80 Saint Marks Place has been a successful site for entertainment from the height of the Jazz age to the present. There have been only a few people who have shaped this institution, so there has been a gentle layering of changes. Today one can see elements of the “speakeasy”, and the 1960s Off-Broadway theater blended together with a few changes made by the long term tenant, the Pearl Theatre Company, and now the cafe added to help keep theater vibrantly present in the East Village.
The first entrepreneur at 80 Saint Marks Place was Walter Sheib, who opened a tremendously successful “speakeasy” here during prohibition. After the repeal of prohibition, Sheib’s Place became a popular night spot and then Jazz mecca, the Jazz Gallery, under the direction of Joe and Iggy Termini. The second epoch of entertainment here began when Sheib sold the place to Howard Otway, an actor, singer, novelist and playwright, who converted the club to a theater, digging out the auditorium by hand with the help of his two sons, Thomas and Lorcan Otway. You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown opened here in 1965, placing the theater on the map. During the run of Charlie Brown, the theater was visited by the families of presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon as well as other politicians, from mayor John Lindsay to Indira Gandhi.
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