Chapter Two by Frank Katzenmeyer
A staff of bartenders, hostesses, and security, was being hired. A day before the opening I wanted to see the beauty of it before it became a packed house. From the foyer and ticket booth about a dozen steps led to a landing then another dozen to the right to reach the second floor.
As I stood at the top looking straight ahead was the Martini Bar Room which also had a billiard room, and vintage chairs and sofa. This was the only room smoking was allowed (Before the State No Smoking Ban). To the left down the hallway was more seating, then to that left three intimate conversation booths, which became very popular.
Back to the staircase and looking to the right was the glamorous Ballroom. Directly across the room one step up was a singles bar with stools overlooking the Dance Floor. One more step up was the large oval bar with stools surrounding it. New stem ware was hung in the over head racks . To the right far end was the huge three tier stage. To its right was the practice room, and to the left of the stage, a smaller sitting or dressing room where performers could make their entrance to the stage.-Sugar Palm Post Card 1998-
The big opening night was finally here. (Saturday January 30, 1998) Tickets were $30.00 per couple. The performances were two seatings, but people could stay as long as they wished.-Back of Post Card-
The lineup was at 6pm Sonny LaRusso's all star kids band (ages 7 to 15) would take stage. This is a highly polished 25 member with three girl singers orchestra, taking us back to the big band days. The house was packed from that moment to past midnight. Next was the Dan McMillan 18 member jazz, swing band and then Harry Connick, Sr. and his 10 member swing band direct from New Orleans. He was friends of Barbara and Bob when they lived there. (Mr.Connick was the District Attorney in New Orleans years before) The Dan McMillan and Harry Connick band would alternate throughout the night.
The room was decorated to perfection as the snazzy clubs of days gone by. White Table Cloths were on the cocktail tables (seating 2 to 4 ) with small candles on each (later to be replaced by battery operated lamps with shades)
Tiffany, a young lady with a lot of personality, was the cigarette girl, but her tray had mints. instead making her way through the crowd during the evening. At the top of the room was our hat and coat room, where Holly was the attendant. Holly was an employee at LaFrance Vintage Clothing on 7th Ave. Both of these young ladies would emerge as their own unique "Chics of the Sugar Palm ". There were others that would emerge as time went on.-Tiffany-
All of the staff was dressed up to the max. as the band members were in tuxedos. The customers were all elegantly dressed, ladies in evening gowns or cocktail dresses, gentlemen in dinner coats or suits. I recognized many local public figures as well as professional sports people. My job was to be at the top of the stairs tearing ticket stubs and escorting customers to their tables. Whenever possible I would mingle and welcome them to the Sugar Palm. Something I continued to do on all the Sugar Palm Nights. Even today I believe in welcoming new people. Being an outsider is not fun.
I was introduced to Mr. Connick and found him to be pleasant and humble. I was amazed at the likeness we were in dress, looks, statue and hair. Twice during the evening two different couples came up to me and said they enjoyed the performance Mr. Connick. I thanked them telling the truth.
The night was a tremendous success. and a start of great things to come.-Atomic Magazine-
TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK