Palladium Mambo, Palladium Era Mambo Dancers - Keeping the History Alive
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A. Harry Fine


Born in Brooklyn into a family of Russian Jews, Aaron Harry Fine was a beloved Palladium photographer and skilled amateur dancer. Assisted by his wife Rose, Fine ran a photography concession at the Palladium, selling photographs he took of the celebrities and dancers who crowded into the dance hall. Fine set up a makeshift darkroom in the basement storeroom of the Palladium, where he would disappear nightly to develop the film, and enlarge and print the images. He would bring the fresh prints up from the basement to sell later the same night. Fine was also an avid social dancer, often seen on the dance floor with his wife Rose, showing off their innovations in the latest Latin dances. Fine's dancing skill enhanced the excitement of his photography. His action shots were often a collaboration between the dancing of his subjects and himself. Fine was, for example, renowned for snapping pictures as he slid across the dance floor on his knees, camera in hand. The flare with which he manipulated the bulky camera equipment into a photographic dance meant that Harry Fine's performance of taking photographs was as artful as the dancing he captured.

By day, Harry Fine worked selling cameras at various shops in mid-town Manhattan, including Buy Wise on 45th St. between 6th Ave. and Broadway, which he managed from 1958–1960. In order to make ends meet, Fine worked as a photographer on evenings and weekends, hustling for business at Roseland, private weddings, Bat/Bar Mitzvahs, and, most frequently, at the Palladium. According to one of his sons, Harry Fine was quite poor. The family lived in a small apartment in a housing project in Woodside, Queens, where he kept a darkroom in his bedroom. A family of five had to vie for space with the developing and printing equipment, enlargers, chemicals, and dryers that were strewn all over the bedroom and kitchen. Harry was most active at the Palladium during the early to mid 1950s.

© Juliet McMains 2013


This information was relayed to me during a telephone conversation with Stephen Fine, son of Harry Fine.

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