At 143 W. 44th St., between Sixth and Seventh avenues, just half a block from Times Square is the Lambs Club. The building was designed by architect Stanford White with decorative rams’ heads symbolizing the club. Club lore has it that on his election in 1922, Fred Astaire grabbed his young friends, dancers Ray Bolger and Hal Leroy and together they danced, skipped, and tapped down 44th Street to Broadway, then down to 42nd Street, rounded the Times Tower, and returned to the clubhouse to celebrate. This is certain: Astaire said, “When I was made a Lamb, I felt as if I was knighted.” The club moved to 51st Street. Today the building is home to a fashionable restaurant and hotel not connected with the Lambs Club.
Another historic building near Times Square with an Astaire connection is the I Miller Building on the northeast corner of 46th Street and Seventh Avenue. I. Miller was known as the shoe store for all the top Broadway stars in the 1920s. To highlight this reputation, the store graced its exterior with statues of four of the most famous female entertainers from drama, musical comedy, film, and opera: Ethel Barrymore, Marilyn Miller, Mary Pickford and Rosa Ponselle. Fred Astaire and his sister, Adele, appeared in several stage benefits with Ethel Barrymore during the 1920s. In 1930, the Astaires co-starred with Marilyn Miller in “Smiles,” a show produced by Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. When juveniles, the Astaires met Mary Pickford at the Delaware Water Gap in Pennsylvania, where the Astaires were vacationing between vaudeville tours and where Pickford was filming “Fanchon the Cricket.” Rosa Ponselle, who also appeared in several benefit performances with the Astaires in the 1920s, had started in a vaudeville act with her sister but later rose to greater fame as a diva at the Metropolitan Opera.