An account of Havana’s internationally renowned nightclub during its 1950s heyday.
Art conservator Lowinger was just a toddler when her parents fled Cuba in the early ’60s. Throughout her childhood, she was haunted by their stories of starry evenings spent in Tropicana’s outdoor cabaret. So when the Los Angeles resident visited Cuba as an adult, saw the glamour of Tropicana for herself, and learned that the performer once known as the “First Lady of Tropicana” now lived in L.A., Lowinger lost no time in visiting the octogenarian Fox. Thus began several years of conversations that comprise the bulk of this text, along with scenes set at the homes of former Tropicana players in New York, Miami, Las Vegas and Cuba. Despite the shared author credit, the story is told in the first person, from Lowinger’s point of view. The best sections portray such quirky nightclub characters as the leprous choreographer whose otherworldly shows sent audience members into trances, a teenaged Czech acrobat who danced cabaret, and former Tropicana owner (and the co-author’s deceased husband) Martín Fox, a gambler and close friend to mafiosi who never left the house without his .38-calibre Smith & Wesson. Too often, though, Lowinger falls into show-biz groupie mentality, boring readers with society-page–style summaries of so-and-so’s mink stole, pearl necklace or terracotta nail polish. The wearer of many of these accoutrements is Fox, a pro-Bush Republican with whom the progressive Lowinger frequently finds herself fighting about politics—also a major preoccupation in corrupt pre-Revolutionary Cuba. The development of the authors’ contentious friendship shares the stage with the Tropicana’s history; Fox’s relationship with housemate Rosa Sanchez provides a third narrative strand that leads to a sweetly romantic ending.
Informative, although often overwhelming in scope. (16-page b&w photo insert, not seen)