Cabaret Hotline Online is an independent website with more than 7,400 pages of news, information and stories on cabaret, owned and maintained by Stu Hamstra. CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE is not affiliated with any club or organization. It is totally supported through advertising and membership donations. This blog is an extension of the website and newsletter.


"His eye is on the sparrow...."

Friday, August 6, 2010



I don't have a review or two to pass along this week - for various reason, the main one being conservation of funds for some rather large expenditures we needed to make at the end of July (including the rent, of course). Instead, as promised in Monday's issue, I am including a special "report" that was published in the MEMBERS ONLY issue of Saturday, July 31st. It was sent out to the 400 folks who were new and renewed 2010-2011 and non-renewed 2009-2010 members of CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE. The article was on the subject of some clubs that appear to be letting their "brand" deteriorate by lowering their standards regarding performers presented. We repeat it in this regular issue, with a few modifications.

At one time, at least here in NYC (with about a dozen clubs offering cabaret shows from 5 to 7 nights a week), there were two distinct tiers of cabaret rooms. Even the various award events recognized this, offering special award categories with the "major" label, to differentiate between those clubs that offered "stars" over against the regular clubs.

"Major" clubs usually paid their performers a contracted weekly sum, charged a much higher cover/minimum and performances were 5 or more times a week, and from one to four weeks in length (sometimes even longer). These clubs promoted their "brand" by advertising in the major publications, employing press agents, sending out special mailings to their regular customers, and offering exclusivity (performers were limited as to what other appearances they could make in NYC for a certain period before and after their booking).

The regular rooms usually offered their spaces on a nightly rental basis, with the performer handling costs of publicity, and in turn receiving most or all of the cover charge. This was where performers made their start, made their debut, and established their own personal brand. (we'll be discussing personal branding in Saturday's MEMBERS ONLY NEWSLETTER).

More recently, a middle tier formed - with some of the benefits of the "premium rooms" (ads in major publications, press agent on staff, higher cover/minimums) while, in place of a paid fee, giving the performer a major percentage of the cover.

Sadly (or maybe not), things have now become muddled, probably because of the wilting economy (which is predicted to continue well into 2011). I can think of only one room in NYC right now that I still consider a "major" room. Just about every other space is available for anyone with "a dollar and a dream." Some venues which used to "look down their noses" at the "non-major" rooms for booking acts under the policy that "everyone should have the chance to perform" have now adopted pretty much the same policy. In the process, they have tampered (and tarnished) their brand. Even the newer "middle tier" clubs seem to have lowered their standards lately, and at the same time cutting back their promotion services.

At one time, a booking in certain "major" rooms in NYC was a goal that performers perfected their craft to achieve. Today you can no longer be certain that you will find top quality shows consistently in the top venues in town. As with so many other things in modern life, quality in cabaret (at least here in NYC) has suffered. And once a brand has been tarnished, it becomes very difficult to bring back its former lustre. The bigger question is: once performers no longer have a "next level" to strive for, will they stagnate in their craft?

"And then there were none." Folks in the NYC area who decry the disappearance of radio shows promoting "our kind of music" have another chance to do something about it this Sunday when one of the last shows promoting big-band jazz, swing, standards, showtunes, and contemporary cabaret, plus regular interviews with personalities from these worlds, EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN holds another FUND RAISING SPECIAL. EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN is heard on the radio over WBAI 99.5 FM and worldwide on the Internet at from 9:00 to 11:00 pm on Sundays, and is hosted by David Kenney. This Sunday the show starts an hour earlier, and I urge you to call 212-209-2950 with your pledge during this broadcast.

Just like so many others these days, there are moments I get very discouraged. Its usually those times when I feel I've "hit the wall" and yet somehow, at those times something seems to happen that immediately brings me back to reality. It happened about a week ago. As most of you know, in times of really hot (and in winter, really cold) weather, my pal Daniel stops at my mail box on Ninth Avenue in midtown to retrieve my mail and bring it to the Lower East Side (Loisaida) for me. Last week he texted me "No checks" - a short phrase that needs no explanation. But next text was "But a surprise that will make you happy". This remained a mystery until he arrived about 45 minutes later. It was a large, flat envelope. Inside was a piece of sheet music from songwriter Karen Benedetto and her manager/partner Jean Barlow. The song was "His Eye Is On The Sparrow" (C.D. Martin & C.H. Gabriel). Regular CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE readers recognize that phrase, I'm sure, since it appears at the bottom of every issue of the newsletter (and at the bottom of every e-mail I send out). Talk about a wake-up. Thanks, Jean & Karen, for your thoughtfulness!

Daniel just texted me something else as we go to press. He wanted to let me know that today is Independence Day for the province of Esmeraldas, Ecuador. Daniel was born in Columbia, but when he was a small boy his family was forced to flee to Ecuador, and was welcomed with open arms by the people of this small, coastal state. So, congratulations Esmeraldas. I just looked you up in Wikipedia, and you're quite a town!

I'm depending on your support as we go into the final weeks of summer. Please consider joining as a member of CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE today. Memberships start at just $5 - we only need 5 more members to make 200! You can join instantly via PayPal for whatever amount you wish! Just click here, fill in any amount and we'll set the right level:

See a show or two this week! Visit our websites! Run a banner or sidebar ad! Join CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE for 2010-2011. Now - more than ever - cabaret (and CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE) needs your support.

Look for more news on the CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE website ( ), on the CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE blog ( ) and almost-hourly updates, picks & reminders on TWITTER ( ).

And that's just about the way it was. We'll be back on Monday with our "Mostly Listings" Issue (The MEMBERS ONLY ISSUE goes out as usual on Saturday).

Thanks for your support of CABARET HOTLINE ONLINE!

Hugs & Stuff,