Caution: This is not an unbiased account. I wasn’t there, but some of this makes me mad.
In October 1966, Park Music Center owners Morton Kaufman and Leo Fine proposed opening a club that would be open to kids aged 12 through 16. The two had just opened their store at 7200 Minnetonka Blvd. six months before, and were selling instruments to a lot of local bands. They were looking for more places for their customers to play. In the October 20, 1966, issue of the Dispatch, Kaufman was quoted:
We’re thinking of a place where young people could meet their friends, listen to bands and have a hot dog and a coke. We would like to have the club open on Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons. It is our feeling that youngsters in the lower teenage bracket need and want a place to go on weekends.
The club would charge annual membership dues and membership cards would be presented for admittance.
But the town fathers were quick to pooh pooh the idea. Mayor Kenneth Wolfe said,
There has been discussion of opening such clubs several times in the past. I think plans were abandoned mainly because when interested parties sat down to figure things out, they found that they could not come out financially. It seemed that minimal dues and the profit on cokes and hot dogs could not cover the costs.
City Manager Camille Andre joined in the naysaying:
There have been three applications to the council in the past six or seven years for ventures which might have been similar. All were turned won for one reason or another. The most recent application in 1964 was for a dance hall license for Lilac Way Shopping Center. We don’t know for sure that it was to be a teen club, but that was suggested by the fact that the application was for a place serving non-alcoholic bevarages. The application was refused for insufficient parking and it was too close to an establishment selling intoxicating liquor which would make control difficult.
The Mayor said it might be a good idea IF the kids needed a place to go, but worried about “older, rougher young people trying to horn in.” The City Manager cited all the red tape that the club would have to go through.
The Dispatch solicited reactions to the plan from the schools and local clergy:
- Father O’Connor, Chaplain at Benilde: “I’m not in favor of it for that age children.” As soon as junior high students are mentioned in connection with such a club, I’m against it. I prefer to hold off individual boy-girl relationships and the night club atmosphere until they are older. If older boys and girls were involved, I would have no objection to the mixing of religious groups in such a social atmosphere.
- Howard Buska, principal of Central Junior High: “I think that something of this type which was properly supervised would be good for students, as long as it wasn’t taken over by cliques. I would have no objection so long as it didn’t interfere with our canteen attendance.” Central had two canteens each season for each grade on Friday evenings. He said that a teen club might be especially beneficial to kids who “Don’t have anything else to do — those who usually do not attend teenage affairs sponsored by churches, synagogues or other organizations. Supervision should be by parents along with off duty police, he suggested.
- Paul C. Schroeder, principal of Westwood Junior High, was definitely against the idea. “I think they are asking for trouble. Kids need to get together, but I think that junior high youngsters are too young for this type of arrangement. A club of this type might not hold the young people’s interest for long. Our school canteens are not always well attended. Kids get tired of doing the same things. I’m not sure how many parents would be in favor of a club.”
- Rabbi Moses Sachs of B’nai Abraham Synagogue said, “Such a program makes sense to me if developed within the scope of the proposed St. Louis Park Community Center with a proper building and proper group work supervision. Just providing a place is not enough. There are likely to be many problems unless handled by competent group workers.”
- Rev. Walter G. Johnson of Westwood Lutheran Church said he felt the idea would have merit if there were good supervision by a combination of youths and adults. “The adults should be ones with experience in working with youth.” He would object to supervision by the owners themselves. “With all due respect to their capabilities, such a place would require unbiased supervision. We are in need of a good wholesome meeting place for our youth in addition to those offered by the individual church or synagogue.” However, he would not be satisfied with a teen club where dancing was the only activity. “I think many of our 12- to 16-year olds are not yet at that social level. They would also want ping pong or some other activities.”
- Rev. John Foss of Peace Presbyterian Church said “There is a real need for this kind of neutral meeting ground for our young people of different faiths. A teen club such as the one proposed might serve a need for those who don’t fit into guided group activities.” He recommended “close supervision but not domination” by adults. “It sounds like an interesting proposition. I’ll be interested to see what develops.”
Editorial comment: What is this, the Sharks vs. the Jets in St. Louis Park? In 1966??
Upshot: Nothing happened
HULLABALOO TEEN SCENE
In 1967 Mrs. Barbara Jacoby of Wayzata asked the St. Louis Park City Council for a dance hall permit to operate a teenage night club. She said she held a $17,000 franchise from Teen Clubs International, and was negotiating a lease at 6520 Cambridge Ave. to open a club called “TV’s Hullabaloo Teen Scene,” one of 70 such clubs across the country. She said her goal was to be open on May 12, 1967. That date was pushed up to June 16 because a representative of the national franchiser, “Teen Clubs International, Inc.” was coming to town to help her set up the hall and establish policy. It eventually opened for the first time on June 22, 1967.
Her reasons for opening the dance club were quoted in the June 22, 1967, issue of the Minnetonka Herald:
I expect to offer teenagers fun place to go which should certainly meet with anyone’s approval that approves of dancing. I’m trying to give such a place to a group that needs adequate supervision but that doesn’t want to feel parents are breathing down their necks.
It was a tight vote – Councilman Frank Howard told her she would be blamed for every broken window in the area. Councilman Curtis Pearson said “I’m going to vote for the motion feeling like I’m playing Russian Roulette.” But the Park Council is always pretty ready to say yes, and on June 5 the permit was approved. Mrs. Jacoby was approved to operate on a month-to-month basis, each Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, at least through October. Ten off-duty SLP police officers were hired to keep order. Since the building was located in “Skunk Hollow,” an industrial park, there were no houses around and she promised that anyone down there would be in the hall and not in their cars.
Security was a big issue. In the same Minnetonka Herald issue, and editorial painted the picture:
..a dozen efforts to provide that kind of facility have ended in trouble in recent years. Always bands of young toughs (usually not ‘teens either) move in. Always there’s surreptitious drinking, by only a half dozen or so youngsters but just enough to cause trouble. Too often brawls ensue, neighbors and parents complain and the police move in.
Mrs. Jacoby was a High School Spanish teacher with three sons ages 20, 17, and 13. Michael Halleck remembers that he, Mrs. Jacoby’s son Fred, and Michael’s girlfriend Lonnie (now his wife) painted the inside purple. Lonnie went on to be a dancer – not in a cage, but on a box on the stage – complete with white vinyl Go-Go boots and a short skirt.
The club was to be for members only, with card holders allowed to enter for $1.50. The hall could accommodate 700 kids. On the first night, a Thursday, 600 kids came to check it out, but the next two nights saw only 200 each. Mrs. Jacoby said that she needed 300 on average each night to keep the doors open. Police reported no incidents over that first weekend.
The July 2, 1967 TMC Insider announced that “Bob Goffstein of Marsh Productions reports The Sparklers were voted by the Hullabaloo Scene as the Twin Cities most promising band, and that the group will act as a house band for the new St. Louis Park Club.” The Grasshoppers were also showcased.
The July 8, 1967, Minnetonka Herald reported:
[Mrs. Jacoby] hired as many as eight off-duty patrolmen each night to insure tranquility, but many teens said they were staying away just because of that.
An item in a local teen magazine reported that a new group called the Six Pack was performing at the Hullabaloo, and giving away six-packs.. of Coke.. during their show as a promotion.
The Monkees took over the KDWB airwaves for four hours on the day of their concert at the St. Paul Auditorium, August 4, 1967. During the show it was announced that on the following day, admission to the Hullabaloo Scene in St. Louis Park was only 97 cents (plus tax) – and an empty carton of Fresca.
There is an ad for the Teen Scene in the Robin Hood Days Program in August 1967. It was a teen dance (ages 16-20) was held at the “purple playground.” For $1.50 you could dance to the Stillroven, and free records were offered for “the first 200 swingers.”
Denny Johnson of the Joker’s Wild still has contracts (booked by David Anthony Productions). They played the club on August 22, 1967 for $90. Mrs. Jacoby was listed as President, Park Teen Scene, Inc. Denny remembers that despite its grim exterior, it was a nice place with a soda bar and black lights.
The September 27, 1967 issue of the St. Louis Park High Echo had an article on this new hot spot for teens. Some excerpts:
Teen Club Has Purpose; ‘Hullaballoo’ Successful
Grey on the outside, it boasts only two small neon signs to mark its presence.
Inside are, in contrast, constant light, motion and sound. Flashing lights, rotating pinwheels, loud music and bodies in constant motion typify the inside of TV’s Hullabaloo Scene….
Mrs. Jacoby finally got the go ahead.. She feels that the club is gaining acceptance with the city council as a whole.
This acceptance Mrs. Jacoby attributes to the patrons themselves. She indicated that “the young people need and deserve a place that is clean and fun.
“They realize that this is their place, and that the future of the club depends on their actions.”
Mrs. Jacoby feels that an experimental club such as hers can benefit the community as a whole.
She pointed out that by initiating a club and showing that it is a workable arrangement, the door is opened for others to establish teen clubs.
This should eventually give teens enough places to go for entertainment that they won’t seek “less desirable places for their recreation.”
The dances are supervised by members of the St. Louis Park Police force. Mrs. Jacoby stated that “the same ones repeatedly volunteer for duty here, which is another indication that it is running smoothly.”
I don’t know how long the Hullabaloo Teen Scene lasted. There is a small ad for it in the October 25, 1967 Echo. City council minutes don’t mention the place in 1968 except to say that Mrs. Jacoby owed them money.
NB: Morton Kaufman and Leo Fine, owners of Park Music Center at 7200 Minnetonka Blvd., voiced their disappointment that a permit was issued to an “outsider,” as they had tried without success to find a place to launch their own teen club.
THE PURPLE CIGAR
The Purple Cigar was listed at 6514 Cambridge in St. Louis Park in 1968. The club was owned by Arnie Sagarsky, hence the name.
Permission to hold “dances” had to be obtained from the City Council, which granted them on a month-to-month basis. Neighbors from along Cambridge came to protest. The first mention in the City Council minutes comes in January 1968. In March they were approved through June, but they had to have at least five Hennepin County Sheriffs on duty. Joker’s Wild played the Purple Cigar on March 29, 1968. Sagarsky was looking for an alternate site. Renewal of the permit may have been due to the testimony of Victor Olson, Youth Director of Westwood Hills Lutheran Church, who said that Sagarsky was doing a good job of operating the club.
In March 1968 there was a “misunderstanding,” as reported in the Insider, as the South 40, which used Vox equipment, was told that they needed to use the Del Counts’ Fender equipment because Sagarsky had an agreement with B Sharp Music owner Jim Lopes that only Fender could be used in the club. Connie Hechter, in his article in the Insider, was incensed at such an agreement, and said that it was against Union rules and club owners and bookers could not afford to make such demands.
From Johnny Canton:
Arnie Sagarsky asked Scott Burton and myself if we could obtain some record talent for a show at Purple Cigar. I came up with Strawberry Alarm Clock (“Incense & Peppermints”) and, if memory serves me, 5 Americans (“Western Union”). Even though it was heavily promoted on-air, the show bombed! Scott and I emceed.
From Ben Wilson:
The Purple Cigar and its predecessor were indeed located on Cambridge St. in a (then) white industrial-type building. If no one has yet written you about this, I’m surprised, as the places were packed. All the big local acts catering to teens played there, including St. Louis Park’s own High Spirits. The Litter used to smash their instruments at the end of each performance… I always thought they should just give them to me instead, and wondered how they made a living that way. Don’t recall how many nights a week they were open, but certainly Fri. and Sat. and maybe some weeknights, especially in summer. The kids were pretty well-behaved…don’t recall fights and the like. They may have come with a few beers in their bellies, but don’t recall dope-dealing, at least in ’67. Didn’t go there as often in ’68. Never had real good luck cruising the place, but the music was great and the club was well-attended.
I believe Mr. Sagarsky also ran the legendary teen club at 770 E. 7th St. in St. Paul, the name of which eludes me [the Cabaret?]. Or the SLP owner may have been his son. The older gent was a grandfatherly type, but one knew he must have been rather worldly to be running some of the hippest local venues of the time. Very friendly man, short and rotund, low-key but fearless.
Dave Weist remembers:
I lived very close to the club, just over the tracks and down two blocks to the west. The club was across the tracks from where Sam’s Club currently is located. There were a lot of local people that went to the club on weekends. Some of the bands that played there were Showtime parts 1 and 2, Michaels Mystics, The Litter and numerous other local bands. Our group Mike Fiedler, Barry Gilmer, Bob Laurus and I started a light show that The Litter used there. As a result we got to spend some time behind the scenes. Mrs. Jacoby was quite nice to us but you did not want to be overtly drunk or under the influence or she would have you arrested. We also went to the Prison, Magoos, The Barn, Someplace Else, Bimbos and a few other clubs. It was a fantastic era and I was not happy when it all disappeared. It would probably take me days to recount all the good times and trivia about these teen dance halls
Weist also remembered that the Purple Cigar was the scene of a fashion show put on by the St. Louis Park danceline, the Parkettes.
THE END OF THE CIGAR
Even though the Purple Cigar was located in an industrial area, there were still complaints from people living nearby. At the beginning of April 1968 an article in the Sun read:
Council Tells ‘Purple Cigar’ To Flick its Ashes Elsewhere
The Purple Cigar will emit its last puff of smoke in about 60 days but may rise from its own ashes in a new location shortly thereafter … Councilmen granted the teen night club’s owner Arnold Sagarsky licenses through the month of May, but made it overwhelmingly clear there would be no more permits issued for the club in its present location…. At hand Monday night were both proponents and opponents of the teen dance operation, as well as two separate trains of thought.
On one hand, some parents and community youth leaders argued there must be a place for St. Louis Park youth and, on the other, while most councilmen agreed with that thought, they felt the present location was definitely not the place.
“Should a dance hall be in an industrial area and should traffic have to come through a residential area?” asked Councilman Frank Howard.
“I wonder,” countered Councilman Richard Koch, “why we don’t apply the same standards to a number of on-sale liquor establishments on Excelsior Boulevard? Isn’t that a bit discriminatory?”
“I agree,” answered Howard. “But let’s talk about that when liquor licenses come up.”
The Rev. Douglas Norris, social pastor at Aldersgate Methodist Church, told the council, “I’ve been down there twice and I consider it a very well-run operation. The control I saw there was beautiful. We don’t have that good control at a church dance.”
Rev. Norris said that litter is also a problem at church dances, including the usual number of beer cans but, he added, “Of course they weren’t from our kids.”
He also said while he wasn’t an authority on zoning practices and the like, he felt a larger issue was at stake. “Maybe we should pass an ordinance not to have kids,” he said.
Earlier, Sagarsky told the council how he attempted to comply with earlier requests by hiring off-duty Hennepin County Deputy Sheriffs and directing exiting traffic through the industrial area rather than back through a nearby residential street. He also presented a petition signed by some area residents, stating they had no objections to such an operation. The petition was circulated, he said, by two teenage employees.
However, some area residents were still at hand protesting the club’s operation. James Manzer, 5718 Cambridge St., related how trash has been much heavier in his area since the club began and there have been instances of vandalism and tire slashing much more frequently of late. He also said the petition Sagarsky presented wasn’t fair because most residents who had signed lived on W. 39th Street which is a dead end; therefore residents get little or no activity from the “Purple Cigar.”
The motion to approve licenses for the next 60 days was approved 5-2… implicit in the motion was the sentiment that Sagarsky find a anew location and, while at the present spot, keep the same level of control in force. Sagarsky, after the meeting, indicated he would seek a new location.
An article in the St. Louis Park Sun dated June 6, 1968, indicates that Sagarsky had been given until July 1 to relocate “because of some neighbors’ complaints and what council members considered problems with the location.” He was reportedly looking at three alternate sites within the city, and in the meantime, “business has been very good.” He also asserted that “Parents who have visited the club think our present location is fantastic, and that there is a definite need for a club of our type.”
In defense of the Cigar, Hopkins sophomore Bea Stull wrote an essay for her English class that her teacher forwarded to the St. Louis Park Sun. It was published as “An Opinion Special” on June 13, 1968. This is the best description I’ve ever seen of a 1960s teen club, and I will quote it in its entirety:
I feel that Mr. Sagarsky’s operation of the Purple Cigar … is one of the best places teens can attend. There has been no rowdiness there as has been reported at other places where teens can dance.
The teens there are all quite friendly. You don’t have to stand around very long to get asked to dance, as is often the case at school or church dances. most of the kids I know agree that you dance most of the dances at the Cigar whereas at school and church dances you’re lucky if you get asked to dance five times, unless you’re there with a date. Even though the price is one and half to two times what you pay at school dances, it is well worth the extra 50 or 75 cents.
I would like to tell you what you would expect to find if you attended a dance at the Purple Cigar.
Once inside the door your identification is checked, usually by Mr. Sagarsky himself. Then, taking about five steps, you will find to the left the ticket booth. At the end of the 20 foot hall your ticket is taken and you enter the area where you can check your coat in, and if you’re a girl, your purse also.
By now you have become fairly accustomed to the noise. If you’ve come early or on time, the band will be tuning and teens will be talking. If you’ve come after the dance has started the band will be playing. As you step around the partition and onto the main dance floor the band and teens all come in sight.
In the beginning of the evening you notice how slippery the floor is, as if you are on ice skates for the first time.
The Purple Cigar is well cared for and is a pleasant as well as fun place to be. In the back of the room are some ultraviolet lights, below which is a snack bar. On the fence in front of the snack bar is usually sitting a row of teens. If you are wearing anything white you will notice it glow an eerie violet because of the ultraviolet lights.
At the front of the dance floor is the stage on which the bands play. When you go to the Purple Cigar, you can be almost sure of hearing a good band. Some of them are ‘Michael’s Mystics,” “The Metropolitan Soul,” “The South 40,” “The Underbeats,” “T.C. Atlantic,” and “The Litter.” These are all well known local groups.
GET SOME POP
If you get tired of dancing you can always go to the back and get some pop. There are many small round tables around which you can sit while you drink pop and talk to friend. You can also have as many peanuts as you want free.
Or if you want to, you can go beyond the snack bar and into a back room, which is called “The Peanut Room.” While here you can still drink pop and talk to friends, but at the same time you can watch old movies such as “Laurel and Hardy.”
Later on in the evening you’ll probably notice your shoes are sticking to the floor, one sign that the evening is wearing on. Another sign of this is the fact that the heat is so extreme. Even in the winter you begin to feel hot enough to be lying on the beach under the hot sun in the middle of July. Everyone dancing so much and having such a good time really raises the temperature of the place.
In the end you collect your coat and walk out into the fresh air. It hits your face very coolly, but you still wish the evening wasn’t over, even if it is so hot, and you can’t wait for the next time you can come back.
This, I think, is the way most teens feel about the Purple Cigar. It’s a great place to be and it should be allowed to stay as it is.
The Insider reported that the Purple Cigar was shut down by the city council because of disturbances.
IN MY OPINION…
Okay, I was only 8 years old and I wasn’t there, but I do know that the Hullabaloo/Purple Cigar was located in an industrial park called Skunk Hollow, surrounded by warehouses and machine shops. It is difficult to understand how “neighbors” could object to this place, especially since it was a teen club and probably closed early. Shame on St. Louis Park for shutting down what sounds like such a fun place!
THE OTHER HULLABALOO TEEN SCENE
The Insider reported that this iteration of the Hullaballoo Teen Scene opened in early March, 1968. Denny Johnson of the Jokers Wild has contracts that show that the band played at a Hullaballoo Club in Minneapolis on March 30 and June 2, 1968. The contracts were signed by Merle Kratoska, M & K Teen Clubs, Inc. Merle’s son Paul: “My brother and I remember my mom driving us around to community colleges and putting fliers under car windshield wipers as advertising for the up coming weekend. It was located just north of Moore Lake in Fridley, just east of Hwy 65. It only lasted a year or two.”
This location may have been at corner of Shorewood Plaza Shopping Center in Fridley. That location opened as the Casino Royale on October 18, 1968.