The Jungle Club in Miami started as a fruit stand. Helene Kayfetz opened the stand around 1945, shortly after the war. She sold fruit, but as a former showgirl herself, it wasn't long before she had put up dancing platforms, changed her name to Helene Polka and put a "humorous" darky on the wall. Not cool, but then the dump probably didn't have air-conditioning.
Helene got her start in the sleaze business working as one of Earl Carrol's Vanities Girls. She turned showbiz pimp herself, claiming to have hired over 2,000 girls
Soon the dancers Ms. Polka hired were doing TEN shows a day. She was too cheap to hire a band, so "Voodoo beats" came out of hidden speakers while the dancers stripped in a "Voodoo Revue." At any given time, some 30 nearly nude women roamed around the club, so raids and arrests were frequent. One reason the club kept getting busted, according to rumor, was that Helene refused to pay off the cops and pay for "protection." This was reported in 1949.
In August 1949, one "Dick Lowe" (good name!) reported in the Miami News that "The Jungle club has without a doubt the largest single collection of dog faced dancers in all of show business. In one number Helene has the girls do a choral dance wearing absurb (sic) and horrible face masks, and on some of them the masks are a genuine improvement."
Sheesh, and I thought I was rough on the business! The headline of that review should read "Dick Lowe Hits Low."
He goes on to say Helene learned "homelier girls work a whole lot harder on the floor trying to make up for their lack of beauty." Helene wasn't too sure herself! Here she calls them "reasonably beautiful!" Great Boss!
Since someone is selling pictures of them on eBay, here is one so you can judge yourself.
I dunno…they look pretty good to me.
In 1953 Helene put out a nude calendar to promote the business. Ten years later, she was claiming a "heart condition" prevented her from appearing at yet another court case involving the club.
The Jungle Club lasted until 1961 when it dropped the nudes and became the Mermaid Club.
Florida now seems proud of their censorious past. The State Library will SELL you a print of a group of strippers being arrested and hamming it up from the Jungle Club HERE.
I thought libraries were supposed to be free?
Ebooks ($5.99) and Books by the author are available HERE