Hudson Theatre

403 38th Street,
Union City, NJ 07087

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Hansie on October 14, 2012 at 8:23 am

A marker was recently erected at the site of the old Hudson to commemorate the theater and its history.

Hansie on October 14, 2012 at 7:56 am

I have found quite a few posters from the Hudson Burlesque on Pinterest. I grew up in Union City, and both nuns and parents warned the kids not to walk past the theater, which was considered a “near occasion of sin”. Of course, this made it even more fascinating to us.

hrdrck1 on January 28, 2012 at 8:49 pm

When we were teenagers, (Early 1950’s) we somehow were able to get into the Hudson Burlesque. It was a pure fantasy for us guys..we somehow made it up into those incredible balcony seats that made it seem like you were going to fall right out and off the top! We always had fun .. at 16 and 17 it was amazing to see the gals come out onstage with not so much on .. I loved the ‘comic’ babes that were always part of the chorus line .. there’d be about 8-10 girls that just did the normal routine of shaking it and dancing .. but the comic would do some outrageous stuff .. like purposely going the wrong way or she’d have some twirler tassels on the ends of her ‘pasties’ covering her nipples and she’d have a good set and would TWIRL those tassels just by waving her boobs in different directions .. causing a helluva a roar from the audience! Most times they’d have a featured comedian, like a Pinky Lee character to go along with the house clowns male & females. They would always have a routine of a guy hawking candy after pretending to put a watch or a $5 into one of the boxes and then they’d have ‘runners’ that would go up and down the aisles trying to sell the candy .. I think it was turkish taffy. I always got it and of course never got the watch! There would be a singer, he would perform in what might have been the last of vaudeville comedy skits/always with ‘double entendres’ about the gals anatomy or sex. But good clean fun. Then the guy would come out with a big fanfare first/taadahhhh introduction and with a spotlight shining only on him, do his big song for the night .. then the piece de resistance .. the showstopper babe for the night .. sometimes it was some gal(nice body) that nobody ever heard of .. but one night, I STILL remember at 73, TEMPEST STORM came out and everybody went nuts ..she KNEW WHO SHE WAS and let us all know it IMMEDIATELY .. she moved with such sexy grace and always kept her eyes glued on the audience and somehow she seemed to KNOW just when or how to make a MOVE that would drive eveyone bananas! GORGEOUS body and her breasts were probably the best shaped I’d ever seen. There was another time when Lili St. Cyr came out as well, she was another fabulous woman .. and she had another way of showing herself off .. it was mostly about her clothes ..and the way she removed each piece .. it was such a Slooooooooow tease ..and at the very last second, she’d take off the top and slip right behind the curtain at the edge of the stage. so you might have thought you saw IT .. but she never let it out! All in all the Hudson was a guys night out just to have good clean entertainment. No SEX acts performed ever! IT was not expected .. only to hopefully get to see a part of an anatomy that was TABOO .. and you’d only get a half a peek every once in awhile if you attended regularly. MOSTLY CANDY is all! and good music, I recall seeing someone who sure resembled Robert Alda singing there once; he got a terrific ovation, so I paid attention (who was this guy?)and later thought it had been Alan Alda’s dad all those years before. I went back as a 19 or 20 year old and the place was sadly closed down. FOND MEMORIES and FUN MEMORIES AS WELL. We tried to get into Minsky’s in NYC, but they just said “get outta here kids, ya boddering me!” and we did! There was another burlesque house in NJ, but for some reason, I can not recall it’s name .. sorry. It might be in some archives somewhere. The Hudson is very missed and the new generations have no idea how much good clean fun they missedwithout it.

rosemkremer on February 15, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Does anyone know if Lili St.Cyr, Dawn O'Day, or Gypsy Rose Lee performed at the Hudson? I seem to remember their names, but I’m not sure. Thanks for info.

rosemkremer on February 15, 2011 at 4:16 pm

My mother owned a small apartment building on 38th Street in the next block. My gang and I used to hang outside the stage door on hot summer nights. The door was kept open because there was no air conditioning. The man who sat outside guarding the door used to try and chase us away, but then he got used to us. “Youse kids!” Sometimes he’d get a chocolate bar from the concession stand and give it to us. We could hear the audience laughing at the comedians,but we waited for the boom-chicka,boom-chicka which told us when the strippers were performing. I remember the busloads of servicemen from New York being dropped at the corner, especially the sailors in their white middies and caps. The display cases outside held posters describing the ‘sweet Georgia peach(es)'that were going to perform. The boys in our gang would prance around the sidewalk outside the stage door saying, “Hubba,hubba, ding, ding. Baby, you got everything. My mother had furnished apartments—this was right after the War when there was a housing shortage—and one of her tenants was a beautiful southern girl who sang at the Cardinal Club across the street from the Hudson. Her name was Dorothy—don’t know last name. Also, across the street from the Theater was the local newspaper, The Hudson Dispatch, where my mother placed her apartment ads. The Hudson was a big part of my childhood and I remember it fondly.

BobFurmanek on October 12, 2010 at 1:12 am

In 1954, audio pioneer Emory Cook recorded an album in binaural stereo at the Hudson Theater. It featured a complete burlesque performance including the lobby barker and comedy sketches. Segments can be heard on this site:

View link

Students of comedy may recognize the voice of Joe DeRita in the sketches. Within a few years, he was a member of the 3 Stooges!

unioncityboxing on December 27, 2009 at 10:08 am

Anyone with any photos or stories on the Theater or any other photos or stories from Union City please contact me at We are soon to open a museum at the old Carnegie Library at 15th street and New York Ave. and want to preserve as much history is possible. Thanks Joe Botti

Joankelsy on March 8, 2009 at 11:22 am

Hardly remember Sam Cohen, vaquely his brother. He probably gave us our pay each week. I do remember Jack Montgomery, always a gentleman. He hired me when I was still a teenager and typical of the era, quite innocent. I think I was just starstruck, as I lived in the movies as a kid.
I will look into the book. The showgirls wore what I would refer to as Bikinis with frills…and big hats. There was an abudance of material that went from the wasteline area out to the wrists. You walked with arms outstretched, shoulders down and placed your feet one in front of the other. This gave the gals a graceful, floating
motion across the stage.
Yes, I remember the Show Spot. At one time, so I was told, they had a ramp where the entertainers would prance out into the bar from the theater area.
You are stimulating my recall…thank you. Joankelsy

dcohen on March 7, 2009 at 9:11 pm

Joan Kelsey
Do you have any memories of Sam Cohen, General Manager (good bad or otherwise?)

For additional information Liz Goldwyne had a PBS program and companion book called Pretty Things. She goes into detail about the in-house Choreographer and Costume designer for many of the performers.

As a correction to my earlier memories of stories recounted by my Father, the stories about the fights were from the Hollywood Arena in Bayonne. I do not believe that there were fights staged at the Hudson Theater, just Burlesque. There was also a second club around the corner called the Show Spot.

Doug Cohen

Joankelsy on March 7, 2009 at 7:56 pm

Worked at the Hudson Theater as a showgirl in 1949. Am writing memoirs and appreciate all data I can find re the burlesque era at the theater. Do not remember movies being shown when I worked there.
Have a 1949 program and a signed photo from Lou Ascol. He and his wife stayed at the rooming house I lived in at the time. Will try to send scanned j pegs.
Thanks for all the input. Joankelsy

Joankelsy on March 7, 2009 at 7:48 pm

Am signed in but can’t get my message out to you.

alikazam on June 26, 2008 at 11:42 am

To: Douglas Cohen: Do you happen to know if your Uncle Sam Cohen was the same Sam Cohen who booked amateur nights throughout Boston in the 20s and gave Fred Allen the comedian his first big break (there’s a chapter about him in Fred’s autobiography). That Sam Cohen was my grandfather’s brother, so perhaps we are related. If anyone knows anything about this, please feel free to contact me at I’m doing some family research.

teecee on June 8, 2008 at 7:43 am

Visited Union City yesterday. The theater location is now a parking lot.

nonsportsnut on September 1, 2007 at 8:24 pm

To: Douglas Cohen: Who was the Burlesque Queen who Sam Cohen married? I’m partly an Abbott & Costello buff. Mainly The Three Stooges; I search for supporting players who worked with the Stooges. Thanks. Frank Reighter

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on July 10, 2007 at 12:54 pm

This theater is indirectly mentioned in Paddy Chayefsky’s Oscar-winning screenplay for “Marty”, the 1955 Best Picture Oscar winner. The scene takes place in the Bronx. Someone says “I’ll never forgive LaGuardia for cutting burlesque out of New York City”, and his friend says, “There’s a burlesque in Union City. Why don’t we go down to Union City?”

dcohen on December 22, 2006 at 10:31 am

Sam Cohen (aka Sam Cohen the Horse Thief) was the Manager of the Hudson Theater and my Great Uncle. I grew up with a number of stories about Uncle Sam. My father described him as a “Damon Runyan Character”. My Great Grandfather Meyer would work the box office. My Grandfather brought my father to see the fights one evening. Meyer asked, “Where do you think your going? You have to buy a ticket” My Grandfather said, “Dad its me, your son, Sam’s brother!” Meyer said in his broken english, “Sam says nobody gets in for free!” When Sam walked into the Hudson Theater, his cronies would start to chant, “Sam, Sam the Horse Thief”. Of couse my Great Grandfather would scream back, “Sam Never Stole a Horse Once.” Sam married one of the Burlesque Queens who’s claim to fame other than the stage was a bit role in Abbott & Costello’s “Pardon My Sarong”. I met this aging blond bombshell in California in 1967 a number of years after Sam had passed away. According to my father, it was Sam who suggested the “Cinderella Man fighter to go up against Max Baer.

teecee on August 7, 2006 at 4:26 pm

From the city’s website:
“In the 1930s through the 1950s Union City was home to the world-famous Hudson Burlesque Theater and many other theaters featuring movies and live entertainment and several of the ‘'burlesque queens” who were featuring at the Hudson Theater came back to ride a float in the parade."

teecee on March 15, 2006 at 5:13 pm

This theater closed in February 1957

THE CLOSING OF BURLESQUE — 1957 (From the Newark Evening News: February 6, 1957)

“The Hudson Theater in Union City, where anti-burlesque amendments similar to Newark’s were passed, will shut down Saturday.”

source: Newark, A Chronological & Documentary History, by Arnold S. Rice, 1977, pages 111-112.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 24, 2006 at 9:23 am

I assume that second-run movies were presented at the Hudson in between stage shows. The 2 Burlesque theatres in Boston had such a film policy, and that’s the reason these Burley theatres can be listed in Cinema Treasures.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 24, 2006 at 9:11 am

The Hudson in Union City was a well-known Burley theatre; I have heard it said that when Mayor LaGuardia shut down all the burlesque theatres in NY circa early-1940s, the NY Burley fans started going over to Union City! I am fairly certain that the Hudson was still operating with Burlesque shows well into the 1950s, and that many of the performers also played the Old Howard and the Casino theaters up in Boston.

lls on February 24, 2006 at 6:53 am

The architect of the theatre was McElfatrick & Sons, the best know theatre architectural firm in the country at that time. I found it listed as one of the theatres still under construction in J.B. McElfatrick’s obituary in the New York Times, dated June 7, 1906.

efromct on January 3, 2006 at 6:04 am

I grew up in U.C. and always tried to sneak a peak in the stage door. I guess it was Mr. Cohen who chased us. Sadly, the theatre is long gone and now a parking lot.

teecee on December 12, 2005 at 2:58 pm

As you can see, I didn’t add these photos directly to Cinema Treasures. There are numerous free photo sharing sites out there. Pick one, upload your photos (scan if necessary) and then post the link here.

Dorothy on December 12, 2005 at 1:56 am

Thanks TC for sharing all these images! I have a few taken in the 50’s but the add a photo on this site does not work :(