Dan Blanco, 1929

Dan Blanco (far left).  Courtesy Chicago Tribune.

For most of Prohibition, Dan Blanco and Club Alabam successfully skirted the law, particularly the local police.  A crackdown in 1929, however, brought the aging Blanco and other club owners from the Near North Side to the East Chicago Avenue Police Station.  There, the newly installed Capt. Charles Essig let them know he meant business.  The so-called “Woppee Belt,” would be cleaned up!

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If you enjoy local history, especially the world of entertainment, follow me at joannelyeck.com or on the Facebook page: The Blackest Sheep.

The Blackest Sheep: Dan Blanco, Evelyn Nesbit, Gene Harris and Chicago’s Club Alabam is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many other online bookstores.

The Read Sisters, Hostesses at Club Alabam

Sunny and Billy Read, Hostesses at Club Alabam.

Courtesy Chicago Tribune.

In 1935, twenty-one-year-old Vera “Billy” Read and her twenty-four-year-old sister, Hazel “Sunny” Read, worked as hostesses at Club Alabam. Natives of Tulsa, Oklahoma, the young women were seasoned in the sometimes dangerous milieu of Chicago after dark when they made headlines in a legal battle with George Eastman Dryden (grandnephew of Kodak camera king, George Eastman).

After several rounds of drinking at Club Alabam, “East” Dryden, heir to a rubber fortune, invited Hazel to a party in his apartment. As they were leaving, Hazel noticed that Vera was draped across the club bar, possibly drunk. Deciding to take Vera with them, they hired a cab to drive the one block to Dryden’s apartment at 814 Rush Street. There, he was responsible for what journalists dubbed a “gay party,” and got himself into some hot water, allegedly dunking Vera Read, fully clothed, in his bathtub.

Eager to learn the whole story? It’s detailed in my new book, The Blackest Sheep.

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If you enjoy local history, especially the world of entertainment, follow me at joannelyeck.com or on the Facebook page: The Blackest Sheep.

The Blackest Sheep: Dan Blanco, Evelyn Nesbit, Gene Harris and Chicago’s Club Alabam is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many other online bookstores.

Irene Duvall At Club Alabam

Irene Duvall

Many charming women appeared at the Club Alabam, including Irene Duvall, who had appeared in movies with Maurice Chevalier and Charlie Chaplin.

At the end of 1933, she worked for Dan Blanco and Gene Harris, she helped them ring in the new year and witness the repeal of Prohibition.

Irene brought with her a troubled past. In early 1933, she accused Edmund J. Casey of robbing her of $10,000 worth of property. Then, following her appearance in Chicago, she and a man named Dr. Burton Eder were injured when hit by a car in Detroit. Both suffered fractured legs. It was the second time that year that Duvall had been struck by a car as a pedestrian. Considering the criminal element connected with nightclubs, somebody may have been threatening Irene Duvall.

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If you enjoy local history, especially the world of entertainment, follow me at joannelyeck.com or on the Facebook page: The Blackest Sheep.

The Blackest Sheep: Dan Blanco, Evelyn Nesbit, Gene Harris and Chicago’s Club Alabam is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many other online bookstores.

 

 

Murder at the Hotel Lorraine

W. Frank Raab (age 38) and Marie Lamont (age 28).

Working in nightclubs often meant rubbing shoulders with unsavory characters.  Club Alabam was no exception.

In early September of 1938, headlines announced: “Cabaret Hostess Found Strangled in Chicago Hotel.” The murder victim was former Club Alabam hostess Mrs. Marie Lamont. The suspected murderer, Frank Raab, had recently worked for Gene Harris as Club Alabam’s floor man and bouncer.

The attractive, auburn-haired Lamont was found dead in Raab’s room in the Hotel Lorraine at 411 South Wabash Avenue. For years the hotel had been the home to criminals—from petty thieves, to ex-convicts, to rapists, to depressives contemplating suicide.

Half naked, clad in a silken nightgown, red marks on Marie’s neck indicated strangulation and an electric light cord was found on the floor by the bed. Some reports claimed that the cord was still around her neck when the body was discovered.

Hotel Lorraine, 411 South Wabash Avenue, Chicago (1942). 

Courtesy John Chuckman.

In 1943, the story of Marie Lamont’s death inspired a sensational, syndicated article entitled, “The Strange Case Of The Red Carnation,” written by Terry McShane.

Eager to learn the whole story? It’s detailed in my new book, The Blackest Sheep.

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If you enjoy local history, especially the world of entertainment, follow me at joannelyeck.com or on the Facebook page: The Blackest Sheep.

The Blackest Sheep: Dan Blanco, Evelyn Nesbit, Gene Harris and Chicago’s Club Alabam is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many other online bookstores.