celebration at Ciro’s JohannesburgJuly 15, 2009
Celebration at Ciro’s
with Dan Hill and his Band
…to anyone who’s ever been in Johannesburg, Ciro’s is a magic name which spells the best in Nightclub entertainment.
The magnificent chandelier, the sophisticated atmosphere…and fine food…all make an evening to be remembered. Ciro’s too is noted for the quality of its bands and vocalists. Now here is gathered together for the enjoyment of those who know Ciro’s (and those who don’t), an entertainment of rhythm and song to set the toes itching and make the heart beat faster.
Your entertainment starts with The Joe Kentridge Trio and Joao Tudella. Joe Kentridge is a well-known jazz pianist –and owner of Ciro’s –Tudella has proved himself in several recordings to be a gifted young singer. Born in Lourenco Marques, he studied at the Coimbra University in Portugal. He first won renown as a Fado singer, but has shown himself to be equally adept at dance band music. His rich Latin voice with its thrilling timbre, provides an admirable foil to Peter Lotis who follows with Dan Hill and his Band.
Bill Walker –the likeable Australian who plays with Dan Hill and his band for the Rumba, is another regular Ciro figure. His immediately recognizable brand of magic is also well-known from his recordings, Walker Around the World (Columbia ALD 6249) and Walker Round the Shows (Columbia ALD 6341)
Of Dan Hill it is enough to say that he is one of the most wanted and popular musical celebrities in South Africa. He has arranged all the numbers on his record –and is a professional to his fingertips. Since 1948, Dan has made recordings that have received plaudits from such authorities as Metronome (USA). He has also arranged movie scores and introduced the public to a number of South African hits including Fanagalo, Hamba Khale, Thabazimbi and Doemela.
From the original liner notes of “celebration at Ciro’s with Dan Hill and his Band” Columbia ALD 6357
although the club was inspired by Ciro’s Los Angeles, Ciro’s Johannesburg had no direct links with that American Nightclub landmark
In the 1940’s and 1950’s Ciro’s nightclub was one of the hottest nightspots in the world.From the early 1940’s until it closed on the eve of the 1960’s, Ciro’s launched countless entertainment icons along the path to superstardom. It was one of the first major venues to host Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin before they took over the comedy world in 1950. A year later, an unheralded opening act called the Will Mastin Trio stole the show from the headliner. This was due in large part to a young entertainer that would before long outgrow his membership in the group–arguably the most talented entertainer in show biz history, Sammy Davis, Jr. After the car accident that cost Sammy his right eye, it was the site of his return to live performing. Countless other top entertainers performed there, from Sinatra sidekick comic Joe E. Louis to Nat King Cole.
The names that frequented Ciro’s were a who’s who of the American entertainment pantheon, starting at the very top with Frank Sinatra and including other A-list stars like Anita Ekberg, Marilyn Monroe, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Marlene Dietrich, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Ava Gardner, George Burns, Jack Benny, Judy Garland, Joan Crawford just to mention a few…they came to drink, to see and be seen among a collection of other Hollywood illuminati, served by leggy cigarette girls in short skirts and heels
…in a more civilized time, there was a circuit of world renowned nightclubs that featured the best entertainment in the country in an atmosphere of indulgent luxury
In Las Vegas, the Copa Room at the Sands became the place to be in the 1960’s but before that there was The Cocoanut Grove in Miami, the 900 Club in Atlantic City, the Sam Giancanna owned Villa Venice in Chicago. Even during the early 1940s, Ciro’s was part of this top tier of clubs. What would later become the Holmby Hills Rat Pack was already holding court nightly at Ciro’s, then owned and operated by Billy Wilkenson. From Bogie and Bacall to George Raft and Betty Grable, it was L.A.’s hottest spot. Like most clubs, however, it began to cool off a couple of years later and by 1942 owner Wilkenson was hard pressed to provide worthy entertainment for the celebrities that patronized his club. Customers were defecting in droves to the jungle themed Mocambo across the street. For a time, Ciro’s closed its doors. It wasn’t dark for long when Herman Hoover put together a plan to reopen the club…
Ciro’s LA mid 40’s dance floor
Ciro’s reopened on December 26, 1942 with longtime Sinatra pal Joe E. Lewis on stage and such stars as Mickey Rooney, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Joan Crawford and Cary Grant in the audience. Xavier Cugat (who would later marry a Latin dancer named Charo) became a regular headliner at the club, preceding the arrival of Martin, Lewis and Sammy Davis, Jr.
Ciro’s LA bar circa 1941
Eventually Ciro’s closed its doors in 1957 and was sold at a public auction two years later.
The end of Ciro’s also represented an end of the glamor that characterized Los Angeles in the early to middle 20th century. Sunset Boulevard remained a busy main street, but before long became populated with as many strip clubs and tattoo parlors as upscale restaurants and nightclubs. The tradition of launching new stars, however, continues to this day at the Comedy Store which has operated on the Ciro’s site for almost 30 years. A ‘who’s who’ of comedy have gotten a start at the club from Jay Leno, David Letterman and Andy Kaufman to modern comics like David Chappelle and UFC commentator Joe Rogan
about the Author: Ross Everett has written extensively on the history of Las Vegas and the city’s gambling industry
see ‘Hollywood steps out’, a 1941 short Merrie Melodies cartoon by Warner Brothers, directed by Tex Avery
previously shown on Youtube but withdrawn due to copyright infringement