While some venues in the Harlem of the Prohibition era were “black and tans,” meaning they welcomed a racially mixed clientele, the Cotton Club was more typical: a club owned by white gangsters that catered to a strictly white crowd. The draw, perversely, was an elaborate floor show featuring only the best African-American dancers, singers and bands. In a room decked out in a sort of quasi-antebellum plantation motif, the house orchestra starred in a show featuring a chorus line, tap dancers, scantily-clad girls, and singers, all performing exclusive songs and arrangements. The most famous of the house bands, and the orchestra that made the Cotton Club famous, was that of Duke Ellington. Ellington’s band was succeeded by Cab Calloway’s orchestra, and then a series of lesser-known acts who ushered in an era of decline after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. In many ways, the Cotton Club represents the worst sorts of tendencies in both society and culture. The genius that was the orchestral skill of Ellington was buried under the mundane needs of the shuck ‘n’ jive revue while he labored here, and the reality of an entirely black cast, waitstaff and kitchen crew working for white owners and a whites-only customer base eventually became unbearable. The club was already in decline when it finally integrated, and a move downtown never really worked out, but in many ways, the Cotton Club defines the era called the Harlem Renaissance.