Retro Heaven

Drinking by Gaslight

The Gaslight Club, Chicago 1956.. p-two Here at Retro Culturati we like a tipple but we would especially like to have a tipple at certain times in days past. Looking back over these marvellous photographs by Mike Shea and featured in Playboy in 1956 they show a time now long gone. Or do they? Well, the club which opened three years before these photographs were taken continues today, the club’s furnishings remain elegant and the ‘Gaslight Girls’ dress in short skirts and fish nets. The menu has its roots firmly in the 1950s too with grills, prawns with cocktail sauce and Caesar salads worded and presented as you would hope. From this article we learn that the waitresses can earn more tips than showgirls with some earning up to $15,000 a year. Membership was by invitation only, you could order a twelve-year-old Scotch or a seven-year old bourbon but not a gin. There have been four owners of the club, Burton Browne was the founder and his legacy continues to this day. The photographs speak for themselves in many ways. We see waitress Anna Kirstein putting on her costume, we are told that she works from 4pm to 2am which she fits around her studies for voice and piano as well as her hobbies of swimming, bowling, skating and skiing. But don’t attempt to pinch her bottom we are told, this evokes the grounds for immediate expulsion. Quite right! p-fiveThere are a number of rooms at The Gaslight, we love this shot of the bar and the patrons enjoying the atmosphere of the club, men in suits, well-dressed women sipping cocktails at the bar and married men trying not to care what the waitress looked like.


But back to the girls, and reading this article we cannot help but wonder what they must have thought when their salary range was published in Playboy, a global publication. Consider for a moment your own position, you’re on a moderate income but you receive extra remuneration from a grateful customer. You might, as they tell us get your bottom pinched but that is ‘counterbalanced’ by the $10 and $20 tips or in the case of one ‘hippy blonde’ a $100 bill. Your weekly salary is $1. Yes, one dollar but they can earn up to $300 ‘depending on whether the internal revenue agent is within earshot’.

Marvellous stuff and we cannot but hope that the girls got it (tips) whilst they could. p-sixSo we end with the old adage; ‘boys will be boys’ and as chatting up a waitress your grand daughters age works up an appetite for any hard-working Lothario we leave these patrons to their just desserts!

Photographs by Mike Shea

Categories: Retro Heaven

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