Welcome to the Entrada

Where Hollywood motel culture is alive and well -- the good, the sad, and the funky

While Burke finishes his breakfast, Joyce Brais is already sweeping the outside patio with her leaf blower. Every day at 8 a.m. she points the long black nozzle toward the ground and blasts dust and leaves back into the hedges. Every once in a while she'll look up from her work and shout "Hallo!" to a familiar face in her lilting French-Canadian accent. After the patio is swept, she'll scour the outside bathrooms. Then she's off to wash linens and clean rooms. For six years she has worked the motel's second floor. "It's my floor," she says matter-of-factly. "I know what my customers need."

With that, she whirls around and tears down the hall to her next room, her thin, veiny legs doing double time as her two long, blond ponytails twitch behind her. She makes the bed while she talks, expertly flicking a white flat sheet over the mattress, then smoothing the bedspread over it. Brais is always in motion. Even if she's chatting with a customer or another employee, she's stuffing linens into her Rubbermaid hamper, scrutinizing her room report, emptying trash baskets. "Oh, I love it. I love it. Working and have fun too. But I don't lose my time. I'm talking and I'm working," she says with a nod.

Owner Steve Tremblay welcomes weary travelers
Joshua Prezant
Owner Steve Tremblay welcomes weary travelers

During the off-season the Entrada's second floor hosts the live-ins: mostly blue-collar workers who stay in the summer when rates are cheap. When season begins they move on, making room for the tourists who book both floors of the hotel. Most of them are French-Canadians, and many are repeat customers.

The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates that French-Canadians make up Broward County's largest contingent of tourists, with close to half a million visiting in 1998. For the same year, tourist-related spending soared to more than $3.5 billion dollars; hotel and motel rooms alone garnered $768 million. That's a lot of work. And a lot of laundry.

"Up and down, up and down," says Brais as she climbs the two flights between her floor and the laundry room. "A million times a week!" She cackles and waves at one of the live-ins. "Hallo!"

Brais guesses she washes five full loads of linens a day -- a total of 150 pounds -- in her Dexter commercial washer, which she polishes once a week. The laundry room is her office, and she takes pride in it. Comet cans and carpet cleaner stack the back closet in meticulous rows. She prefers white vinegar and hot water for cleaning the outside windows and tiles. Sheets and towels are folded on shelves, with yellow Post-Its distinguishing the old linens from the new.

When season begins she'll break out the still-zipped-in-plastic comforters, along with the rest of the linens, for the tourists. The Entrada buys new each season; whatever is left over is used for the slower summer months or shredded into cleaning rags.

The room's temperature rises, a result of the now full-blown sunlight outside and Brais' ever-tumbling dryer. But she hardly breaks a sweat as she plucks a sheet from the hamper and fluffs it out before stuffing it into the wash. Even with the heat, the room offers the comforting smell of warm soap and fresh towels.

Brais moved to Hollywood nine years ago with her husband. "Ten months after we got here, he was gone," she says. "He says it was too hard -- to work, to speak English. Me, I stay here," she says resolutely. She stops to take a swig of ice water out of an Igloo jug she's brought from home.

"Ahhhh yes, I like the sun."

Most motels in Hollywood offer little in the way of dining; the Entrada boasts its own tiny restaurant but serves only a small trickle of guests throughout the day.

"They only come down here in the morning for coffee or cream," says Sylvia Supino about in-season visitors. She's run the motel's coffee shop four days a week for five years and offers an experienced take on the shop's dining trends. "They've got their kitchens in their efficiencies. Why bother?"

She doesn't take the lack of business personally; most of Supino's cooking goes straight to the lounge anyway. By the time Brais hits the deck with the blower, Supino has already opened the shop, a modest affair of five tables and a Formica counter with three stools. Behind the counter a stainless steel storage bin houses two incomplete sets of water glasses, a creamer, and a quarter-filled bottle of Tabasco sauce. A silk philodendron hangs near a window.

Supino adds her own snug touch here and there. A spread of muffins on paper doilies sits in the middle of the counter, along with a row of copper-topped sugar canisters and the morning paper neatly folded. A red tablecloth, place mats, and full sets of silverware already adorn each station. A full pot of coffee sits newly brewed on the Bun-O-Matic by the register. Last summer Supino painted the base of the counter and the stools in blue, fuchsia, and lemon -- Goombay style. For Halloween she fashioned ghosts out of Kleenex and baked orange cupcakes.

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