Dorothy Plays Miami Beach
Dorothy Dandridge was signed to open at Ciro’s, a new club in Miami Beach, Florida. She was to perform with Tony and Sally DeMarco and Larry Storch. At the time, there was a city ordinance that prohibited Negroes from living in Miami Beach. And the ordinance was enforced. Blacks were only allowed in Miami Beach if they either worked there or possessed a work pass.
This understandably upset Dorothy. She was furious and wanted to cancel her engagement. Dorothy’s manager talked to Ciro’s owner, Sandy Scott about what could be done about the ordinance. He agreed to help fight it.
In fact, there were similar ordinances all over Florida at the time. Some restaurants wouldn’t even serve blacks. While there, Dorothy, her black pianist and her manager ended up staying in the Lord Calvert Hotel in the segregated Miami ghetto. Even Nat “King” Cole had to live in the ghetto when he performed in Miami Beach.
When it came time to perform on opening night, the club wasn’t quite finished. But, Scott was committed and his ad budget equaled his entertainment budget. Still, workers were still putting finishing touches on things. The construction made it difficult for servers to efficiently wait on customers. Food from the kitchen seemed to take forever. And the dressing rooms for the entertainers were not finished.
The first performer, Larry Storch, did all he could, but didn’t get a reaction from the audience. They were preoccupied with the construction, noise, and most of all, the lack of food. Sally and Tony DeMarco were next. But again, no reaction, no applause.
At that point, Dorothy didn’t even want to go on stage. However, she did. And again, no reaction. All three performers had flopped. And the audience still didn’t have their food! It was a wreck!
Despite the disaster at Ciro’s, there was some good that came from it. Among the hunger customers in the audience that night, were two men associated with the La Vie En Rose in New York City. They recognized Dorothy’s talent and talked her into going to New York. Besides, she was anxious to leave Miami Beach anyway.