Saturday, June 30, 2007

Last Dance at Manhattan Club Copacabana

Last Dance at Manhattan Club Copacabana

The legendary Copacabana, the inspiration for Barry Manilow's smash single and a staple of Manhattan nightlife since World War II, is ready for its last dance.

With construction of an extended subway line imminent, the club will close its doors Saturday night as its owner hunts for a new home.

"What are you going to do?" said John Juliano, taking a break from setting up shop on the club's penultimate evening. "Like anything else in life, you're born and you die. We'll try to find another spot by the fall."

The three-floor space on Manhattan's West Side, a replica of the original club where Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin once ruled, is locking up shop after Latin superstars El Gran Combo play Saturday night. Owner Juliano, who bought the Copa with two partners in 1976, said he hoped to open a new club under the old name by October.

This is the nightspot's third incarnation. The original was the scene of a memorable 1957 brawl involving New York Yankees stars Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin, and eventually became a disco in the mid-1970s.

"In the '40s and '50s, every star possible appeared at the Copa," Juliano said. "You had to play the Copa if you wanted to get anywhere."

Copa II was opened in 1992. The current Copacabana, which caters to the hip-hop and salsa crowds, opened on West 34th Street in 2001.

The latest Copa was condemned when the city decided to extend the No. 7 subway line west, providing a link with the remote Javits Convention Center.

In addition to all the real-life drama in the club, the first Copa on East 60th Street was prominently featured in the Martin Scorsese mob classic "Goodfellas," his earlier film "Raging Bull" and in the Dustin Hoffman film "Tootsie."

And the club provided the impetus for the hit song "Copacabana," co-written and performed by Manilow, the musical story of a showgirl working "the hottest spot north of Havana."

There are a number of possibilities for a new location, including a possible move to the Bronx.

"It would kill me," Juliano confessed, "but what are you going to do?"

The club's name and its palm tree theme will accompany Juliano wherever he ends up.

"Without a doubt," he said. "You have to keep it tropical."


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