Luis 'El Flaco" Orellana
Danny Rodriguez (1982-1989)
Stephen L. Davis (1985-1995)
Look at how long The Copacabana was open! SEVENTY-SIX years, and it refuses to die. It has survived thirteen United States Presidents and five wars! Today it is without a location, but there are promises that it will re-open. Whether it does or not doesn't matter as much as its history does.
Who are the owners of The Copacabana? That question was always elusive to the authorities as well. It was listed as being leased to Monte Proser in 1940, when it was legally opened to the public. It was a SPEAKEASY / Night Club for mobsters such as Charles "Lucky" Luciano and the rest of MURDER INC. The actual owners were originally Albert Anastasia and Frank Costello, charter members of THE COMMISSION! It eventually passed hands to CARLO GAMBINO, then PAULIE CASTELLANOS, until the government finally forced the MOB out in 1986. That is when Peter Dorn took over. I was long gone by that time. I worked at THE COPACABANA when these gangsters decided to reopen it in 1973 as a DISCO after being closed to the public since the late sixties. I got a hell of an education there!
The Mafia would put "Puppet Head Owner" to stay "legit". They Included MONTE PROSER and the infamous JULES PODELL. They paid off the Police and City Hall to make sure that this remained their personal playground. The original location off Central Park at 10 EAST 60th street was a GANGSTER SPEAKEASY (in 1930), then a illegal GANGSTER Night Club/Casino until they somehow got a liquor license in late 1940; November 10th, they opened their doors to the Public. For the next sixty years it stayed at the same location, only leaving when the MOB influence was removed (allegedly).
During the 1940s HARRY BELAFONTE got thrown out because he was BLACK. A few years later he returned to be the Headline Act. Others from the forties included Frank Sinatra, Joe E. Lewis and Jimmy Durante. The COPACABANA featured a great restaurant with the freshest sea food available and the best chefs to cook them. It had a show stage on the first floor, with a Dance Floor in front of it. On the Third floor was the HIDDEN CASINO, because one minute it was there, the next it wasn't. It was still in operation when I left in 1978.
During the 1950s there was a major fight between the New York Yankees and a team of out-of-state Bowlers because of SAMMY DAVIS Jr. performing. It was a national news story at the time. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis not only started their careers there, but performed as a duo for the last time at the COPA as well. Others whose pictures went on the hallway wall of superstars that PLAYED THE COPA include, Perry Como, Bobby Darin, Jackie Gleason, Peggy Lee, Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, The Supremes, Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, Buddy Hackett, Rodney Dangerfield, Henny Youngman, Danny Thomas, Bobby Vinton, Tony Orlando, Wayne Newton, Sophie Tucker,Carmen Miranda, Tommy Dorsey, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Celia Cruz, The Temptations, Martha Reeves, Gloria Gaynor, Don Rickles, Barry White, The Trammps, Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, Donna Summer, Gary Glitter, Tina Charles, Linda Clifford, Tina Turner, The Village People, Cerrone, Don Ray, Tito Puente and The last performers, EL GRAN COMBO! Those were just some of the many acts that PLAYED THE COPA.
After renovations in 1972, a DISCO was opened in the basement level, that was the new center of attention, while the real fun was a few stories above. This DISCO had one of the biggest deejay booths I had ever seen. Bigger then my bedroom!! Enough room for over three thousand records. Five thousand watt amplifiers, three Technic 1200 turntables. Two BOZAC (Bozak) mixers, two Phase Linear equalizers, a state of the art computerized light show that had half a dozen Neon Characters (including one of CARMEN MIRANDA on a crescent moon). A mirrored ceiling, a Dance floor bigger then most small DISCOS with tons of different lighting effects. Of course the mirrored DISCO BALLS, three of them in various sises. Ten miles of wiring, and so many different varieties of speakers I can't remember them all. This was in 1973!
The food was spectacular, the drinks were NEVER watered down, bad business the MOBSTERS called it. Every glass cost you seven bucks! Water? Seven Dollars! Soda? Seven Bucks! A Ten to Twenty dollar cover charge, in 1973!! It cost more, but was such a great DISCO!! The deejays, Pete Denis, Tony Gio, Luis 'El Flaco" Orellana and many others that I can't recall. The music had a certain Latin/Brazilian/European flair to it. Always the best. But the best thing about my years there were the WOMEN!! Tons of actresses and wanna-be actresses gave a certain BEAUTY that few clubs could match. Then there were the Porno-Stars! Since the MOB was the money behind that business in the seventies, they made sure that their "girls" would be very visible at night in the COPA. That made this a very exciting DISCO, and a simply great place to work at. Oh, did I mention great pay and better TIPS!! Nothing but great times, the BEST NIGHT CLUB EVER!!! THE COPACABANA, when the mob ran it!
(Photos above of band playing on Copacabana stage and Copa Logo, submitted by Rigo of 305Disco.com)
Photos below of DJ Mike Mora and others at the Copa during a "For the record," and Butterfly Records party in 1979.
Three photos below submitted by Jay Vee
Description: Here we are at THE COPA! This was taken on December 29, 1990 at the only REAL Copa at 10 E 60th Street. This was at the upstairs bar. Left to right its Jose, Pablo, Eddie ,Tony (Popeye) and Charlie, we are the Fellas from Millbrook Houses, those WERE THE DAYS! Last two are of various Copacabana flyers and graphics.
Photos below from Luis Mario "Flaco" Orellana
Description: Luis Mario "Flaco" Orellana in the DJ booth. Luis Mario "Flaco" Orellana with Roy Webb and DC LaRue in the DJ booth.
Please note that in the interest of fairness, the names of DJs and staff are listed in alphabetical order.
If anyone has any ideas as to who the current owners are I'd love to know!
I'm trying to confirm whether or not my third cousins are the owners (or were, or are co-owners). My family has always said so, and I've overheard said cousins talking about the club, but I just want to see it from more official sources.
Does anybody remember the owners or partners of the Copa back in 1970s?
I remember people talking about Peter Nee as an owner or partner from
Teaneck NJ? Is this true?
My copy of the. LAND MARK MURAL. is still on display. Nice to have the original to look at ...every morning. Still have a collection of paintings I had for my 2011 one man show. Available for sale. (hint). Still show up to pose with clients in front om my 40 ft mural. I've had a long run with the Copacabana. It's been fun. And hope they last forever. Hello to all the staff I knew when I was working there. And YES. I'm still here. Russ Elliott
Our little senior prom group of semi-cool white kids from Catholic high schools in Brooklyn enjoyed the privilege of watching The Temptations in May of 1970. I thought I was in coolness heaven as they slapped me five on their way to and from the stage. THEY WERE FANTASTIC, and I will never forge the experience. Never would have happened if not for the Copa, and of course, my great date whom I later married in the summer of '73.
I saw The Supremes there the first of 2 times when I was 15. My 1st live music event..It was way glamourous..My 1st timehaving chopped liver. The Supremes were tremendous..groundbreaking. Also saw The Temptations,Dionne Warwick.Great memories!
I went there for my senior prom nite after, I have 2 postcards with the woman, min chg was $8.50 nightly & $9.00 Sat's I have the reserved table card for 10PM PL8-0900 Julwa Podell's COPACABANA. The opening nite may 13, 1971 was Bobby Vinton,Dustin Brooks 2 shows 8pm & midnight. The INSIDE is the greatest it has 22 famous peoples names & they are sitting at tables with Head shots showing each personality. I've saved this since my senior prom 1971. It's in excellent condition . They sold chinese food (oriental) was inportant as it says everything was supervised by Jules Podell. But I remember Bobby Vinton. There was about 12 of us that nite. It's nice to see that it's still there Now at almost (60) yrs young. I worked in NYC for over 25 yrs starting 1970, I'm now retired in Fla. I hope be visit NYC again soon & I will come to the copa & bring my old memobilia. thanks for the memories Kelly Stober
Danny whats up... You used to DJ at Donna Lins right on Water street?
i met and became friends with a very notable conga player Carlos patao valdez on e of the greatest conga players there was god rest his sole , he handed me his latest cdat that time it was called master piece and play it well it came out in 1993 the year the club closed,Macho camacho came by alot i had small conversations about his pro fights,, i loved the latin people and loved when the people i talked too would tell me that their mothers and fathers visited the copa and now they did too,, working with john , one night i will never forget was when i was working the front door at that time we set up a metal detector to ensure the safety of the staff inside and the customers i noticed their was some words with one other security on the steps i had heard this from inside everthing was quiet after that dont you know about 20 minutes later their were gunshots and we had a security down i bolted out to the street with 2 other security and chased the gunman down but he got away in a car, i wont metion who was shot but im glad he lived. we always made sure you were safe no one ever brought a fire amr in that club. i worked on and off in the copa alot of years, but onre of the most beautiful thing that the copa did for me was i met my beatiful wife and were married 16 years and have a gorgeous daughter who just turned 15 and for all of you who had the pleasure of being in the copa during any period of time you had the time of your life, gods speed to all of you
Richie if you had a brain you would be dagerous get a life
BETTER THAN MEMORIES....THERE IS A NEW VIDEO OF RUSS ELLIOTT AT THE COPA
ABOUT 15 MINUTES LONG..SHOWS THE BEAUTIFUL SUPPER CLUB ON THE SECOND FLOOR.. THE FOOD THE MUSIC THE ART..TAKE A PEEK....
My 10 yr old son takes voice lessons from Sonney Farar who is now 82 yrs old and amazing!He was brought to the Copa personally by Frank Costella to be the Copa's daily singer and host.His stories about his time spent there are incredible as is he still...and his voice still would blow you away!!!Anyone with any stories and especially pictures of him and that time period...not sure late 50's or early 60's...would be wonderful.And by the way, he married a chorus girl.I see I spelled sonney's name wrong...Farrar.
I shared a lot of happy memories in the Copa during a time that we will never be able to be duplicated. It was and always be the best disco in town.
TONITE....IS MY BIG NIGHT... THE COPACABANA IS GIVING ME A HUGE PARTY FOR THE UNVEILING OF OASIS MY 40 FT.MURAL AND MY COPA COLLECTION OF PAINTINGS AS WELL..DEC 28...WED..FROM 6 TO 9...THE COPA STAFF AND OWNERS ARE GOING ALL OUT TO MAKE THIS NIGHT PERFECT. HOPE TO SEE LOTS OF ART LOVERS..TONITE... AND THANKS TO THIS SITE FOR BEING SO KIND TO ME THIS YEAR...RUSS ELLIOTT
The Copacabana on 60th Street was my first renovation and it was a famous lady that needed a revamp and some new makeup. It soon became a place for movies like Tootsie (Dustin Hoffman), Goodfellows, Raging Bull... The food was marvelous and everyone flocked to the place.
Then I was approached to move this landmark to 57th street lock stock and barrel. It used to be the Red Parrot on 57th street where we saw Andy Warhol many times. I took whatever I could salvage and laid it out on the dance floor and then I recreated the bar on the second level and painted the folding fire doors on both sides with giant murals.
I started on 57th street and worked my way to 58th street with a few small paint brushes and lots of paint. It was a work of love. Repair work on the parrots in a huge mural were of some concern. Gum rolled into balls and cigarette filters somehow made them very male on a crowded night. Gee thanks everyone, you kept me busy with repair work for years!
Somehow my name was omitted and I never really got any fame from doing this job. Later after much success the Copacabana moved to 34th Street and I was painting again. A new and huge Copa, though this time I only did the outdoor canvases and a small, but fun mural with my girlfriend the Copa girl which everyone posed against. So much for artistic endeavor...
And now my fourth and last Copa: The ladies room lounge, which I did with three large murals. Fighting all the way with the decorator and her buddy trying to tell me how to paint. I was not a happy camper. I was lucky enough to have the owner of the copa back my every brush stroke though shanghi lil and her buddy dogged my every step till I got them 86'd out the bathroom.
Then I offered to do the supper club with a knockout 40 ft mural called "Oasis." The rest is more or less history... Everyone's remark, are you still here, or when will it be finished, still rings in my ears.
And now, at long last i'm having an unveiling of my mural on Dec 28th, Wednesday. Food and beverage the works and our wonderful staff backing me up and some of my Copa collection of paintings, serigraphs and giclee by Gamma One and who also pitched in and made a copy of one of my famous murals for part of the 40 feet. Hope it's not tacky, but the art work is being offered. A piece of history I call it, as it took me over 40 to get the acclaim i'm getting from Facebook... Even in Rio I'm called the legend. Guess they heard how old I am: 80 in March, 2011, but I'm told I look a lot younger. Though I do feel this last assignment aged me alot.
Well there it is an nutshell or coconut shell. I'm sort of long winded when it comes to the lady, my Copa girl who I love so very much.
- Russ Elliott, artist in residence...
Hope to see you this north of Havana as Barry Manilow would say...
Another feature for the Copacabana: This is my fourth Copacabana as the first one was on 60th Street.
This 4th one has a new mural called "Oasis" and is 40 feet wide and about 18 feet tall. The Copa for the first time is giving me an unveiling of the mural, though right now the supper club is featuring it and a "one man show" of my paintings and serigraphs as well as giclee prints. December 28, 2011 on Wednesday from 6 to 9:30pm it features my art work in connection with the Copa for 43 years.
Call it the Copa collection and that sums up some of my best work. http://www.russelliott.com shows some of the featured work. As they say, "See you at the Copa" (I hope).
By the way, Glenn is now a very accomplished Jazz musician doing club dates. Here is the link to a video I shot at the newly opened Copa on west 47th Street where the old China Club was. John Juliano opened it and Peter Dorn and Glee were there for opening night as well.
Thanks for the story..
What is there now?
is the buiding still standing?
Russ very nice work, but the Copa was on 6oth street first.
Post some pic's of your work when you are done, love to see it.
GREAT FUN...I DID THE RENOVATIONS OF THE COPA....THE SWAGS..THE COPA GIRL.. THRUOUT THE DINING ROOM AND DOWNSTAIRS..PAINTING ON THE MIRROR..FOLLOWING THE ART WORK DESIGN..THEN MOVED TO 57TH STREET WHERE I HAND PAINTED THE COPA FROM 57TH TO 58TH STREET.. AND RECREATED THE COPA ART WORK AGAIN....THEN PARTS OF THE 34TH STRET COPA AND .. NOW DOING A 4TH COPA ON 47TH STREET...WITH MY SIGNATURE MURAL ON THE SECOND FLOOR...A REAL WINNER AND ONE OF MY VERY BEST...
Tommy you don't know what your talking bout
Stick to beingba bouncer
The owners were juliano,and Dorn. and if anyone ever wondered why the COPA moved from 10 east 60 st I will tell you why,
Frank Costello a NY Mobster had interests in the COPA.He had the building owners sign a 50 year lease in or around 1943 after the lease was expired 1n 1993 the existing owners and their managers that the owners had working there were all thrown out. At that point the COPA as many of you know was a disco As far as the management went at that time there was no way they were going to be albe to stay.
Myself and friends were at the Copa on Christmas Eve 1965, London Lee was the opening act for Sammy Davis Jr., great show and atmosphere.
I worked as a bouncer from 86 to 88 with glenn, nick,tommy,walter, big kevin, claude, george kyle, and who can forget ms. glee also any bopuncers remember John steele?
I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW EXACTLY WHEN THE TEMPTATIONS WERE AT THE COPA IN FEBRUARY(BEGINNING OF MONTH) 1973 ITS FOR MY ANNIVERSARY THANKS
Thank You Bernie for the add .
I was a private party DJ there at the location on the east side.
Thanks for taking time to comment. I've added your name to the DJ list along with the other names you mentioned liked the bouncers...
Hi its me Danny Rodriguez dj @ the copa from 1982 to 89 with a few pics from that era
We all had a blast in the late 80's and 90's. I had many many great nights there when I as working in the D.J booth. I got see many salsa bands and saw many things that i can't say. Love those times working with Tony, Danny, Pete, Pedro and lets not forget Ms.Glee.
I worked as a bouncer from 1988 till about 1995, everybody from Hector Levoe to Chuck Norris passed through.
I had some fun times and some crazy times too.
it was some time in 1987 that ed.humphrey castillo had the first latin show with willie colen
I just wanted to mention a few people who worked at the copacabana during the 80s, DJ Danny Rodriguez
from 1982 to 1989, Glenn, Jhon,all bouncers , Donna, Debbie, Tina, waitress.
I was there a few times in the 70's but in the 80's there use to be a troupe (for lack of a better word) of drag's I think it was the first Tuesday of every month...and it would be absolute blast and the DJ was awesome playing real club disco of the 70's. Does anyone know if this "troupe" still exists...I forget the name.
Pete Denis, the resident DJ, informed me that it opened to the public November 11th, 1940 and that the first act was Joe E. Lewis.
I'm a student writing a paper for class (Jazz and the Civil Rights Movement) and I've been trying to find out exactly what day the Copacabana opened and who was the first performer. Do you know?
I went to the COPACABANA all the time, because the deejay was the guy who mixed everything, and it seemed to last forever. Remember the Mirrored wall, with all the neon figures. The women were stunning, and extremely friendly. Great times in 1974.
From my knowledge, and I now live in Miami, the building is still there. More than likely, it probably is some other restaurant. the upper floors, are now different businesses. Maybe even apartments?? But, again, I am in Miami, haven't been there in many years. So, very good question? Can anyone help answer it??
Anyone know if the facade of the building is still there at 10 East 60th Street? If so, what is it now?
Way to go Tony, I am surprised that YOU didn't put this Club on this site!! Since you met your wife there, there must still be a lot of affection for THE COPA there? What are you doing now??
Went there many nights in the 70's...saw great disco bands like Odyssey...then, @ an afterwork friday night party in September of 1981, I met my beautiful wife of 30 years - Alma...
it was all true @ the Copa ...Copacabana, the hottest spot north of Havana...