Dispatch from the LUPEC Boston “USO SHOW”
by Pink Lady, LUPEC Boston
To my left, a tuxedoed man tips his fedora back on his head and slides an arm around a blonde in a birdcage-veiled hat. A flash illuminates their pearly white camera-ready smiles. To my right, a gentleman in a three-piece suit pulls the seat out for his wife as they settle at a round cocktail table to wait for the “USO Show” to begin. A dame in cat’s eye glasses weaves through the dense crowd on roller skates offering chocolates. In the center of the room a legion of swing dancers lindy hop in acrobatic time with ‘40s-era swing spun by cocktail historian and Boston legend, DJ Brother Cleve.
One step across the threshold into the grand ballroom of the Jorge Hernandez Cultural Center feels like a leap several decades back to a USO Officer’s Club, circa World War II. This is the LUPEC Boston “USO Show”, the centerpiece of our fall fundraising campaign to benefit women at the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans. I never imagined we’d reach the venue’s 450-person capacity, but now the room seems almost full. And every single guest is dressed to impress.
Doors to the event opened at 7 p.m. with a free swing dance lesson kicking off the night. Then emcees Cathleen Carr and Daiva Deupree of the critically acclaimed New York-based sketch comedy burlesque Two Girls for Five Bucks took the stage. Burlesque dancers from Thru the Keyhole turned up the heat with pink balloons and feathers, followed by a short break to cool off and grab a drink before act two featuring Boston-based actor, improviser and stand-up comedian Harry Gordon as Bob Hope and a rowdy prize raffle.
The wait for the bar is long from 8 o’clock on but the vibe remains positive. Perhaps it’s because the swing dancers are dancing in the hallway to lighten the mood? A sailor twirls a tall, slender brunette: the top of her stocking peeks ever-so-slightly from below her hemline as she dips. Distracting in the best possible way.
When the clock strikes 11 p.m. the crowd is in no rush to leave. I can’t blame them. The LUPEC ladies spend lots of time talking about the cocktails: the ingredients, the preferred recipes, the obscure bitters, syrups and liqueurs making their way back to market after many dormant decades. But it’s all born of a shared love: for the romantic feeling that steals over us when sipping drinks from a bygone era, cocktails our grandmothers may have sipped, with a story and social significance bigger than our own. Imbibing such drinks in a room full of guys and dolls in period dress? Somehow, it’s extra intoxicating.
We can’t wait to do it again next fall.
PARTY LIKE IT’S 1944 AT THE LUPEC BOSTON “USO SHOW” WITH ANY OF THESE FINE COCKTAILS:
1 oz tequila
1 oz Campari
.5 oz Italian vermouth
.5 oz French vermouth
Stir with ice in a mixing glass. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or serve over rocks in an old fashioned glass. Garnish with orange oil.
2 oz gin
1 oz sweet vermouth
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1 dash Orange Bitters
Stir in a mixing glass with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon oil.
1.5 oz white rum
.75 oz Lime Juice
.25 oz simple syrup
Shake with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lime wheel.
1 oz Rye
1 oz French Vermouth
.5 oz Green Chartreuse
.5 oz Fresh Lemon
1 dash Orange Bitters
Shake with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Squeeze .5 lime into a Collins glass (or traditional copper mug) and drop in the skin, Add ice and:
2 oz vodka
1 shot fresh lime
Top with cold ginger beer and garnish with a lime wedge.