More on Johnny Ray in Wildwood
A few people asked me which club the 1987 Johnny Ray show mentioned in the last post took place. My wife reminded me, Cozy Morley’s Club Avalon, long defunct. Read about it and Cozy, one of those Broadway Danny Rose-like old time comedians, here in an old Times article.
Club Avalon was a barn. He used to call it ‘the toilet’ in his act. Every night of the week in the summer, he would get a thousand people in there, bring on three or four acts, put on a show that lasted at least four hours, then come down to the bar with his banjo and hang out with the people until 2 in the morning.
And from a later Times article:
Mr. Suez finally wanted to sell his North Wildwood club in 1958. He offered it first to Mr. Morley.
”I told him I only had $10,000,” Mr. Morley said, ”and he said he would take $5,000 down. And it was mine.”
The place was named Club Avalon, but even Mr. Morley called it The Toilet. Mr. Suez hadn’t put a dime into the place in years and Mr. Morley spent maybe three times that much, nailing in a few loose floorboards and shoring up the plywood tables. Still, fairly big names came to play the Club Avalon and its 1,100 seats during its glory days: Julius La Rosa, Johnny Ray, the Four Lads, Carmel Quinn. No matter who was there, Mr. Morley still did his act, which varied little from night to night.
”I don’t know, but people seemed to like it,” said Mr. Morley, who never charged more than $2 for a drink at the club. ”They’d come week after week, year after year. Boy, did I love that place.”
Though he played all over the Philadelphia and South Jersey area in the winter, Mr. Morley couldn’t wait to open Club Avalon every Memorial Day. He’d play his banjo, tell old jokes, play his clarinet, tell more old jokes, play a trumpet or trombone and tell even more old jokes.
But finally, he couldn’t tell them any more at the Club Avalon. In 1989, the town condemned it and Mr. Morley was forced to tear it down. He said he fully intended to rebuild it, but he said the town told him he had lost all his grandfather clauses and would only be allowed to have 165 seats in the new club. So he sold the land, no doubt for a huge profit, said friends, who said Mr. Morley is a millionaire many times over from real estate investments in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida.