08 April 2014

Drinks at the Midnight Frolic

In 1915, patrons of the Ziegfeld Follies at the New Amsterdam Theatre were invited to stick around and attend a new after show, Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic, held upstairs at the new rooftop theatre. Originally designed and christened the Danse de Follies in 1914, this more intimate space had a stage and dance floor along with tables, box seats, and a balcony. There patrons could dance, have some dinner and drinks, and be entertained by a floor show that included some of the stars of the Follies: Fanny Brice, Eddie Cantor, Will Rogers, W.C. Fields, Bert Williams, and most importantly Follies girls including the beautiful Olive Thomas.

Margaret Morris, Kay Laurell, and Florence Cripps on the infamous glass walkway in the Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic of 1916.

The Midnight Frolic was a bit more risqué than the Follies. For starters, the girls would parade across a glass walkway that ran above the first row of tables, allowing those seated below a unique view of the girls (Ziegfeld reportedly made sure they wore undergarments so it wasn't too wild). Small wooden hammers were distributed so that patrons could bang on the table when they liked something they saw. And then there were the costumes: one of the most notorious involved the girls being covered with balloons and the male patrons encouraged to use their cigars to pop them. 

The show was highly successful and ran every year until 1921 by which time Prohibition had started to take its toll on attendance. Ziegfeld would make one more go at it in 1928 but the show bombed and that was the end of the Midnight Frolic.

Recently I stumbled upon a menu from the show on eBay. The seller only posted two pages (seen here) but look at the choices: Rickeys, fizzes, punches, and lemonades, quarts of Champblanc and Champrouge, not to mention various mineral waters and even Coco Cola. The items listed tell me this menu is most likely from a one of the later shows after Prohibition had taken effect; most of the choices are non-alcoholic or could be made without alcohol (the Highballs, for example). And yes, Budweiser is on the list but Anheuser-Busch de-alcoholized their beer until Prohibition was repealed in 1933. I think I would have chosen one of the punches and slipped some gin in via my flask (oh course I would have carried a flask if I lived in the 1920s) or I may have splurged on a pint of Champblanc. Regardless, it's nice to imagine having drinks at the Midnight Frolic.

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