In its Nov. 21, 1949 issue LIFE gave big play to a story centered around a Manhattan nightspot called the Latin Quarter, and breathlessly announced a trend in nightclub entertainment of “pretty girls who display as much flesh and as little covering as the law allows.” LIFE was so scandalized that it ran pages of photos from inside the club, including shots of dancing girls backstage, wearing even less than they did onstage.

The photos by George Silk captured the whole boisterous scene, which included not just chorus girls but also singers and a comic named Frank Libuse, who pretended to be a waiter while delivering slapstick merriment to upscale patrons in the white tablecloth setting. The Latin Quarter was located in Times Square—just a couple blocks from the Time & Life Building, which may help explain how the club caught the attention of LIFE’s editors. But the club was undoubtedly a big deal, and in its heyday welcomed such legendary entertainers as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Milton Berle.

If the shows at the Latin Quarter sound like what you might expect to see in Las Vegas rather than in New York City, there may be a reason for that. LIFE’s story on the club ran in the days before Las Vegas had entered its major boom period in the 1950s. (And if you look at this LIFE story on Las Vegas from 1955, you can see that what sprouted in the desert bore strong resemblance to what the Latin Quarter was offering). While the LIFE piece on the Latin Quarter was intended to report on a trend of the moment, it also captured an element of New York culture that, like the Brooklyn Dodgers for example, was about to move west.

The Latin Quarter closed in 1969, and the space went through various incarnations as a theater and nightclub before it was torn down in 1989. On that location you can now find a hotel, perfectly situated for visitors who want to seek entertainment in the transformed and family-friendly Times Square.

Comic Frank Libuse, pretending to be a waiter, shot water at patrons seated at the Latin Quarter nightclub, New York City, 1949.

George Silk/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Comic and fake waiter Frank Libuse would “accidentally” brush patrons with a potted palm, Latin Quarter, New York City, 1949.

George Silk/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Frank Libuse, a comic who pretended to be a waiter, Latin Quarter, New York City, 1949.

George Silk/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Ernestine Mercer, who sang Cole Porter at the Latin Quarter, New York City, 1949. LIFE’s description of her performance said “Added attraction is Miss Mercer’s neckline, which keeps receding as a partner (left) throws money at her.”

George Silk/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Latin Quarter, New York City, 1949.

George Silk/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Latin Quarter, New York City, 1949.

George Silk/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Latin Quarter, New York City, 1949.

George Silk/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

The Latin Quarter, New York City, 1949.

George Silk/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

The Latin Quarter, New York City, 1949.

George Silk/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Latin Quarter, New York City, 1949.

George Silk/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

The Latin Quarter, New York City, 1949.

George Silk/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Chorus girl-singer Linda Lombard rested her legs after a tough night on stage at the Latin Quarter, New York City, 1949.

George Silk/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Singer Linda Lombard, originally from Ohio, backstage at the Latin Quarter, New York City, 1949.

George Silk/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Singer Linda Lombard backstage at the Latin Quarter, New York City, 1949.

George Silk/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Singer Linda Lombard, backstage at the Latin Quarter, New York City, 1949.

George Silk/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Backstage at the Latin Quarter, New York City, 1949.

George Silk/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Latin Quarter, New York City, 1949.

George Silk/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

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