Anne Jeffries, Bing Crosby, Dean Mora and his Melody Boys, Dennis McNeil, Emily Bergl, Hutton Wilkinson, Jean Veloz, Jody Byrd, Maxwell DeMille's Cicada Club, Oviatt Building in Los Angeles, Richard Halpern, The Johnny Holiday Program, vintage supper clubs
I have to tell you about the wonderful evening that my friends Mona Nesseth and Hutton Wilkinson arranged for 43 of us at Maxwell DeMille’s Cicada Club in Los Angeles. The evening featured The Johnny Holiday Program with music by Dean Mora and his Melody Boys 10-piece orchestra and song and dance numbers by the Satin Dollz. Does that sound like a vintage supper club show to you? It was! The Cicada Club, housed in the historic 1928 Art Deco Oviatt Building in downtown LA, was the perfect backdrop for the dinner show. You could picture yourself in one of those famous supper clubs from the ’30s and ’40s we saw in the movies. Some of us even dressed the part (me!) and had great fun doing it!
Johnny Holiday, whose great uncle and godfather was the late Bing Crosby, drew his inspiration for creating the show from Bing’s radio programs and his “Hollywood Palace” television shows. Holiday engaged a number of great entertainers for the showcase, including Richard Halpern, known as “Mr. Tin Pan Alley,” who sang, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime” and “Sunny Side of the Street.” If that doesn’t take you back, nothing will! Dennis McNeil, who sang with The Met and was selected Best Male Cabaret Performer by Broadway World, sang a lilting “Let’s Fall in Love,” while singing sensation Emily Bergl, who has impressive stage and screen credits and is currently filming a Woody Allen movie, flew in from New York to perform a number of vintage numbers, including the upbeat “42nd Street.” Jody Byrd’s crooning of “Blue Skies” was smooth as silk, and a special appearance by swing dance legend Jean Veloz was a showstopper. The 88-year-old, the icon for a new generation of swing dancers, showed her stuff on the dance floor to great applause.
Holiday, a singer himself, opened for headliners like Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Jerry Vale, Frankie Lane, and Mel Torme early in his career and sang with various bands, including Ernie Hecksher in The Venetian Room at the Fairmont Hotel atop Nob Hill in San Francisco. He delighted guests at the Cicada with a number of “gems” from that era, and, don’t let me forget the Satin Dollz, whose dancing brought energy and just plain fun to the entire show.
One last thing, the beautiful actress and singer Anne Jeffries, guest of Hutton and Ruth Wilkinson, attended, looking smashing in a ruffled fuchsia blouse. Jeffries career, spanning stage, screen and television (she and husband Robert Sterling were the stars in the long-running “Topper” TV series), had her performing with the best. She topped off the evening for me, bringing the glamorous days of Hollywood and its famous night spots full circle!
The Johnny Holiday Program at the Cicada Club is scheduled for September 21, October 12, November 16, and the very popular Christmas Show is planned for December 22. You must go! You will love it!! Go to http://www.cicadaclub.com for more information.
Photos: Terry LaBelle Whitley, George Rozsahegyi and Cathy Rae Smith