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Playing dead! Green-Wood party pays tribute to long-gone theater

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It was the party of the century — the 19th century.

The “Travel Back in Time” party on July 12 at Green-Wood Cemetery transported revelers back to the 1800s playhouse Niblo’s Pleasure Garden, with impersonators bringing to life the era’s biggest stars, and jugglers and musicians performing. The event also celebrated the launch of a new biography of owner William Niblo, who is buried in the morbid metropolis. The book focuses on the period when the 3,200-seat Niblo’s Garden on Broadway was the entertainment capital of New York.

“It was as big — as important — as Radio City Music Hall,” said Benjamin Feldman, who impersonated Niblo at the party and is the author of the tome titled “East in Eden: William Niblo and His Pleasure Garden of Yore.” “Anyone who was anyone — or who wanted to be anyone — came to William Niblo.”

But after Niblo retired, the garden’s wholesome performances became increasingly risque, which Niblo, who didn’t allow unaccompanied women at performances, didn’t like.

Performer Marge Raymond portrayed singer Millie Cavendish, who sang “You Naughty, Naughty Men,” in the famous musical, “The Black Crook.” Raymond said Cavendish’s confidence as a female was unprecedented for the time period.

“She was the diva at the time,” said Raymond, who is a tour guide at Green-Wood.

Raymond sang three verses of the sultry song — and she may well have made Niblo roll over in his grave, she said.

“He never would have allowed this production of women in flesh-colored tights,” said Feldman.

Niblo died in 1878 and the playhouse bearing his name was torn down in 1895.

Updated 6:58 pm, July 16, 2014
Reach reporter Vanessa Ogle at vogle@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow her attwitter.com/oglevanessa.
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Reasonable discourse

Benjamin Feldman from Yorkville says:
Great story, Vanessa !! Please correct the spelling of Broadway, (not Brodway) and, it should be unaccompanied women, not unoccupied, lol...
July 16, 2014, 5:05 pm

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