Near the theatre district on Fifth Avenue and Fifty Sixth Street in New York City, the lavish, white tie Iridium Room supper club at the historic St. Regis Hotel was a perfectly located spot for playgoers to stop and have a bite to eat before they took in a show on Broadway. 'Before they took in a show' isn't exactly accurate... for customers at the Iridium Room were treated to a fabulous nightly ice show while they dined.
The Iridium Room's ice shows began in 1940 as twice nightly affairs, with one show at nine or nine-thirty serving as an evening matinee to the main event... the Midnight Ice Show. For approximately fifteen dollars, patrons could enjoy squab guinea hen en casserole, cream of corn soup and the St. Regis' dessert speciality - frozen cake - while watching skaters whirl around on a twenty square foot skating rink mounted on rubber rollers.
Three time U.S. Silver Medallist Erle Reiter skating at the Iridium Room. Photo courtesy Minnesota State Archives.
When the hotel decided to discontinue the skating shows briefly in favour of other entertainment, patrons complained so much that Vincent Astor himself ordered that they be reinstated. The St. Regis wasn't the only hotel in the Big Apple at the time offering suppertime ice shows during the World War II era. The Biltmore Hotel and the Terrace Room in the Hotel New Yorker's ice shows were perhaps better-known and often drew in bigger names.
Stars of the shows - which had names like "Ice Frolics", "Adventure On Ice", "Ice Pictorials" and "Ice Quakes" - included Carol Lynne, Rudy Richards, Dorothy Lewis, twins Jack and Bob Heasley, Hazel Franklin, Joan Hyldoft and adagio pair Bob and Peggy White. For a time in 1943, Gustave Lussi himself acted as the director of these shows, which were produced by Marjory Fielding. Interestingly, Lussi had worked as a dishwasher at the hotel when he immigrated to America from Switzerland in 1915.
|The Heasley twins|
For nearly a decade, the ice shows in the Iridium Room at the St. Regis Hotel were well-attended and received favourable press. It wasn't until after World War II, when a cabaret tax was imposed on New York City supper clubs that offered entertainment that the management of the hotel gave the ice shows the old heave ho. Sadly, as is often the case in the skating world, the demise of great skating shows often comes down to the almighty dollar.
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