Is Harlem's Paradise A Real Place? 'Luke Cage' May Be Honoring A Former Harlem Hotspot
It would be a bit of an understatement to say that Marvel's Luke Cage isn't exactly steeped in factual content given that its main character possesses supernatural abilities. (A trait that many would argue is uncommon to have IRL.) Which kinda gets you thinking — how many other things about Luke Cage boarders on the edge of fiction? Take Cottonmouth's nightclub, for example, where a lot of his illegal and shady dealings take place. Is Harlem's Paradise a real place that you can actually visit in Harlem or is it just another piece of fantasy the comic-based series dreamed up? As it turns out, it might just be a little bit of both.
On the one hand, there isn't an actual nightclub establishment that goes by the name of Harlem's Paradise. But at the same time, that doesn't mean Marvel still didn't base the place after a former Harlem hotspot of a different name. I'm referring to Smalls Paradise, a former nightclub that was established in 1925 by Ed Smalls and known for being the only Harlem club that was integrated and owned by an African American. It was later taken over by Wilt Chamberlain and enamed Big Wilt's Smalls Paradise before getting turned into a public school, the Thurgood Marshall Academy, in the early 2000s, according to the New York Times.
Based on all that, it’s certainly possible that Harlem's Paradise took some inspiration, at least in its name, from Smalls’ club, with Cottonmouth’s fictional dealings added in. Then again, it's also possible that the title was actually a nod to the 1939 musical film Paradise in Harlem , which centered around an actor who sees a mob execution and gets run out of town. Gang violence is certain a big element in the Luke Cage story, especially with a formidable villain like Cottonmouth calling the shots. So it's possible that this was a way for the series to pay homage to an old film. Or, you know, it's just a freaky coincidence.
As for the actual filming location, the Music Hall of Williamsburg was where the series shot all of the exterior scenes for the club. So if you're ever in that area of Brooklyn, feel free to stop by and see the place for yourself. The exterior set pieces may be long gone, but it'd still be kinda cool to check out and get a better sense of how it all transformed.
Images: Netflix; Myles Aronowitz/Netflix