Ladies and Gentleman, I’d like to reintroduce you to someone you should know (if you saw my earlier post about her): the late great Madame Spivy LaVoe (1906-1970), also known simply as Spivy. A lesbian entertainer, nightclub owner, and character actress, Spivy has been described as “The Female Noel Coward” – to which I add “…. if he was born Bertha Levine in Brooklyn.”
Spivy owned a chic NYC piano bar called Spivy’s Roof, which was on the top floor of a building that still stands at the corner of Fifty-Seventh Street & Lexington Avenue. Notable performers through its 11-year existence included Mabel Mercer, Thelma Carpenter and Martha Raye as well as early performances by Liberace and Paul Lynde.
Here is Paul Lynde talking about Spivy on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, April 30, 1976:
“I played another club – Spivy’s Roof. Do you remember Spivy’s? It was a penthouse club and it was very, very “in” when it was hot. Well… I closed it. I closed Spivy’s. I really did. I was the last person to perform there and as I said it was up on top of the roof. And Spivy and I would be sitting back in the corner all alone and we’d hear the elevator and she’d say “Get your props, you’re on!”
“And I would get my props out… and it was just the elevator man… he was lonely and wanted to talk to us…. or the landlord trying to collect the rent.”
“It was just incredible and you know Spivy… when we did have people, like on the weekend… I would announce her after I was through and she’d run in the john and lock herself in there until the club closed. She never would come on. She would as soon as the club closed … and Judy Garland and Martha Raye and Judy Holliday… they used to come in and Spivy would entertain all night long for them…. but she would not for the audience.”
“Finally one night I went to work and the piano was down on the sidewalk under the canopy so I knew it was over.”
I previously posted her song The Alley Cat. Today we have The Tarantella – both such short recordings that they fit on the same side of a 78 record as part of her 1939 album Seven Gay Sophisticated Songs. This is one of the few compositions credited solely to Spivy.
That goddamn quill. It always surprises me to hear swearing on a 78 record. Even light swearing. It’s not as if she dropped an F-bomb. But we are so used to the sanitized Hollywood version of the 1930’s that it is easy to forget that curse words were not invented in the 1960’s. It’s not the last expletive that we will hear from Madame Spivy, as future posts will show…