Lost New York: Salvation


    Salvation, at 1 Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village in Manhattan, was once the gathering place of a whole other generation of beautiful people.  The bar, which was smaller and dingier than it looked from the outside, called itself a “club”, but a bar is what it was; with a different clientele it would have been no different from any other hole-in-the-wall bar with a dancefloor in Greenwich Village.  However, movie stars went in there; rock stars, hangers-on, wannabees, the whole gamut.  Movie star Faye Dunaway, fresh off her success in Bonnie and Clyde, was on the board of directors; her boyfriend Jerry Schatzberg owned the place along with Brad Pierce and Bobby Woods, shadowy industry figures of indeterminate industry. This was a hole in the wall that actually had a board of directors…

    Faye Dunaway mingling with Arthur Penn at Salvation.
    Faye Dunaway mingling with Arthur Penn at Salvation.

    There was a small, dark, cramped, circular dancefloor, so people often referred to it as a disco, in the 60’s sense of the word.  There were seats configured in a circle around the dancefloor, so you could get wasted and just watch the dancers.  The place was all painted red inside; everything was red: the walls, the countertops, the seats, the floors. Nobody quite remembers when the place was renamed Salvation, or why, but a lot of patrons assumed it was some kind of drug joke, which it probably wasn’t.  It had the feel of a Roman amphitheater, but in claustrophobic miniature.  Sometimes a band would set up on the dancefloor, where they were literally bumped and jostled by the dancers.

    Faye Dunaway herself would mingle with friends at Salvation, looking radiant and otherworldly in her glamour.  A young Liza Minnelli, who could put away a bottle and talked like a man, was a frequent character there.  The delicate Mia Farrow would hold court there, often in the company of what looked like a hardened goon.  The British rock group the Yardbirds spent time in there, soaking up the women, booze, and drugs.  Fashion model Marisa Berenson kicked up her heels inside.  One time, an obnoxious and drunk Jim Morrison propositioned a young socialite and got booted out on his ass.  Richard Roundtree, Shaft himself, often did much of the booting in his capacity as doorman and bouncer.  One of the deejays wound up with a bit part in Debbie Does Dallas a few years later.

    Jimi Hendrix at Salvation, August 1967
    Jimi Hendrix at Salvation, August 1967

    Jimi Hendrix, a regular, met a cocaine connection there, none other than Bobby Woods, part owner of Salvation. When Woods wound up with five mafia bullets in his head in late 1969, the mob decided they had better see what Hendrix knew about it.  Some goons muscled him off the street one day, literally kidnapping him for a few hours, before releasing the stoned musician after determining that he had only the haziest recollection of who Woods was.

    After that, things got much less groovy at Salvation.  The mafia decided that Bradley Pierce, another owner, had to follow Bobby Woods gangland-style, and Pierce took the hint and shuttered the place in 1970, after three years of operation.  He kicked around for some time, opening smaller profile joints and then closing them, his beef with the mob apparently worked out. Faye Dunaway and Jerry Schatzberg went back to the movies…