Page last updated at 00:35 GMT, Thursday, 31 December 2009

Havana's Club Tropicana turns 70

Performers at Club Tropicana

Amid a dazzle of dancing girls dressed in sequins and feathers, the Cuban capital's famous Tropicana nightclub has celebrated its 70th birthday.

Some 850 guests watched an extravaganza that included a big band, a contortionist as well as the showgirls.

The club has drawn film-stars, celebrities and the glitterati almost from when it opened in December 1939.

Tourism Vice-Minister Maria Elena Lopez called the club "one of Cuba's most important tourist destinations".

The club "remains an iconic location that is known the world over," she said, adding that it had "no equal".

Tropicana's director, David Varela, said it had drawn a record 200,000 visitors in 2008 alone, though the numbers are expected to be lower this year.

Dancers at Tropicana nightclub

Begun by a show-business producer and two casino owners, the club reached the height of its fame about ten years after it first opened when the cabaret girls known as "Goddesses of the flesh" stepped on to its stage.

Tickets to a performance - which typically begins at 10pm and continues late into the night - start at some $80 (£50) making it by far the most expensive night out in Havana.

"I couldn't come to Cuba without seeing the Tropicana," said Italian tourist Antonio Conti. "To miss this would be impossible."

In the past, those who appeared in the audience were often as famous as those - including Edith Piaf and Orfelia Fox - who graced its stage.

Havana's Club Tropicana turns 70

Marlon Brando, Sammy Davis and Greta Garbo all came to the Tropicana, some ferried from Miami to Havana on a Cubana airlines plane - complete with its own live music and bar.

After Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution, the Tropicana - along with many other famous hotels and casinos - was nationalised.

Many floundered but the Tropicana survived and flourished, albeit without the gambling.

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