While I wrestle with the next suburb post (Hospital Hill & Hillbrow) and the final part of the church piece, I wanted to share some pages from a Johannesburg tourist guide from April 1973.
Thanks to Doran from Bookdealers in Melville who is always on the lookout for rare and interesting Johannesburg books for my research. I’ve even been upgraded to my own box with my name on it! They’ve got five branches around JHB and a great website. Check it all out HERE.
Back in April 1973, one could go to the top of Hillbrow Tower (known then as J. G. Strijdom Tower), have a four-course meal and a film for R5 and then get down to DJ John Roland and the energetic all-girl bar staff at Cloud 9. I never believed it although did hear stories that it was once open to the public and always assumed the revolving restaurant referred to the one in Braamfontein. Here’s the proof along with the 6-digit phone number. I’ll add more detail to the tower in the upcoming Hillbrow post.
Also of interest were various bars at the time including the Piano Bar at the top of the Carlton Centre. Other bars like 747 Cocktail Bar at Crest Hotel in Berea, Hanger 5 at Jan Smuts Airport, Fountain Lounge at Tollman Towers Hotel in Kerk Street and the Copper Lounge at Moulin Rouge Hotel in Claim Street all featured live music and entertainment presumably as a drawcard. These were the days before TV (and disco) and JHB is full of restaurants, theatres and movie houses competing for the crowds.
Many restaurants doubled-up as live music venues with full bands for dancing. Dine & Dance was seemingly all the rage. From the list above, Ciro’s Restaurant (which, if I’m not mistaken, has been a venue since the 1950s) became popular nightclub ZIPPS and then Mrs. Henderson’s in the 1980s. The Moulin Rouge had a club called The Parks in the late 80s which may have been the re-vamped Med Bar. Jan Smuts Airport also seemed to pull the crowds. Clearly traffic and parking weren’t an issue.
The Three Ships at the Carlton Hotel and Munchener House in Braamfontein are the only two names I remember growing up (I was born one month after this guide was published)
I’m not sure if it was risky opening on Sundays, but it was certainly a big enough of a deal to highlight it. Perhaps it had something to do with strict liquor licensing laws… Bella Napoli Pizzeria in Pretoria Street Hillbrow, Norman’s Grill at Grand Central Hotel in Jeppe, Bengal Tiger at Granada Court in Hillbrow, Bamboo Inn in Bree Street, Lourenco Marques Restaurant in Twist Street and the Red Lantern in Fordsburg were all familiar names growing up. I remember eating out once at Bella Napoli around 1987 or 1988. The popular nightclub was upstairs. The restaurant where we ate, which was downstairs, was eventually converted into a another dancefloor around 1989. In 1992 it became my first DJ residency. I played downstairs for four nights a week for just over 2 years.
Lastly, it appears there was also a restaurant at the top of Brixton Tower. This means that during the 1970s and early 1980s, one could eat on top of the three tallest structures in Johannesburg. Hillbrow tower was closed to public in 1981 and Brixton tower in 1982 due to a combination of security and political reasons.