Manuscripts/Mixed Material [Harlem Rent Parties]
228 West 126 St. Sat. Night, May 12th.
There'll be plenty of pig feet
An lots of gin
Jus ring the bell
An come on in.
They were careful, however, to give these cards to only the “right” people. Prohibition was still in effect and the police were more diligent about raiding questionable apartments than they were about known “gin“mills” that flourished on almost every corner.
Despite this fact, the number of personal Saturday night responses, in answer to the undercover advertising, was amazing. The party hostess, eager and glowing with freshly straightened hair, would roll back the living room carpets, dim the lights, seat the musicians, (usually drummer, piano and saxophone player) and, with the appearance of the first cash customer, give the signal that would officially get the “rug-cutting” under way. Soon afterwards she would disappear into the kitchen in order to give a final, last minute inspection to the refreshment counter: a table piled high with pig-feet, fried chicken, fish and potato salad.
The musicians, fortified with a drink or two of King Kong (home made corn whiskey) begin “beating out the rhythm” on their battered instruments while the dancers keep time with gleeful whoops, fantastic body-gyrations and convulsions that appear to be a cross between the itch and a primitive mating-dance.
After some John buys a couple of rounds of drinks, things begin to hum in earnest. The musicians instinctively improvise as