Cocoanut Grove Fire

The Grove

"The Grove" as it was called by locals, was the place to see and be seen. World-renowned personalities would stop in at the Cocoanut Grove when in Boston; Boston politicians were regulars; the Red Sox and Bruins held celebrations there; families and college students would go the Grove for those special occasions and anniversaries. It was not unusual for Boston area racketeers to be among the guests.

Mickey Alpert, a previous part-owner of the club was the master of ceremonies. Alpert had made his claim to fame as an orchestra leader and was well-known in the entertainment industry. He had introduced Thursdays as “guest nights” at the club. Every Thursday at least one well-known celebrity would be introduced. Major entertainers played at the club. Only a week prior to the fire, Irving Berlin and a large part of the cast from “This is the Army” were entertaining at the Grove. Buck Jones, a Hollywood cowboy star was visiting the evening of the fire, and later died of wounds suffered in the fire.

The Grove had something for everyone. It was glamorous and exciting, but cozy. The large Main Dining Room with its dance floor, orchestra and stage was an elegant place to dine, dance, see a show, and if the guests were lucky, see the rich and famous. As celebrities were ushered into the main Dining Room, Alpert would be sure to announce their arrival to the audience. Tables for celebrities were on a three-foot high platform which overlooked the dance floor. They could clearly be seen by all. The Caricature Bar and the new Broadway Lounge were fun places to meet friends for a drink. The downstairs Melody Lounge was dark and intimate. A pianist accompanied well-known singers, who often were known to sing risqué songs and lead sing-alongs with the customers. It was not unusual for local colleges and universities to note in their newspapers the line-up of entertainment at the Grove and other Boston clubs.

Also, some of its attraction may have been because of its somewhat shady past and reputation. One of the previous owners, who had been a bootlegger and head of the Boston crime world, was gunned down in the men’s room of another Boston nightclub. Barnett Welansky, the current owner was thought to have ties with Boston officials, which granted him certain “privileges” not open to others.