When customers come down the winding marble staircase to enter the main room at Manhattan’s Sony Hall for Thursday’s “Boxing Insider Fight Night,” they’ll also be stepping into a bit of history, to say the least.
What many people may not realize is that Sony Hall started out as a nightclub. And what an amazing nightclub it was.
In point of fact, it was one of the most famous venues in the world for nightlife, thanks to the stewardship of the noted Broadway impresario, Billy Rose, who might be best known for his work with the Ziegfeld Follies, as well as being the husband of the legendary performer Fanny Brice, immortalized in film by Barbra Streisand in “Funny Girl.”
The nightclub, which was called “Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe,” opened in 1938 and was unique in many respects, including the fact that their contingent of dancers, the “Long-Stemmed Roses,” were all at least 6-foot-2!
A movie – by the same name as the club – was released in 1945, with the likes of Betty Grable and Dick Haymes starring.
The venue also served as a springboard for some all-time greats, including Gene Kelly, of “Singing in the Rain” fame, who got his first full-time job as a choreographer at the Diamond Horseshoe.
Sony Hall (235 W. 46th Street, in the basement of the Paramount Hotel, st to re-open soon) is located right off Times Square, across the street from the Richard Rodgers Theater, where the great musical “Hamilton” is currently playing, and at one time it also served as a theater itself, hosting, among other productions, the original Broadway transfer of the Tony Award-winning “On Golden Pond.”
Through the years, it has taken a circuitous path to where it is today, including several name changes. And it has hosted a wide variety of events, including Vanity Fair’s 50th Anniversary party and the rather unconventional immersive theater production, “Queen of the Night.”
The venue underwent a $20 million renovation less than a decade ago. Sony Hall, as such, opened in March 2018 with an emphasis on concerts. But it has also hosted other events, and now it is set to become a pivotal location for amateur boxing in the New York metropolitan area.
As Sony has long been a world leader in technology, there is a futuristic feel to the hall, in the respect that it supplies spectators with a rich experience using state-of-the-art cameras and 360 Reality Audio.
But that “new school” sensibility does not leave the “old school” hanging out to dry. When Sony took over, they made sure that the structure of the venue maintained its historical integrity. In other words, it still has the look of a Gay Nineties nightspot, as Billy Rose originally intended.
Well, that’s no less than the best of both worlds.
For Thursday’s “Boxing Insider Fight Night” spectators, the atmosphere of Sony Hall will create an intimate set of surroundings with which to enjoy the Ring Masters tournament bouts (overseen by USA Boxing Metro). The sightlines are perfect; no matter if you are ringside, at the tables, on the stage or in general admission, you’re going to be close to the action.
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