Here are some of the most hedonistic spots of those times!
Location: at the corner of Yuyuan Road and Jessfield Road in the former International Settlement.
The building's dramatic Art Deco design was the work of local architect S.J. Young. It featured the city’s first VIP room and first bar on a dance floor, which was reliably lined with The Paramount’s famed ‘taxi girls,’ vying to sell their services as dancing partners or escorts.
The regulars included bosses of the infamous Green Gang that dominated the city’s extensive underworld ( Pockmarked Huang and Big-Eared Du) or 'Young Marshall' Zhang Xueliang ( the effective ruler of northeast China and much of northern China after the assassination of his father, Zhang Zuolin)
The urban legend has it, that on one unfortunate night, a very unaware waiter snubbed Shanghai’s single biggest landowner – Victor Sassoon .
Sassoon took his friends to the Paramount and asked for the best table. The waiter didn’t recognize him and assumed he wouldn’t want to dance — Sassoon walked with two canes because of a war injury.
Sassoon complained, but the smug waiter told him he should open his own private club if he wanted the best table. So he did…
Following the communist victory in 1949, The Paramount was closed and later reopened as The Red Capitol Cinema, showing Maoist propaganda films.
The building spent the latter part of the 20th century in obscurity, until it was extensively renovated and reopened as a night club in 2008, hoping to bring the old Shanghai spirit into the 21st century.
The original fittings have been removed, and the rosewood dance floor is covered with modern tables, more suited for drinking and playing dice than doing the foxtrot.
Location: 444 Bubbling Well Road (Nanjing Xi Lu)
Sassoon hired British firm Palmer and Turner, the same group behind the HSBC Building, Customs House and Cathay building, to build him a club to end all clubs. In 1936, he unveiled Ciro’s – the first building in Shanghai entirely devoted to a modern night club. It was one of the few venues, and the only dance club, with central air-conditioning (and that’s why it called itself ‘The coolest place in town!), a garden, fish pond and fountain and a wide driveway especially designed for cars.
For much of its life the manager was the legendary Freddy Kaufmann (immortalized by Auden and Isherwood in their 1939 Journey to a War)
The club soon attracted the city’s wealthiest and most powerful people, including infamous gang leader Du Yuesheng.
Location:Today’s Jiangning Road crossing West Nanjing Road
Before the club was built in 1934 by a Cantonese merchant, the site had contained a three-story hotel with a stage and ballroom accommodating several hundred people.
The hotel opened in 1927 but closed five years later because of a dispute among investors.
The new Metropolis Club became one of the city’s most popular and influential clubs. Dancers looked out onto a traditional Chinese garden, and the club had a covered area for outdoor dancing.
Like Ciro’s, the Metropolis was turned into a storytelling theater in 1954. In 1985, it was renovated into a multi-function venue by the city government, which held balls and receptions, inviting foreign journalists to visit.
After another renovation, it contained dance floors, tea houses, theaters, restaurants, karoke and snooker rooms. In 1988 it opened to the public and soon because a popular dating spot.
In 1992, it was demolished. The Westgate Mall was built in its place.
Location: rue Lafayette, which is today known as Middle Fuxing Road
Yíyuán Păogŏuchăng in Chinese. ‘Yi Garden dog racing track", where "Yi" literally means leisure. The Canidrome has also been labeled the ‘Rendezvous for Shanghai's Elite".
Although it was originally built for greyhound racing in 1928, in the 1920s and 30s, the Canidrome was mostly a facility limited to Westerners. The Canidrome ballroom was where the American Buck Clayton and his band performed.
The clubhouse and racetrack became a multi-purpose entertainment venue, but became a place for political rallies after the founding of the People's Republic of China and a mass execution facility. Later it became a theatre and exhibition space before it was demolished in 2006.
5.The Sincere Paradise
Location:Nanking Road at the junction of Chekiang Road (now Zhejiang Road). It was near the tram stop that brought tourists from the train station, and to the south lived some of the richest people in Shanghai.
Although Sincere was opened mainly as one of the first department stores in Shanghai, it was also
Sincere was the first building in Shanghai to open a rooftop amusement area called The Sincere Paradise
The rooftop offered the public theaters for Chinese opera and variety shows. At first only customers who had spent a certain amount of money at the store were given free admission to the rooftop park. But the shows proved increasingly popular, and with the entertainment industry blossoming in Shanghai, in 1917, the top two floors of the building were turned into an indoor entertainment area with seven theaters showing Peking and Yuju operas, Chinese and Hollywood films and variety shows. People danced in the ballroom and played snooker in the billiard rooms. Fortune-tellers, palm readers and street vendors provided extra color for visitors.
6.The Great World
Location: the corner of Avenue Edward VII (now Yan'an Road) and Yu Ya Ching Road (now Middle Xizang Road
The brainchild of Shanghai magnate Huang Chujiu. It occupied an area of 6,500 square meters and was the first and for a long time the most influential indoor amusement arcade in Shanghai. It even gained reputation as the No.1 Entertainment Venue in the Far East.
Writing of his visit in the mid-1930s, Hollywood film director Josef von Sternberg described: "On the first floor were gaming tables, singsong girls, magicians, pick-pockets, slot machines, fireworks, birdcages, fans, stick incense, acrobats, and ginger. One flight up were... actors, crickets and cages, pimps, midwives, barbers, and earwax extractors. The third floor had jugglers, herb medicines, ice cream parlors, a new bevy of girls, their high collared gowns slit to reveal their hips, and (as a) novelty, several rows of exposed (Western) toilets. The fourth floor had shooting galleries, fan-tan tables, ... massage benches, ... dried fish and intestines, and dance platforms. The fifth floor featured girls with dresses slit to the armpits, a stuffed whale, storytellers, balloons, peep shows, masks, a mirror maze,two love letter booths with scribes who guaranteed results, rubber goods, and a temple filled with ferocious gods and joss sticks. On the top floor and roof of that house of multiple joys a jumble of tightrope walkers slithered back and forth, and there were seesaws, Chinese checkers, mahjongg, ... firecrackers, lottery tickets, and marriage brokers".