Moonshine Monday: The Hotel Astor

moonshinemondayWelcome to Moonshine Mondays! In the lead up to the release of my Jazz Age-set romance Such a Dance on October 27, I’m rolling out some history, photos, background info and other special features relating to the book.

Although Such a Dance is populated by a number of fictional locations—Lane’s club, the Marigold; the James Theater where the Eddie dances—I used a number of real locations, too. One of the most notable is the Hotel Astor, which was once a luxury hotel in Times Square, on the block of Broadway between 44th and 45th Streets.

Vintage postcard of the Hotel Astor

Vintage postcard of the Hotel Astor

In the novel, the hotel’s proximity to Lane’s speakeasy on 46th Street is important, but I included the hotel in the book specifically because of the Astor’s notorious hotel bar. Starting in the 1910s, it became a meeting place for homosexual men. It wasn’t subtle, either; an entire section of the bar was set aside for gay men, and they were welcomed as long as they were discreet (for the time). It was part of the thriving gay culture in Times Square in the era, a logical evolution perhaps from the music halls and dive bars for men seeking men that cropped up in the Lower East Side and Greenwich Village in the late 19th Century—gay culture essentially followed the Theater District uptown. By the 1920s, both gay culture and theater are thriving in Times Square, and though the Marigold is fictional, clubs like it existed at the time. (More on this in a future post, but for now I’ll say that a straight line can be drawn from the Bowery music halls of the 1890s to Stonewall, with some points along the way you might not expect.)

Anyway, with this history in mind, I set a pivotal scene in the book at the Astor. For more, here are some exterior photos. And here are more photos, mostly interiors.

The hotel was torn down in the late 60s and today, the block is dominated by a monolithic office tower that is home to MTV studios and the Minskoff Theater (currently home of The Lion King). (Wikipedia.) Next time you’re in NYC and walking through Times Square, imagine a previous era when this block was dominated by one of the most luxurious hotels in the city, and think about who might have been meeting each other at the hotel bar.

Moonshine Monday: NYC Then and Now

moonshinemondayWelcome to Moonshine Mondays! In the lead up to the release of my Jazz Age-set romance Such a Dance on October 27, I’m going to start rolling out some history, photos, background info and other special features relating to the book.

New York has changed quite a bit in the 90 years that have passed since the book takes place. Such a Dance takes place almost entirely within a few blocks of Times Square. We’ll get into some of the specific locations from the book in the coming weeks, but first, I thought I’d set the scene by sharing some photos showing how NYC used to be.

Consider this: in 1927, there was no Empire State Building. There was no Rockefeller Center, no Chrysler Building, no Lincoln Center. There were still elevated trains running down major arteries in Manhattan and whole subway lines that hadn’t been built yet. It’s Prohibition, but though it was illegal to sell “intoxicating beverages,” liquor flowed freely in speakeasies all over the city. It was a seminal year for Broadway as well, with more shows opening that year than any year before or since. Vaudeville was on its way out and Broadway as we know it today, with shows like Showboat opening that year, was taking shape.

NYC-at-Night131-600x323

Here are some links to posts with photos of Jazz Age New York:

Spotlight on Broadway: The Great White Way—Some fantastic photos of old Times Square

Then vs. Now: 1920s New York—Photos showing NYC in the 1920s and now

Stock footage showing NYC in 1927

I also have a Pinterest board showing NYC in the 1920s.

88.1.1.2206

Tune in next Monday for more!