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Death shuts Gate on plan for new nightspot

Last Updated: 5:42 AM, November 8, 2009

Posted: 1:18 AM, November 7, 2009

Entertainment impresario Art D'Lugoff was looking to give the Village Gate a final act.

D'Lugoff was just weeks away from re-launching his famed nightclub as an even bigger downtown spot when he was felled by a fatal ailment this week, The Post has learned.

The Village Gate, which opened in 1958 on the corner of Bleecker and Thompson streets, launched the careers of some of the biggest names in show business, including Woody Allen and Richard Pryor.

For 38 years it was a venue for artists as diverse as Duke Ellington, Arthur Miller and beat poet Allen Ginsberg. Dustin Hoffman was a waiter there -- but was fired for watching the shows instead of serving food. Playwright Sam Shepard once bused tables.

Art D'Lugoff former owner of Village Gate, passed away on the eve of a deal to resurrect the hip jazz club, host to such notables as poet Allen Ginsberg.
Art D'Lugoff former owner of Village Gate, passed away on the eve of a deal to resurrect the hip jazz club, host to such notables as poet Allen Ginsberg.

D'Lugoff and his investors had planned to revive the storied club at a West Houston site not far from its original location, sources said.

He wanted to create a modern-day version of the club as a launching pad for new talents and to provide an intimate venue for established artists.

A Who's Who of performers in D'Lugoff's Rolodex had been abuzz for weeks about the club's comeback, and his new strategy for revitalizing the Manhattan nightclub scene.

"He was as sharp as always," said one entertainment industry source. "He had a lot of fantastic ideas for keeping everything new and current."

The source said D'Lugoff had reviewed several potential sites in recent months, including the former movie house on West Eighth Street where Jimi Hendrix ran his Electric Lady Studios.

Real estate firm Murray Hill Properties was helping develop the project.

"You can't duplicate his kind of experience with all the vision, drive and creativity he's given us for decades," said managing director Pamela Title. "He'll be missed."

She had no comment on the deal's fate with investors and the D'Lugoff family, which owns the Village Gate name.

Over the years D'Lugoff, who earned an economics degree from New York University, built his club into an internationally acclaimed destination.

Regular headliners included Pete Seeger, Dick Gregory, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix, Tito Puente and Dizzy Gillespie.

Its avant-garde programming also set the stage for theatrical nudity in New York. Its 1974 musical review, "Let My People Come," featured a fully nude co-ed cast.

After the State Liquor Authority yanked Village Gate's liquor license to shutter the place, D'Lugoff won a furious court battle to regain his license and successfully ran the show for another two years.

The 85-year-old D'Lugoff was rushed to New York-Presbyterian Hospital on Wednesday after complaining of a shortness of breath, and died that day.

His brother Burt, 82, a medical doctor and silent partner in the project, couldn't be reached.


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