John Hemmer Archive

With a career that spanned over 60 years, John Hemmer found creative purpose throughout his life. His reflections on the American nightclub era captured in the documentary, John Hemmer & the Showgirls, and its respective archive, illustrate a vital and under-documented side of performing arts. As an organizer of a reunion of entertainers, John worked for decades alongside dancers, Janie Thomas Freed and Chickee James Kulp to safeguard the legacy of a lost period. His place in our cultural history and the importance of art and community are recorded and reinforced through John and his cohort’s experiences.

Far Rockaway

Born in 1934, John grew up in the town of Edgemere on Far Rockaway Beach in the borough of Queens in New York City where he attended Far Rockaway High School. Living on an isthmus exposed John to outdoor recreation such as swimming and fishing. Its beachside boardwalk featured entertainment and games. John was a subway ride away from Manhattan where he would take in The Great White Way and walk along Swing Street, listening to the jazz pulse from the basement clubs along the strip.

In the Army

After being drafted in 1957, John found himself applying his athletic and entertainment talents in the service, enjoying his time in the U.S. Army despite some of the rigors of military life.

New York City

Having lived in his New York apartment for over 50 years, John Hemmer entertained many friends from comedian Rip Taylor (pictured) to singer Johnnie Ray to columnist / socialite Dorothy Kilgallen and many others. He witnessed vast changes in the city and his neighborhood over the decades, but even so, greeted neighbors and visited local businesses who have been there just as long.

John the Model

Following a stint in the U.S. Army, John sought work in a number of fields, including modeling, while he pursued employment as a singer and entertainer. He appeared in print ads and periodicals between stage work throughout the mid-1950s and early ’60s.

Recording & Touring

The Four Voices and Winged Victory took John Hemmer all over New York state and across the U.S. and Canada where he took to the stage at both large and small scale nightclubs. As a member of the Four Voices, John was introduced to many other vocalists on the Columbia Record label and beyond. Because of these opportunities, he crossed paths with a variety of influential artists, entertainers and literary agents of the day. His experiences reflect a fascinating cultural history of Manhattan as well as the broader club circuit of the day.

Wonder World

The 1964 New York World’s Fair boasted over 600 acres in grounds covered by many pavilions, restaurants, corporate exhibits and displays representing countries from around the globe. It also staged the water and performance extravaganza, Wonder World, produced by Radio City Music Hall giant, Leon Leonidoff. The production employed hundreds of performers and crew, including the talents of John Hemmer.

The Latin Quarter

Lou Walters’ World Famous Latin Quarter was a hotspot supper club in its heyday from the 1940s through the 1960s, attracting both celebrity clientele and performers who took to its stage. John Hemmer enjoyed its spotlight and the experience forever changed the course of his life.

Theater

Through the 1970s and beyond, John Hemmer joined theatrical productions as both crew and performer, such as a staging of Kismet and Sound of Music at Lincoln Center as well as three U.S. tours of Man of La Mancha, among others.

The Latin Quarter Showgirls, Inc.

The Latin Quarter Showgirls, Inc. became a nonprofit charity following an early ‘80s reunion of former Latin Quarter performers and employees. The group raised thousands of dollars in donation moneys for children in need.

Social Club

Formed after the Latin Quarter Showgirls, Inc. nonprofit closed its doors, the social club, organized by master and mistress-of-ceremony, John Hemmer and Janie Thomas Freed, is an annual gathering of Latin Quarter community.

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