Stork Club  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Stork Club was one of the famous nightclubs in New York City during the 1930s–1950s. It was located at 3 East 53rd Street, just off Fifth Avenue, now the location of Paley Park.

The Stork Club was owned and operated by Sherman Billingsley (1900-1966) an ex-bootlegger who came to New York from Enid, Oklahoma, to find his brother and liked the city. From the end of Prohibition until the early 1960s, the club was the symbol of Café Society. Movie stars, celebrities, the wealthy, showgirls, and aristocrats all mixed here. El Morocco had the sophistication, and Toots Shor's drew the sporting crowd, but the Stork Club mixed power, money and glamour into a new mix that spelled excitement.

According to Ralph Blumenthlal in his 2000 book, Stork Club, another New York nightclub owner named Mary Louise Cecilia Guinan, widely known as, "Texas," introduced Billingsley to her friend, the mass media commentator Walter Winchell, in 1930. Winchell with his outspoken wit told it all. In his column in the Daily Mirror, he once called the Stork Club "New York's New Yorkiest place on W. 58th." The real entertainment at this club was the patrons themselves.

The bronze door moving to and fro to only let the beautiful ones in while crowds of craning gawkers and autograph hunters tried to get a glimpse of what today we would call the rich and famous, are all gone. The sanctum sanctorum, the Cub Room ("the snub room"), was guarded by a captain known to everyone as, "Saint Peter" (named after the Christian Saint who guards the gates of Heaven). Ernest Hemingway, Charlie Chaplin, J. Edgar Hoover, Frank Costello, Dorothy Kilgallen, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (once given the cold shoulder there by Winchell), the Kennedys, Elizabeth Taylor, Gloria Vanderbilt, the Roosevelts, the Harrimans, Frank Sinatra, the Nordstrom Sisters, Brenda Frazier, Judy Garland, Erik Rhodes, Lucille Ball, Marilyn Monroe, Bing Crosby, Dorothy Lamour (who was turned down as a club singer by Sherman Billingsley early in her career) all were seen there at least once. The activities of the "boldface" celebrities at the Stork Club were chronicled by the "orchidaceous oracle of cafe society," Lucius Beebe, in his syndicated column "This New York." Billingsley's mistress for a number of years was Ethel Merman.


The Stork Club was a television series hosted by Billingsley who circulated among the tables interviewing guests at the club. Sponsored by Fatima cigarettes, the series ran from 1950 to 1955. The Stork Club was also featured in several movies, including The Stork Club (1945) and Alfred Hitchcock's The Wrong Man (1956).

Storck Brewery, of Slinger, Wisconsin, produced a beer throughout the 1950's bearing the label "Storck Club." This was highly controversial, and although it was not spelled the same as the famous Stork Club of New York City, the Club eventually brought a lawsuit forcing the Brewery to cease and desist their production of that brew. They alleged that the very close similarity between the names would cause customer confusion, and that it represented an infringement on their respected trademark. These labels are highly sought after by collectors today, since they were produced in very limited quantities.


The Wrong Man, 1956 - Alfred Hitchcock directed this film, based on a true story, with Henry Fonda portraying Stork Club bass player Christopher Emanuel Balestrero who was falsely accused of committing robberies around New York. Scenes involving Balestrero playing the bass were actually shot at the club.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Stork Club" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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