2004: A Club Odyssey

Where ya goin'? Where ya been?

Why the hell should Broward County's working people care about $12 cocktails at the recently opened Blue Martini at the Galleria Mall when they make only $7 an hour? Why should they sample almost-new Nikki Marina, which sprawls along the Intracoastal at the foot of the Diplomat Hotel like a heaven for house DJs but costs beaucoup bucks? Why should they drive out to 441 and Griffin to visit the just-opened Pangaea and Gryphon nightclubs at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino? The clubs are gorgeous, but the dancing is tame by the standards of loose-hipped Lauderites. And you could renovate your house or tour Western Europe for the price of a VIP bottle-service table.

Why should working people aspire to party in ways they can't afford? Because these pricey transplants from West Palm Beach, South Beach, and NYC have drizzled a little sophistication on the 954.

The question is, Will you be eating McCrap all week to subsidize your weekends?

Of course, there have been more sensible developments in clubland in 2004. Downtown Hollywood has come through with stylish dance venues that cater to real people with tastes ranging from hip-hop to fetish to electronic: Sonar, Zombie, XIT, and MIA Mondays at Mama Mia's are just a few examples. And downtown Fort Lauderdale was anchored by two new large clubs this year: Revolution and Automatic Slims.

That's the new. But there's more. There are three vibrant scenes east of I-95 in Broward County that consistently fill clubs.

1. The Party 93.1 and Power 96.5 house and booty-dancing hook-up scene that goes down at Capones, Art Bar, Zombie, Porterhouse, Voodoo, and Café Iguana. It's staid, in a way. Every weekend resembles the last, which resembles the scene at a homecoming dance with no dress code, so scanty is the female wear. Is there anything wrong with partying like it's 1996? Absolutely not. None of us seems to be able to shake Stevie B and 2 Live Crew out of our systems. And it would be dishonest to do so. That's who we are. But do we hope 2005 will usher in a little more variety of music, style, and personality? Yes, yes, we do.

2. The gay and lesbian scene that fills the Coliseum, Cathode Ray, Cloud 9, Georgie's Alibi, and Elements is always a trip. What can I say? The lawns in Wilton Manors have never looked so kempt. We've been gentrified, baby... and transformed by the savvy tastes of those whom this country denies the basic right of marriage. Oh yeah, and high spirits abound in these clubs. We lost one: Bye-bye, Seamonster Nightclub. We gained one: Hello, Martini Cabaret.

3. The local rock and blues scene, where dark hair and thrift-store T-shirts can be spotted, like the Culture Room, Alligator Alley, Billabong, and, this year, Maguire's Hill 16 on Sunday nights, among others. Local rock scenesters of the promotion group By the Way have taken their homegrown rock and art from one dive, the Fort Lauderdale Saloon, to another, the Saltbox (formerly Bikini Bob's). The former members of Blowtorch have spread their indie-rock, metal, and old-school hip-hop seed throughout local bars from the Fox and Hound to the Poor House and even tested the waters with Friday "Pulp" nights at Revolution.

Last Thursday night, at the grand opening of Paradise at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, there was a fireworks display fit to flip Uncle Sam in his metaphorical grave. For 15 minutes, the sky was -- like, pop and pow -- alive with fireworks, and all the VIPs who attended the event were "awwing" the way people oddly do at festive explosives. It seemed that this remarkable, hastily manufactured clubland was designed explicitly to flood the senses.

You've got your Murphy's Law, your dueling piano bar, and Pangaea and Gryphon, designed to be the most upscale clubs in Broward County, touched only, perhaps, by Hollywood's Nikki Marina. Will people flock to these new clubs? A little velvet rope goes a long way. If you reject them, they will come.

The scene inside Gryphon last week was set with a dance floor sunk between two red, room-length couches and a wall covered in grass. On platforms in four corners of the room, female dancers in hot pants with dangly, silver armware writhed to the louder-than-loud lounge music, some keeping time better than others. And that was the spectacle.

Maybe Gryphon will become the new, hot, 441-side spot, but in 2004, it was the out-of-the-way places that gave South Florida clubgoing its charm. It was the long-haired man waiting for a cab in front of King's Head Pub in Plantation, puffing a smoke and claiming to be the lead singer of Live. It was the slovenly charm of the overall-wearing front man of local noise band Phampf at the Fort Lauderdale Saloon. It was the single mothers who could tell the size of a dude's schlong by the width of his neck. It was the rise and crash of Assman's Wacky World.

It was the goateed Doug Cross singing a perverted rendition of "The 12 Days of Christmas" over a glass of brandy in the alley behind Poor House. Counting down, "six geezers complaining, about the five cock rings, four hotel-key cards, three French ticklers, two rubber gloves, and a burning when I pee."

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