John Perona, a king of the New York nightclub scene for over 30 years, helmed the legendary Midtown party locale El Morocco. In its heyday, the clientele included Errol Flynn, Marlene Dietrich, Clark Gable, and many more. On September 16, Doyle New York will auction off Perona’s private collection of paintings, furniture, photographs, and memorabilia–many items hailing from the New York institution.
The supper club was originally opened as a speakeasy in 1931on East 54th Street in Manhattan. Its famously eccentric and opulent décor designed by Vernon McFarlane was a novelty at the time with zebra-print upholstery, white-painted cacti, Moroccan grilles, dreamy palm trees made of clear cellophane, and a VIP Champagne room bedecked with Rococo mirrors. “Where smart New Yorkers welcome the elite of the world,” read one advertisement for the club.
“John Perona was the first night club proprietor to discover that guests would rather be the floor show than see one and dispensed with everything except music and celebrities, with the result that Morocco is a nightly and glittering parade of who’s who in the town,” wrote columnist Lucius Beebe at the time.
Some highlights from the sale include Perona’s El Morocco Family Album, estimated between $2,000-$3,000, which includes signatures from Gary Cooper, Cecil Beaton, and more of New York’s swankiest. A grouping of thirty original caricatures–some signed–by artist Vincenzo Zito, is estimated at $1,000-$1,500. There’s even a signed condolence letter by Joan Crawford that was written after Perona’s death–a testament to a legacy if there ever was one.
The collection will be displayed in an exhibition at Doyle September 12-14, and the accompanying sale will feature 279 lots with 60 additional lots spread through other sales this fall. Between the sales, the entire collection is expected to bring between $756,000-$1,170,000.