Saturday, November 05, 2022

The Voom Voom Room & A Chicago Scene

I decided to share some random scans today, just for fun. Let's start with this night scene (undated, but maybe from the late 1960s or early 1970s), in Somewheresville, USA. To our left is "Marc's Big Boy", and more or less in front of us is a place called the "Voom Voom Room". Great name! And it turns out it was a nightclub - with strippers, apparently - located in Milwaukee (on the corner of 5th and Wisconsin Avenue). In the '80s it became a place to catch punk bands.

I tried to find a current photo of Marc's Big Boy, but it seems to have gone kaput at some point. I did find this nice vintage photo of it, you can match it up to the previous photo.

I found this photo of the Voom Voom Room on the Milwaukee Public Library website.

At some point, the Voom Voom Room became The Penthouse. Dancing and entertainment? Let's all go there right now! The Strand Theater is showing "The Sound of Music", which would date this photo to about 1965.

Next is this 1970 photo that was labeled "Kansas City" for some reason. If the building that says "Chicago Paper Company" wasn't enough of a clue, the John Hancock Center, visible in the distance tells us that this is the Windy City. The Chicago Board of Trade is the peaked building above the red convertible; I don't recognize any other buildings off the top of my head. 

I tried to get a contemporary view, but was unsure of where the photographer was standing. I tried a number of locations, but 50+ years, so many tall buildings have been added that I'm not sure this view could be captured again.


JB said...

#1 is a nice, good quality night shot. But I'm wondering why the photographer took this particular scene? Maybe this corner has the most colorful night-lights in Milwaukee.

#2 has 1970s written all over it. You have to use special glasses to see the writing, but it's there.

#3 is interesting because of that warped mirrored glass reflecting the "Paperbacks - Magazines" sign. Could that warped window be where a 'dancer' performed at night? Maybe not; it doesn't look big enough or tall enough.

#4 features a NASA guy walking toward us. He must have took a wrong turn at Albuquerque (or Albakoikee, as Bugs would say).

#5 has a 1966 Tesla convertible (very rare!) in "Ripe Tomato Red" and "Sour Cream White". (Sorry, Nanook. Couldn't help myself.)

Thanks for the Saturday Travelogue, Major.

Nanook said...

If the movie playing at the Strand in that first image is The Great Santini, that could date the image from 1979.

For those into Paul Steffen (formerly Stefaniak), you can hear him singing with the Royal Lancers, "I Fought the Law", written by Sonny Curtis (who composed the theme to The Mary Tyler Moore Show) - the hit version of the song performed by The Bobby Fuller Four in 1966. LISTEN HERE It has a wonderful 'loungy/sleazy-sounding' vocal.

In the last image, that's a 1963 Cadillac, probably in "Matador Red Metallic". The blurry 'gold' car *could* be a 1968 Chevy II Nova.

Thanks, Major.

Anonymous said...

I notice that the upstairs apartment above the club, in a couple pictures, is [always] available for rent. Interesting...

Nanook, is it possible that car is a Chevelle, not a Nova? I’m going by the slightly different slant of the side back window. Just my guess...

Thanks, Major.


Thanks, Major.

Anonymous said...

I didn’t mean to thank you twice...silly cell phone.


TokyoMagic! said...

Nanook, I had never heard that version of the song before. Was Paul Stefaniak related to Elvis Presliak? ;-)

I love that Marc's Big Boy sign. And how could anyone ever steal the Big Boy statue, when it's up that high?

Great Saturday pics, Major. Thanks for sharing!

Melissa said...

It’s too darn cold in Milwaukee to be taking your clothes off in public!

Chuck said...

The first photo was taken no earlier than late 1971 and probably 1972 or later based on the Amtrak logo on a sign attached to the streetlight in the left foreground. That logo was introduced in mid-‘71 but didn’t start setting widespread usage until the following year.

I had completely forgotten about punk band fishing. It was strictly catch and release in Wisconsin, wasn’t it?

I’d date the second photo to no earlier than 1972 based on the United Way logo on the sign above the Amtrak sign on that same light pole, at right in this particular image. Clothing styles feel 1976 or later to me, but that’s just a guess.

Based on those logos from the ‘70s and The Sound of Music showing in the 1965 photo, I think the establishment was originally The Penthouse and later renamed The Voom Voom.

And…Chicago. The place everyone thinks of immediately when I tell them I live in Illinois. “Oh, I’ve been to Chicago!” Followed by immediate confusion when I explain I live near St. Louis. “But…isn’t that in Missouri?” Yes. On the border. With Illinois. [awkward silence] So, tell me all about your visit to Chicago…

JG said...

Nothing like old neon to whet one’s appetite for a Manhattan cocktail.

Apparently the “Big Boy” marketing was more flexible back then, or always was. Was Marc Bob’s cousin?

I’m with Chuck on the dating and sequence of the bar names, especially the “adult book” store as evidence, practically every downtown in America suffered that blight, but not widespread till the 70’s. My guess is that the Penthouse fell on hard times as the economy soured and business moved out of the downtown, and moved itself down-market to stay afloat. Gotta say, Voom-Voom Room is pretty catchy, but doesn’t sound like the kind of place you would tell anyone you visited.

Even the storefront of the Penthouse, the orange glass, is not original to the building, which I would date to the late 1920’s. The glass style was a post-WWII thing, so remodeling every few years aligned with good economic times.

Sue, no one wants an apartment located right over a noisy bar. I bet there was a lot of turnover.

Hard to guess how Chicago became Kansas City, but how did Bobs become Marc’s?

Chuck, Is there any truth in the rumor I heard that Illinois wanted to build a giant statue of a croquet player across the river from St. Louis?

Thank Major, these are fun for variety.


Nanook said...

Actually, Chuck (& JG) are correct...
For these 1960s clubs, of which The Spa (open in the early 1960's) preceded The Penthouse (open by '66), I again turned to Myers, who performed at both venues:"During the time that I played in and around Milwaukee – roughly 1962-'66 – The Spa (also called the Highlife Spa for a time) had mostly local or regionally touring rock or country bands and a generally older crowd. When it became The Penthouse they apparently expanded into the place next door and knocked out a wall, as it was larger than The Spa. Seems to me it might have later become The Spa again, but I wasn't around at that time. They had the Fendermen for a week or two about six years after their hit (1960's "Mule Skinner Blues"), so they presumably might have also had other touring bands, perhaps some with a bit of name." Later the space became the Voom Voom Room strip club".

'Myers' is 'Milwaukee ex-pat and veteran musician, Gary Myers.

Chuck said...

JG, no, but in 1970 Ray Kroc considered building a second arch adjacent to the current one and electroplating both in a bright, golden yellow. In the end, it was cost prohibitive to move the corporate offices from Chicago to St Louis and the plan went nowhere.

Nanook said...

@ Sue-
If that car is any Chevrolet product it IS a 1968 Chevelle-! Good call. The shape of the rear window clinches the deal. Go buy yourself an all-day sucker-!

Major Pepperidge said...

JB, one can only guess as to why the photographer took this photo, but it must have taken some care to get a decent night show back then. Somehow having a dancer perform in a window seems pretty racy for a midwestern city… I’m sure some locals were already scandalized enough by having a strip bar in their neighborhood. I thought that NASA guy was a Disneyland Autopia worker, but you are probably right. I’m weird, I’ve never desired a convertible, although I do like the two-tone look.

Nanook, I think that sign says “A Great Show”, and am pretty sure that this slide is from years before 1979. Huh, who knew that “Paul Steffen” actually had some fame! That version of that song does have an odd laid-back vibe. Thank you for the link.

Sue, I wonder if that apartment was subject to the sound of loud music even in the wee hours? Maybe that’s why it was always available!

Sue, it’s OK, it’s nice to be thanked!

TokyoMagic!, I’ll bet the main reason that statue of the Big Boy was up so high was to prevent late-night thefts! You know, college kids and such. Why don’t they get haircuts?!

Melissa, haven’t you seen those polar bear plunges, where crazy people jump into icy water? It seems miserable to me, but some people seem to be able to take it. I can hardly stand the cold water at a California beach on a summer day.

Chuck, thanks for that, I didn’t even see the Amtrak sign in that first photo. It took me a minute to figure out what you meant by “punk band fishing”. Now I get it! I definitely think that the second photo is from a few years after the first one, and maybe even into the very early 80s? I think you’re right about the Penthouse changing to the Voom Voom room.

JG, the Big Boy franchisees have been around for a long time… as I mentioned in an earlier post, when I lived in Pennsylvania it was “Elby’s Big Boy”. I think one of the appeals of collecting vintage slides is seeing cities before they went downhill - photos of downtown L.A. or almost any other town make the places look so prosperous and clean, while “today” photos generally look sterile and sad. Maybe living above a strip club would have some benefits? The mind reels. Hey, they could have used one of the giant muffler men as a statue with a croquet mallet!

Nanook, I saw that same article, but screwed up in my text. Big surprise!

Chuck, now THAT would have been amazing! ;-)

Nanook, wow, I am impressed by Sue! As for an all-day sucker, is that a prize, or a punishment?

Nanook said...

"As for an all-day sucker, is that a prize, or a punishment?" Exactly-! You gotta keep 'em guessing...

JB said...

If it's a Shimmer sucker then it's BOTH! A prize AND a punishment!

Melissa said...

Maybe the photographer was thinking of "Kansas City" from Oklahoma! where Will sings about the burlesque show he saw in the big city.

"Melissa, haven’t you seen those polar bear plunges, where crazy people jump into icy water?"

I had to cook breakfast for the very year, after they dragged themselves out of Lake Ontario!

I guess an apartment over a nightclub wouldn't be so bad for a night owl. Or a night-shift worker.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, it reminds me of the old joke: "1st Prize, a week in Oxnard. 2nd Prize, two weeks in Oxnard".

JB, only folks on GDB would understand what a "Shimmer sucker" is!

Melissa, they have a polar bear plunge in San Luis Obispo on New Year's Day, and I wouldn't jump into that ocean for money. I think the water temperature is in the 50s, it hurts my feet to just wade in up to my ankles.