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The Tropicana, Havana: Paradise Under the Stars

Updated: Aug 11, 2019

Question: What does former New Orleans club, Chet’s lounge share with the Tropicana in Havana Cuba?

Answer: They both advertised with the same swizzle stick (Chet's in Pink, Tropicana in many colors on the right). This was something the award winning sculptress Rita Longa could not have been pleased to hear.

Rita Longa (June 14, 1912 - May 29, 2000) was a Cuban sculptor. The generic ballerina swizzle stick in no way captured the beauty or spirit of Longa’s marble sculpture (see photo below).

Influenced by Art Deco, Longa created works that have become symbols of the environment to which they belong. Her Los Venados (1947) depicting a family of deer stands at the entrance to the Havana Zoo.

Perhaps Longa’s most well known work is her modernist sculpture Shape, Space and Light (1953) stands at the main entrance of the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana.

Her Ballerina sculpture, became the symbol of Tropicana and it soon was repeated in napkins, menus and swizzle sticks.

Tropicana Club, a world-known cabaret and club in Havana, Cuba was launched in 1939 at Villa Mina, a six-acre suburban estate with lush tropical gardens in Havana's Marianao neighborhood.

December 31st, 1949, the sculpture was placed a few yards from the main entrance to the old estate. Ballerina standing on her point in the middle of a small pond where water lilies grew and surrounded by a lawn.

Prior to 1955 the only casinos operating in Havana, Cuba were the Tropicana and the Sans Souci. The profits from gambling ran $5,000 a day, after “deductions”.

Lucky Luciano

The Tropicana opened in December, 1939. The club was operated by Wilber Clark and Frank Bischope, a suspected narcotic trafficker. His principle assistant in the casino, Pierre Canavese was a close associate of Salvatore "Lucky" Lucanio (No. 198 on the FBN International List). in Cuba Report. (1954-1961)

For a fun read:

U.S. Treasury 1961 Cuba Report

Posted on January 16, 2012

[Reference: Dade County OCB file # 1-139]

DOCUMENT 0126 U.S. Treasury Department Bureau of Narcotics September 1961 Washington, D.C.

In a letter dated March 27, 1958 Wm. W. Johnston, U.S. Treasury Representative in charge, Havana, Cuba reported the following:

“For several years prior to 1955 the only casinos operating in Havana, Cuba were the TROPICANA and the Sans Souci. Both clubs served drinks and meals which just about covered the operating costs. The profits from gambling amounted to approximately $5,000 a day, after “deductions”. The newer casinos averaged even higher profits while the profits of the two original casinos remained more or less the same.

The TROPICANA – operated by Wilber Clark and Frank BISCHOPE. Frank BISCHOFF has been a suspected narcotic trafficker. His principal assistant in the casino was one Pierre CANAVESE who was closely associated with Salvatore “Lucky” Lucanio

FBN International List No. 198. (CANAVESE was previously deported from the US to Italy but subsequently entered Cuba by means of a fraudulent passport).

Ched’s Cocktail Lounge

Ched's was on Canal Street near Claiborne.


Go-go dancers performed The Frog, The Watusi and The Monkey on stage at Ched's Lounge in New Orleans in the Sixties. This striking menu cover announced that the bar was featuring a new type of entertainment called "Discothèque."

Ched's was way ahead of the curve since disco really only became popular in the Seventies. Billboard magazine, reporting on the new music phenomenon in 1965 in an article entitled Discotheque: How is the Go-Go Going?, paid a visit to Ched's. The magazine said the go-go girls at Ched's were "WILD!"

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