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Harlem’s Cotton Club

I heard about the Cotton Club long before I moved to Harlem. It was one of the places I knew I wanted to see. But the Cotton Club I saw was not the one of legend.

The old club was located at 142nd Street and Lenox Avenue, the site of the Club De Luxe, which was owned by the black boxing champion, Jack Johnson. Owney Madden, a well-known mobster and bootlegger, bought the Club De Luxe in 1923 and renamed it the Cotton Club, an interesting name given the kind of clientele the establishment would serve.

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Last Minute Getaways for the Labor Day Weekend

It’s been a stressful past week in the Northeast. The Labor Day weekend, the unofficial end of summer beckons. You want to get away but with widespread damage from Irene, most beaches are closed and many of the usual area getaways are under water.

Can you still find affordable last minute getaways? Sure can.

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Happy Birthday, Michael!

Had Michael Jackson not met his untimely death two years ago, he would have been 53 years old today. How time flies!

Despite the controversy that dogged him, it never could overshadow his genius. Michael was the consummate performer, a hands-on perfectionist.

I grew up on Michael. One summer when I was still living in Jamaica, a few of my American cousins came home for holidays and brought the Jackson 5’s music with them. It was my introduction to Michael. I learned ABC and I Want You Back and sang them over and over.  From then on, I had to have every song the Jackson 5 sang.

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Goodbye, Irene

I woke up to glorious sunshine this morning. All that’s left of Irene, the latest hurricane to hit the east coast of the U.S., is the damage and the cleanup.

For a storm that massive that was predicted to pass over the New York area on Saturday evening as a Category 1 hurricane, we were very fortunate that Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it reached us. As a result, we had far less damage that what was anticipated.

There have been flooding, mostly in flood-prone areas, trees uprooted trees, power lines brought down and cut off electricity in some areas. There has also been some loss of life but thankfully, not as many as could have occurred if the storm had remained as strong as was forecasted.

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Soulful Sundays – Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington

Born on April 29, 1899 in Washington, D.C., Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was a musician, bandleader and a prolific composer who has more than a thousand compositions to his credit.

His parents, James Edward and Daisy Kennedy Ellington, both pianists, nurtured his artistic abilities. Duke, who got his name from one of his friends, began taking piano lessons at age seven. In high school, he studied art and was awarded a scholarship to the Pratt Institute but turned it down.

Influenced by ragtime musicians, Duke began performing professionally at age 17. In 1923, he moved to New York City where he began playing in clubs. From 1927-32 and 1937-8, he played at Harlem’s Cotton Club.

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Things I Love About Harlem, Pt 2

A few days ago, I posted a list of ten things I love about Harlem and promised to share a few more. Here they are:

  • Harlem Stage – A performing arts center that “celebrates and perpetuates the unique and diverse artistic legacy of Harlem and the indelible impression it has made on American culture.” Harlem Stage is located on Convent Avenue at W 135th Street, across from the Aaron Davis Hall, a 750-seat theater, experimental theater and rehearsal studio that’s used by the New York City Opera National Company, Dance Theater of Harlem, Alvin Ailey, the Emerson String Quartet among others.
Duke Ellington statue
Duke Ellington Statue

Travel Photo Thursday – Plaza Hotel


Plaza Hotel, New York
Plaza Hotel, New York
Plaza Hotel, New York
Plaza Hotel

Located on the east side of Grand Army Plaza at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street, the Plaza is a luxury hotel in New York City. After extensive renovations, the Plaza reopened in 2008 with 282 hotel rooms and 152 private condominium units. In 1986, it was designated a National Landmark building.

Shaking in New York City

I was sitting at my desk checking messages on my phone when my chair started shaking. At first, I thought my chair was wobbly but the shaking was rhythmic. It was a side to side movement that was gentle and definitely perceptibly.

Something caused me to look in the direction of the table lamp. Without a doubt, the shade was shaking. No mistake about it.

Maybe the breeze is stronger than I think it is, I say to myself. But no, the leaves on the trees aren’t moving. Not as much as my chair is.

I looked at my watch. How long has this been? Could this be an earthquake?

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RIP Nicholas Ashford

According to news reports, Nicholas Ashford of Ashford and Simpson passed away yesterday here in New York.

Ashford, who was born in South Carolina grew up in Michigan. He moved to New York City in the early 1960s and met his future wife, Valerie Simpson in Harlem’s White Rock Baptist Church. They began collaborating musically with Ashford writing most of the lyrics, Simpson composing. They also recorded together. But it’s their work as songwriters for performers such as Ray Charles, Diana Ross, Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson and others that made them legendary. They also received writing credit on Amy Winehouse’s “Tears Dry On Their Own.”

They also co-owned the Sugar Bar where live performances are a big part of the menu.

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