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Dime-a-Dance Girl Exiting the Scene

Jan. 15, 1964 - The dime-a-dance girl, glorified in song as the heroine of “soldiers and sailors and bow-legged tailors,” may soon be taking her final spin around the floor, it was predicted today by her employers along Broadway. (Pictured below is the Roseland ballroom in 1937.) They asserted that License Commissioner Bernard O’Connell was driving dancing girls out of the business by charging — erroneously, they say — that the girls are “lewd” and “offensive to public decency.” Already O’Connell has revoked the licenses of three of New York’s eight dance halls that provide hostesses. The three halls that have lost their licenses — included among them is the famed Orpheum on Broadway and 46th, first opened in 1917 — are still operating. They all have appealed their cases in State Supreme Court.

O’Connell “has taken the law into his own hands,” contended former Rep. Alfred Santangelo, counsel for the New Gardens Ballroom at 116 East 14th Street — which, together with the Golden Slipper on Seventh Avenue and 49th Street, also had its license revoked. “I’m well aware of what I am doing,” O’Connell said today. His investigators, posing as part of the lonely crowd, have visited dance halls and bought tickets — three for $1, or a half-hour’s dancing for $7 — and found the hostesses “indecently exposed, immoral while dancing, and willing to proposition the male visitors,” a spokesman for the License Commission said today.

In dance halls today, however, the girls angrily disputed any suggestion that they were part of the seamier side of New York night life. “I am helping people,” insisted 25-year-old Rebecca, employed at the Orpheum since 1960. “New York is a cold, cold city, and men can talk to us.” “They are wonderful girls here,” interjected the Orpheum’s manager, Al Simon. “We understand people,” said Rebecca. “These girls can hold their heads up,” Mr. Simon said. “When I worked for a dentist,” said Rebecca, “I learned nothing. Now I meet nice people.” Mr. Simon, by way of showing that the girls “had warm hearts,” opened a door off the dance floor and showed that the girls had a pet pigeon they were feeding. “They care for this stray pigeon,” he explained, “and the customers they have, they are stray pigeons too. Pigeons that need a little comfort. Anything wrong with that?”


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