famously known as "the wrong place for the Right people," Cafe Society featured the cream of jazz and blues performers--among whom were Billie Holiday, boogie-woogie pianists, Big Joe Turner, Lester Young, Buck Clayton, Big Sid Catlett, and Mary Lou Williams--as well as comedy stars Imogene Coca, Zero Mostel, and Jack Gilford, and also gospel and folk singers. A trailblazer in many ways, Josephson welcomed black and white artists alike to perform for mixed audiences in a venue whose walls were festooned with artistic and satiric murals lampooning what was then called "high society."

Featuring scores of photographs that illustrate the vibrant cast of characters in Josephson's life, this exceptional book speaks richly about Cafe Society's revolutionary innovations and creativity, inspired by the vision of one remarkable man.

Table of Contents

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  1. Cover
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  1. Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright, Dedication
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  1. Contents
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  1. Foreword
  2. Dan Morgenstern
  3. pp. xi-xiv
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  1. Preface
  2. Terry Trilling-Josephson
  3. pp. xv-xviii
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  1. Acknowledgments
  2. Terry Trilling-Josephson
  3. pp. xix-xxii
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  1. Part 1. A Nightclub Like No Other
  1. Prelude
  2. Terry Trilling-Josephson
  3. pp. 3-4
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  1. 1. “‘Take my advice, go back to Trenton and open a shoe store that sells health shoes.’”
  2. pp. 5-12
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  1. 2. “‘I’ve got Billie Holiday. . . .’ ‘Who is she?’ I asked.”
  2. pp. 13-17
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  1. 3. “I saw Gypsy Rose Lee do a political striptease.”
  2. pp. 18-22
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  1. 4. “‘Tell your friend to call it Cafe Society.’”
  2. pp. 23-29
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  1. 5. “There we were, occupying six windows of the elegant Bergdorf-Goodman.”
  2. pp. 30-36
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  1. 6. “‘What he should have is six goils and one guy.’”
  2. pp. 37-40
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  1. 7. “‘You’ll be a big star.’”
  2. pp. 41-44
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  1. 8. “Billie looked at me. ‘What do you want me to do with that, man?’”
  2. pp. 45-53
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  1. 9. “You don’t keep anybody working for you under contract. That’s slavery.”
  2. pp. 54-61
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  1. 10. “‘Never borrow a week’s salary from the M.C. to pay other bills.’”
  2. pp. 62-65
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  1. 11. “‘There will be no craps-shooting Negroes in my place.’”
  2. pp. 66-74
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  1. Part 2. Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?
  1. 12. “Always hand-me-downs like that, but I had beautiful clothes.”
  2. pp. 77-83
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  1. 13. “‘She was a remarkable woman, way ahead of her time.’”
  2. pp. 84-87
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  1. 14. “As natural to me as drinking a glass of milk.”
  2. pp. 88-92
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  1. 15. “Leon set up that kind of thing, share and share alike.”
  2. pp. 93-95
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  1. 16. “I had never dated a girl.”
  2. pp. 96-98
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  1. 17. “The workers sleeps in a old straw bed and shivers from the cold.”
  2. pp. 99-102
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  1. Part 3. Riding the Crest
  1. 18. “I’m the right man in the wrong place.”
  2. pp. 105-109
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  1. 19. “‘A Rockefeller can afford to wear such a coat.’”
  2. pp. 110-115
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  1. 20. “Everybody was making a big fuss over me.”
  2. pp. 116-118
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  1. 21. “‘Lena, what do you think a song is?’”
  2. pp. 119-125
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  1. 22. “Truth to tell, I was falling.”
  2. pp. 126-131
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  1. 23. “Nine months later she dropped a bomb on me.”
  2. pp. 132-135
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  1. 24. “‘You have to be her trustee.’”
  2. pp. 136-142
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  1. 25. “‘I’m nobody’s fat black mammy, but that’s how I make my money.’”
  2. pp. 143-147
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  1. 26. “‘Why don’t you call him Zero? He’s starting from nothing.’”
  2. pp. 148-154
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  1. 27. “No Zero.”
  2. pp. 155-160
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  1. 28. “We are on the same beam together, Barney and Mildred.”
  2. pp. 161-163
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  1. 29. “‘He’ll never come back.’”
  2. pp. 164-168
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  1. 30. “She took one leap.”
  2. pp. 169-173
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  1. 31. “When Mary Lou plays it all looks so easy.”
  2. pp. 174-180
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  1. 32. “‘I am, believe it or not, usually pretty shy.’”
  2. pp. 181-185
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  1. 33. “‘Mr. Josephson, you are asexual.’”
  2. pp. 186-187
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  1. 34. “I notice Adam eyeing Hazel.”
  2. pp. 188-193
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  1. 35. “‘Ladies and gentlemen. This is a zither.’”
  2. pp. 194-197
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  1. 36. “I’m being more temperamental than John Barrymore.”
  2. pp. 198-202
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  1. 37. “‘She can’t sing.’”
  2. pp. 203-205
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  1. 38. “I just saw a woman singing to chairs on empty tables.”
  2. pp. 206-214
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  1. 39. “She took the check and flipped it back to me.”
  2. pp. 215-220
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  1. Part 4. Bloody But Unbowed
  1. 40. “‘Let’s have your passport.’”
  2. pp. 223-228
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  1. 41. “No one was building for Negroes.”
  2. pp. 229-231
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  1. 42. “The Un-American Activities Committee itself was unconstitutional.”
  2. pp. 232-237
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  1. 43. “‘I won’t be coming into the club anymore.’”
  2. pp. 238-243
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  1. 44. “Two future presidents were in attendance.”
  2. pp. 244-248
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  1. 45. “‘The great Josephson contradiction.’”
  2. pp. 249-252
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  1. 46. “‘They’ll set you up.’”
  2. pp. 253-255
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  1. 47. “She blew her cover.”
  2. pp. 256-258
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  1. 48. “That’s the way she washed herself.”
  2. pp. 259-261
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  1. 49. “‘Will Geer, Will Hare, what the hell’s the difference?’”
  2. pp. 262-266
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  1. Part 5. Beginning Again: The Cookery, 1955-82
  1. 50. “Mr. Anonymous”
  2. pp. 269-273
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  1. 51. “‘We did it, Barney. You and me and the Lord Jesus Christ.’”
  2. pp. 274-277
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  1. 52. “‘If he liked an idea, he would do it.’”
  2. pp. 278-281
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  1. 53. “‘I’ll tell you, Teddy Wilson, you’ve just made Barney Josephson cry.’”
  2. pp. 282-286
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  1. 54. “‘He wasn’t deceitful about things.’”
  2. pp. 287-292
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  1. 55. “All I looked at was her mouth.”
  2. pp. 293-300
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  1. 56. “‘You don’t need a contract with Barney Josephson.’”
  2. pp. 301-306
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  1. 57. “She and I know the secret of staying young.”
  2. pp. 307-312
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  1. 58. “‘Several times Rosalynn Carter shaped her mouth into O’s of amazement.’”
  2. pp. 313-317
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  1. 59. “‘When the inspiration of God is missing, I just rely on talent.’”
  2. pp. 318-320
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  1. 60. “Her name meant nothing to me.”
  2. pp. 321-323
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  1. 61. “‘Fame hasn’t changed me.’”
  2. pp. 324-329
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  1. 62. “In effect, this stripped me of my business.”
  2. pp. 330-336
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  1. Postlude
  2. Terry Trilling-Josephson
  3. pp. 337-342
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  1. Notes
  2. pp. 343-364
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 365-376
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  1. Image Plates
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  1. About the Authors, Other Works in the Series, Colophon
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