Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Tropicana

Opening in 1939, The Tropicana had an impact in spreading Cuban culture internationally. On the TV series I Love Lucy, the character Ricky Ricardo (Cuban Born Desi Arnaz) was a singer and bandleader at Manhattan's fictional Tropicana nightclub.

Located on a six-acre suburban estate with lush tropical gardens in Havana's Marianao neighborhood, The Tropicana is the world’s largest open air nightclub/cabaret. The showgirls at the Tropicana are known collectively as "Las Diosas de Carne" (or "Flesh Goddesses"). During it’s heyday, headliners included Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, La Lupe, Xavier Cugat, Paul Robeson, Yma Sumac, Carmen Miranda, Nat King Cole and Josephine Baker.

From Vedado, where we stayed, it is a 20-30-minute taxi ride, costing about 10.00 CUC. At the door, you are greeted by a tall, gorgeous showgirl who hands all the men cigars for the evening. We were profoundly lucky and sat at a table touching the stage. We opted for the dinner, which came with sparkling wine and an entire liter of Anejo 7-year-old Rum with small cokes in the bottle for imbibing during the floorshow. 

The show was absolutely astounding. At times, there were 50 dancers located on stage, on the upper stage and up and down the aisles of tables. A full band accompanied the show. Without a doubt, worth the price of a ticket.

Best of all, (for me), is that I was chosen to go up on stage during the last dance by a young, sweaty Cuban Flesh God, with exposed chest and hard nipples glistening with sweat. Wow! As soon as he realized I knew how to Gringo Salsa*, I was in big trouble because the spinning, shimmying and twirling began in earnest.  Toward the end of the song I lost feeling in my arms and legs, yet knew I could not leave the stage or quit the dance. Perhaps someone who is with the show has trained to be a medical doctor (everybody has 2 jobs in Cuba) and knew exactly how much aerobic exercise the average, middle-aged tourist can withstand before cardiac arrest. Thankfully the music stopped before my early demise and my Flesh God lead me off the stage.

*Gringo Salsa – What white people do when they have had several years of Salsa classes. FEEEEL de Reethum

No comments: