John Hemmer & the Showgirls
John Hemmer has been an entertainer since his childhood in Far Rockaway, Queens. It was in the resort town he performed in school productions, on radio shows and sang in his church choir and community musical revues, before being drafted into the U.S. Army. Following his service, he recorded with Columbia Records and toured as one of The Four Voices vocal group, and thereafter joined the chorus, Winged Victory Singers. It was with these groups that he appeared in the top supper clubs and hotels throughout the United States and Canada. John performed in WONDER WORLD, the water spectacle starring Chita Rivera at the 1964 World’s Fair, and was a production singer at Lou Walters World Famous Latin Quarter in New York City. He performed in Lincoln Center’s outdoor productions of KISMET, SOUND OF MUSIC, the summer tour of MAN OF LA MANCHA with Howard Keel and a National Bus & Truck tour with David Atkinson. John also co-produced and performed in many staged productions for the charity formed by alumni of Lou Walters Latin Quarter club, aptly titled, Latin Quarter Showgirls, Inc. The charity raised thousands of donation dollars for abused and missing children through performances at various venues throughout New York City, until it transitioned into the social club it is today. John keeps active by co-organizing these luncheon reunions with Jane Freed, putting together the Latin Quarter newsletter and by working at Jazz at Lincoln Center as one of the house staff, where he often runs into fellow performers on stage and as patrons of the venue.
Janie Thomas Freed, a New York native, studied dance from the time she was a girl. Her first break was when she auditioned for the part of a Latin Quarter dancer in 1956 at age 16. She continued in productions there, as well as the Florida-based location, until 1961 when she left to begin her family alongside her husband, Bob Freed (a Latin Quarter Maitre'd). In between Latin Quarter productions, Jane performed for producer/choreographer, Donn Arden, in his show at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas, where the opening act was Louis Prima and Keely Smith. As Co-Founder of the Latin Quarter Showgirls, Inc., she reunited with her Latin Quarter colleagues to form a nonprofit charity that staged performances for over 16 years, raising funds for missing and abused children. These days, Jane and Bob enjoy their three sons and eleven grandchildren. In 2006, she was the first runner up position at Ms. Senior America, New Jersey chapter. Jane co-organizes the annual Latin Quarter reunions with John Hemmer. She also dances with Broadway Ziegfeld Entertainers, a production company, which brings live entertainment to Florida nightclubs, veteran hospitals, retirement communities and other venues. As Jane says, “If it’s for a good cause, I’ll grab my feathers and be there”.
Chickee James Kulp a native New Yorker, was born in Brooklyn, at the very same hospital as her future husband, Richard Kulp. As a young woman she performed at Lou Walters World Famous Latin Quarter beginning in 1955. Over the course of her time there Chickee became a notable showgirl and MC at the nightclub. In 1962 she left to join the Broadway Show, LA PLUME DE MA TANTE. Formed in 1984, She co-founded the Latin Quarter Showgirls, Inc., along with fellow Latin Quarter dancer, Janie Freed. Chickee also served as President of the organization for a time. The nonprofit charity staged performances, which raised funds for missing and abused children for over 16 years.
Margo Mayor danced her way from Detroit to New York City in the early 1960’s, becoming an Actor’s Equity member at the age of 17. She has been featured in both on and off Broadway and summer stock productions, such as WEST SIDE STORY, LI’L ABNER, THE BOYFRIEND, WHAT A KILLING, INFIDEL CAESAR and OKLAHOMA. Margo performed as "the mermaid" in WONDER WORLD, the 1964 New York World’s Fair water show extravaganza. Here she would form her friendship with John Hemmer and work alongside Chita Rivera and Gretchen Wyler. She has appeared in television and film, including Mike Nichol’s, WORKING GIRL. Margo has also been one of the top fitting models in New York City and ran a modeling agency for a number of years. She is an honorary Latin Quarter alumni and began her involvement by performing with the Latin Quarter Showgirls, Inc. charity throughout its fifteen year run. Today she works as a supernumerary at The Metropolitan Opera. When asked about her days as a dancer, Margo’s beautiful smile widens as she recalls with great zeal her times in the spotlight both yesterday and today.
Dana Lorge was raised in Long Island, NY. She is a singer/comedienne, who has performed in leading nightclubs and hotels earning enthusiastic audience response and rave reviews from New York to Tokyo. Her act consists of musical parodies and topical routines about being single, marriage, smoking, shopping, dieting, car repairs, face lifts and dating after divorce. In Atlantic City she appeared with Sal Richards, Kaye Ballard, Sheila MacRae and Larry Amorus at the Showboat and headlined in the Follies, a revue at Bally’s Grand. Dana also performed in COUGARS ON THE PROWL, a show with a trio of sassy ladies looking for younger men, which was a huge success at the Provincetown Cabaret Festival and at Don’t Tell Mama in New York. Theatre credits include, GRIND with Ben Vereen on Broadway and the title role in AUNT CHOOCH’S BIRTHDAY, Off-Broadway. Among her films are PRINCE OF THE CITY (1981), MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON (1984), OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION (1998) and THE PRODUCERS(2005). She also appeared in CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC (2009), but since shopping is her favorite pastime, she had too much fun to call it a job. For three years Dana was the producer and host of a weekly variety show at the Iguana in NYC called Wednesday Night at the Iguana, which won her multiple MAC awards. She also enjoyed a long monthly run at the beautiful Metropolitan Room. When this lady performs to an audience, she demonstrates why Variety once raved, “She holds them with songs, jokes and special material!”
Bob Freed was the Maitre'd at the Lou Walters World Famous Latin Quarter in New York City. He began his career there in 1954 and was promoted to Maitre'd in 1957. He remained there until its closure on New Years’ Eve in 1969. Bob saw many cast, crew and famous headliners and clientele come and go throughout his years at the Latin Quarter, and has great stories to tell. What Bob likes to talk about most, however, is his wife Janie, who he met her first day on the job in 1956. After Bob’s career at the Latin Quarter, he held positions at various high profile New York restaurants including the Russian Tea Room, and The Riverboat before he and Janie acquired The Gatsby on 1st Avenue and 48th Street. Bob eventually transitioned into the wine and liquor businesses where he stayed as a distributor for twenty-nine years until his retirement. Today Bob supports Janie with the Latin Quarter reunions, her work with Ms. Senior America and Broadway Ziegfeld Entertainers. They enjoy their active lives in Florida and any time they can spend with their children and grandchildren.
Bill Hemmer is an entrepreneur and businessman with a sense of adventure. His passion for learning about other cultures and places inspires him to travel worldwide throughout each year. He and his partner Jeff Crandall built, owned and operated a bed and breakfast for 16 years in the beautiful country of Costa Rica before selling it due to Jeff’s Parkinson’s related health issues, and to make room for more travel time. Bill is the younger brother of John Hemmer and visits John from time to time in New York City. Bill's wanderlust keeps him on the move, but his home base remains in Costa Rica, where he enjoy garden clubs and an active social life.
Marc Aubin came to New York in 1980 to produce costumes and perform for the production company Le Clique. After fifteen years, meeting and collaborating with some of New York’s most talented designers and performance artists, Marc cultivated his design esthetic and moved into the interior, wholesale showroom design market. Working out of 225 5th Avenue in, what was, the Gifts Building, afforded Marc the experience to produce scenic interiors and effects, incorporating lighting, sound and motion. John Hemmer recruited Marc’s talents for several of the Latin Quarter Showgirls, Inc. productions and have retained a lifelong friendship from these experiences. Today Marc is enjoying his 10th year at Manhattan’s The Calhoun School, where he acts as its Technical Theater Director. In addition to teaching grades 7 thru 12, he oversees the design and production of the school's yearly productions and presentations.
Indio Melendez was born and raised in New York City. He is a Desert Storm Veteran and father of two. Winner of the 2011 Downtown Urban Theater Festival for Best Play INDIOSYNCRASY, written and performed by Indio. He can be seen in the 2014 Latin Ace Nominated play BARCELO CON HIELO and DONA FLOR Y SUS DOS MARIDOS which recently ran at the Legendary NYC based Spanish Repertory Theater.
Jackie Miller Abrams was born and raised in Washington, D.C. As a young woman, she embarked on her first adventure and flew to Florida. She was discovered on the beach by the famous art and pin-up photographer, Bunny Yeager and a booking agent for Lou Walters’ Latin Quarter nightclub in Miami. Jackie eventually moved to New York where she continued modeling work with Irving Klaw and other photographers and became one of the most sought after and collectable pin-ups of the period, along side the likes of Bettie Page. She’s appeared in a number of independent films, television shows, theatrical productions and modeled for corporate brands. Other credits include Sherry Britton’s, THE BEST OF BURLESQUE, comedic performances in Manhattan and the Catskills, co-hosted a the radio show, BROADWAY AFTER DARK, as well as produced and hosted local television cable series, JACKIE LEE’S BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE and SUPERSTARS OF ’76. Jackie married Producer, Charles Abrams. They enjoyed homes together in New York, Pennsylvania and Florida and were members of the Republican Presidential Roundtable. Today Jackie divides time between her homes, great friends and favorite pets.
Sal Angelica found his career at the age of 19 when he joined a production at the famed Lou Walters Famous Latin Quarter nightclub in New York City. By the age of 20, he was touring Europe in the international production of WEST SIDE STORY. Summer stock shows included a second version of the WEST SIDE STORY, playing the role of “Snowboy”, choreographed by Michael Bennett. Additional credits comprise of FIORELLO with Tom Bosley, PAL JOEY with Dorothy Lamour, SHOWBOAT with Keely Smith and Andy Devine and FADE OUT-FADE IN with Carol Burnett, among others. Sal had the pleasure of working with Chita Rivera in the 1964 New York World’s Fair production, WONDER WORLD, along side colleagues John Hemmer and Margo Mayor. Las Vegas credits include, CASINO DE PARIS at the Dunes Hotel, LIDO DE PARIS and FOLIES BERGERE at the Silver Slipper Casino. While living in Vegas, he commuted to LA to appear as a regular on the SMOTHERS BROTHERS SHOW and THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW. He has partnered with Juliet Prowse, Ginger Rogers, Rita Moreno and Liza Minelli on various television specials. Sal has performed in major acts with the likes of Connie Stevens and Lorna Luft. The highlight of his career was performing with Juliet Prowse’s act for many years. He has enjoyed choreographing many community productions, including WEST SIDE STORY at the University of Las Vegas.
Carla Arndt joined Lou Walters World Famous Latin Quarter nightclub when she was 19 years of age after coming to New York City in the 1960’s to audition for the June Taylor Dancers. When the auditions were cancelled, Carla noticed an ad for a Latin Quarter production audition. At over 6 feet in height, Carla worked at the Latin Quarter for three years and claims it was the best time of her life. She considers her fellow Latin Quarter alumni her family.
Adelle Gordon Cohen to New York from her hometown in Massachusetts, when she joined the Colley Claire Dancers and toured the East Coast with the Bob Conrad Dancers at the age of 18. In 1956 Adelle became a lead dancer at the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus where she had her own elephant and learned the trapeze. Through the late 1950’s Adelle worked on Broadway and toured with the Ziegfeld Follies. She was a dancer at Lou Walters World Famous Latin Quarter nightclub in both New York and Miami Beach locations. In 1960 she toured with Jimmy Durante, as well as danced in productions in Las Vegas at the famous Dunes Hotel and Casino, The Copa Room at The Sands Hotel, The Riveria and went on tour with the show, VIVA LES GIRLS. By the mid-sixties, Adelle accepted employment at Columbia Records in New York City, married in 1966 and in ’68 gave birth to her son, David, who is currently a scriptwriter in Los Angeles.
Darlene Larson grew up on a mink ranch in Canada. Her mother took her to nearby Vaudeville shows and movies. This is how she fell in love with performing. Darlene was a cigarette girl at the Prince Edward Hotel in Toronto, before auditioning for the part of a magician’s assistant, where she became one of the two-personal act, MANDRAKE AND DARLENE. Her real aspiration was to become a showgirl, however, and it was at the Elmwood Casino that she embarked on that journey. Later, Darlene traveled to New York with a friend who encouraged her to audition for Lou Walters World Famous Latin Quarter. She graced its stage with the likes of Eddie Albert, Sophie Tucker, Jayne Mansfield, Johnnie Ray, bobby Vinton, Charro, Marie Wilson, Eleanor Powell, Mamie Van Doren, Lily St. Cyr, Buddy Hackett and others. Darlene went on to tour with MINSKY FOLLIES, performed as a showgirl in Vegas, and in other productions nationwide. She also modeled for Rudi Gernreich. Since then Darlene has enjoyed being part of the Latin Quarter Showgirls, Inc. productions for charity, working as a movie extra, and loves her job as a New York City tour guide. She also acts in theater and performs as a showgirl with the Ziegfeld Society.
Teak Lewis was a student of the High School of Performing Arts in New York City. He later served in the Air Force before returning to his life as a dancer. Teak performed during the late 1950’s in Guber, Ford & Gross Music Fairs’ productions of LI’L ABNER, OKLAHOMA, REDHEAD AND CAROUSEL, among others. In 1961 he joined the national tour of DESTINY RIDES AGAIN and in 1962, CARNIVAL. By the mid-60’s Teak danced in NY City Center’s MOST HAPPY FELLA; GUYS & DOLLS; CALGARY STAMPEDE and others. He began at the Latin Quarter in 1967 before leaving for a role in a Puerto Rico based production at the Old San Juan Hotel. After the hotel production closed to make room for Sammy Davis Junior’s act, Teak returned to the east coast where he would continue dancing in a number of headliner shows and as a featured dancer in many productions. He was a part of the national tour of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF and worked in other shows where he toured all over Europe. After retiring from dance IN 1973, Lewis began a successful career in hospitality.
Lili Bell Lopez was born and raised in Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania where as a girl she dreamt of becoming a singer and did so in productions staged in her hometown. As a young woman, Lili traveled to New York in 1956, auditioned for Lou Walters World Famous Latin Quarter and began her career as a showgirl at its Times Square location. She would work as a showgirl into the 1960’s in Florida, Boston, Las Vegas and again in New York. Lili Bell wed Bobby Lopez at St. Patrick’s cathedral in Manhattan. Lopez operated the famous Chateau Madrid supper club. They had two sons, one who presently lives in New York, and the other in California. Lili joined the Latin Quarter Showgirls, Inc. charity after the nonprofit was formed in the 1980’s and performed as a showgirl in many of their productions, which raise thousands of dollars for organizations supporting children in need. Today she enjoys her two shitzu dogs, as well as singing and performing in local theater where she lives just outside of Las Vegas.
Lawrence Merritt was born and in raised in a small apple orchard town in upstate New York, where his imagination found drawing and dancing at an early age. His involvement in his school’s drama and glee clubs, along with visits to the local cinema where he was exposed to the films of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, would influence his life’s direction. After attending a performing arts school in Maine on a full scholarship, a friend invited him to New York. Inspired by the idea, he picked apples for a month to earn enough money by his eighteenth birthday to make the move and never looked back. Lawrence has danced everywhere from small clubs, to Broadway productions to the big screen, working in New York, Paris, Vegas and Hollywood. He danced at the Lou Walters’ Latin Quarter in Times Square under the choreographer, Ron Lewis. A few of his credits include, On-Broadway, PIPPIN’; EVITA; NO STRINGS, Off-Broadway, MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING; THE WINTER’S TALE. Lawrence toured with the shows of Ann-Margret, Ginger Rogers, and Raquel Welch and also danced at the Casino de Paris in both Paris and at the Dunes in Vegas. He’s appeared in the films MAME (1974), starring Lucille Ball and NEW YORK, NEW YORK (1977). Lawrence remains active in theatre and most recently is acting in a production of Theater Breaking Through Barriers’ THE UNEXPECTED GUEST by Agatha Christie.
Mollie Fennell Numark was born in Blackpool, England, a seaside theatrical town, with its famous Blackpool Tower. Mollie began attending ballet classes at the age of eight and would study the system of The Royal Academy Of Dance, and all forms of dance arts. She was eventually asked to join The Children’s Ballet in the Tower. As a teenager, Mollie graduated to shows in The Opera House, Winter Gardens, and the Blackpool Tower Circus. In 1947 she was booked for a Royal Command performance at the London Palladium for King George 6th and Queen Elizabeth. She performed in other shows the following years including at London’s West End Adelphi Theatre, where she became a John Tiller Girl. In 1951 she auditioned for Lou Walters World Famous Latin Quarter at the Prince Of Wales theatre. She sailed to America on “The Liberty” in 1952. After performing at the Miami Latin Quarter, Mollie traveled to St. Louis and Las Vegas. She finished at The Latin Quarter on Broadway where she stayed for the next five years. Mollie continued to dance as a teacher of The Royal Academy Of Dance system for many years.
Jo Schlags currently performs with The Original Florida Follies. She is a Dancer, Choreographer, Showgirl, Dance and Tap Teacher. Jo has danced professionally since the age of sixteen. In 1953 she won the coveted crown of Miss Detroit, and in 2009 she was one of the winners in the Ms. Senior Pageant of Florida. Jo has danced with: Detroit Civic Light Opera, Miriam Sage Dancers, G.E. Industrial Shows, and Lou Walters World Famous Latin Quarter in New York City, California and Florida. She has appeared in many National Television commercials, including the principle lead for Pertussin baby products. She also appeared as a dancer on The View and the Rosie O’Donnell shows. www.theoriginalfloridafollies.com
Betty Jo Alvies Spyropulos' showbusiness path began in Indianapolis, Indiana where she participated in a local charity event, THE ARTIST AND MODELS BALL in 1959. From there she joined a Detroit, Michigan based production, THE IDLEWILD REVUE, as a showgirl where she worked with stars such as Jackie Wilson, Roy Hamilton, and The Four Tops. After a year, she joined THE LARRY STEELE REVUE, which performed every summer in Atlantic City, New Jersey at Club Harlem. It was during this experience she worked with performers such as Sammy Davis Jr., Sam Cooke, Johnny Nash and Adam Wade. Betty Jo began at Lou Walters World Famous Latin Quarter in the 1965 show, FRENCH DRESSING REVUE. In 1966 she performed with Martha Raye in a Summer Stock production of MINSKY’S FOLLIES, joined the Broadway cast of GOLDEN RAINBOW, starring Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme and later rejoined MINSKY’S. Most recently she has acted as a showgirl consultant on an Off-Broadway show, ON KENTUCKY AVE., which is about the famous Atlantic City’s Club Harlem. Betty Jo is a mother of two sons and lives on Long Island with her husband, John.
Kenneth Urmston comes from Cincinnati, Ohio, where he started dancing at the age of six and immediately performed at clubs and fairs. At fourteen Ken made his first professional appearance with the Cincinnati Summer Opera Company. After several seasons he was asked to take a nationwide tour with the famous San Carlo Opera Company, which took him to New York. Ken won a role with his first New York based audition for the musical comedy by Gower Champion, MAKE A WISH. He has appeared on Broadway in eighteen shows, including the award-winning BALLROOM, FOLLIES, ON THE 20th CENTURY, and PIPPIN’. Other roles include Bill Calhoun in KISS ME KATE, Tommy Keeler in ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, the Jailor in REDHEAD, and Harry Beaton in BRIGADOON. Off-Broadway: GREENWICH VILLAGE, U.S.A.; Shakespeare’s CORIOLANUS as Titus Lartius. Television: THE ARTHUR MURRAY SHOW; JACKIE GLEASON SHOW; THE GARRY MOORE SHOW, THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW. Ken performed at the famous Latin Quarter in New York City, in Ann Margret’s act at the Riviera and was a featured singer at The Desert Inn in Vegas. Ken has also choreographed productions for the Latin Quarter Showgirls, Inc.