A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from January 11, 2008
“Play west of the Hudson (River)”

"(Can’t/Won’t) play west of the Hudson (River)” means that something is too “New York” to succeed in the rest of the country. The comedian Alan King was often told that he’s “too Jewish” and that his comedy wouldn’t play west of the Hudson River.

In 2007-2008, the New York City mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg both had presidential aspirations. Radio commentator Michael Savage often said that Giuliani “doesn’t play west of the Hudson.”

The phrase can be contrasted to “(can’t/won’t) play in Peoria,” about Middle America.


(Oxford English Dictionary)
Peoria, n.2
U.S. colloq. (somewhat depreciative).
[< Peoria, the name of a city in Illinois, ult. an application of the ethnonym PEORIA n.1 Cf. earlier PEORIAN n.
The phrase (not) to play in Peoria is said to be due to the practice of trialling new vaudeville productions in Peoria before presenting them to metropolitan audiences.]

allusively. Any place (in the United States) inhabited by people with plain, down-to-earth, conventional tastes and attitudes. Esp. in to play in Peoria and variants: (usu. in negative or interrogative contexts) to appeal to the average American; (loosely) to be viable. Cf. PEORIAN n. 1.
1924 These Eventful Years II. 407 Playgoers in Peoria could not hope to see as good a performance of a play as was to be seen in Broadway.
1935 Men’s Wear 20 Mar. 48/2 Mr Leary..could tell a story about every piece of cloth in the shop and how a suit cut from it helped the wearer to ‘lay ‘em in the aisles’ in Peoria.
1975 C. A. TRIPP Homosexual Matrix i. 2 There are indications aplenty that sharp relaxations in the mores..do not really ‘play in Peoria’.
1989 N.Y. Times 1 Oct. H5/1 No one dreamed of scouting out jarring forums of New York downtown theater for material that could play in Peoria.

Wikipedia: Michael Savage (commentator)
Michael Alan Weiner, best known by his pseudonym Michael Savage, is an American radio host, author, and conservative political commentator. He holds master’s degrees in medical botany and medical anthropology and earned a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, in nutritional ethnomedicine. As Michael Weiner, he has written a number of books on herbal medicine and homeopathy.

As Michael Savage, he has written four New York Times best sellers. His nationally syndicated radio show, The Savage Nation, reaches more than 10 million listeners on 410 stations throughout the United States, ranking third in number of stations syndicated nationwide and third in nationwide audience behind Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

19 August 1987, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “FCC versus Howard Stern” by Dennis McDougal, Calendar, section 6, pg. 1:
... than audiences elsewhere in the country, but the kind of innuendo they enjoy over their morning coffee won’t play west of the Hudson River, he said.

Entertainment Weekly (October 19, 1990)
The action of the novel—such as it is—takes place over a long, sodden weekend in 1976, during which Sams travels from Boston to New York in search of a book advance to finance his literary comeback, visit his aged Orthodox parents in their East Village apartment, and lurch from one vividly rendered scene of his promising youth and misbegotten literary career to another. Alcoholism aside, it’s always hard to know how this Lit Biz stuff will play west of the Hudson, much less in that trackless wilderness beyond the Delaware. Sams drops more names than Robin Leach, but fails to make the Manhattan publishing world seem very much more vital or intrinsically fascinating than, say, the wholesale shoe trade.
(Review of the book Sams in a Dry Season by Ivan Gold—ed.)

21 November 1997, The Record (Bergen County, NJ), “The Jewish Community, Part Two” by Bob Ivry, Your Time section:
“...would never play west of the Hudson,” which he believed was a euphemism for “Jewish.”

Foundation for Jewish Culture
Honoring Alan King
In a raucous celebration of American Jewish humor, Alan King is honored for lifetime achievement.
When he was first starting out, Alan King was labeled as being “too Jewish.” At seventeen, Variety described him as a Borscht Belt comedian who couldn’t play west of the Hudson. Heartbroken, King changed his act, but it never worked-he could never get a laugh with a golf or race track joke. So King went back to what he knew: articulating all the richness and craziness of Jewish life in America. “My Jewishness came not from something studied, it was inherent, it was innate, it was part of my being,” King has said. “So I started telling stories about my life. And people laughed.”

15 December 2000, Cleveland (OH) Jewish News, “Alan King gives comedy the royal treatment” by Arlene Fine:
“...play west of the Hudson because I was too Jewish,” says King.

New York (NY) Times
LONG ISLAND JOURNAL; Three Who Write the Island’s Rhythms
By MARCELLE S. FISCHLER
Published: November 24, 2002
(...)
‘’When I wrote ‘Gold Coast,’ my publishers wondered if it was going to play west of the Hudson or east of Montauk Point,’’ Mr. DeMille said.

Snake Oil Sam’s Radio Review
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Michael Savage Declares America’s Gelded Age
(...)
I have just one point of contention Savage. When speaking of Rudy, please Savage, don’t say that he doesn’t play west of the Hudson. In truth he plays as far west as the Pocono’s, especially since a goodly portion of Brooklyn now lives in North Eastern Pennsylvania. 

MSNBC
“Hardball with Chris Matthews” for Feb. 6
Read the transcript to the Tuesday show
updated 10:48 a.m. ET, Wed., Feb. 7, 2007
(...)
KATE O‘BEIRNE:  The rank and file.  It doesn‘t mean they‘re going to vote for him. 
When it comes to the personal life of politicians, New York City voters elect the French of American politics.  They think it‘s really amusing, you know, the mistress, and the messy divorce.  You know, that stuff has to play west of the Hudson, and I‘m not so sure it does, not even putting aside for the moment, you know, his support for gun control, wanting to sue gun manufacturers. 

topix
Tom
Feb 13, 2007
RUDY! RUDY! EARTH TO RUDY! EARTH CALLING RUDY GUILIANI! YOU ARE TOO LIBERAL (EVEN FOR A REPUBLICANO). YOU DON’T PLAY WEST OF THE HUDSON RIVER. YOUR’E OUTTA HERE!

Free Republic
Rudy won’t play west of the hudson.. never did, never will.
25 posted on 06/09/2007 10:27:55 AM PDT by xcamel ("It’s Thompson Time!")

Newsarama Forum
MicroZone
08-10-2007, 09:48 AM
However, in our pretend two-party system, the GOP will push Rudy, who doesn’t play west of the Hudson River or Romney, who doesn’t even play in Utah.

Springfield (OH) News-Sun Message Boards
He’s a liberal who won’t play west of the Hudson River.
Posted by: Old Cold Warrior
Date: December 03, 2007 10:28PM
According to Savage: He’s a liberal who won’t play west of the Hudson River.

Yahoo! Answers: Why does the FDNY hate Rudy?
jayroc
I’m glad they are focusing on Rudy cause he is not the one they should be concerned with.

I know about his ties to the cfr, and I am no supporter of his, he wont play west of the Hudson river, and he wont play with the conservative base.

Hot Air
“Not playing west of the Hudson” as Savage would say.
labrat on January 11, 2008 at 12:30 AM
(Commenting on a New York Times story about Michael Bloomberg for president—ed.)

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityNames/Phrases • (0) Comments • Friday, January 11, 2008 • Permalink