Peavey Fountain was given to the people of Minneapolis in 1891 as a drinking fountain for horses. The monument wast rededicated as a memorial to the horses of the 151st field artillery of the Minnesota National Guard killed in action during the First World War in 1917 and 1918.
Forty years after the The American Legion held their charter convention in Minneapolis the organization returned for their 41st national meeting. Over 50,ooo visitors and delegates came to town for the convention. Minneapolis seated 3,000 delegates. Speakers at the event included Vice President, Richard M. Nixon, Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, former President Harry S. Truman and Minnesota Senator Hubert H. Humphrey. On August 24th, 1959 the American Legion put together a giant Parade in downtown Minneapolis. It took nearly 10 hours for 200 musical units and almost 20,ooo marchers to make their way down Nicollet Avenue.
Colfax Avenue was named for Schuyler Colfax. Born in March of 1823, Schuyler became a United States Representative from Indiana, Speaker of the House of Representatives and the 17th Vice President of the United States under Ulysses S. Grant in 1869. After leaving office, Colfax embarked on a successful career as a lecturer. A visited Minnesota on a number of occasions and he died in Mankato January 13, 1885. Here’s a picture on 2301 Colfax in 1905 and 2011. The 5 bedroom brick house was built 5 years earlier in 1900.
Lili St. Cyr came into the world as Willis Marie Van Schaack in Minneapolis. Her parents moved to Pasadena, California when she was 7 years old. The entertainer’s early life is somewhat of a mystery. She had a sister, Rosemary Van Schaack Minsky. Her grandparents, the Klarquists, reared her and her show business siblings, Dardy Orlando and Barbara Moffett. Busty, tall, painted and blonde, Lili St. Cyr became the most notorious striptease artist of the 1940s and 1950s. She replaced Gypsy Rose Lee and Ann Corio on the burlesque throne by taking the stripper out of burlesque and putting her on the Las Vegas stage. In 1951 Lili was arrested for putting on a lewd and lascivious act. The Beverly Hills Court trial attracted a great deal of press and she was acquitted. Lili was interviewed by Mike Wallace the same year. She made quite an impression and told the future 60 minutes reporter she had no interest in politics, religion and felt no “obligation to contribute any more babies” to our already “over-populated” world. She also told Wallace that she believed in UFO’s and life Venus.
Stripping wasn’t St. Cyr’s only gig. She is remembered by millions for a series of pin-up photos taken by Bernard of Hollywood. Lili starred in several movies, but her acting career never took off. In 1955, with the help of Howard Hughes, St. Cyr landed her first acting job in the Son of Sinbad. The film was a voyeur’s delight. Lili played the principal member of a Baghdad harem populated with dozens of starlets. By the mid-1950s she was reportedly earning $200,000 a year. St. Cyr also had a role in the movie version of Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead in 1958. Lili was married and divorced six times, her husbands included small-time actors Paul Valentine and Ted Jordan and well-known restaurateur Armando Orsini. She is rumored to have had affairs with Nicky Hilton, Orson Welles, Vic Damone and Howard Hughes to name just a few.
In 1965, Lili published an autobiography “And Men My Fuel”. Forthright as usual, she claimed to despise children and confessed to seven abortions. St. Cyr retired from the stage in 1967 after she was arrested for indecency in Montreal. She began a lingerie business in which she retained an interest until her death. Like Frederick’s of Hollywood, the “Undie World of Lili St. Cyr” designs offered costuming for strippers, and excitement for ordinary women. Her catalogs featured photos or drawings of her modeling “Scantie-Panties” and “hip-length opera hose”, lavishly detailed descriptions, and hand-selected fabrics. Her marketing for “Scantie-Panties” advertised them as “perfect for street wear, stage or photography.” In the 1970s, she sold her lingerie business. In the 1980s, St. Cyr wrote a French autobiography, “Ma Vie de Stripteaseuse.” Lili St. Cyr died in 1999 at the age of 80. She spent her final years in a lovely little Hollywood apartment tending to her cats. In 2007 a new biography, “Gilded Lili: Lili St. Cyr and the Striptease Mystique” by Kelly Dinardo was published by Backstage Books
The Century Theater opened as a vaudeville house called the Miles in 1908. In 1915, the place was rebuilt, and reopened as the Garrick Theater. In 1929 the Garrick was gutted and The Century Theatre was created in the old theater’s shell. The Century proclaimed the most modern movie house west of Chicago. The new movie house struggled through the great depression closing and reopening several times In the 1940′s the Century became a second run house. In 1954 the theater closed for another transformation. When it reopened, the Century Cinerama. became one of fewer than a dozen theaters in America to feature Cinerama films. The new screen measured 72 by 28 feet.The first picture, “This Is Cinerama” was a big, big, hit and it wasn’t long before the Century was competing with the State Fair as a Minnesota tourist attraction! Cinerama brought millions into the Minneapolis economy during the 1950’s. In 1963 70mm was installed for “Cleopatra”. The film played at the Century for over a year. After another long run of “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” the movie house was closed in the fall of 1964. A couple weeks later, a fire broke out in the and gutted the place. The theater was torn down in February, 1965.
In 2011 the Hennepin Theater Trust created the New Century Theater flexible use performance space on the street level of City Center. The new 300 seat theater has become a key part of the Trust’s continuing work to revitalize Hennepin Avenue and increase its arts education and activities. The New Century Theater is located adjacent to the Trust’s office at 615 Hennepin Avenue, between 6th and 7th Streets . The old Century was on 7th Street between Hennepin and Nicollet.
Pearl Beverly Bayne was born in Minneapolis in 1884. Her family moved to Chicago when she was only six. Little Pearl was told she had a camera face and began began work at Essanay Studios making salary of $35 a week when she was 16 years old. Beverly Baynes made her first two movies, The Rivals and The Loan Shark in 1912. her brown eyes beat out Gloria Swanson for the leading lady role in The Loan Shark. At the time Essanay had an amazing stable of talent that included Wallace Beery, Charlie Chaplin, and Francis X. Bushman. Beverly and Bushman beacame a dynamic,romantic duo, and appeared together twenty-four films. The couple left Essanay and made films for Metro Pictures from 1916–1918.
They are probably best remembered for their 1917 production of Romeo and Juliet. Bushman and Bayne were married in 1918. It was rumored that Hollywood disapproved of Bushman divorcing his wife and marrying the much younger Bayne. Their careers went into decline. In the early 20′s they starred in a play, The Master Thief, worked in vaudeville and appeared as guest stars in dramatic stock. The pair divorced in 1924. Beverly’s last silent film was Passionate Youth in 1925. She worked on stage productions and Broadway shows throughout the depression. During the early 40s, Bayne performed in radio and did an occasional play. Her last film was The Naked City with Barry Fitzgerald and Howard Duff in 1948.
A treasury of family secrets exposes the seamy underbelly of Minneapolis—gangsters, gambling, brothels, and the social life of organized crime.
Augie Ratner, the proprietor of Augie’s Theater Lounge & Bar on Hennepin Avenue, was the unofficial mayor of Minneapolis’s downtown strip in the 1940s and ’50s. In a few blocks between the swanky clubs and restaurants on Eighth Street and the sleazy flophouses and bars of the Gateway District, the city’s shakers-and-movers and shake-down artists mingled. Gangsters and celebrities, comedians and politicians, the rich and the famous and the infamous—all of them met at Augie’s: Jimmy Hoffa, Henny Youngman, Kid Cann, John Dillinger, Jack Dempsey, Peggy Lee, Groucho Marx, Lenny Bruce, and Gypsy Rose Lee. Augie Ratner knew everyone, and everyone knew and liked Augie, and they told him everything.
Mixing careful research with long suppressed family and community stories, Neal Karlen, Augie’s great-nephew, tells the real story of the seamy underside of Minneapolis, where Jewish mobsters controlled the liquor trade, invented the point spread in sports betting, and ran national sports gambling operations. Even after Mayor Hubert H. Humphrey supposedly cleaned up the town, organized crime quietly flourished. And Augie was at the center, observing it all.
Augie’s Secrets author, Neal Karlen will be signing his bestselling book at the Calhoun Village Barnes and Noble in Minneapolis from 1-3pm on Saturday May 18th.
“Oy, gevalt! Brimming with street smarts, Yiddish wisdom, and the hidden history of legendary 1940s celebrities and nefarious ganefs from mobster Kid Cann to gambling kingpin Davey ‘the Jew’ Berman, Augie’s Secrets is a singular achievement with great heart and thrumming energy. If Damon Runyon had been Jewish, he would have written like Neal Karlen. Augie’s Secrets is filled with stunning, stylish prose that captures the flavor of the Jewish underworld of downtown Minneapolis down to its last rubout and pastrami sandwich.”
–Paul Maccabee, author of John Dillinger Slept Here: A Crooks’ Tour of Crime and Corruption in St. Paul, 1920–1936
Praise for Neal Karlen:
“Neal Karlen is simply one of the best, most sophisticated, and literate practitioners of journalism we have.”
“This entertaining and nostalgic look at a bygone Minneapolis is the result of that sharing, and Karlen’s skillful research, allowing his readers inside a picturesque, hardscrabble world.”
-Chuck Leddy, Star Tribune
“In “Augie’s Secrets: The Minneapolis Mob and the King of the Hennepin Strip” (Minnesota Historical Society Press), Karlen brings back the days when Peggy Lee walked into Augie’s straight off the bus from North Dakota, when mid-century celebrities like Frank Sinatra visited Hennepin Avenue, and when the most powerful crime lords in the land checked their guns at the door when they visited Augie’s.”
-Amy Goetzman, MinnPost
Neal Karlen, who has written for the New York Times, Newsweek, and Rolling Stone, is the author or co-author of six books.