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Off-Broadway Producer and Village Gate Founder Art D'Lugoff Dies at 85

Art D'Lugoff, former owner of the legendary Village Gate (now Le Poisson Rouge) and off-Broadway producer died at the Allen Hospital of New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, where he had been taken on Wednesday due to shortness of breath.  He was 85. The cause of death has not been determined. 

Art D'Lugoff opened The Village Gate, a famous jazz club in New York City's Greenwich Village, in 1958 which quickly became one of the most prestigious clubs in the city, hosting such artists as Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis, as well as Bill Cosby, Mort Sahl, Woody Allen, and John Belushi. Also on the roster was Aretha Franklin, who made her first New York appearance there in the off-Broadway show Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.

Additional off-Broadway shows that ran at the Gate include the musical comedy revue National Lampoon Lemmings (starring John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Garry Goodrow and Christopher Guest). The venue was also the birthplace of the Noo Yawk Tawk performance troupe, conceived and directed by Richmond Shepard, a world renowned mime, actor, comedian and teacher. All of the performances for Noo Yawk Tawk were entirely improvised. The cast included future greats Stan Taffel, Marc Kudisch, Debra Wilson, Garry Goodrow, Miguel Sierra, Ken Dashow, Nola Roeper, Bonnie Comley & Richmond Shepard

D'Lugoff had the notorious honor of having turned away Bob Dylan, prompting the latter to write music in the basement of the club. He also fired a young Dustin Hoffman for providing poor table service. 

A series of what the New York Times characterized as bad investments, a change in the market, the loss of a low rent due to a change in landlords, and some plain bad luck all led D'Lugoff to declare bankcruptcy in 1991 and close the club in 1994.

In the wake of The Village Gate's closing, D'Lugoff dreamed of opening a new jazz club near Times Square. He also worked on raising money for the development of a national jazz museum and hall of fame to be located in New York City. D'Lugoff's idea of a museum eventually developed into the National Jazz Museum of Harlem. D'Lugoff was the recipient of the Paul Robeson Award in 1992.

D'Lugoff is survived by his wife, the former Avital Achai; son, Raphael; three daughters, Sharon D'Lugoff Blythe, Dahlia D'Lugoff and Rashi D'Lugoff; five grandchildren; and his brother, Burt D'Lugoff.


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