Stop #6: The Tango Belt

This entertainment district in the Upper French Quarter was a center of music and theater performance in the 1920s for both black and white patrons.

In the 1910s and 1920s, the Tango Belt was a popular entertainment section of the upper French Quarter, and where dance halls featured local jazz.

Named after the Argentine dance that swept the globe in 1913, the Tango Belt spanned several blocks bound by St. Louis, Dauphine, Iberville and North Rampart.

A mix of bars, cabarets, nightclubs, vaudeville houses, saloons, dance halls and theaters—of which the Lyric Theatre was one, the Tango Belt was the densest collection of jazz clubs in the city during its prime in the 1920s.

Some of the most popular jazz clubs in the 1920s included the Fern Dance Hall and Pup Cafe (1000 block of Iberville), the Dog House (Bienville at Rampart), the Orchard (900 block of Conti), and the Cadillac Club (300 block of N. Rampart). Many of these clubs hosted jitney dances, in which patrons paid to dance with women, and which also provided jobs for musicians.

After the closing of Storyville in 1917, the Tango Belt inherited much of the prostitution trade. Norma Wallace, known as the “Last Madame,” operated her brothel at 1026 Conti from the 1920s through the 1960s, and it was considered one of the last hold-overs of that trade from the 1920s.

"The women in [the Budweiser] they was a bunch of characters. There was "Broken Dishes" that was her name. [Clarinetist Irving] Fazola's broad was Bebe, she was little....The big shot guys, they'd pick up the girls in the front,...But that love - it ain't for keeps."
Drummer Sal Gutierrez, Hogan Jazz Archive

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Brennon Slieff, Kathy Bradshaw, Courtney Carver, Charles Chamberlain, “Stop #6: The Tango Belt,” New Orleans Historical, accessed July 20, 2017, http://www.neworleanshistorical.org/items/show/1315.
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