This page is dedicated to formerly famous Blinstrub’s Village club in Boston and his owner Stanley William Blinstrub (1897.03.01 – 1978.09.28) (ID386).
Stanley W. Blinstrub born in 1897.03.01 in Lithuania, Truskava parish. Stanley’s father Kazimieras (Casimir, d.1929; ID96) and his wife Michalina Dobrowolska Blinstrub (ID383) moved to Boston in 1908. Stanley married Boston born lithuanian Maryann Tamulevičiūtė (Timlage) (1901.05.15-1994.07.16) and got 4 children – Irene Blinstrub (b. 1927), Loraine M Blinstrub (b. 1928), Virginia Blinstrub (b. 1929) and Richard S Blinstrub (b. 1931). In 1925 Stanley visited Lithuania.
In 1934, in building bought by his father in 1917, Stanley opened a nightclub Blinstrub’s Village, which became the largest nightclub in east coast of USA. Celebrities as J. F. Kennedy attended the club and such stars as Frank Sinatra, Louise Armstrong and Ray Charles performed there.
We invite you to read Mike McGoff’s article in South Boston website about the nightclub and watch a Boston Neighborhood Network TV reportage about the club, Boston TV News reportage from fireplace and interview with Stanley Blinstrub, also small image gallery about the club. Biographical facts in article are not correct.
Stanley Blinstrub’s father, a lithuanian nobleman with extensive holdings in Lithuania, who stayed one step ahead of the czar’s men during the oppression in 1894, came to the United States and settled in New Brighton, Staten Island, NY. Stanley was born there along with his brother Jack. Stanley was three years old when the family moved to Boston and resided in the Brighton section. His father started buying residential, industrial and commercial real estate in Newton, Chestnut Hill, Hyde Park and South Boston.
Stanley attended Boston public schools, Burdett College and took night courses at Boston University. As a teen, he worked in a piano factory, an auto shop, and a bakery. Later on he worked with his father as a carpenter, mostly in South Boston. By the time Stanley was 20 years old, he was an experienced mason, carpenter and painter. Even though all of this was prosperous, Stanley wanted more out of life than working for others. This feeling led him to open the most exciting and also the largest night club in the country.
Blinstrub was in search of something he could call his own, and one day he brought himself to South Boston, where he saw a boarded up, shuttered restaurant. Ideas started to run through his mind. So, Stanley called a family meeting and presented his ideas for a vote. The family decided to take a chance and open a restaurant, even though his mother was reluctant to take the chance. The new restaurant would be called Belgian Village.
Even though opening this restaurant would not be easy, Stanley signed a 6 year lease and began cleaning, scrubbing, painting and rebuilding to make the property acceptable. Stanley knew that people liked good food, and he was determined to offer the best. On opening day, the place looked great and stood proudly on the corner of D Street and Broadway in South Boston. The first year his restaurant netted $52,000, during a time when sandwiches cost a nickel, and boiled dinners were 25 cents. Stanley’s success story was simple; “find out what the public wants and make sure you serve it better than anyone else.” Eventually, he took over the lease next door and expanded the restaurant to accommodate 150 seats with an adjoining 350 seat nightclub.
With the restaurant doing well, Stanley started buying real estate and made a fortune. He mastered the real estate business as well as he had done in the restaurant business. Mr. “B” called another family meeting and it was decided that Stanley would lease the restaurant to another party so that he could attack his new real estate venture with undivided interest. Stanley plunged full-time into the buying and selling of property. By now he was a very wealthy man, feeling secure that his family would never want again. Unfortunately, disaster never gives warning. In 1929, like many others, Stanley was wiped out in the market crash that year. With no cash remaining and literally everything gone, there was nothing left but the restaurant that has also failed under the supervision of the new leasing tenants.
Missing the ingredient of his youth, and with it the dreams of the future, he began over on pure faith and courage in the pursuit of recovery.
In 1934. he worked 52 hours straight hoping to have the new nightclub ready in time for New Year’s. From the day it opened, it was destined for success. By 1937, there was another expansion and the club seated 850 people. The Blinstrub family was back on their feet again and financially secure.
Against all advice in 1952, Stanley decided to go into the “big name” entertainment arena with his first performing star being Patti Page. He started bidding top prices for other major starts and before he knew it, his club became one of the biggest in the entertainment industry. The people who thought of Boston as the boondocks were now vying for a chance to play in one of the country’s largest and hottest nightclubs.
The club was a particular favorite of the late Richard Cardinal Cushing, a very close and dear friend of Stanley and the Blinstrub family. The Blinstrub family raised thousands of dollars for the Cardinal’s charities. At Blinstrub’s annual Thanksgiving dinner for the elderly, the Cardinal would dance with the elderly guests and serenade them in his deep, rough baritone voice. The Cardinal was quoted as saying, “Stanley never once sent me a bill for these holiday dinners and never allowed me to tell the press. He rather everyone believe that I ran the benefit and he even picked up the cab fares at the end of the benefit.”
Mr. “B” paid high prices for entertainers who performed in his club, and he always lined up those that he wanted. He knew exactly what he wanted from his performers and would fire any act who dressed off color or wore costumes that he did not first approve. He paid Patti Page at the height of her career $16,000 for just one week of work. Stanley exercised rigid control over all the club’s operations from the food selection, to the star selection. A former employee said that he never bought a new car because he didn’t want to appear to be a big time operation.
Singer Wayne Newton received his first big break when he was signed to Blinstrub’s (Blinnie’s). He holds the record for the most appearances there. However, after Stanley saw him perform on television he said, “Wayne had a high pitched voice and I don’t think he would go over well with our audience.” When the William Morris agency refused his request to cancel the act, Stanley just figured that Wayne would quit when he noticed the the people’s response. Instead, Wayne received a standing ovation.
The first week that Wayne performed the crowd turnout was not great so he received $4000 for the performance. On his second appearance, the club was filled and he was paid $5000 for seven days. On his last appearance he was paid $18,000 which was a far cry from the first no-minimum, non-cover deal.
Competition for entertainment was tough and Blinstrub’s success didn’t come easy. He often had to contend with pressure tactics from competitors. Stanley’s favorite entertainer who performed at his club was Nat King Cole. “He was a classy person,” said Blinstrub. They both grew up on hard times, so Nat admired Stanley and would spend an hour talking with him in his office on many days.
Surprisingly, the highest paid artist to appear at Blinnie’s was not Wayne Newton, but the legendary Ray Charles. The biggest grossing artist was Sammy Davis, Jr., “a natural talent”, said Stanley, who by the way, was from the South End of Boston. Occasional headaches were provided by singer Teresa Brewer, who once cancelled out at the 11th hour, leaving Stanley with 11,000 reservations and a $65,000 loss. Eartha Kitt, “a very strange lady,” said Blinstrub also was one who sometimes decided not to perform.
When Arthur Godfrey fired singer Julius LaRosa from his television “family” before millions of viewers, he couldn’t have forseen the favor he was doing for Stanley. At the time, LaRosa was romantically interested in one of the McGuire Sisters, also a part of Godfrey’s clan. Godfrey also mentioned on the air that the McGuire Sisters were headed for Blinnie’s. “Within five minutes after the announcement was made, Blinnie’s had lines outside the club,” said Stanley. “I realized that there was no sense in taking reservations, so I decided to print tickets instead.”
The following day sold out the entire week of 14 shows and turned away 180,000 people. The telephones rang every second beginning at 6:30 in the morning. Requests for reservations came from out of state and pretty much everywhere. Shortly after that, Blinnie’s turned away as many as 60,000 for a Johnny Mathis showing.
Stanley had one other talent, and that was the uncanny sense of discovering new and exciting talent. To impress Stanley was no easy task for an entertainer, but if you did and he signed you on at Blinstrub’s Village you were on the launching pad to success. A gifted trio, The Three Degrees were one of the first to be noticed by Stanley. “These are no ordinary girl singers, for each has a singing style of their own and together sound like no other group I’ve ever heard, for each has a rhythmic delight. Comprised of three 19 year olds, Sheila Ferguson, and Fayette Pinckney, both from Philly, and Valerie Holiday from Boston, and all were equally pretty as they were talented.”
Too many singers he said are left at the post because they sound too much like someone else already established in the music business. The Three Degrees have a sound all their own and a sparkling act to surround it. A threesome of soloists was unusual so they would need more than talent, they also needed exposure to prosper.
Another famous singer, who Stanley gave his break to, was Robert Goulet, a young, handsome entertainer from Lawrence.
It was also from the surf of Revere that he snagged Wayne Newton. When Al Martino recorded his first hit “Here in My Heart”, his career started with his debut at Blinnie’s. since there he became an explosive entertainer as well. The Four Aces, The Four Lads, Dionne Warwick and Joan Webber were others that entered the nightclub scene. Unlike Dione Warwick, Joan Webber was never heard from again, but she had a hit song, “Let Me Go Lover.”
Singer Johnny Mathis was probably Blinnie’s best buy. In 1955 Johnny signed a contract for $600 a week, approximately one month later Mathis hit it big with the song “Wonderful Wonderful”, and his wages increased to a whopping $16,000 a week. But Johnny Mathis had signed a contract a few months prior for $600 a week to play Blinnie’s and it had to be honored.
The McGuire Sisters were the biggest female attraction, they could do no wrong in the Mid 50’s. The least temperamental of the performers was Gordon McCrae, but his wife Sheila was just the opposite. Tony Martin was also a nutcracker. Among others to play Blinnie’s who were very easy to get along with were the Mills Brothers, Guy Lombardo, Johnny Ray, Connie Francis (a great lady) and Frankie Lane.
Stanley also remembers signing on Eddie Fisher, when his popularity was on the decline and his wife Debbie Reynolds was on the rise. Eddie was not doing that well until he performed at Blinstrub’s. When the word got out, the place was sold out. Two weeks later, Eddie Fisher left his wife Debbie Reynolds for Liz Taylor.
In the past, Stanley Blinstrub had his successes and his failures. His failures were always followed by incredible comebacks, his determination and courage made his club one of the most successful places in the country. It seemed at the age of 70, that nothing could happen to the success of Blinstrub’s, but it did. On the tragic night of February 7, 1968, a five alarm blaze engulfed the European style club, which has thrived for over 35 years. Estimate fire damage was in the range of 1.25 million dollars, and there was no insurance on the property.
The fire captain said to Stanley “A lot of memories” Stanley just closed his eyes and did not answer. Stanley just leaned on a wall on D Street and watched the fire that destroyed the night club which bore his name. Flames jumped from behind the castle shaped wall which was the trademark of Blinnie’s and the water from the heavy streams being poured on by firemen sprinkled on him like rain.
His wife Maria was next to him clutching his hand. There were tears in her eyes. “I thought that he was in there. I hurried and dressed and came here in a taxi,” she said. Another man approached in a blue topcoat, walked up to Stanley and whispered I’m sorry. Stanley replied, “I know Vince,” a man who had worked for him for 15 years. Each time flames would become visible, his eyes wet, and he fixed his gaze on the smoke and flames showing no emotion.
When Jimmy Durante was informed of the tragedy at Blinstrub’s, where he’d been packing them in for 20 years he said, “stop your kidding,” from his home in Beverly Hills, California. “What are you trying to do, keep me out of town?” Durante, the king of the great performers was to play at Blinnies that Friday. His Troupe’s costumes, valued at over $7,500 had already been shipped into the nightclub and were destroyed in the blaze.
Jimmy Durante’s big loss was plastic valises full of musical arrangements for his acts, material written over the past 50 years and valued at well over $10,000. There were no duplicates which forced Jimmy to cancel some future engagements. Blinstrubs was Durante’s Boston home and Stanley was Durante’s good friend. After 20 years of performing at Blinnies they never had a written agreement on engagements and there was never a mix up until that week. Durante thought he was to perform Thursday, while Stanley had him scheduled to play Friday.
“That must have been the jinx,” said Durante, “because this never happened before. What a jinx, now he’s out of a joint and I’m out of a job.” Probably the biggest shock to Durante was the city’s biggest nightclub was not insured. “I can’t believe a man like Stanley would not have the place insured. A lot of good memories in there, they certainly did a lot of business in there too.
Shortly after the tragic fire, there were plans to build another Blinstrubs, but because there wasn’t any insurance it was going to be a tough project. When Stanley was asked why he didn’t have insurance, he replied, “I used the money for security guards 24 hours a day and constant renovations, improving sound systems, and of course to get the big acts.”
Richard Cardinal Cushing called the day after the fire and said, “I have $100,000 to help you rebuild, the money is yours and I’m also going to organize a fundraiser.” A fundraiser they had, the people came out 16,000 strong for 4 ½ hour show of the biggest stars in the business at the Boston Garden. They all came to help their friend Stanley Blinstrub.
Blinstrub’s production from the show was a total success, Cardinal Cushing said that he never had so much fun in his life.
So it began, just before the opening act Stanley and his eminence walked down the isle to the tune of “The Bells of St. Mary,” and received a standing ovation that raised the roof. There was an incredible array of stars performing, Jeff Caine was EMCEE. The first to be introduced was Pat Obrien, he was introduced as the former coach of Notre Dame. O’Brien came right back by saying to the Cardinal, “Your looking at a man who wouldn’t give a spot to a dalmatian dog, but just look at the talent here tonight.” O’Brien immediately swung into “I’m Getting Married in the Morning,” adding his own soft shoe. The end of O’Brien’s gig was what he called the “Rockne Locker Room Talk,” which he dedicated to the Cardinal. He wound up with the Notre Dame fight song, finally giving the Gaelic blessing that ends with “May the wind be ever at your back and may you all be a long time in heaven before the devil knows your dead.”
The rest of the program was spectacular with such headliners like Wayne Newton, John Davidson, Connie Francis, Al Martino, Jack D’John Trio, the Three Degrees, D’Aldo Romano, Arthur Godfrey, Mike Douglas, Bobby Vinton, Patty Delaney, Pat O’Brien, Norm Crosby, Ronnie Martin, The Righteous Brothers, Brenda Lee, Bobbie Baker and the Casuals.
It was steaming hot in the Garden that night, as crowds greeted John Davidson, playing his amplified guitar. Tony Bruno’s band also opened the show. The performances resumed with songs by Patty Delaney, Al Martino and Bobby Vinton who played trumpet, saxophone and calarinet in one number. The Three Degrees were followed by Dorchester High School alumni Norm Crosby who fired off half a hundred malapropisms.
Mike Douglas took over as MC at this point and introduced the Cardinal who paid tribute to Stanley Blinstrub, recalling the many charities the famous nightclub owner has sponsored.
At this point in the evening, the Cardinal proceeded to tell a joke, of the South Boston drunk who fell into an open grave while on his way home one Saturday night, when he awoke to dawn’s light and heard the bird’s singing, he said out loud, Glory be it’s resurrection day…and I’m the first one up!
This was followed by saying, I have had a hard time talking tonight, because of my teeth. Today the dentist gave me a temporary lower set. If I talked the way I usually do, both may go flying down the isle. My dentist told me, “If you’re true to your teeth, they’ll be true to you.” Then he continued by saying, “I am primarily here tonight to give thanks to all of you for coming. I wrote to all the talented people here tonight and I did not know any of them and many did not know me. I asked them to help out Stanley Blinstrub and look how they have responded. To show my gratitude to them, I’m going to send them a picture with my autograph. The full house at the Boston Garden roared with laughter. He thanked the talented and concluded, “They must be pretty good to be able to keep me quiet for three hours.”
The evening at the Boston Garden brought in $150,000 at the gate, though it was never determined how much Stanley received from the benefit. The money he received was still not enough for him to rebuild anyway. Several attempts were made to make the famous Blinnie’s rise again. He looked at locations along the waterfront, on Dorchester’s Victory Road, on Freeport Street and at Hallet Street. But by the time Mr. B found a location that was suitable, not only did the construction prices go out of sight, but so had the prices for acts needed to attract paying patrons.
Stanley spent the rest of his days, until his death, at his brother-in-law’s restaurant Blinstrub’s Old Colony House helping to supervise the business. Stanley Blinstrub died Thursday, September 28, 1978, at the age of 81.
Stanley’s life and times were a mixture of rises and falls, incredible courage, and inspiration to a lot of people. He was a generous, kind hearted man who helped the elderly and homeless and gave many stars their big break. This man created and branded into the lives of so many people who had the pleasure of enjoying his famed nightclub in South Boston.
Research for this article was taken from various news columns, including the Boston Globe, Herald Traveler and the City Scene by Dick Sinnott. A very sincere thanks to Stanley’s grandchildren Jonathan and Stacy Blinstrub whose cooperation and generosity also made this article possible. And to Michael Glynn who had the vision to tell this story.
In Facebook you can watch a small gallery dedicated Blinstrub’s Village made by Adele Maestranzi.