Strange Lounge Acts

Any cocktail lounge providing live entertainment is top notch in my book.  But back in the day, the definition of a lounge act was rather loose.

Yosemite Lanes' Organ Lounge

Piano bars were fairly common but organ bars less so.  This one features Miss Diane commanding the center of attention in a sunken circular lounge at the Yosemite Lanes bowling center in Modesto, California.  Apparently there was also a separate dining room “featuring Coleman Perry’s Gracious Dining.”  In the 1950s and 1960s, bowling centers were popular entertainment hubs for entire families where mom and pop could drink and dine while the kids scored strikes and spares.  Or vice versa, I suppose.

Go-Go Dancers in the Playgirl Club's Vegas Showroom

In the swinging 60s, the Vegas Showroom at the Playgirl Club in Garden Grove, California (1½ miles south of Disneyland, no less) had Go-Go girls dancing behind the bar under a dome designed to accommodate their seriously big hair.  Oddly, this being the Playgirl Club, why weren’t Go-Go boys showcased instead?  In the background is the band and cast of the club’s floorshow.

Ballet routine in the famous Mermaid Room cocktail lounge of the Fresno Hacienda

At the Fresno Hacienda a back bar of transparent glass provided a window into the goings on at the hotel’s swimming pool.  Here we see a “ballet routine in the famous Mermaid Room cocktail lounge.”  In my experience, however, the show in these glass-walled pools consists not of ballet routines but of skinny white legs thrashing about in bathing suits.  Not that entertaining.

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About Peter Moruzzi

Historian Peter Moruzzi is passionate about the middle decades of the 20th century: its nightlife, classic dining, and architecture. Born in Concord, Massachusetts and raised in Hawaii, Moruzzi graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and later attended the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. In 1999, he founded the Palm Springs Modern Committee (PS ModCom) an architectural preservation group. In 2006, Moruzzi produced "Desert Holiday," a jaunty documentary chronicling the history of the Coachella Valley as seen through vintage postcards. He is also the author of "Havana Before Castro: When Cuba Was a Tropical Playground" and "Palm Springs Holiday: A Vintage Tour From Palm Springs to the Salton Sea." Moruzzi's latest book is titled "Classic Dining: Discovering America's Finest Mid-Century Restaurants" with photography by Sven A. Kirsten. Peter Moruzzi resides with his partner in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles and in Palm Springs.
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14 Responses to Strange Lounge Acts

  1. Suzie Stach says:

    The old Fresno Hacienda sign is being moved to a museum in Fresno, I was wondering if you have any postcards or memorabilia on the place… I was a mermaid there for two years in 1964/65, and would like to have something of the place…Who would have known it would be so iconic now…Suzie Stach

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  2. DeSoto says:

    There was also Davy Jones’ Locker in the Outrigger Hotel in Waikiki, which had windows into the pool. I don’t believe a regular “mermaid” show occurred there, however. There was an aquacade at one of the pools at the Hawaiian Village Hotel, but you had to watch that from above the water level.

    If you’re intrigued by Miss Diane at the organ at Yosemite Lanes, look on YouTube for other female organists like Cherry Wainer. The talented players (like Cherry) could throw in dramatic flourishes with hands and feet to make the show truly entertaining.

    The Playgirl Club would’ve used go-go girls instead of boys ’cause 1) they couldn’t call it a PlayBOY Club (for obvious reasons), and 2) Playgirl magazine (with pix of nude men) didn’t exist yet. Regardless, I admire the whole set-up with live rock band and beehived go-go gals in their separate little domed world behind the bar. I believe I detect fringe on their bikinis as well, to complete the entire thrilling package.

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    • There’s also a pool window in the bar at Ft. Lauderdale’s Yankee Clipper hotel. A few years ago I attended the annual Hukilau celebration there and witnessed a mermaid show that was awesome. As for lounge organists, I may have underestimated the showmanship of these performers as represented by Miss Diane at Yosemite Lanes. I’ll check YouTube.

      Gosh, it never occurred to me that Playgirl magazine didn’t exist when the postcard was produced. Makes sense. That’s what I love about a blog; you learn so much!

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    • ‘The Playgirl Club’–What a great memory…I was one of the go-go dancers at the club in 1970, and several girls would alternate dancing behind the bar on a raised platform. I remember it was pretty warm dancing in that dome with no air conditioner.. Yep, that was white fringe on the top and bottom of our costumes. When we weren’t dancing we were cocktail waitresses getting drinks for the customers. It was a classy place, and Doug Lambert was the owner of the club who went on to be founding editor of ‘Playgirl Magazine.’ By the way, the dark haired girl pictured was Doug Lambert’s girlfriend.

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      • Wow! Thanks for the great information. I love it when people share their personal experiences with the places I feature on the site. But I’m still confused as to how “The Playgirl Club” was a nightclub for men while “Playgirl” the magazine was for women, especially since the club owner and founding editor was the same person.

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  3. Also, check out the organ bar at the Sip ‘n Dip, courtesy Dean Curtis. http://www.flickr.com/photos/thejab/2852267496/in/photostream/

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  4. Dean Curtis took this great photo of an underwater mermaid, which proves that the bar-window-in-the-pool form of entertainment has not completely vanished in these United States. http://www.flickr.com/photos/thejab/5430126136/in/set-72157607257012367/

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  5. Dean Curtis says:

    I guess WordPress blocked my html. The mermaid photo link is:
    Sip 'n Dip mermaid

    and more of my Sip ‘n Dip pictures are here:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/thejab/tags/greatfalls/

    It’s mostly original from the early 60’s.

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  6. Dean Curtis says:

    The Sip ‘n Dip Lounge in Great Falls, Montana, still has a mermaid show on weekend nights in the pool that is visible through windows behind the bar.

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    • Peter Moruzzi says:

      That must be especially cool at night with the light bouncing and reflecting in the water. Do you have a photo or postcard of the Sip ‘n Dip Lounge?

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      • Dean Curtis says:

        It’s also a classic tiki bar, complete with bamboo, tapa cloth, and some great lamps and artwork. Here is a somewhat blurry photo of a mermaid (it was hard to get a good photo of the mermaids because they kept swimming around):

        More of the bar here:

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