John Hemmer Archive

Meet The EnteRtaineRs

Lou Walters’ World Famous Latin Quarter nightclub was internationally known in its day. Walters, the impresario of its three locations, was known to host some of the most lavish live productions in the business where the everyday guy and gal rubbed elbows with famous clientele over dinner and cocktails, while taking in the biggest headliners live on stage. But it’s singer John Hemmer, along with dancers Janie Thomas Freed, Chickee James Kulp and their community, who have ensured the Latin Quarter’s legacy by keeping their collective together. Working during the height of the nightclub era in the mid-20th century, their stories detail a cultural history like no other.

Jane Thomas Freed

A native New Yorker, Janie began studying dance as a little girl. At 16 years of age Janie became a dancer at the Latin Quarter. She performed at its Times Square supperclub, as well as the Florida-based location on Palm Island, Miami Florida, before leaving in 1961 to begin family with husband, Bob Freed (a Latin Quarter Maitre’d). Jane also performed for producer/choreographer, Donn Arden at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas, where the opening act was Louis Prima and Keely Smith. As Co-Founder of the Latin Quarter Showgirls, Inc., she reunited with Latin Quarter colleagues to form a charity that staged performances for over 16 years. In 2006, she was first runner-up in Ms. Senior America, New Jersey. Janie currently dances with Broadway Ziegfeld Entertainers. She and Bob enjoy three sons and eleven grandchildren.

Chickee James Kulp

was born in Brooklyn at the very same hospital as her future husband, Richard Kulp. Beginning in 1955, she performed at Lou Walters World Famous Latin Quarter nightclubs in Miami, Florida and New York City. Over the course of her time there Chickee became a notable dancer and MC at the famous supperclubs. In 1962 she left to join LA PLUME DE MA TANTE on Broadway. Chickee also appeared on the television in such shows as WHAT’S MY LINE?, guest starred on THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW and toured the U.S. with actors Tony Curtis and Piper Laurie to promote bonds during the Korean War. She resumed her acting career in the 1980s with appearances in films such as THE FLAMINGO KID, FALLING IN LOVE and PRIZZI’S HONOR. In 1984, Chickee co-founded the Latin Quarter Showgirls, Inc., along with dancer, Janie Thomas Freed. The nonprofit charity staged performances which raised funds for children in need for over 16 years.

Margo Mayor

danced her way from Detroit to New York City in the early 1960’s, becoming an Actor’s Equity member at the age of 17. She has been featured in On and Off-Broadway and summer stock productions, such as WEST SIDE STORY, LI’L ABNER, THE BOYFRIEND, WHAT A KILLING, INFIDEL CAESAR and OKLAHOMA. Margo performed as “The Mermaid” in WONDER WORLD, the 1964 New York World’s Fair water show extravaganza with Chita Rivera and Gretchen Wyler. She has appeared in television and film, including Mike Nichol’s WORKING GIRL. Margo has been one of the top fitting models in New York City and ran a modeling agency for a number of years. Margo performed with the Latin Quarter Showgirls, Inc. charity. Today she works as a supernumerary at The Metropolitan Opera.

Dana Lorge

was raised on Long Island. As a singer/comedienne, Large performed in leading nightclubs earning rave reviews from New York to Tokyo. In Atlantic City she appeared with Sal Richards, Kaye Ballard, Sheila MacRae and Larry Amorus at the Showboat and headlined in the Follies, a revue at Bally’s Grand. Dana performed at Don’t Tell Mama in New York City, and in COUGARS ON THE PROWL at the Provincetown Cabaret Festival. Theatre credits: GRIND (1985) with Ben Vereen on Broadway and the title role in AUNT CHOOCH’S BIRTHDAY (1998), Off-Broadway. Film credits: PRINCE OF THE CITY (1981); MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON (1984); OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION (1998) and THE PRODUCERS(2005) and CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC (2009). Dana produced and hosted variety shows in Manhattan, both at the Iguana, Wednesday Night at the Iguana and at The Metropolitan Room.

Bob Freed

was the Maitre’d at the Lou Walters World Famous Latin Quarter in New York City. He began his hospitality career at the Quarter in 1954 and was promoted to Maitre’d in ’57. He remained at the supperclub until its closure on New Years’ Eve in 1969. Bob saw many cast, crew and famous headliners and clientele come and go throughout his years at the Latin Quarter. He met his wife Janie on her first day on the job in 1956. After Bob’s career at the Latin Quarter, he held positions at various New York restaurants including the Russian Tea Room, and The Riverboat before he and Janie acquired The Gatsby on 1st Avenue and 48th Street. Bob eventually transitioned into the wine and liquor businesses where he stayed as a distributor for twenty-nine years until his retirement. Today Bob supports Janie with the Latin Quarter reunions, her work with Ms. Senior America and Broadway Ziegfeld Entertainers. They enjoy their active lives in Florida and any time they can spend with their children and grandchildren.

Jackie Miller Abrams

was born in Washington, D.C. She was discovered on a Florida beach by famous art and pin-up photographer, Bunny Yeager. Yeager was also a booking agent for Lou Walters’ Latin Quarter nightclub in Miami. Jackie eventually moved to New York where she modeled for Irving Klaw and other photographers. She’s appeared in a number of films, television shows, theatrical productions and modeled for corporate brands. Additional credits: Sherry Britton’s, THE BEST OF BURLESQUE, comedic performances in Manhattan and the Catskills, co-hosted a the radio show, BROADWAY AFTER DARK, and produced and hosted local television cable series, JACKIE LEE’S BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE and SUPERSTARS OF ’76. Jackie married Producer, Charles Abrams. They enjoyed homes together in New York, Pennsylvania and Florida and were members of the Republican Presidential Roundtable. Years following Charles’ passing, Jackie married a long-time friend and is currently living happily ever after.

Sal Angelica

performed at the Latin Quarter in New York City at the age of 19. He toured Europe in the international production of WEST SIDE STORY and in summer stock shows of WEST SIDE STORY as “Snowboy,” choreographed by Michael Bennett. Additional credits: FIORELLO with Tom Bosley; PAL JOEY with Dorothy Lamour; SHOWBOAT with Keely Smith and Andy Devine; FADE OUT-FADE IN on Broadway with Carol Burnett. Sal worked with Chita Rivera in the 1964 New York World’s Fair production, WONDER WORLD. Las Vegas credits: CASINO DE PARIS at the Dunes Hotel and LIDO DE PARIS and FOLIES BERGERE at the Silver Slipper Casino. Sal appeared regularly on television in SMOTHERS BROTHERS SHOW and THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW. He’s partnered Juliet Prowse, Ginger Rogers, Rita Moreno and Liza Minelli, and performed with the likes of Connie Stevens and Lorna Luft.

Carla Arndt

joined Lou Walters World Famous Latin Quarter nightclub when she was 19 years of age after coming to New York City in the 1960’s to audition for the June Taylor Dancers. When the auditions were cancelled, Carla noticed an ad for a Latin Quarter. At over 6 feet in height, Carla worked at the Latin Quarter for three years and claims it was the best time of her life. She considers her fellow Latin Quarter alumni her family.

Adelle Gutman Cohen

moved to New York from her hometown in Massachusetts, when she joined the Colley Claire Dancers. At 18, Adelle toured the East Coast with the Bob Conrad Dancers. In 1956 she joined Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus as a lead dancer. While there, she had her own elephant and learned the trapeze. In the late 1950’s Adelle worked on Broadway and toured with the Ziegfeld Follies. She was a dancer at Lou Walters World Famous Latin Quarter nightclub in both New York and Miami Beach. In 1960 she toured with Jimmy Durante and danced in Las Vegas at the famous Dunes Hotel and Casino; The Copa Room at The Sands Hotel; The Riviera and toured with the show, VIVA LES GIRLS. Adelle eventually took a job at Columbia Records in New York City, married and a son, David, who is a scriptwriter in Los Angeles.

Darlene Larson

grew up on a Canadian mink ranch. As a girl she attended vaudeville shows and cinemas where she fell in love with performing. Darlene was a cigarette girl at the Prince Edward Hotel in Toronto, Ontario before becoming a magician’s assistant as one of a two-personal act, MANDRAKE AND DARLENE. Her first role as a showgirl was at the Elmwood Casino in Windsor, Ontario before traveling to New York where she auditioned for Lou Walters World Famous Latin Quarter. She graced its stage with the likes of Eddie Albert, Sophie Tucker, Jayne Mansfield, Johnnie Ray, Bobby Vinton, Charro, Marie Wilson, Eleanor Powell, Mamie Van Doren, Lily St. Cyr and Buddy Hackett. Darlene toured with MINSKY FOLLIES, performed as a showgirl in Vegas, and in other productions nationwide. She was a model for Rudi Gernreich. Darlene enjoyed performing in the Latin Quarter Showgirls, Inc. charity productions. She continues to work in theater and performs as a showgirl with the Ziegfeld Society. She loves her job as a New York City tour guide.

Teak Lewis

attended the High School of Performing Arts in New York City. He later served in the Air Force before returning to his life as a dancer. Teak performed during the late 1950’s in Guber, Ford & Gross Music Fair productions of LI’L ABNER; OKLAHOMA; REDHEAD AND CAROUSEL, among others. In 1961 he joined the national tour of DESTINY RIDES AGAIN and in 1962, CARNIVAL. By the mid-60’s Teak danced in New York City Center’s MOST HAPPY FELLA; GUYS & DOLLS; CALGARY STAMPEDE and more. He began at the Latin Quarter in 1967 before leaving for a role in a Puerto Rico at the Old San Juan Hotel. Teak returned to the east coast where he danced in various large scale shows. He was a part of the national tour of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF and other shows where he toured all over Europe. After retiring from dance in 1973, Lewis began a successful career in hospitality.

Lili Bell Lopez

was born and raised in Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania where as a girl she dreamt of becoming a singer and did so in productions staged in her hometown. As a young woman, Lili traveled to New York in 1956, auditioned for Lou Walters World Famous Latin Quarter and began her career as a showgirl at its Times Square location. She would work as a showgirl into the 1960’s in Florida, Boston, Las Vegas and again in New York. Lili Bell wed Bobby Lopez at St. Patrick’s cathedral in Manhattan. Lopez operated the famous Chateau Madrid supper club. They had two sons, one who presently lives in New York, and the other in California. Lili joined the Latin Quarter Showgirls, Inc. charity after the nonprofit was formed in the 1980’s and performed as a showgirl in many of their productions, which raise thousands of dollars for organizations supporting children in need. Today she enjoys her two shitzu dogs, as well as singing and performing in local theater where she lives just outside of Las Vegas.

Lawrence Merritt

emerged from a small apple orchard town in upstate New York, where his imagination found drawing. School drama and glee clubs, along with visits to the local cinema where he watched Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, would influence his life’s direction. After a full scholarship at a performing arts school, Lawrence headed to New York City where he danced everywhere from small clubs, to Broadway productions to the big screen, working in New York, Vegas, Hollywood and Paris. Under choreographer, Ron Lewis, he danced at Lou Walters’ World Famous Latin Quarter. Credits include, On-Broadway, PIPPIN; EVITA; NO STRINGS, Off-Broadway, MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING; THE WINTER’S TALE. Lawrence toured with Ann-Margret, Ginger Rogers, and Raquel Welch and also danced in CASINO DE PARIS in both Paris and at the Dunes Hotel in Vegas. He’s appeared in the films MAME (1974) and NEW YORK, NEW YORK (1977). Lawrence remains active in New York theatre.

Mollie Fennell Numark

was born in Blackpool, England, famous for its Blackpool Tower. She began ballet at the age of 8 and studied the system of The Royal Academy of Dance and all forms of dance arts. She joined The Children’s Ballet in the Tower and would graduate to shows at The Opera House, Winter Gardens, and the Blackpool Tower Circus. In 1947 she performed for a Royal Command performance at the London Palladium for King George 6th and Queen Elizabeth. She danced in shows at London’s West End Adelphi Theatre, where she became a John Tiller Girl. In 1951 she auditioned for Lou Walters World Famous Latin Quarter at the Prince Of Wales theatre. She sailed to America on The Liberty in 1952. After performing at the Miami Latin Quarter, Mollie traveled to St. Louis and Las Vegas. She finished at The Latin Quarter on Broadway where she stayed for five years. Mollie continued to dance as a teacher of The Royal Academy Of Dance system for many years.

Jo Schlags

is a Dancer, Choreographer, Showgirl, Dance and Tap Teacher. She has danced professionally since the age of 16. In 1953 she won the coveted crown of Miss Detroit. Jo has danced with Detroit Civic Light Opera; Miriam Sage Dancers; G.E. Industrial Shows; and Lou Walters World Famous Latin Quarter in New York City, California and Florida. She has appeared in many National Television commercials, including the principle lead for Pertussin baby products. She also appeared as a dancer on The View and the Rosie O’Donnell shows. In 2009 she was a winner in the Ms. Senior Pageant of Florida. Jo currently performs with The Original Florida Follies.

Betty Jo Alvies

was raised in Indianapolis, Indiana where she enjoyed her first taste of performing with a charity event, THE ARTIST AND MODELS BALL in 1959. Following this experience, she was cast as a showgirl in a Detroit, Michigan production, THE IDLEWILD REVUE where she worked with Jackie Wilson, Roy Hamilton, and The Four Tops. Betty Jo performed with THE LARRY STEELE REVUE in Atlantic City, performing along side Sammy Davis Jr., Sam Cooke, Johnny Nash and Adam Wade. She was a showgirl at Lou Walters Latin Quarter in New York City. In 1966 she joined Martha Raye in a Summer Stock production of MINSKY’S FOLLIES, and the Broadway cast of GOLDEN RAINBOW, starring Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme. She was a Showgirl Consultant for the Off-Broadway show, ON KENTUCKY AVE. Betty Jo is a mother of two sons and lives on Long Island with her husband, John.

Kenneth Urmston

comes from Cincinnati, Ohio where he began dancing at the age of six. Ken made his first professional appearance with the Cincinnati Summer Opera Company, then joined a nationwide tour of the San Carlo Opera Company. Ken joined the cast of the musical comedy by Gower Champion, MAKE A WISH. He appeared on Broadway in 18 shows, including award-winning BALLROOM; FOLLIES; ON THE 20th CENTURY, and PIPPIN’. Other roles: Bill Calhoun in KISS ME KATE; Tommy Keeler in ANNIE GET YOUR GUN; the Jailor in REDHEAD, and Harry Beaton in BRIGADOON. Off-Broadway: GREENWICH VILLAGE U.S.A.; CORIOLANUS as Titus Lartius. Television: THE ARTHUR MURRAY SHOW; JACKIE GLEASON SHOW; THE GARRY MOORE SHOW; THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW. Ken performed at the Latin Quarter in New York City, in Ann-Margret’s act at the Riviera and was a featured dancer at The Desert Inn in Vegas.

John Hemmer

was born in Far Rockaway, Queens where he performed in school plays, sang on radio shows, in his church choir and community musical revues, before being drafted into the U.S. Army. John recorded and toured for Columbia Records as one of The Four Voices, and sang with Winged Victory Singers. He appeared at top supper clubs throughout the U.S. and Canada. In WONDER WORLD, the 1964 New York World’s Fair extravaganza, John performed with Chita Rivera and Gretchen Wyler. He was a production singer at Lou Walters World Famous Latin Quarter in New York City. In Lincoln Center’s outdoor productions John performed in KISMET, SOUND OF MUSIC and joined the tour of MAN OF LA MANCHA with Howard Keel and its National Bus and Truck tour with David Atkinson. John co-produced and performed in shows for the charity Latin Quarter Showgirls, Inc. where he served as president. In his retirement he co-organized Latin Quarter reunions and worked at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

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