Sho Bar

Contributors

ShoBar was a burlesque theatre that opened in 1948. It still exists today. [1] ShoBar made its original home at 228 Bourbon Street, between Bienville and Conti. Later advertisements would refer to the club as ‘The Original Basin Street ShoBar’ though it may never have been located on Basin Street.

Building History and Layout

The building that stands at 228 Bourbon was built in 1807. When it opened as ShoBar, it was owned by Frank Ferrara, who had previously run a liquor store there. The building itself is a solid three-story brick structure with wrought iron balconies on the top two floors, which were used as a hotel throughout much of the twentieth century. This particular block of Bourbon had many similar establishments. Businesses nearby include the Old Absinthe House, the 500 Club, The Magic Lock Cocktail Lounge, and the Three Deuces. The interior space consisted of a bar and seats facing a stage on the ground floor with more seating on the second level balcony. Here dancers would perform routines ranging from simple stripteases to elaborate shows intricately involving props, and even live animals.

Talent

In the 1950s, ShoBar was one of the premier theatres, a mainstay of Bourbon Street. ShoBar enticed potential patrons by boasting ‘continuous entertainment’ which would go on literally all night.

Dancers

Audiences could stop at ShoBar to witness the performances of Saloma ‘the Turkish Delight,’ Ricki Corvette, Zorita, Blaze Starr, Rita Alexander ‘the Champagne Girl,’ and Linda Brigette, ‘America’s most beautiful exotic dancer.’

As there were many other similar theaters in the vicinity, competition motivated clubs to outdo each other in exoticism. A photograph of ShoBar dating from the late 1940s showed a sign boasting the talents of Sally Rand and her “world famous fan dance.” Another window lauded the flair and novelty of “Hotsy Totsy the Aqua Queen stripping in the Fountain of Youth!” [2]

Other Talent

The dancers needed musical accompaniment to perform their routines, and notable musicians such as John Burnions and Manny Sayles performed the music for ShoBar’s dance routines. In addition to the striptease acts, other dancers such as Estela and Julio, the ‘Latin American Dance Team’, and King and Kitty with their ‘Rhapsody in Taps’ performed at Sho Bar. [3] The stage was not limited to dancers, however. The Sho Bar’s comedian Lenny Gale shared the stage with headlining song stylist ‘Cupcake’, [4] and outside talent such as nightclub vocalist Lou Norris visited often. [5]

Sho Bar Today

In the mid 1980s Sho Bar moved to 325 Bourbon Street, the former home of Gunga Den. In 2009, Sho Bar moved to the 500 block of Bourbon Street, where it currently operates as a strip club. An on-stage shower is among the distinctive features. Sho Bar is currently managed by a man named ‘Pinky’ who keeps his hair a shocking shade of hot pink. He is never seen without his signature whip over one shoulder. Déjà Vu Showgirls now occupies Sho Bar’s previous locale at 228 Bourbon Street. Where once there were hand painted signs and candescent light bulbs, there are now explicit photographs and neon signs. The wrought iron balconies remain, painted dark green against a pink façade. Scantily clad women sway seductively in the doorway, as they have for the past six decades.

Works Cited

  • New Orleans City Directory: 1952-1953. Historic New Orleans Collection. p. 53.
  • Vieux Carre Survey. Square 65. Historic New Orleans Collection. Photograph.
  • The Times-Picayune, January 6, 1949, p.17.
  • The Times-Picayune, July 3, 1953, p.19.
  • The Times-Picayune New Orleans States, January 1, 1956, p.9.

This page was last modified on 03 May 2012, at 11:59

228 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA