By Bjorn Skaptason, Tom's Town Historian
KANSAS CITY, 1933: Of all the sin palaces in Tom Pendergast’s town, Dante’s Inferno (Lorelai Lynn’s east side cabaret) took the prize for delivering the most surreal Saturday night a thirsty populace could demand.
“The interior is decorated with a lurid red substance which must be as inflammable as the flames it symbolizes,” gasped a scandalized reformer investigating the Inferno ‘on the sly’ for a shocking expose. Satin-clad table singers delivered torch songs with cocktails. A banana-bedecked trans-gender chanteuse crashed the under-cover party, ordering a sherry flip on the table’s bill. Uncovering the club’s illicit gambling operation did not require the puritans seek out a hidden back room. Lorelai Lynn kept her gaming tables just off the dance floor.Edna Whithouse – a.k.a. Lorelai Lynn a.k.a. Eddie Lynn – grew up in the slums of the West Bottoms while Boss Tom was building his power in City Hall. After abandoning reputable employment - waiting tables at Nichols’ Lunch - young Lorelai cast herself into the nightlife as a table singer at the barely disguised Cherry Street speakeasy Dante’s Inferno. She saved her tips and bought the cabaret, “re-opening” at Independence Avenue and Troost after the death of Prohibition. The new Dante’s set the standard for strange good times in the Paris of the Plains. The proprietor herself headlined the floorshow, performing as female impersonator Eddie Lynn in a sister act alongside the more traditional drag artist, Billy Richards.
For all of the theatrics at Dante’s, the club also hosted the best musicians of Kansas City’s Jazz age. Lorelai herself, performing as a man pretending to be woman, gained fame as one of the most powerful blues singers of the scene.