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 May 07, 2006
“Puttin’ on the Ritz” (1929)
"Puttin' on the Ritz" was written by the legendary New York songwriter Irving Berlin in 1929. Another New Yorker, Mel Brooks, featured the song in his movie classic Young Frankenstein (1974).

The phrase "putting on the ritz" was popularized by the Ritz Brothers in the 1927 (before Berlin's song). However, the phrase is earlier still -- from at least 1920.

Sing365
Puttin' on the Ritz (1929) by Irving Berlin
Have you seen the well-to-do
Up and down Park Avenue
On that famous thoroughfare
With their noses in the air

High hats and narrow collars
White spats and fifteen dollars
Spending every dime
For a wonderful time

Now, if you're blue
And you don't know where to go to
Why don't you go where Harlem flits
Puttin' on the Ritz
Spangled Gowns upon the bevy of
High browns from down the levy
Always spits
Puttin' on the Ritz

That's where each and every lulu-belle goes
Every Thursday evening with her swell beaus
Rubbin' elbows

Come with me and we'll attend their jubilee
And see them spend
Their last two bits
Puttin' on the Ritz

- short instrumental break -

(Boys, look at that man puttin' on that Ritz)

Now, if you're blue
And you don't know where to go to
Why don't you go where Harlem flits
Puttin' on the Ritz
Spangled Gowns upon the bevy of
High browns from down the levy
All misfits
Puttin' on that certain Ritz

Come with me and we'll attend their jubilee
And see them spend
Their last two bits
Puttin' on the Ritz

Come with me and we'll attend their jubilee
And see them spend
Their last two bits
Puttin' on the Ritz

Wikipedia: Puttin' on the Ritz
"Puttin' on the Ritz" is a popular song written and published in 1929 by Irving Berlin. The title derives from the slang expression "putting on the Ritz", meaning to dress very fashionably. The expression was inspired by the swanky Ritz Hotel. The song gives Gary Cooper as an example of someone who puts on the ritz.

The original version of Berlin's song referred to the then-popular fad of well-to-do white New Yorkers visiting African American jazz music venues in Harlem. Berlin later revised the lyrics to be more generally applicable to going out on the town in style.

Hit phonograph records of the tune in its original popularity of 1929-1930 were recorded by Harry Richman and Fred Astaire.

This tune has enjoyed a number of revivals including a hit swing music version by Benny Goodman, being sung and danced to by Fred Astaire in the 1946 film Blue Skies, being memorably and humorously used in the 1974 film Young Frankenstein, and returning to the hit parade again with a version by Taco Ockerse recorded in 1982. It was also referenced in an episode of the TV Show Family Guy with a duet between Stewie Griffin and his mind-controlled brother Chris.

Wikipedia: Caesar Ritz
Caesar Ritz (February 23, 1850—October 24, 1918) was a famous Swiss hotelier and founder of several hotels, most famously The Ritz Hotel. His nickname was "king of hoteliers, and hotelier to kings," and it is from his name and that of his hotels that the term ritzy derives.

Ritz worked as the first manager of the Savoy Hotel before he opened the Hôtel Ritz in Paris, France in 1898. He went on to open The Ritz Hotel in London, United Kingdom and the Hotel Ritz Madrid in Madrid, Spain.

Wikipedia: Ritz Hotel
The Ritz Hotel London is a glamorous and luxurious 133-room hotel located in Piccadilly and overlooking Green Park in London.

Famed Swiss hotelier César Ritz opened the hotel on May 24, 1906. The building is neoclassical in the Louis XVI manner, built during the Belle Époque to resemble a stylish Parisian block of flats, over arcades that consciously evoked the Rue de Rivoli. Its architects were Charles Mewès, who had previously designed Ritz's Hôtel Ritz Paris, and Arthur Davis, with engineering collaboration by the Swedish engineer Sven Bylander. It was the first hotel in the country to offer every room a private bathroom, and was the first substantial steel-frame structure in London.

Wikipedia: Hotel Ritz Paris
Hotel Ritz Paris
(...)
The facade was designed by Jules Hardouin Mansart, the creator of the "mansard" roof. Converted to a luxury hotel by Caesar Ritz, it opened on June 1, 1898. Together with the culinary talents of minority partner Auguste Escoffier, Caesar Ritz made the hotel synonymous with opulence, service, and fine dining.

Ritz-Carlton (New York City-Battery Park)
The Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park, is the only AAA Five Diamond luxury waterfront New York City hotel. Sweeping views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, spa facilities, a fitness center and fabulous dining with both indoor and outdoor seating offer guests the ultimate Manhattan experience.

Ritz-Carlton (New York City-Central Park)
The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park offers the ultimate cosmopolitan experience. This 33-story Mobil Five-Star and AAA Five-Diamond hotel comprises 261 guestrooms and 12 luxury condominiums as well as Atelier restaurant, Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge, La Prairie Spa, a lobby lounge and upscale bar.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
Ritz, n. (a.)
[The name of the Swiss-born hotelier César Ritz (1850-1918), given to his luxury hotels in Paris, London, New York, and elsewhere.]
a. Used allusively of a large and luxurious hotel, esp. in negative phrases. Also attrib. and as adj.
1910 R. FRY Lett. (1972) I. 336, I will not pretend that my cuisine rivals the Ritz.
1922 F. SCOTT FITZGERALD (title) The diamond as big as the Ritz.
1926 E. HEMINGWAY Sun also Rises xix. 238 We drove in to Biarritz and left the car outside a very Ritz place.
1928 W. S. MAUGHAM Ashenden vi. 93 They came to a tavern in a blind alley, noisome and evil... 'It's not the Ritz,' he said, 'but at this hour of the night it's only in a place like this that we stand a chance of getting something to eat.'
b. Colloq. phr. to put on the ritz, to assume an air of superiority. U.S.
1926 R. LARDNER in Hearst's Internat. Jan. 33/2 If you mention some really worth while novel like, say, 'Black Oxen', they think you're trying to put on the Ritz.
1929 I. BERLIN Puttin' on the Ritz (song) 3 If you're blue and you don't know what to do Why don't you go where Harlem sits Puttin' On The Ritz.

Google News Archive
7 June 1920, The Pittsburg Press (Pittsburgh, PA), "Convention Jazz" by "Bugs" Baer, pg. 1, col. 7:
The works are set pretty for tomorrow’s blow-off. All the candidates are measuring ‘emselves for that celestial mansion in the seventh political heaven at Washington. Gen. Wood is stepping around putting on the Ritz but hasn’t got any more chance than a sore toe in a Marathon. Illinois is Lowden’s pond, but a frog is still a frog, whether he is big or little. It looks as if it is Hiram Johnson’s kick at the cat.

26 May 1921, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. 15:
No small time skates are wanted now. The whole gang has put on the Ritz and are strutting about like a collection of pouter pigeons.

6 June 1921, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. 19:
So different from the rest of the surroundings at the French champion's quarters, the battler greets all the visitors with a cheery smile, while the rest of the crew puts on the Ritz and freezes up whenever they are approached by visitors.

20 November 1923, Nevada State Journal (Reno, NV), Pg. 3:
CHICAGO, Nov. 19. -- Financially Raymond Weaver may be a bum without a dime in his pocket, but he certainly knows how to "put on the ritz."

10 June 1925, New York (NY) Times, pg. 19:
Frank Walker is the latest invalid on the club. He injured his foot in practice the other day and the only reason he isn't wearing a cane is because he is afraid the other players will accuse him of putting on the Ritz.

11 June 1925, Oakland (CA) Tribune, pg. 16:
Vaudeville reviewers got the notion that the star was putting on the "ritz" and the mere suggestion made it difficult for her because her chief asset is her honesty.

3 July 1927, Atlanta (GA) Constitution, pg. 13:
Some of the star acts of variety are promised on the bill of vaudeville which will be offered this week at Loew's Grand theater, which will be headed by the comedians, the Ritz brothers. The new act of these funmakers is entitled "Putting on the Ritz," a comedy in a collegiate atmosphere.
Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMusic/Dance/Theatre/Film • Sunday, May 07, 2006 • Permalink


"Always spits"-->"All misfits” (the gowns are ill-fitting, in keeping with the unpleasant [if cheery] tone of making fun of poor people acting above their station)(The song is a good one, but ugly is ugly, no matter how well-made.)

“narrow collars"-->"Arrow collars” (collars from Arrow Shirts, which I believe popularised _non_-detachable collars).

“jubilee"---originating in the term from the Hebrew Bible for the year in which all slaves must be freed (and all debts forgiven, and all land returned to its post-conquest original owners), the term became used by Union soldiers to describe their liberating slaves (’bring the jubilee’wink and later was morphed into a term for a Southern or Southern Black festival.

Posted by Gerald Fnord  on  10/18  at  09:57 AM

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