The Twist Riot at the Peppermint Lounge

The Twist started out as a dance fad in 1959, but two years later Life Magazine wrote about a “dingy Manhattan nightspot named the Peppermint Lounge [that had] quickly became the most jammed joint in town.”

Peppermint Lounge "Where the Twist Was Born" 128 West 58th Street, New York City

According to Life, “Before the Twist mania struck, The Peppermint Lounge was a rock ‘n’ roll hangout where kids went to do their favorite dances.  Among these was the Twist, which is both a song and a dance.  To the song’s insistent beat the partners rock back and forth on the balls of their feet while frantically twisting their hips.  The partners never touch.  Soon socialites, drawn by the pulsating 4-4 beat, began to drift into the lounge for Twisting.  When their visits were reported by Society Columnist Igor Cassini the stampede really started.  Soon the black-tie bunch was rubbing elbows with the leather-jacket crown, and the lounge became packed with celebrities.”

Hope Hampton, queen of cafe society and former musical comedy star sets the pace for the enthusiastic twist party with her partner

Zsa Zsa Gabor and Norman Mailer were photographed doing the Twist.  Their imprimatur gave touchless dancing a legitimacy that struck the death knell for the traditional urban night club of the 1940s and 1950s.

Rudolf Nureyev Doing the Twist

About Peter Moruzzi

Author and 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. He is the author of "Havana Before Castro: When Cuba Was a Tropical Playground," "Palm Springs Holiday: A Vintage Tour From Palm Springs to the Salton Sea," "Classic Dining:Discovering America's Finest Mid-Century Restaurants," "Palm Springs Paradise: Vintage Photographs from America's Desert Playground," and "Greetings from Los Angeles." His latest pictorial history, "Greetings from Las Vegas" will be available in September, 2019.
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5 Responses to The Twist Riot at the Peppermint Lounge

  1. Cecile Correira says:

    Remember exciting night at the peppermint Lounge setting at a table with group including Joe Abbenda Mr. Universe 1962.


  2. carol says:

    error on address of Pepp Lounge – it was on 48th St not 58th


  3. DeSoto says:

    “Well, we got a new dance and it goes like this
    (Bop shoo bah, ba-ba-ba-bop shoo bah)
    The name of the dance is the Peppermint Twist
    (Bop shoo bah, ba-ba-ba-bop shoo bah)
    Well, you like, you like this
    The Peppermint Twist!”

    So sang Joey Dee and the Starlighters in their huge hit, “The Peppermint Twist”. They were the house band at the Peppermint Lounge, who happened to be in the right place at the right time to achieve major success riding the Twist craze wave. Joey’s particular angle on the Twist was to include periodic jumps in the air, on certain beats:

    “Round and round
    Up and down…
    Round and around, and ah –
    Up and down, and ah –
    1, 2, 3 – kick
    1, 2, 3 – jump!”


    • Chubby Checker was more influential in popularizing the Twist to the younger generation than the Peppermint Lounge. But it was the latter that legitimized touchless dancing for the older crowd.


  4. Novelty Pens says:

    The Peppermint Lounge, one of the great pieces of American History… Studio 54 came later. What clubs today, if any will stand this test of time?


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