I had heard Alito and other milongueros mention La Pista de Lima, and I’ve finally been able to piece together the parts of the puzzle. A few days ago I found a 1940s map of the city before the construction of Avenida Nueve de Julio with the building at Lima 984. That was Club Lealtad. Alito gave me details about the club that he knew so well where he organized dances from 1947-1954. These boys learned to dance by watching Alito; not only tango, but Foxtrot and bolero. Alito’s mother was a dancer at Teatro Colon, so he had the best dance partner at home.
Alito was the first independent organizer of social dances in Buenos Aires. At the age of 16 in 1945, his first dances were held at Asociacion Natio Buenos Aires, Chacabuco 467 on two outdoor basketball courts. Until then, the confiterias and sports clubs ran their own dances. His outdoor dances on the basketball court at Club Lealtad were held on Thursday and Saturday (November to April for seven years) from 8:00 to 1:00 with a one-peso entrada (which was a lot of money in those days). He arranged tables around the floor so the men didn’t leave the dance to drink at the bar. The club made more money that way, and so did Alito. He paid 100 pesos rental for the basketball court and had a good business with 350-400 dancers every night when he wasn’t even legal age to enter a dance, let alone run it.
We were celebrating Alito’s birthday at El Arranque in May 2011, when Juan Panuccio and Luis Pino came to the table to greet Alito after many years. They learned to dance at age 14 at La Pista de Lima. I asked them if they would talk about those days and let me record them. They did. I had hoped to invite them and others to a reunion of Los Muchachos de la Pista de Lima.
One of the most interesting details about those dances at La Pista de Lima is that all weapons were checked at the door, including those of the police. The station was four blocks away. Alito was a tough guy in those days. He told the boys they had to wait until the dance was over to have their fights over the girls. It was certainly a different environment from the milongas of today. Alito will show you the scar on his right hand that blocked a knife aimed for his body and another on his left arm. He survived the violence of those days.
Alito has told me the story of how he got money to start dances. A gangster friend needed bail money, so Alito went around the neighborhood selling tickets to a dance. He raised the amount needed and then learned that someone else had already paid the bail. He used the money to organize weekly dances for many years and taught others how to do the same.
Other boys (who were then milongueros-in-training) at La Pista de Lima were:
Other places Alito organized dances: Confiteria Tourbillon at the corner of San Pedrito and Rivadavia in Flores; Club Tacuari at Brazil 846 in Constitucion; the Savoy Hotel on Av. Callao; Salon Agusteo on Sarmiento 1374 in San Nicolas; Confiteria Piccadily on Corrientes (now a theater); Circulo Social Mariano Acosta in Flores, Palacio Rivadavia, and Club Almagro.
Michael Krugman at TangoDecoder.com made my day on February 15, 2016, when he sent this newspaper ad from April 7, 1951. He gave me his permission to use it.