Seventy-eight years ago today, prohibition, the national ban on the sale, production and transportation of alcohol that was in place from 1920 to 1933, was repealed. Thus making today “Repeal Day.” Over the last few years we’ve seen a resurgence of interest in this very interesting time in American history. Speakeasy-style bars, classic cocktails with hand-cut ice cubes and the popularity of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire are all evidence of this trend. I have to admit, it’s hard to resist the romanticism of getting dressed up, going to a dimly-lit, subterranean gin joint and knocking back a sazerac while vintage jazz plays in the background.
Prohibition, obviously had some negative effects on American culture: organized crime grew rapidly as mafia groups got into the bootlegging business; the economy suffered as government funds were allocated to enforce prohibition; and it virtually destroyed the fledgling U.S. wine industry as lower quality grape vines with thick-skinned grapes that could be transported more easily replaced quality grape vines causing many winemakers to leave the United States for other wine producing countries or to get out of the wine business altogether. Also, ironically, alcohol-related deaths soared as Americans drank more than they ever had before prohibition.
But Prohibition also, unwittingly, had many beneficial cultural effects. With the rise of speakeasy culture came a greater demand for a new, swinging soundtrack and jazz music began to migrate out of its birthplace of New Orleans into cities like Chicago and New York, developing new styles along the way. This also became a major factor in racial integration as black musicians began to mingle with mostly white crowds. Also, with the closing of the saloons, the traditional, male-dominated site of public drinking, social acceptance of women drinking increased in the semi-public environment of the speakeasies. Prohibition also gave birth to cocktail culture. Most breweries and wineries closed and since good beer and wine were hard to find, hard liquor became more popular. Liquor was more potent than what the public had previously been used to, so watering and mixing became popular, most notably with gin and rum.
So, in recognition of this fascinating period in American history, I want to let you know about upcoming events that we’re ticketing that pay homage to the Prohibition era.
TONIGHT! Repeal Day – Monday, December 5 – Repeal Day Celebration! Pre-Prohibition Movies, Crafted Cocktails, Burlesque Olympia, Washington On Dec. 5, 1933, Americans regained the freedom to imbibe, and Repeal Day is fast becoming a national holiday. Join in the 78th anniversary celebration with an evening of live music, burlesque, craft cocktails and costumes from the time of prohibition. Dress up for the time period and be automatically entered to win a night on the town. Local craft bartenders from Swing, Mercato, and Waterstreet will create Prohibition era cocktails while the Greta Jane Quartet performs jazz from the era. Also, performances by members of Olympia’s own TUSH! Burlesque and short movies from the time period will follow.
Tuesday, December 6 – The Big Sleazy Chicago, Illinois The Big Sleazy showcases some of Chicago’s best talent every week in a dank, underground bar used during prohibition times as a speakeasy. You will be sure to find your new favorite funny people at “The Big Sleazy.” Featuring the live piano player Foz the Hook, “The Big Sleazy” is a unique show you will come back to time and time again. Sponsored by the lovely folks over at Goose Island brewery. Special $3 Green Line IPA on draft and $5 cocktails.
Saturday, December 10 – Mafia Walking Tour New York, New York This popular and exciting weekly tour through NYC’s Little Italy explores the former social clubs, homes and haunts of some of the most powerful 20th century mobsters, and uncovers the truth behind many Mafia legends. The tour is conducted by Eric Ferrara, founder of the Lower East Side History Project and author of the “MANHATTAN MAFIA GUIDE” (History Press, 2011). Eric is a fourth-generation, native New Yorker whose family has been in Little Italy since the end of the 19th century. He has also been a consultant on a number of movie and television projects, including HBO’s BOARDWALK EMPIRE and Warner Brother’s upcoming remake of THE GREAT GATSBY. He will discuss the Sicilian/Italian immigrant experience, the history of Little Italy and its recent changes, the roots of the Mafia in Sicily and Naples, how the Five Families of the American Mafia originated, historically influential Mafia “unknowns” and the truth behind Boardwalk Empire and The Godfather.
Saturday, January 21 – Art of Restraint San Francisco, California Femina Potens is pleased to quietly announce their “Speakeasy” themed “Art of Restraint,” an elegant evening of artistic rope performances. We will revive the taboo spirit of bondage and bootleg libations to create a roaring good time! Display your favorite fedora, wing-tips, flapper dress and finger waves as we step into another era to enjoy bathtub gin served by service submissive and rope performances by the most talented bondage artists in the country. These performances are designed to lower inhibitions and intoxicate the audience – the same way a stiff drink would entice and please during Prohibition.
Monday, February 6 – Speakeasy Dollhouse, An Immersive Play New York, New York A true tale of bootlegging, mafia, infidelity, and murder set in Prohibition-era New York City. The speakeasy is the dollhouse and the actors are the dolls. Expect to witness a murder, a birth and many things in between, all while sipping cocktails from teacups and enjoying cannolis fresh from the Spanos’ Bakery. Mingle with flapper floozies, infamous mobsters, corrupt magistrates and questionable cops. Live prohibition-era music by The Howard Fishman Quartet. From decor to music to characters, it’s a mind-blowing trip back in time.
Saturday, February 18 – Casino Moderne Los Angeles, California The Art Deco Society of Los Angeles presents “Casino Moderne,” a step back in time with a nod to the HBO series, Boardwalk Empire that is set in 1920 during Prohibition. For one magical night, guests will be able to immerse themselves in living history, vintage style, legal gaming tables and prohibition-era cocktails in the oldest private club in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Athletic Club was founded in 1880 and counts many of old Hollywood’s glitterati among its members. Enjoy four hours of drinking sidecars, savoring hors d’ oeuvres and taking your chances at the medley of gaming tables from poker to roulette.