John Hemmer Archive

John Hemmer & the Showgirls (2017) trailer


The John Hemmer Archive is a multifaceted preservation and storytelling project consisting of a documentary film, JOHN HEMMER & THE SHOWGIRLS (2017), performer oral histories and a digital and physical collection of objects.

This assembly of elements represent the cultural phenomena of the mid-century nightclub era, and in particular, its impact on New York City. Collection materials and related stories derive from performer experiences and their personal memorabilia which illustrate an under-documented period.

As a singer and performer during the golden age of live entertainment, John Hemmer (1934 - 2017) devoted decades to keeping his community together and preserving the legacy of his fellow artists. John’s commitment and collaborative spirit united many veteran performers over the years to celebrate an epoch in performing arts culture and the individuals who fostered this unique time of nightlife society. Through John's personal archive and story, and that of his colleagues, a time-capsule of a lost Manhattan is revealed.

The act of documenting and reconciling histories through first-hand accounts unearths vital historical data which is both broad and personal. Recollections also open deeper considerations such as the importance of vanishing histories, identity, memory, personal and shared legacies as well as questions about the significance of our past and what role creativity and community play in our vitality as we grow older.

The John Hemmer Collection along with his story and that of his cohort is the basis for the John Hemmer Archive project. To learn more, visit its dedicated site at