Royal York’s Night Club on Massachusetts Avenue celebrates 75 years as a cultural institution

Did George Locke look dead? As he joined owner-host Nicole Carroll at the nightspot’s Library Bar Monday, the 86-year-old finally getting a chance to talk, but only to describe the remarkable effort put into…

Royal York’s Night Club on Massachusetts Avenue celebrates 75 years as a cultural institution

Did George Locke look dead? As he joined owner-host Nicole Carroll at the nightspot’s Library Bar Monday, the 86-year-old finally getting a chance to talk, but only to describe the remarkable effort put into creating what Carroll called “a tribute to his life and a calling.”

When Parkland teen Nick Sandmann paused mid-rally earlier this month to stare at Hamilton actor Rory O’Malley, president of the Progressive Democrats of America, Sandmann stepped back and said, “Will you tell George Locke I’m sorry?”

Locke is one of the marquee names on the wall commemorating the year of 2019, when the Royal York celebrates its 75th anniversary as a cultural institution that has expanded well beyond its original incarnation as a champagne palace with a dining room known for its ornate ceilings and tiled floors.

This month, the city designated the Prince of Wales Theater, where the musical “Hamilton” has run for two years, as the Queen Eliza Theater.

By incorporating such historic relics as a wardrobe from “Downton Abbey,” Carroll said, the Royal York is reaching out to “people to make sure they remember it as a cultural institution and, most importantly, as a performing arts venue.”

“I am proud that 75 years ago, they opened the doors, and we’re honoring them with their name and a significant homage to one of the world’s great entertainers,” Carroll said.

That was just part of the star-studded hospitality hosted at the Royal York’s Library Bar, where invited guests were treated to appearances by fellow performers Ray Chew, Cheryl Contee, Joe Tohon and “the King of Cease Fire,” Broadway legend John Mercurio. (Look for Mercurio alongside his wife, Victoria, in an upcoming video for ABC’s “Celebrity Wife Swap.”)

Not to be left out, community activist Locke entertained with a medley of his own dances and work with his brother, local crusader Louis Chacon.

Entertainment aside, the original purpose of the Library Bar, a kickoff to the daylong celebration, was to mourn Locke, the “Forever Is” singer and local benefactor who died in November.

“People asked, why did you do the evening at the Library Bar?” Carroll said. “I want them to know that it wasn’t because I wanted to put on a happy hour. I want them to know that George Locke, his spirit, that power, that glow that everyone felt was there.”

While an estimated 100 people gathered inside the cavernous space, there was a distinct air of ambience outside, where actor William Devane — who performs Shakespeare to schoolchildren at the Webster Elementary School and recites Scripture to the community at the capital of the popular Broadway After Dark series — stayed.

His character is at odds with the police in “Murder on the Orient Express,” the movie which hits theaters on Christmas. He was supposed to make his way into the Library Bar to do something, but the room was closed. His view of the collection of mounted and movable flags and displays – “We had to move 18,000 to 18,999 flags” – was the only one visible in the room.

“My character, Ratchett, says, ‘A difference in clocks, another time for telling time. The real difference is that if you’re not faithful, you’re the one who gets arrested,’ ” Devane said, flashing a broad smile. “I used the tour of the memorial as inspiration.

“It all felt like a stage and that’s just my character making sure the truth is told,” he said. “Whether that’s jolting somebody else or leading them in a new direction, it’s all my job.”

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