the Copacabana will never close


That's right, the Copa will never close.

I know what you are thinking, "Bernie, you fool, they already closed."

2 Jul 2007,
Copacabana: As Of Yesterday, Just One

Another piece of old New York closed its doors this weekend. The Copacabana, a dance club founded in 1941, is a casualty of subway expansion to the West Side. Good news for Rio de Janeiro (whose chic Copacabana district inspired the name), but bad news for fans of Latin music and disco nostalgics.

The nightclub inspired the Barry Manilow song of the same name, and is thought to be the model for The Tropicana, the club Desi Arnaz runs in "I Love Lucy." It's also the site of a real-life scuffle between Yankees (including Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra) and patrons angry at performer Sammy Davis Jr.

my mom at the copacabana
My Mom (2nd from left) at the Copa
I was 5 years old when my mother first started going to the original Copa. The one that just closed on West 34th Street was but a mere replica of the original on East 60th Street which was the one featured in Martin Scorsese's mob classic "Goodfellas," "Raging Bull" and in the Dustin Hoffman film "Tootsie."

My mother had hundreds of photos of herself at the club. This one is the last surviving photo. Mom is the woman in the black dress. I have not a single clue who the other people are. We moved at least a dozen times since 1952 and it seems every moving would swallow up one or two mementos of your life. This has led me to believe in the Sock Devil. This wily beast is the most insidious of all the creatures in Demonopolis. It is also the most difficult to spot. While most demons can be detected by the harmful effects of their evil acts, such as boils, tumors, scabs or blindness, one can only surmise the existence of the Sock Devil by what is not there. For example, how often have you lost a sock in your dryer? Yes, the work of the Sock Devil.

But I digress. My mom always went to the Copa with her friends leaving about 10 o'clock at night and would stay to watch the midnight show until about 1:30 A.M. I was always awake then watching the Late Show on channel 2. She was never too tired to describe what it was like that night and who was entertaining. Since my mother did not know the words to Spanish songs (or English ones for that matter) she would pretend to be one of the Samba Sirens but would sing instead the Russian romantic songs, Dark Eyes or Chrysanthemum [YouTube]. My parents only spoke to me in Polish when I was growing up so I did not understand the words, yet when she sang to me in Russian, tears would well up in my eyes. If my mother had had a balalaika [mp3] I think I would have died.

I've always wanted to go to the Copa, but sadly, by the time I was ready it had turned into a discotheque in the 1970s.

When I uploaded my mom's last Copa photo I thought that as long as my webhost's servers kept running, the memory of the Copacabana would never die; however, in truth, I have but to close my eyes and I can hear the voice of Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Durante, the comedic repartee between Martin and Lewis, feel the beat of the conga music, be hypnotized by the spectacular sets, enthralled by the Samba Sirens in their dazzling costumes twirling in the spotlights - I can hear and see it as if I were back there now in 1950.

You may wonder how it is I can feel nostalgic about a place I have never been to, but actually, I've been there hundreds of times, in my heart where my mom put it.

### End of my article ###

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