The Candy Store

This is a photograph 0f the first nightclub I opened in the mid-1960’s in mid-town Manhattan called “The Candy Store.” 

This is Candy Johnson, the “Shimmy Girl” from the Beach Party Movies with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, doing her act while the band members play their instruments hanging upside down from the trapezes.  It was a wild scene.

Here’s an excerpt from “The Studio 54 Effect” about my experience with opening The Candy Store:


My career in business started in 1964, at the World’s Fair where I created an attraction in the Bourbon Street pavilion. It was a seafood oyster bar with an above ground “pond” where fairgoers could fish for their own dinner, which we would then cook. The venture was a success.  At the same time, I was a lieutenant JG at Lakehurst Naval Air Station in a program for Cornell Hotel School graduates where I’d spend the weekdays running the Officer’s Club, which unfortunately that marked the start of what would become a drinking problem.  As I was being released from active duty my father and I took over The Forest Hills Inn, a 300 room hotel resembling an English manor that was in foreclosure, but with creative marketing it became a hit and I started what would be years of competing with my Jewish immigrant father.

This was the era of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack. A brash Texan who was a frequent guest at The Inn often invited me to join him on his jaunts to the Copa, where I met Larry Mathews, who owned a chain of all night beauty parlors and an unsuccessful discotheque in midtown which had a vacant upstairs room. When Larry made the offer, I thought about the Beach Party Movie’s “Shimmy Girl” Candy Johnson, who was staying at the Inn.  I opened The Candy Store, which was a wild scene of pure decadence with scantily clad go-go girls who danced on tables while the band played, hanging upside-down from trapezes with Candy singing and shimmying to wild applause with influential columnist Walter Winchell in the audience. What I didn’t know until opening night when I met Joe “The Wop” was that Larry was a front for the Mob. When they put the squeeze on me I eased myself out.

One comment

  1. Ken · January 18, 2012

    What an amazing photo! I’m a HUGE Candy Johnson fan. I’d love to hear all about The Candy Store! What years was it in operation? Were you partnered with The Candy Johnson Show or were they the hired act? Were there other performers involved (i.e. other bands, featured dancers, etc…)?

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