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Tropicana Nights: The Life and Times of the Legendary Cuban Nightclub [Kindle Edition]

Rosa Lowinger , Ofelia Fox
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Book Description

At Tropicana you could play the roulette wheel, dance to the latest mambo or rumba, or simply ogle the parading goddesses of the flesh. It was the brightest jewel in 1950s Cuban nightlife, and Nat “King” Cole, Liberace, Josephine Baker, and Carmen Miranda performed there before audi­ences that included Ernest Hemingway, Marlon Brando, and Joan Crawford. 
In Tropicana Nights, Rosa Lowinger and Ofelia Fox, widow of Martin Fox, the club’s last owner, take us back to its glory years. Ofelia, the “first lady” of Tropicana, shares her memo­ries, undimmed by decades of exile, with Rosa Lowinger, also a Cuban exile, whose parents frequented the club in its heyday. Together, Lowinger and Fox vividly portray the cultural rich­ness and roiling social problems of pre-Revolutionary Cuba and take the reader on a tour of one of the world’s most glam­orous venues at its most brilliant moment.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tropicana opened in 1939 at Villa Mina, a six-acre suburban Havana estate with lush tropical gardens. It's still going strong, after a number of setbacks, not the least of which was Fidel Castro's squelching of nightlife and other social outlets. After Martin Fox took over in 1950, choreographer Roderico "Rodney" Neyra staged spectacular shows in the club's newly constructed Arcos de Cristal, parabolic concrete arches and glass walls soaring over an indoor stage. Headliners included Josephine Baker, Nat King Cole, Celia Cruz, Xavier Cugat and Carmen Miranda; and celebrity visitors ranged from Brando and Durante to Hemingway and Piaf. Tracing the evolution of this "paradise under the stars" against the backdrop of Cuban culture, politics in pre-Castro Cuba and mob connections, journalist Lowinger (Latina) interweaves the personal stories of Fox and his widow, playwright-teacher Ofelia Fox, who recalls, "It was a life set to music. What could be better?" The superb talents of Cuban music's Golden Age were resurrected in the Oscar-nominated film Buena Vista Social Club (1998), but Lowinger's scintillating chronicle offers an overview—not found in that film—of the florid, splashy era when "Cuba was an endless party, and Tropicana was its epicenter." Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Lowinger and Fox tell the story of Havana's notorious Tropicana nightclub, the template from which Las Vegas was made after the corrupt Batista regime collapsed, and the Tropicana was closed. In its day the Tropicana was a prime site for gambling, elegance, seeing and being seen--a resort of choice for international gangsters and jet-setters. Readers who enjoyed Anthony Haden-Guest's "biography" of Studio 54, The Last Party (1997), will enjoy comparing the differing modes of showmanship, decadence, and ostentation current in the Tropicana's 1950s heyday to those of 1970s New York's debauched disco scene. Fox married Tropicana owner Martin Fox in 1952 and helped him run it until 1962, when they decamped to Miami. She and Lowinger take pains to establish that the Tropicana was hardly a sleazy Mob hangout but rather a world-class entertainment venue that discriminating gangsters happened to enjoy frequenting. An excellent resource on Cuban popular culture, lavish entertainment, and everyday life just before and just after Castro, this is also an exciting and rewarding read. Mike Tribby
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 1472 KB
  • Print Length: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 edition (December 18, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009UQ7KVM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #289,690 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A page-turning read.... October 6, 2005
You think you've read everything there is to read about Cuba, but you haven't--until you've picked up Tropicana Nights by Rosa Lowinger. This adeptly-written book chronicles the rise and eventual fall of Havana's most glamorous night club. The book follows the lives of its owners, Martin and Ofelia Fox, as they build their "paradise under the stars," with cameos by a veritable who's who of iconic entertainers: Carmen Miranda, Nat King Cole, Josephine Baker and Steve Allen. Woven into the story are sidebars on Cuban music, modernist architecture and regional politics, that, together, come to form a complete picture of Cuban culture in the 1950s. The book also follows Ofelia as she rebuilds her life from scratch in the United States following the Cuban revolution and Martin's death. It's an entertaining, page-turning read with a gripping, personal narrative. And it offers the most striking portrait yet of what it has meant to be Cuban in the twentieth century.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inside the Legend of the World's Greatest Nightclub November 30, 2005
This fascinating book provides a never-before-seen insiders look at the creation and transformation of Cuba's legendary club, the Tropicana. The Tropicana wasn't just a nightclub and casino, it was a showcase for Cuban music and dance that helped spread Cuban culture internationally.

Anyone who has seen a big Las Vegas "spectacular" production should know that many of the elements we consider "Vegas style" were actually created at the Tropicana in the 1950s by the Tropicana's shrewd owner and the club's choreographer, Roderico "Rodney" Neyra.

The book is written by journalist Rosa Lowinger and Ofelia Fox, the widow of the club's last owner, Martín Fox. The book quite naturally revolves around Fox, a shrewd businessman who navigated the minefield of Cuban politics to create a fantastic entertainment venue that attracted visitors from all over the world.

So many books of this type are as about as engaging as an encyclopedia entry, but this one reads more like a novel. There's plenty of suspense, intrigue, romance, and a cast of characters -- some famous and some infamous -- that come to life in the author's detailed and poetic text.

The book includes a nice section of period photos, and is a compelling read. If you want to know more about Cuban culture in the '50's, this is a book that can't be missed.

Highly recommended.

Also recommended: Waiting for Snow in Havana, Three Guys From Miami Cook Cuban
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indescribably readable and informative November 2, 2005
An amazing story that transports you to Cuba of the 50s. It is informative and extremely entertaining. The descriptions of the shows, the dancers, the empresarios and most importantly the night club itself make you feel a part of it. Absolutely the next best thing to being there. Reads like a novel that you just can't put down.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
In preparation for a trip to Cuba, I read several books. My tour included a night at Tropicana, but I felt I wouldn’t have time to read Tropicana Nights before I left. However, the customer reviews were so glowing, that I was intrigued enough to order the book. That was a smart move on my part!

The book was fastidiously researched, including many personal interviews and phone calls in several states, and in Cuba. The coauthor, Rosa Lowinger, showed a deep perception and compassion in her questioning of coauthor Ofelia Fox, widow of Tropicana’s owner. I could not blame Fox for her extremely subjective recollections of the heyday of Tropicana, and I appreciate Lowinger’s tact in trying to elicit more objectivity. The mesmerizing stories and photos made Tropicana come alive. How I longed to have witnessed the spectacle and elegance of those bygone days!

When I arrived at Tropicana and saw the ballerina statue in front, which had been discussed in the book, I felt an incomparable exhilaration. I love to have knowledge of a place, and then go see it for myself. To be honest, the fact that I knew so much about Tropicana’s background when the others on my tour knew basically nothing, gave me a smug feeling, which I of course did not express. We were in the outdoor performance area, so I asked the tour guide about Arcos de Crystal, which had been so well described in the book. There were pictures of it posted, so even though it was closed, I got a good idea of what it looked like in its glory days. Having read such fascinating tales about the famous performers, both Cuban and American, who appeared under those arches, made the place come alive to me.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seeing early Cuba through two women's eyes February 19, 2007
Tropicana Nights gives the reader a sense of what life was like in Havana during the 1940s and 1950s. The Tropicana nightclub embodied the creativity and glamour of that era.

Tropicana still exists in Havana today. In the 1940s and 50s, it was a nightclub, cabaret and casino. It hosted performers such as Nat "King" Cole, Ginger Rogers and Liberace. Its audience was composed of the rich and famous, politicians and people wanting a special night out. Tropicana consistently met and raised people's expectations. The shows were legendary due to the imaginative choreography, live animals and beautiful Tropicana models.

This book is a collaboration of two women who are brought together to tell Tropicana's story. Ofelia Fox is the widow of Martin Fox who owned the Tropicana from 1950-1962. Rosa Lowinger was born in Havana but raised in Miami. As they work together on the book, some issues are raised.

Rosa and Ofelia have different views on Cuban politics. Ofelia claims that both Batista and Castro are dictators. Rosa must be sensitive about what she writes about Castro or risk being denied entry back into Cuba.

Rosa is curious about the possible Mob involvement at Tropicana. Ofelia and Martin went to Trafficante's daughter's wedding and were personally entertained by Frankie Carbo (a hit man for Bugsy Siegel in the 1930s) when they visited New York. Ofelia maintains that this was just a good business relationship. but Rosa isn't so sure. It is up to the reader to decide who is right.

There are also questions about Ofelia's relationship with her roommate (Rosa Sanchez). They have been together for more than 30 years yet when asked, Ofelia states that Rosa is a close friend but they are not a couple.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it
Loved this book, it brought me back to my parents time, couldnt put it down, great read.
Published 3 months ago by delayla
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous read, well-written, interesting and touching at the same time
A fascinating, enjoyable book - really well written and compelling. You probably have a vague idea that the Tropicana was a nightclub in Havana that a lot of people went to in the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Conrad Tribble
3.0 out of 5 stars I thought this book was ok but not nearly as good as Havana Nights for...
I've read a few books about Havana back in the day (pre Castro). I thought this book was ok but not nearly as good as Havana Nights for example.
Published 4 months ago by Outdoorsman
5.0 out of 5 stars Balanced and informative
Written in conjunction with the Tropicana owner's wife Ofelia Fox and based as well on extensive, detailed research and a plethora of personal interviews by co-author Rosa... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Imogenekatz
5.0 out of 5 stars IF YOU ARE A CUBA AFFECIANADO
Published 10 months ago by GYSPY SEEKER
5.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable read.
If you're interested in the years when Havana was "the place to be and be seen", this book will take you through those years from the perspective of the people who ran the... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Leigh
4.0 out of 5 stars Cuba in another time
For a very personal insight into Cuba in the early 20th century, and through the Revolution, this is a remarkable tale.
Published 15 months ago by Mark Miller
5.0 out of 5 stars Tropicana Nights
Wonderful book about the Cuba before Castro. Very well researched & truthful to the history of this time in history.
Published 23 months ago by Vilma Zabaleta
5.0 out of 5 stars Tropicana Nights
You want mafia, sex, drugs, international intrigue, then buy this book. I could not put it down. Run and buy it.
Published on December 11, 2012 by Rosemarie Reed
5.0 out of 5 stars Great history, well written
Loved the book! I felt the culture and life of the club and can't wait for day I can visit cuba.

Thanks so much Ms. Lowinger.
Published on July 27, 2011 by Ali-babe
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