I remember my first love. It was a summer in the 1960’s. I was on holiday. We met in the Catskills. He was a tough, misunderstood, ne’er-do-well dance instructor with great hair. I was a naive, privileged, daddy’s girl who wanted to take a walk on the wild side. Wait, Wait, Wait, that wasn’t me. That was Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman (Jennifer Grey) and Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) in Dirty Dancing. I have watched this movie an uncountable and incalculable number of times – case in point – I used to have “CRAZY FOR SWAYZE” sleepover nights with girlfriends.
Keep Calm and Carry a Watermelon (Screencaps Here).
Dirty Dancing is meant to capture a time in American history before families vacationed at Disney World or took International Cruises, before people were heading to the Bahamas or Cancun, families wholesomely vacationed in New York’s Catskill Mountains. From the 1920’s until the 1960’s, families often traveled to now mostly defunct summer camps – colloquially termed “Jewish Alps” or the “Borscht Belt”. The movie is scripted to take place during the decline of these camps and the onslaught of commercial airline travel. Well-known resorts of the area included Brickman’s, Brown’s, The Concord, Friar Tuck Inn, Gibber’s, Gilbert’s, Grossinger’s, Granit, the Heiden Hotel, Irvington, Kutsher’s Hotel and Country Club, the Nevele, The Laurels Hotel and Country Club, and The Pines Resort.
c. 1940s postcard of the Pine Tree Villa, a primarily Jewish resort at Kiamesha Lake, New York in the Borscht Belt of the Catskill Mountains! Finely detailed image, showing layout of many of the resort’s buildings, including the casino and tennis courts to the left. Was run by Greenberg & Son. The unused postcard can be purchased HERE.
GROSSINGER’S: The resort’s huge pool in the 1950s (Here).
The indoor and outdoor pool at GROSSINGER’S, dilapidated and in disrepair as of 2008 (Here).
My mom remembers a time when she used to visit these summer camps! She told me that such comedic legends at Woody Allen, Don Rickles, Rodney Dangerfield, Carl Reiner, George Burns, Mel Brooks, Fanny Brice, Bea Arthur and Joan Rivers got their start at these hotel resorts. Amazing actresses and entertainers such as Carole King, Shari Lewis, Mel Torme, Barbara Streisand, and Joel Grey also performed yearly at the establishments. These establishments were also some of the only places wherein African American performers were allowed to frequent (before Civil Rights) and was referred to as “The Chitlin Circuit”. The Supremes, Duke Ellington, The Four Tops, Etta James, Cab Calloway, and Smokey Robinson are some of the famous acts who frequented east coast resort towns. Clearly the performance halls and boarding houses nestled in the counties of Upstate New York have had an everlasting effect on the landscape of entertainment. However, has anyone yearned for the decor of this time period?
Flea Market Chic! When in doubt, walk around the house in your tutu – it really makes anything glamorous. I also love the idea of empty frames everywhere!
I asked my friend Jennell what the interior design of Dirty Dancing meant to her and she squealed, “Wood panels, sex mattress on the floor, beige iridescent lip stick, KEDS!!”
The dance step posters on the wall, the white wicker chair, the old record player, and the Japanese screen divider? YES!
Hello Persian rugs, empty wine bottles, chianti bottle candle holder, steel blade fan, and creeping house plants!
Nostalgia for these domestic havens has been high in New York City. Something about the time period represented a wholesome naivete that is now absent. No longer do families holiday together – taking macrame, swimming, and poker classes together. The interior design of the era was strongly influenced by Ashkenzai and Shtetl lifestyles – that is mostly Eastern European and particularly Polish and Russian ideals. Just recently Kutscher’s has reopened it’s doors in downtown NYC in Tribeca. It’s schtcik and menus is meant to recreate the hospitality of the iconic Kutsher’s Country Club. Consistent with its 100-year history as one of the great Catskill resort it seek to promote community, tradition and cultural identity for the next generation through a playful approach to the canon of American Jewish cooking from small bites to more substantial offerings.
Ahhh! The good old days! Kutsher’s pool circa 1951 (Here).
(Image of the original Kutsher which is now having a resurgence as of 2009 – HERE)
Image of the new Kutsher’s opened in Tribeca as of late 2011 courtesy of the restaurant.
Kutsher’s menu is replete with Kreplach, Latkes, Pickles, Borscht, and Pastrami! More nostalgia than “high cuisine”, the menu recreates a time period (Images Here).
To decorate ala the Catskills Resorts fill one’s room with nostalgia, flea market mix & match, folding chairs, fabric lampshades, macrame, and light, pastel “grandma” colors. See below:
$180 – tenover6.com
£45 – drakes-london.com
$1,103 – stlloftstyle.com
$899 – crateandbarrel.com
$199 – potterybarn.com
$220 – target.com
£185 – houzz.com
$161 – amazon.com
$122 – ivgstores.com
$50 – qualitysilkplants.com
$29 – westelm.com
$35 – ikea.com
$6.95 – amazon.com
$4.49 – kohls.com
$2.95 – lunabazaar.com
$170 – urbanoutfitters.com
$49 – homedepot.com