Leroy Griffith

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Leroy Griffith
Leroy Griffith Britt Ekland (cropped).jpg
Griffith in 1967
Born
Leroy Charles Griffith

(1932-03-26) March 26, 1932 (age 87)
Residence Miami, Florida
NationalityAmerican
Occupation
Years active1949–present
Known forStage shows (Hello Burlesque, This Was Burlesque, etc.); chief executive officer of Club Madonna
Home townPoplar Bluff, Missouri
Spouse(s)Joy Hodges Maci

Juanita Gilreath

Linda Rivera (1989–present)
Children3 sons, 2 daughters
Website clubmadonna.com

Leroy Charles Griffith (born March 26, 1932) is an American theater and nightclub proprietor, former Broadway theater producer, and film producer. He has owned, leased, or operated more than 70 adult entertainment theaters across the United States, dating from the burlesque era of the 1950s to present day nightclubs. [1] During burlesque's heyday, he was a prolific producer of live stage shows featuring showgirls, strippers, comedians, and other stars of the era.

Nightclub entertainment venue which usually operates late into the night

A nightclub, music club or club, is an entertainment venue and bar that usually operates late into the night. A nightclub is generally distinguished from regular bars, pubs or taverns by the inclusion of a stage for live music, one or more dance floor areas and a DJ booth, where a DJ plays recorded music. The upmarket nature of nightclubs can be seen in the inclusion of VIP areas in some nightclubs, for celebrities and their guests. Nightclubs are much more likely than pubs or sports bars to use bouncers to screen prospective clubgoers for entry. Some nightclub bouncers do not admit people with informal clothing or gang apparel as part of a dress code. The busiest nights for a nightclub are Friday and Saturday night. Most clubs or club nights cater to certain music genres, such as house music or hip hop. Many clubs have recurring club nights on different days of the week. Most club nights focus on a particular genre or sound for branding effects.

Broadway theatre class of professional theater presented in New York City, New York, USA

Broadway theatre, also known simply as Broadway, refers to the theatrical performances presented in the 41 professional theatres, each with 500 or more seats located in the Theater District and Lincoln Center along Broadway, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Along with London's West End theatre, Broadway theatre is widely considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world.

A film producer is a person who oversees film production. Either employed by a production company or working independently, producers plan and coordinate various aspects of film production, such as selecting the script; coordinating writing, directing, and editing; and arranging financing.

Contents

His business endeavors in the adult entertainment industry have, for decades, put him at odds with restrictive municipalities, and he has taken legal action, often successfully, to be able to operate his establishments.

Early life

Griffith was born in Poplar Bluff, Missouri to Floyd R. and Stella Griffith. His father was a theater owner. The younger Griffith began as a projectionist, cashier, and usher at a local theater in his hometown. At 17, he left for St. Louis and a job working concessions at the Grand Burlesque Theater for East Coast-based theater concessions magnate Oscar Markovich. At the Grand, Griffith started as a "candy butcher," hawking candy and trinkets to audiences before and during intermission. [2] "In those days," he said in a 1993 interview, "they had probably 30 people in the cast, a chorus line, an orchestra, two comics, a singer, a vaudeville act, and then five exotic dancers. It was a good show." [3]

Poplar Bluff, Missouri City in Missouri, United States

Poplar Bluff is a small city in Butler County in Southeast Missouri, United States. It is the county seat of Butler County and is known as "The Gateway to the Ozarks" among other names. The population was 17,023 at the 2010 census.

St. Louis independent city in Missouri, United States

St. Louis is a major independent city and inland port in the U.S. state of Missouri. It is situated along the western bank of the Mississippi River, which marks Missouri's border with Illinois. The Missouri River merges with the Mississippi River just north of the city, forming the fourth-longest river system in the world. The city had an estimated 2018 population of 302,838 and is the cultural and economic center of the St. Louis metropolitan area, which is the largest metropolitan area in Missouri, and the 20th-largest in the United States.

Concession stand Store

A concession stand, snack kiosk or snack bar is a place where patrons can purchase snacks or food at a cinema, amusement park, zoos, aquariums, fair, stadium, beach, swimming pool, concert, sporting event, or other entertainment venue. Some events or venues contract out the right to sell food to third parties. Those contracts are often referred to as a concession — hence the name for a stand where food is sold. Usually prices for goods at concession stands are greater than elsewhere for the convenience of being close to an attraction, with outside food and drink being prohibited, and they often contribute significant revenue to the venue operator.

Sammy Davis, Jr. and Leroy Griffith.jpg
Griffith with Sammy Davis Jr., 1966

Griffith discovered that any profit to be made was not from the show itself but from the concession stand: "That's where I was. In between acts, the pitchman would sell prize packages, candy, stuff like that. Concessions was where the real money was, just like it is with regular movies today." [3] After working his way up to concessions manager, Griffith began saving money, his eye set on greater aspirations.

Military service

In 1955, Griffith was drafted into the armed services. While stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska, he worked with Bob Hope's USO show (featuring Jerry Colonna, Mickey Mantle, and Ginger Rogers, among others) when Hope was on tour there in December 1956.

Elmendorf Air Force Base United States military facility in Anchorage, Alaska

Elmendorf Air Force Base is a United States Air Force facility in Anchorage, Alaska. Originally known as Elmendorf Field, it became Elmendorf Air Force Base after World War II. In 2010 it was amalgamated with nearby Fort Richardson to form Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

Alaska U.S. state in the United States

Alaska is a U.S. state in the northwest extremity of the United States West Coast, just across the Bering Strait from Asia. The Canadian province of British Columbia and territory of Yukon border the state to the east and southeast. Its most extreme western part is Attu Island, and it has a maritime border with Russia to the west across the Bering Strait. To the north are the Chukchi and Beaufort seas—southern parts of the Arctic Ocean. The Pacific Ocean lies to the south and southwest. It is the largest U.S. state by area and the seventh largest subnational division in the world. In addition, it is the 3rd least populous and the most sparsely populated of the 50 United States; nevertheless, it is by far the most populous territory located mostly north of the 60th parallel in North America: its population—estimated at 738,432 by the United States Census Bureau in 2015—is more than quadruple the combined populations of Northern Canada and Greenland. Approximately half of Alaska's residents live within the Anchorage metropolitan area. Alaska's economy is dominated by the fishing, natural gas, and oil industries, resources which it has in abundance. United States armed forces bases and tourism are also a significant part of the economy.

Bob Hope American comedian, actor, singer and dancer

Leslie Townes Hope, KBE, KC*SG, KSS, known professionally as Bob Hope, was an English-American stand-up comedian, vaudevillian, actor, singer, dancer, athlete, and author. With a career that spanned nearly 80 years, Hope appeared in more than 70 short and feature films, with 54 feature films with Hope as star, including a series of seven "Road" musical comedy movies with Bing Crosby as Hope's top-billed partner.

After an early discharge, Griffith acquired his first theater, the Star, in Portland, Ore. After a limited operation of a Kansas City, Mo., restaurant and another period of short-term employment with Markovich, he opened a theater in Detroit. He was in his mid-twenties.

Portland, Oregon city in Oregon, USA

Portland is the largest and most populous city in the U.S. state of Oregon and the seat of Multnomah County. It is a major port in the Willamette Valley region of the Pacific Northwest, at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. As of 2018, Portland had an estimated population of 653,115, making it the 25th most populated city in the United States, and the second-most populous in the Pacific Northwest. Approximately 2.4 million people live in the Portland metropolitan statistical area (MSA), making it the 25th most populous in the United States. Its combined statistical area (CSA) ranks 19th-largest with a population of around 3.2 million. Approximately 60% of Oregon's population resides within the Portland metropolitan area.

Kansas City, Missouri City in western Missouri

Kansas City is the largest city in the U.S. state of Missouri. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city had an estimated population of 491,918 in 2018, making it the 38th most-populous city in the United States. It is the central city of the Kansas City metropolitan area, which straddles the Kansas–Missouri state line. Kansas City was founded in the 1830s as a Missouri River port at its confluence with the Kansas River coming in from the west. On June 1, 1850, the town of Kansas was incorporated; shortly after came the establishment of the Kansas Territory. Confusion between the two ensued and the name Kansas City was assigned to distinguish them soon after.

Detroit Largest city in Michigan

Detroit is the largest and most populous city in the U.S. state of Michigan, the largest American city on the United States–Canada border, and the seat of Wayne County. The municipality of Detroit had a 2017 estimated population of 673,104, making it the 23rd-most populous city in the United States. The metropolitan area, known as Metro Detroit, is home to 4.3 million people, making it the second-largest in the Midwest after the Chicago metropolitan area. Regarded as a major cultural center, Detroit is known for its contributions to music and as a repository for art, architecture and design.

Career

Theater and club owner

Identifying "legitimate" theaters that were going out of business, Griffith began acquiring them. "These places would go under," he said in a 1993 interview, "and I'd go in and take over and make them successful with an adult policy." [3] He soon acquired theaters throughout the United States.

South Florida (1961- )

Frank Sinatra laughing.jpg
Sammy Davis Jr. performing 1966.JPG
"One time Sammy Davis, Jr., Frank Sinatra, and Belle Barth came into the Gayety Theater [in Miami Beach] when I was running it. We had a Chinese dinner together, and then started watching the coming attractions for an X-rated film that was going to be running. For fun we shut the sound off and the three of them -- Frank, Sammy, and Belle -- improvised the sounds to go along with the scenes. They were all moaning and groaning and making funny noises. It was hysterical." [4] — Griffith

On a visit to Miami Beach in 1961, Griffith noticed the Paris Theater at 550 Washington Avenue was for sale. He leased it, then bought it, originally staging burlesque, including featuring Tempest Storm. But back in the early '60s, Griffith didn't call it "burlesque"; doing so would have been against local law. "You couldn't even use the word," he recalled in a 1993 interview. "I had one big stage show called 'The Top Stars of Burlesque,' with Blaze Starr and all these people. I told the city, 'It's not burlesque. It's the top stars of burlesque. There's no law against the people of burlesque.' The city decided they'd fix me by charging me $1,000 for a special license to do the show. I said fine. I was going to have to pay $1,600 for a regular permit anyway." [3]

A promotional poster for Griffith's '60s Broadway revue, Hello Burlesque. Hello burlesque.jpg
A promotional poster for Griffith's '60s Broadway revue, Hello Burlesque.

Griffith continued to open new venues throughout South Florida, from Broward County in the north to Key West in the south. In addition to bringing in live acts, he began showing movies. He also began producing films and exhibiting them in his theaters.

A young Mickey Rourke once worked for Griffith as a cashier and projectionist at one of his Miami Beach theaters. [3]

Film producer

Griffith produced Bell, Bare and Beautiful (1963), Lullaby of Bareland (1964), Mundo depravados (1967), and My Third Wife, George (1968). [5]

Film appearances

Griffith played brief cameo parts in some of his films. His recollections of the burlesque era are featured in Leslie Zemeckis's 2010 documentary, Behind the Burly Q . [6]

Broadway producer

This Was Burlesque, a revue conceived by and starring burlesque star Ann Corio, was staged at Griffith's Hudson Theater on Broadway during the 1964-65 season. It went on to tour across the U.S. in various forms over the next two decades. [7]

Griffith also produced Hello Burlesque, a live stage show featuring showgirl Julie Taylor, "Miss Sex 5th Avenue."

Griffith's theaters and clubs

Theaters he has owned and operated, been an ownership partner in, leased, and/or managed include these:

Note: Click the "sort" icon at the head of each column to view data in alphabetical or numerical order.

StateCityName of theaterOther namesSummaryOpenedClosedDemolishedSeats
Maryland Baltimore Paris
Maryland Baltimore GayetyFormerly located at 405 E. Baltimore Street. [8] [9]
Gayety Theatre, 405 East Baltimore Street, Baltimore, Maryland.jpg

1906closed 1,600
Illinois Chicago FolliesGem; London Dime Museum Located at 450 S. State Street. [10] [11] 1890sclosed 1978, following fire 434
Illinois Chicago Minsky's RialtoDowntown; Loop End Formerly located at 336 S. State Street, two blocks from the Gayety. Opened as a venue for vaudeville and movies, it was a burlesque house by the 1930s and closed in 1953. It is the site today of Pritzker Park. [12] [13] 1917 1953 1954 1,548
Indiana Fort Wayne LittleCapitol; Little Cinema Formerly at Berry Street and Harrison Street. [14] closeddemolished 435
Indiana Indianapolis RitzMiddle Earth; Northside Located at 3422 / 3430 N. Illinois Street. Considered one of the leading movie houses in the city. Burlesque took over in 1962. Known as the Northside from 1958 to 1970. Remodeled, it became a rock concert venue and resumed its former name, but closed in 1972. [15] [16] [17] 1927 1972 1,400
Missouri Kansas City Folly Century; Folly Burlesque; Shubert's Missouri; Standard Located at 300 W. 12th Street. [18] [19] Following a renovation in the 1980s, it remains in use today. Was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
in 1973 Folly Theater burlesk.jpg
in 1973
1900 open-- 1,078
Missouri Kansas City Strand Located at 3544 Troost Avenue. Oldest still-operating theater in Kansas City. Began showing adult movies in the '70s. [20] [21] 1917 open-- 268 (650 in 1950)
Michigan Detroit GardenPeek-A-Rama; Sassy Cat; Woodward Located at 3929 Woodward Avenue. A century after its opening, it was undergoing an estimated $14 million makeover to become the 1,300-seat Woodward Theater. [22] [23] [24] 1912 reopened-- 903
Michigan Detroit National Gayety; Palace Located at 118 Monroe Street. Has fallen into disrepair. [25] [26]
118monroedetroit.jpg
1911 1975no 2,200
Michigan Flint Michigan Located at 1614 S. Saginaw Street. [27] [28] 1929closed 1965 or 1975 1,500
New York Syracuse CivicAdam and Eve; Civic Follies; Ritz; Syracuse; System; Top Formerly located at 527 S. Salina Street. [29] [30] closeddemolished 1,500
New York New York City Gayety12th Street Cinemas; Casino East; Century; Eden; Entermedia; Louis N. Jaffe Art; Molly Picon; Phoenix; Second Avenue; Stuyvesant; Yiddish Art Located at 181 Second Avenue, in Manhattan. Theater sequences for the 1968 film The Night They Raided Minsky's were shot here. [31]
Village East former Yiddish Arts Theatre.jpg
1926open as Village East Cinema--
New York New York City Hudson Avon-on-the-Hudson; Savoy Located at 141 W. 44th Street in midtown Manhattan. A former Broadway theater, now a conference center and special event venue. In 1954 it became home to the original version of The Tonight Show with host Steve Allen. [32] [33]
in 2003 Hudson Theatre NYC 2003.jpg
in 2003
1903open-- 1,100
New York New York City Mayfair BurlesqueBilly Rose's Diamond Horseshoe Located at 235 West 46th Street. It was a theater in the basement of the Paramount Hotel. From 1938 to 1951, theatrical impresario and song writer Billy Rose operated his Diamond Horseshoe nightclub there.
The Paramount Paramount Hotel 45 jeh.JPG
The Paramount
open as Sony Hall-- 400
New York New York City Metropolitan14th Street; Arrow; "The Met" Formerly located at 241 East 14th Street. [34] [35] 1914 1988demolished 600
New York New York City Shore Loew's Coney Island Located at 1301 Surf Avenue in Coney Island, Brooklyn. [36] [37]
Coney Island Shore Theater.jpg
1925 1973no 2,472
New Jersey Newark LuxorLuxor Follies Formerly located at 264 Market Street. [38] [39] closeddemolished 590
New Jersey Newark TreatCameo Twin Cinema XXX Located at 68 Orange Street. [40] [41] 2010 750
Ohio Cincinnati GayetyEmpress; Gayety Burlesk A Vine Street theater that opened as the Empress and became the Gayety in 1922. Its demolition made way for a main library. [42] [43] 1909 1970 1970
Ohio Cincinnati ImperialImperial Follies Located at 282 McMicken Avenue. Presented adult films and later, in the '60s, live burlesque shows. [44] [45] closed 771
Ohio Cleveland UniversityCircus Maximus; PAT (Performing Arts Theater); Scrump-Dee-Dump-Dee Formerly located at 10606 Euclid Avenue. [46] [47] 1920s 1982demolished 900
Ohio Columbus Little ArtOlentangy; Piccadilly; World Located at 2523 N. High Street, it opened in the silent picture era as The Piccadilly. An adult movie theater from the '50s to its demolition. [48] [49] closed 1976 417
Ohio Columbus LivingstonGayety Located at 1567 East Livingston Avenue. As of late 2012, there were plans to renovate it. [50] 1946 1970s 1,000
Ohio Columbus ParsonsParson Follies Located at 1293 S. Parsons Avenue. [51] [52] 830
Ohio Steubenville Ohio Located on Market Street. [53] 800
Ohio Toledo GayetyGayety Burlesk; Guild; Hollywood Burlesk; Strand Located at 322 N. Summit Street. [54] [55] 1920closeddemolished 390
Ohio Toledo Town Hall Formerly located at Orange and St. Clair Streets. [56] c. 1887closed 1968
Ohio Youngstown Strand Formerly located in Central Square. Closed as a movie house in the 1950s, then reopened featuring live burlesque and adult movies. [57] [58] 1916closeddemolished 750
Ohio Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio StateLyceum
Pennsylvania Philadelphia AardvarkCayuga Formerly located at 4371 Germantown Avenue. Opened as the Cayuga. [59] [60] [61] 1911 or 1915 1955demolished 460
Pennsylvania Philadelphia HowardHoward Follies Located at 2614 N. Front Street. In the early '60s, it operated with an adults-only policy and advertised as the Howard Follies. [62] [63] 1925closeddemolished 900
Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Cameraphone Located at 6202 Penn Avenue. [64] [65] 1908 c. 1967demolished 776
Wisconsin Superior Tower Located on Tower Ave.
Oregon Portland Capitol Blue Mouse Located at 626 SW 4th Street. Renamed the Blue Mouse in 1958. Famous stripper Tempest Storm co-owned and operated the Capitol in the 1950s. [66] [67] [68] [69] 1928closed 1977 850
Oregon Portland StarPrincess; Star Burlesk Located at 13 NW 6th Avenue. Opened as the Princess, screening silent movies. Became the Star Burlesk in 1939, presenting burlesque shows. Refurbished, it remains in operation today. [70] [71]
Star Theater.jpg
1911 open-- 300
Florida Jacksonville LittleHarold K. Smith Playhouse Located at 2032 San Marco Boulevard. [72] [73] Its landlord, Griffith said in a 1993 interview, "was the county sheriff" at the time. 1920 open--
Florida Orlando Luv Located at 355 N. Orange Avenue.closedconverted
Florida Warrington Navy Point Formerly located on Sunset Avenue. Opened after World War II for the entertainment of military families stationed in the Pensacola area. [74] [75] 1946closeddemolished 750
Florida Tampa RitzMasquerade; Rivoli Located at 1503 E. 7th Avenue in Tampa's Ybor City section. Opened as the Rivoli; expanded in the 1930s as the Ritz and showed movies until 1982. Reopened in 2008 and is used for concerts and special events. [76] [77]
YborRitzAug2008.jpg
YborRitzMarqeeAug08A.jpg
1917 open-- 1,004
Florida Tampa CasinoCasino Follies Located at 1536 7th Avenue in Tampa's Ybor City section. Closed in the 1970s, then was renovated and reopened c. 2000. It is home today to the Tampa Improv Comedy Club. [78] [79] 1912 open-- 700
Louisiana New Orleans Carrollton Located at 4710 S. Carrollton Avenue. A classic Art Deco-style theater, it suffered water damage during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 but has since been refurbished as a banquet hall. [80] [81] 1935closedconverted 750
Louisiana New Orleans Cine RoyaleCenter; Wonderland Located at 912 Canal Street. It became an adult theater after 1975. [82] [83] 1997 600
Louisiana New Orleans SineramaCinerama Adult; Martin Cinerama; Mike Todd's Cinerama; Pussycat; Trans-Lux Cinerama Formerly located at 3615 Tulane Avenue. Under Griffith's management, it was known as the Pussycat and Sinerama. [84] [85] 1962 1984 2001 900
North Carolina Charlotte AstorNeighborhood Located at 511 E. 36th Street. Called "The Carolina’s Most Unusual Theater" in newspaper ads in the '60s, it was restored in recent years and today (as the Neighborhood) features bands and musicians. [86] [87] 1945 open-- 446
North Carolina Charlotte Climax I and II
North Carolina Charlotte RitzFormerly located at 1201 Beatties Ford Road. [88] [89] closeddemolished 500
Tennessee Chattanooga Capitol Formerly located at 528 Market Street. [90] [91] 1940closeddemolished 622
Washington, D.C. CentralGayety; Imperial; Moore's Garden Theatre Formerly located at 425-433 9th Street NW. [92] [93] Opened as The Imperial. Renamed Moore’s Garden Theatre in 1913. Renamed The Central in 1922. Renamed by Griffith as the Gayety Burlesque; presented live burlesque from the 1950s to its closing in the 1970s. 1911closed 1973 851
Florida Fort Lauderdale Adam and Eveclosed
Florida Hialeah Atlas Twin Formerly located at 1446 W. 49th Street. [94] 1969 1993 400
Florida Miami Boulevard Black Gold; Club Madonna II; Gold Rush Cabaret; Kitty Cat; Pussycat; Pussycat II; Shadows; Tomcat; Wonderland Located at 7770 Biscayne Boulevard. Has variously served as a strip club, night club, and adult theater. [95] [96] Bought by Griffith for $165,000 in 1970 and renamed the Pussycat, he created three different theaters within: the Pussycat, the center theater, was a 900-seat theater that showed adult films including Deep Throat ; the Kitty Cat featured female performers; and the Tomcat featured male performers.
Boulevard Theater.png
1940 open as a nightclub, Gold Rush Cabaret-- 974
Florida Miami Beach Cameo Located at 1445 Washington Avenue. [97] [98] It is a nightclub today.
Southbeachcameo01.JPG
1936 open as a nightclub-- 1,061
Florida Miami Beach Carib Located at 230 Lincoln Road. [99] [100] "I used to do [benefit] shows at the Carib, which seated over 2,000 people," Griffith said in a 1993 interview, "and donated the theater, staff, advertising, and helped get talent. This all went to the widows and orphans of the firemen and the policemen." [3]
c.1976 Carib Theater.jpg
c.1976
1950 1975no 2,200
Florida Miami DixieRio Located at 222 NE First Avenue in downtown Miami. Renamed the Rio in 1965. [101] [102] 1948 1980demolished 1,000
Florida Miami Beach Flamingo Located at 320 Lincoln Road. [103] [104] Converted into a present-day nightclub. 1947 1980converted
Florida Miami Beach Gayety BurlesqueDeja Vu; SoBe Showgirls Formerly located at 2004 Collins Avenue.closeddemolished
Florida Key West Monroe Formerly located at 623 Duval Street. [105] [106] 1912closed 1995, following fire 450
Florida Miami ParamountFairfax Formerly located at 257 East Flagler Street in downtown Miami. [107] [108]
Fairfax Theatre on East Flagler Street- Miami, Florida (8947933159).jpg
1922closeddemolished 2,200
Florida Miami Beach ParisParis Follies; Paris Moderne; Variety Located at 550 Washington Avenue. [109] [110] Griffith's first acquisition upon settling in the area in 1961. He originally leased it, then bought it, and staged burlesque there, under the name Paris Follies. Featured acts included Tempest Storm. He sold it in 1986, then bought it back after its owners failed with the nightclub Paris Moderne, and later sold it again. [3] 1946closedno 1,108
Florida Miami Beach Plaza Art Located at 1265 Washington Avenue. [111] [112] 1960sclosedno
Florida Hollywood Pussycatclosed
Florida Miami Rex ArtKing Art Cinema; Rosetta; Second Ave. Art Located at 7929 NE Second Avenue. First opened as the Rosetta. [113] [114] 1926closed 981
Florida Miami Beach Roxy Club Madonna Located at 1527 Washington Avenue. [115] [116] Griffith generated publicity there when, in 1967, he publicly invited city officials to a screening of the film, Man and Wife. "It was advertised as the art of making love 49 different ways," he said in a 1993 interview. "I don't remember inviting them, but I vaguely remember the incident. I think that was the first hard-core movie ever shown down here." [3] According to press accounts at the time, the officials seemed to think the movie was boring, but not obscene. [3] Griffith converted the Roxy from an adult movie theater to an all-nude strip club (Club Madonna), which it remains today. Griffith successfully withstood an attempt by attorneys for the pop singer Madonna to prevent him from using the name. [117]
in 1967 Roxy theater.png
in 1967
open as a nightclub, Club Madonna--
Florida Miami Beach 21st StreetFine Arts Formerly located at 2039 Collins Avenue, at the corner of 21st Street. [118] [119] 1963closeddemolished
Florida Miami Town Formerly located at 265 East Flagler Street. [120] [121] closed 472
Florida Miami 79th Street Twin II Cinema79th St. Art; Bard; Little River Formerly located at 137 NE 79th Street. [122] [123] closed
Washington Seattle RivoliOld Seattle; Tivoli Formerly located at First Avenue and Madison Street. Opened as a burlesque theater featuring, among others, Sophie Tucker and Belle Baker. It later presented legit stage theater, then adult movies before its demolition. [124] 1913closed 1970 900

Controversies

vs. The City of Hialeah, Fla.

Griffith turned Hialeah's Atlas Cinema into an X-rated theater in August 1985, outraging Mayor Raul Martinez. "The issue is not censorship," Martinez said at the time. "It is morality. They will bring in derelicts, the sick of mind. They're like herpes -- wherever they go, everybody gets infected. We don't need that." [3]

The day after opening, in a pre-emptive strike, Griffith's lawyers sued the city, charging that a Hialeah zoning ordinance banning porn cinemas within 500 feet of residences was unconstitutional. His court challenge failed and the theater was ordered shut down. [3]

"I couldn't even use the word burlesque." [117]

— Griffith, recalling local regulations in '60s-era Miami Beach

vs. The City of Miami

In 1987, city officials confiscated movie projectors, a refreshment stand, and other property from Griffith's Pussycat Theater. He had just won a court fight with the city over his right to exhibit a film called Three Ripening Cherries. He was accused of owing more than $50,000 in fines dating back to 1978. The city bungled part of the collection process in a technical snafu, so Griffith ended up accountable for only $21,400. [3]

An auction of his theater equipment was conducted to satisfy that debt. The winning bid came in at $13,500, from Griffith himself, effectively reducing his penalties by another $8,000. [3]

vs. Miami-Dade County

Between 1976 and 1987, the Pussycat was raided 18 times. Efforts by the county to charge him with a felony for screening two obscene movies within 5 years collapsed when Griffith's attorney pointed out that too much time had elapsed between incidents. When prosecutors then indicated they might like to charge him with a simple misdemeanor for the more recent indiscretion (showing the film American Babylon), his attorney argued it had been two years since that film had been confiscated, thus denying Griffith his right to a speedy trial. The judge agreed and threw out the case. [3]

"If I was a judge taking bribes, a banker trying to swindle my customers out of bank funds, a doctor selling drugs, I might feel bad. But seeing a nude girl? There's nothing immoral about that. And there are more judges and lawyers and cops and bankers in jail than theater owners. I'm not hurting anyone, or stealing, or anything like that." [3]

— Griffith, in a 1993 interview

In April 1987, the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office filed a ten-page complaint demanding that the Pussycat be shut down. This time the charge was brought under the Florida Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act. Because the Pussycat had been raided 18 times in eleven years, prosecutors contended, it must be an ongoing criminal enterprise. "That's not what the RICO Act was put in for," Griffith retorted. A judge agreed and dismissed the complaint. [3]

vs. The City of Miami Beach

In late 1989, after the cities of Fort Lauderdale and North Miami Beach outlawed alcohol in establishments featuring nude entertainers, Miami Beach officials—led by Mayor Alex Daoud—feared strip club operators would gravitate to their city and that Miami Beach "would be overrun with sex-mad drunken men and immoral, naked women." [3]

Confronting Miami Beach city commissioners in 2009 on the city's ban of alcohol in nightclubs featuring nudity. Leroy Griffith before Miami Beach City Commission.jpg
Confronting Miami Beach city commissioners in 2009 on the city's ban of alcohol in nightclubs featuring nudity.

The imminent debut of the Gold Club, whose owners had intended to introduce nudity and alcohol in their new building on 5th Street, spurred the City Commission to pass local legislation prohibiting such a mix. [3]

Griffith announced that if the Gold Club was allowed to open with liquor and nudity, he would move his hard-core films from the Gayety Theater (then known as Deja Vu) to the Roxy, which then was showing second-run movies for general audiences. In turn, he would convert the Gayety into an upscale nude bar to compete with the Gold Club.

Daoud said, "We don't have to sit idly by and watch [adult clubs] open up. It would be detrimental to the growth of our city that has been developing so nicely." [3]

The city passed an ordinance in January 1990 prohibiting not only nudity and alcohol sharing the same room, but also banning any nudity near schools and churches. The Gold Club did open with nude dancers, but soon folded under the handicap of the no-liquor policy.

"There's nothing immoral about the human body. Evil's all in the mind." [3]

— Griffith, in a 1993 interview

Griffith, meanwhile, successfully changed the Gayety into the all-nude, alcohol-free Deja Vu (without local competition), and turned the Roxy into an adult theater, Club Madonna. Daoud was removed from office a year later after being implicated on unrelated corruption charges for which he was later convicted and imprisoned. [3] Griffith and Daoud have since become close friends.

Since the early 2000s, Griffith has been involved in legal disputes with the City of Miami Beach over its 1989/1990 ordinances banning the sale of alcohol in any establishment featuring nudity. He sued several city officials in federal court, alleging they conspired to deny him a fair hearing before the City Commission after he sued the wife of one commissioner for libel, slander, and defamation after she waged a campaign against him, claiming, among other things, that he was a tax cheat. [125] [126] [127]

Philanthropy

Griffith, for years, hosted annual shows at his Carib Theater benefiting the Miami Beach Police and Firemen's Benevolent Association. The city's police softball teams and the Miami Beach Policemen's Relief and Pension Fund have also been beneficiaries of his charitable giving. In 1997, the MBPD recognized Griffith for his donation of bicycles to the department, for use by its bike patrol officers.

Nationally syndicated gossip writer Earl Wilson thanked Griffith in a December 1965 column "for his welcome Christmas check for the 'Earl Wilson Help the Needy Fund' which arrived just in time to aid some deserving folk." [128]

Griffith with wife Linda (left) and fellow Miamian, singer Gloria Estefan. Griffiths with Estefan.png
Griffith with wife Linda (left) and fellow Miamian, singer Gloria Estefan.

Work

Stage productions

Filmography

Awards and recognitions

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