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Club Dardanella

Club Dardanella. Fifty years after the end of Prohibition, only a few speak-easies remained as bars or restaurants. The standout was Eaton Manor, 1892 Dixie Highway. Until its closing in 1986, the popular restaurant perpetuated the tragic legend of composer Johnny S. Black.

Between 1919 and 1933, the building housed one of several speak-easies that operated along Dixie Highway in that neighborhood. It was known by several names, including "the Big White House on Dixie." In April 1933, when beer became legal, it was known as Shadowland, managed by Bill Huey, and featuring Johnny Black at the piano. Black left the club in 1934. Black was back at the Dixie Highway spot in 1936. He rented "the big white house" and renamed it Club Dardanella, after his 1920 hit song. Tragedy struck in the wee hours Saturday, June 6, 1936. The 41-year-old Black and a 20-year-old customer argued over change left on the bar, reportedly a mere 25 cents. Witnesses disagreed on what happened. Black was either hit, pushed or fell, striking his head on a cement step outside the club. Black regained consciousness after being carried into the club. Sunday night he lapsed into unconsciousness again and was taken to Mercy Hospital in Hamilton. He died there at 2:58 a.m. Tuesday, June 9, 1936. The club -- once the Diesbach estate -- continued to grow in popularity and reputation after Black's death. It was renamed Eaton Manor and operated for several years by Walter Eaton. In 1952 it was acquired by Manor Catering and remained under the management of that firm until it closed in 1986. Johnny Black regarded "Dardanella" as his "gift to the musical world." In 1919, the 24-year-old Black, who considered Hamilton his home, saw "Dardanella" become an artistic success and a financial disaster. About two million copies of the sheet music were sold by early 1920, and demand also was high for the piano roll version. The song would be heard later in two movies, "Two Girls and a Sailor" in 1944 and "Oh, You Beautiful Doll" in 1949. Others took credit -- and profited -- from its popularity. Later, Black sued, winning a $12,000 settlement, while the defendant made more than a million dollars on "Dardanella." "Paper Doll," written by Black during World War I, became a hit during World War II. But Black didn't benefit from the 1943 success. He had copyrighted "Paper Doll" in 1915, early in his roller-coaster career. He had died seven years before "Paper Doll" broke into Billboard's top record list at No. 2 in the Aug. 7, 1943, edition. It remained in the top 10 until Feb. 26, 1944, or 29 straight weeks. Billboard ranked "Paper Doll" the No. 1 record for 12 weeks (Oct. 30 through Jan. 15). It also was No. 1 on radio's "Your Hit Parade" for 23 weeks. It was the top seller in records and sheet music, and the most requested song on jukeboxes during this period. The most popular recorded versions were by the Mills Brothers and Frank Sinatra. It was the Mills Brothers' biggest hit in a career that spanned 60 years (1922-1982) and about 2,490 recorded songs. "Paper Doll" was in two 1944 movies, performed by Lena Horne in "Two Girls and a Sailor" and by the Delta Rhythm Boys in "Hi, Good Lookin'." Black was born Sept. 30, 1895, in St. Louis, but his parents resided most oMf the time in Hamilton and Fairfield Township.

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