With Stephen Colbert taking the reins from David Letterman on CBS’s Late Show, Untapped Cities is taking a look at the secrets and fun facts of the show’s home, the Ed Sullivan Theater in midtown New York City.

10. The Theatre Was Originally Called Hammerstein’s

Oscar Hammerstein II. Via Wikimedia Commons. Photo by RR Auction.

The theater opened in 1927 and was called Hammerstein’s. It was developed by Broadway producer Arthur Hammerstein as a tribute to his father, Oscar Hammerstein I who died in 1919. The first show presented there, a musical called Golden Dawn, was written by a team including Arthur’s nephew Oscar Hammerstein II and directed by another nephew, Reginald Hammerstein.

9. Cary Grant Got His Start Here

Cary Grant. Via Wikimedia Commons. Photo by RKO.

Golden Dawn featured an unknown British actor named Archie Leach, who soon after achieved fame in Hollywood under the stage name Cary Grant. He purportedly received his role after an affair with Reginald Hammerstein.

8. It Was First “Legitimate” Broadway Theater to Show Topless Girls

Interior Lobby of Hammerstein Theater, 1928. Via Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Photo by Roege.

Long before the current kerfuffle over topless painted ladies in Times Square, Golden Dawn also featured topless chorus girls, a first for “legitimate” Broadway theater.

Otherwise, Golden Dawn is mostly remembered for a racist story line involving the rescue of a light skinned woman from an African villages by white colonialists.

7. Hammerstein’s didn’t live up to its name

Oscar Hammerstein I is credited with establishing Times Square as the preeminent theater district and Oscar Hammerstein II was one of the all-time great librettists of Broadway.

Hammerstein’s theater, however, had a run of mostly flops and by 1931 Arthur Hammerstein was bankrupt and control of the venue passed to others who changed the name to Manhattan Theater. It would go through several more name changes before CBS changed it to Ed Sullivan Theater in 1967.

6. After Hammerstein, a Lucky (Luciano) place

Charles “Lucky” Luciano. Via Wikimedia Commons. Photo by New York Police Department.

In 1933, with Prohibition repealed, the struggling Manhattan Theater was transformed into a “Music Hall” run by composer and impresario Billy Rose. Rose was reportedly a front for mobster Lucky Luciano who bankrolled an extravagant, but affordable place to be entertained and enjoy a drink.

According to the New York Herald Tribune, the Music Hall was a spectacle with “150 singing waiters,” “an imposing posse of vaudeville practitioners,” and a “nymph infested wishing well.” It only stayed in business a short time though Billy Rose continued to operate other venues for many years after.

5. Before Beatlemania, Sinatramania

Photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

The Ed Sullivan Theater’s most famous moment occurred in 1964 when Sullivan introduced the Beatles to America with hundreds of screaming girls in the theater. This was nothing new. A similar scene occurred in the theater 20 years earlier. In 1944 Ed Sullivan Theater was known as CBS Playhouse No. 3 and it hosted a variety of radio programs including “Vimms Vitamins Presents the Frank Sinatra Show.”

According to a United Press article,when Sinatra appeared on stage he “was met with a roar of noise” and following the show his fans, “the Bobby Sox Brigade,” swarmed after Sinatra “with complete disregard for the safety of innocent bystanders.”

4. Ed Sullivan’s Censorship of The Rolling Stones

Ed Sullivan. Via Wikimedia Commons. Photo by Maurice Carnes LaClaire.

Compared to the days of the Golden Dawn’s topless chorus girls and Billy Rose’s nymphs, during Ed Sullivan’s time at the theater (1955-1971) things were more buttoned-up.

For an Ed Sullivan Show appearance in 1967, the Rolling Stones had to change the lyrics of “Let’s Spend the Night Together” to “Let’s Spend Some Time Together” though Mick Jagger seemed to register a small protest by rolling his eyes as he sang the amended line. See the video here.

3. The Jackie Gleason Show Filmed at the Ed Sullivan Theater

Jackie Gleason developed the Honeymoon characters on the “Jackie Gleason Show,” filmed at the Ed Sullivan Theater and later created a separate series, “The Honeymooners”, filmed elsewhere in NYC.  This photo is from promotional materials for the “Jackie Gleason Show.” Via Wikimedia Commons. Photo by CBS Television

Besides Ed Sullivan and David Letterman, since the 1950s many television shows have used the Ed Sullivan Theater. These included the Jackie Gleason Show in the 1950s, when the theater was known as CBS TV Studio 50, and the sit-com Kate & Allie in the 1980s.

2. You Can Work In the Ed Sullivan Theater, Too

Ed Sullivan Theater is a 13-story building with offices above the theater. Besides the Late Show, other office tenants include the NYC Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting. From time to time, office space in the building becomes available, including a space on the third floor that was recently advertised.

1. It’s Krapp Architecture

Dusk view of the Ed Sullivan Theater Marquee. Via Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith

The Ed Sullivan Theater was designed by an architect with the unfortunate name of Herbert J. Krapp. Krapp designed about 20 Broadway theaters and most are still in active use today.

The Ed Sullivan Theater was designed in a neo-Gothic style unique among Krapp’s theater work. Its architectural quality has been recognized by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, which declared the building an Interior Landmark in 1988. It is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Next, check out 10 Surprising Photographs of Broadway, including Oscar Hammerstein I’s New York Theatre Company building.