Best Of :: Bars & Clubs
How does she do it? For those who have never experienced a sold-out show at the Culture Room, let us warn you -- air is rare, and you had better be OK with other people's sweat on your nightlife apparel. It gets so packed that negotiating the brief trip from the bathrooms to the bar requires a sherpa and several days of supplies. Well, maybe not that packed. But you get the idea. And yet, there's Sharon behind the bar, unperturbed as a storm of avid drinkers calls for another round. Not only does she serve them all up with a quickness but she somehow manages to take the time to commiserate with a melancholy barfly or two. And she does it all while seeming neither hurried nor stressed. Perhaps there is some sort of time-warping effect around the bar at the Culture Room that allows her to serve 20 drinks in an eyeblink. Or maybe she's just that damn good.
There are bars that serve wine -- the watery house cabernet or chardonnay that you try to drink after you've had a couple of nights of the hard stuff and you're trying to tail off a little -- and there are wine bars. Harrison's Wine Gallery is one of the few places in Broward-Palm Beach with a legitimate claim to the designation. A dark, cozy, family-run establishment in downtown Hollywood, with big stressed-leather couches, cushioned windowsill benches, and a handsome 18-seat bar, Harrison's carries an impressive selection of the old vino. There are better than 100 kinds, ranging from a better-than-passable South African merlot for $30 a bottle to a three-digit epicure's delight (like maybe Mondavi-Rothschild Opus One 1999 for $245). Just a glass of the stuff? Between $7 and $10. It's all good, not house filler. There are cheese platters, hummus platters, panini, eight kinds of draft beer, and 40 bottled beers. There's a patio out back for fresh-air addicts and smokers. Harrison's has already become the hangout of choice for the Hollywood sophisticated crowd, with usually a smattering of city officials, local merchants, and artists bending elbows together at the bar, to say nothing of a broad cross section of the dating public. Proprietor Rich Duncan, an amiable Liverpudlian with a nose for fine wine, is usually parked at the bar or escorting patrons to comfortable corners. That's his wife, Mary, behind the bar, pouring big drafts of pinot noir or zinfandel. Son Marco is in the kitchen, slicing cheese. As close to home as you're going to get without being parked in your own living room.
Q: Do you watch reality-television shows?
A: I personally don't watch a lot, but I've had some firsthand experience with it.
Q: You were a Survivor contestant?
A: No, VH1 filmed a 14-part series called Band on the Run in 2000, and the finals ended up here [at the Culture Room]. They were in the club for three days, filming virtually everything that happened. They'd just follow you around with cameras. It's a very strange feeling after a while. By the last day, the band members were writing things on napkins and passing them back and forth because they were so tired of being filmed.
Q: Isn't that what they wanted? Media attention?
A: They had virtually no privacy whatever. Imagine the moment that you open your eyes in the morning and there's a camera right there filming you. I was just a part of it for three days, and I got sick and tired of it. The bands had to put up with it for two months.
Q: Was it real?
A: Well, it was their reality for two months.
Q: So what do you think of reality TV?
A: I want no part of it.
Promised the ol' Battle Ax that you wouldn't go to the strip bar tonight? Well, if you're a man of your word and you have a hankerin' to be around scantily clad women, that could be a problem. Happily, Greenbrier has got you covered. On many nights, admittedly, standards have to be set a little low -- Greenbrier seems to be the sort of place where old strippers go to fade away. The lights in the place are kept fairly dim, though, so just don't wear your contacts or glasses and you should be fine. Besides, one cannot say the same thing for everyone working there -- a few of the ladies in residence could give many strippers a run for their hard-earned money in the looks department. Plus, you'll be able to report that you did not, in fact, go to a strip bar when you stumble home in the wee hours. While the bartenders and waitresses at Greenbrier are dressed in as little as possible, none of them strips down to nothing, and a lap dance is nowhere to be found. Your conscience is clear, my friend.
Bitch-slapping's for sissies. Strap yourself into the dungeon-like slave pen, bend over, and let the flogging begin. Playing with the crosses and cage-like contraptions brings a whole new meaning to "going medieval." At the Fetish Box and the London Ballroom's monthly fetish romp, latex, leather, rubber, glam, and goth are among the few rules, not the exception -- you can't get in without sporting the garb (or at least an all-black outfit). The debaucherous playground is rife with industrial, electronic body music, and future pop beats spun by Dino, Ruiner, Falstaff, and Tommy Gunn. Fetish pinup diva and Playboy cover girl Dita Von Teese has headlined the club night, with her tease-to-please burlesque show. And where else might you have seen her perform this while cradled in a life-size martini glass? It just may leave your sore-assed self saying, "Thank you, sir. May I have another?"
An open area at the Mother's Pub becomes a launch pad each week for creative hip-hop music-making. A middle-age guy wails on a harmonica and guitar, to the rapping of an MC, who's rhyming to scratching and cuts of a turntablist. Jams like these can be found at "For Those Who Listen," a grassroots open-mic showcase of lyricism, poetry, and MC and DJ battles. Among the throng of hip-hop lyricists who come to square off, a guy challenges another, and they step up to shoot rhymes back and forth in a showdown. The night was created by members of the Fader Ballistix turntablist band: Immortal, Reakt, K-razor, Spytek, I-emerge, and SPS, and by 7th Direction band members Colossus, Choppa D-vize, Immortal, and Mordechai. The musicians wanted a way to perform, practice, and promote musical expression. Now that word's gotten out, battle lines have been drawn -- at least 25 MCs come in hopes of prime rhyming time to compete in rapping throwdowns. Hip-hop enthusiasts from Orlando to Miami trek to Broward for the musical improv night.