New York City, NY

Ghost Signs of NYC: Village Gate

Frank Mastropolo
160 Bleecker Street©Frank Mastropolo

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

The Gate opened as a jazz and folk club and featured stars that included John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Pete Seeger, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Odetta and Thelonius Monk. Soon the club expanded to include rock's Jimi Hendrix, Velvet Underground and Patti Smith. Aretha Franklin made her New York concert debut at the Gate.
Thelonius Monk, Village Gate, 1968Library of Congress

In the 1970s musical comedy revues like National Lampoon's Lemmings, with John Belushi and Chevy Chase, were presented upstairs at the Top of the Gate.

"A New Yorker in style and attitude, D'Lugoff had a kind of beatnik appearance, slender and bearded," noted the New York Daily News when D'Lugoff died in 2009. "He had a droll sense of humor, loved show business stories and was never shy about offering an opinion.

"D'Lugoff was one of those colorful, outspoken New York showmen and raconteurs who could have stepped right out of Guys and Dolls — only he also had a social conscience in his pocket."

D'Lugoff presented Paul Robeson and Pete Seeger when they were blacklisted in the 1950s. Lenny Bruce was hired when it was well-known that police waited in the audience to arrest him..

The Village Gate ghost sign endures on the corner of Bleecker and Thompson Streets. Two 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 2: Clues to Uptown New York's Past and Ghost Signs: Clues to Downtown New York's Past.

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Frank Mastropolo is the author of Fillmore East: The Venue That Changed Rock Music Forever, one of Best Classic Bands' Best Music Books of 2021; New York Groove: An Inside Look at the Stars, Shows, and Songs That Make NYC Rock; the What's Your Rock IQ? Trivia Quiz Book series; Ghost Signs: Clues to Downtown New York's Past, winner of the 2021 Independent Publishers Book Award; and Ghost Signs 2: Clues to Uptown New York's Past. Mastropolo is a journalist, photographer, and former ABC News 20/20 producer, winner of the Alfred I. DuPont–Columbia University silver baton. His photography is featured in the Bill Graham Rock & Roll Revolution exhibition.

New York, NY

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