New York City, NY

Ghost Signs of NYC: Village Gate

Frank Mastropolo

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Village GatePhoto by Frank Mastropolo

Art D’Lugoff opened the Village Gate in 1958 on the ground floor and basement of the former Mills House No.1, a hotel for homeless men. The basement had been the hotel’s laundry room. By the time the Village Gate closed in February 1994, it had become a Greenwich Village icon.

D’Lugoff was a bigger-than-life impresario who used the club to avocate for social causes as well as entertain. When Paul Robeson and Pete Seeger were blacklisted in the 1950s, D’Lugoff hired them. Lenny Bruce was booked despite the knowledge that police would probably be in the audience and arrest him.

The Village Gate presented the anti-war play MacBird at the height of the Vietnam War. A benefit for LSD advocate Dr. Timothy Leary was held at the Gate in May 1970 with performances by Jimi Hendrix and poet Allen Ginsberg.

"House of the Rising Sun" by Nina Simone (Live at the Village Gate)

The Village Gate initially featured jazz and folk artists but came to include blues and Latin music along with comedy and theatrical shows. The list of performers includes John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Nina Simone, Miles Davis, Patti Smith and Velvet Underground. Aretha Franklin made her first New York concert appearance at the Gate. The 1999 show National Lampoon’s Lemmings helped launch the careers of John Belushi and Chevy Chase.

The club became the nexus for Latin music in New York City in the 1960s when DJ Symphony Sid hosted “Monday Nights at the Gate.” Salsa label Alegre Records produced numerous live recordings there.

The Village Gate ghost sign endures on the corner of Bleecker and Thompson Streets. Placards on the sign advertise two of D’Lugoff’s favorite shows: Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris and performance artist Penny Arcade’s Politics, Sex & Reality.

Mastropolo is the author of Ghost Signs: Clues to Downtown New York's Past and the forthcoming Ghost Signs 2: Clues to Uptown New York's Past.

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Mastropolo is the author of Fillmore East: The Venue That Changed Rock Music Forever; Ghost Signs: Clues to Downtown New York's Past; and Ghost Signs 2: Clues to Uptown New York's Past

New York, NY
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