Taxi Dance Halls in New York/Connecticut

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One of my favorite stories I worked on was in Stamford, Conn. A lady called me in the newsroom complaining that husbands were frequenting certain restaurants in the city. These restaurants close down at 11 p.m., only to open again as $2 a dance clubs. The clubs served mostly area day laborers who wanted to meet women and they would pay $2  for each dance.  Photographer Kerry Sherck and I dressed up to the nines for a few nights to visit these places, and with the help of police, a few narks  and our Spanish speaking skills,  we got what the New York Times and big time news outlets couldn’t after our story ran–access and interviews.  The story was part of a series on the lives of area day laborers and it earned Kerry and I awards. Kerry continues to have a successful career as a photographer and her work can be found at kerrysherckphotography.com. The photo above is hers. Here is a part of my story (The Stamford Advocate, Oct. 7, 2001):

About a dozen women arrive in Stamford’s South End a little after 10 p.m. one Saturday just as the men began to form a line.

Despite the long drive from Bronx, N.Y., they look freshly made-up as they slide out of an industrial van and make their way into Lacaye Restaurant on Elm Street. High heels and skin-tight Capri pants, halter tops and short dresses cling to their bodies. Gold hoop earrings twinkle under strands of long hair. Lips shine under the latest glossy colors Painted eyes remain focused on the night ahead.

The position themselves on stools along the bar, or small tables and chairs as if in a cafe. Meringue, Salsa, and Bachata music pumps through the speakers as strobe lights illuminate deep corners of the restaurant.

The dance is set to begin.

It starts when a man enters the club and sees a woman he knows or likes. Eyes meet and smiles are exchanged. A hand is held out, and then taken.

“Quieres?” a man says in Spanish. “Do you want to?”

For $2 and an inflated cost of beer, the men–mostly area day laborers–come to the club to buy a dance and a few moments of companionship.

“They want to come in here to forget their problems,” said a patron who gave his name as Jesus. “They want to get away from all the headaches.” 

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