The Village Gate (1958-1993) in New York City's Greenwich Village on Bleeker Street
The Village Gate was a nightclub at the corner of Thompson and Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, New York. Art D'Lugoff opened the club in 1958, on the ground floor and basement of 158 Bleecker Street. The large 1896 Chicago School structure by architect Ernest Flagg was known at the time as Mills House No. 1 and served as a flophouse for transient men.
Throughout its 38 years the Village Gate featured such musicians as John Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Bill Evans, Vasant Rai, Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin, who made her first New York appearance there. The show Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, debuted at the Village Gate in 1968.
In the 1960s, radio DJ and Latin music advocate Symphony Sid hosted a regular Monday night concert at the Village Gate "Monday Nights at the Gate" featuring the best of New York’s thriving Latin music scene. As salsa music began to grow in popularity, the Alegre record label began to host quite a few events at the Village Gate - many of which resulted in live recordings. Some of the live recordings from the Village Gate that made a huge impression were the Alegre All-Star (and later Tico All-Star) Descarga sessions. The "Salsa Meets Jazz" series at the Village Gate was a seminal part of the history of New York Latin music. In 1977, WRVR Latin music DJ and Jazz musician/conga drummer Roger Dawson created and hosted a weekly event that brought top Latin bands together with a guest jazz soloist. Mr. Dawson named the event “Salsa Meets Jazz”. Sonny Stitt with Eddie Palmieri, Dexter Gordon with Machito, Dizzy Gillespie with Tito Puente, James Moody, Wynton Marsalis, Bobby Hutcherson, David "Fathead" Newman, Slide Hampton, Pharaoh Sanders to name a few, all jumped in to "jam" with the best Salsa bands of the time with no rehearsals and the musical results are legendary.
The club hosted a benefit for Timothy Leary in May 1970 that featured performances from such counterculture luminaries as Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Allen Ginsberg. In 1971 Madame made her debut on the arms of Wayland Flowers, performing in the high camp Kumquats, The World's First Erotic Puppet Show.
From 1971 to 1973, a musical comedy revue called National Lampoon Lemmings had a successful run at the Gate. It starred future comic notables John Belushi, Chevy Chase Garry Goodrow and Christopher Guest, and lampooned the 1969 Woodstock Festival, which had taken place upstate two years earlier, calling it "Woodchuck" and equating the entire hippie generation with lemmings bent on self-destruction.
From 1988 to 1991, the improvisational comedy troupe Noo Yawk Tawk performed at the upstairs theater. The group was conceived and directed by Richmond Shepard, a world renowned mime, actor, comedian and teacher. All of the performances for Noo Yawk Tawk were entirely improvised. Characters may have been repeated but never the sketches or the dialogue. The audience always set the scene and conditions for each improvisation so every performance was different. The cast included Stan Taffel, Marc Kudisch, Debra Wilson, Garry Goodrow, Miguel Sierra, Ken Dashow, Nola Roeper, Bonnie Comley & Richmond Shepard. Taffel would go on to win three Emmy Awards for his performances in The News In Revue on PBS. Kudisch earned a Tony nomination in 2002.
The Village Gate closed its Greenwich Village location in 1993. The ground floor is currently occupied by CVS/Pharmacy.