Nightclub City: Politics and Amusement in Manhattan

By Urish, Ben | Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA), June 2008 | Go to article overview

Nightclub City: Politics and Amusement in Manhattan


Urish, Ben, Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA)


Nightclub City: Politics and Amusement in Manhattan Burton W. Peretti. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007.

Burton W. Peretti has Grafted an intriguing cultural history with this consideration of the effects of the leisure industry of nightclubs on the civic consciousness between World Wars. More than that though, Peretti sees in the story he presents a cultural marker for clashes between old mores and new, the intensification of the United States' cult of celebrity, fluctuating ideas about gender, ethnicity, class, and sexuality, as well as redefining the boundaries between public and private. Add to the mix his accounts of political actions both comprehensive and ad hoc, and it is apparent that Peretti is attempting a detailed socio-historical analysis.

The book's subtitle limits the arena of investigation to Manhattan, but Peretti makes a convincing case that since it and New York at large were the center of the nightclub industry at that time, their impact was nation-wide. As such, Peretti contends that his conclusions have application for the US culture in general.

The book is organized into nine chapters plus a preface and a conclusion. The Prohibition era gets slightly more attention, partly due to an account of political scandals that hit New York from 19301933 that were largely responsible for the Mayorship of Fiorello LaGuardia. A handful of wellchosen black and white photos are scattered throughout the book, which also has extensive citations and notes at the book's end and a functional index of persons, locations, plus a few choice topics such as "gambling," "prostitution," etc. …

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