Best Of :: Bars & Clubs
Despite having been around for two years, the Naked Grape is still basically undiscovered. It's a state of affairs that must endlessly rankle the proprietors, but it's damned lucky for the regulars: The vibe at the Grape is mellow enough that you can have a quiet conversation with friends without straining your throat, and the bar is usually half-full, resulting in quick and friendly service. The moment you step through the door, bright, soft light gleams on clean metallic surfaces across the bar's airy open spaces, and you realize this is a place for casual oenophiles a community watering hole as much as an outpost of serious viticulture, where you can see a few selected faces from the neighborhood gathered and talking for hours amid the free-form arrangement of big, comfy sofas near the bar's entrance. As you step in, reds are on your left, whites are on your right, and the more intense fuller-bodied wines along with ports and assorted oddities like the "chocolate" wine, Trent Adue are farther back, along with the Grape's pricier selections. The bar offers a small but intriguing mix of beers hailing from the Netherlands, the Bahamas, and all points in between, a selection of sakes and sake cocktails, and an assortment of cheeses and chocolates. Proprietor Michael Bocraft has a laissez-faire attitude toward live entertainment, so just about anybody could be doing just about anything on just about any night. It is this sublime relaxedness that makes the Naked Grape stand out so: Come as you are, do you as you please, and stay till it suits you.
Anyone who's made the gay scene, or just tooled around the offbeat circuit, probably knows about Miss Misty Eyez. She's the MC at just about every charity gala, to-do, or party worth putting your heart into. From her aerosol-sculpted hair to her legendarily generous heart, everything about Miss Eyez is larger than life, and that's how she became known as the fiercest drag queen this side of Vegas. Misty has hosted Trailer Trash Bingo parties, Red Balls, White Parties. "If somebody has enough gumption to ask me, I will always participate."
In the early years, it was solely benefits. But demand grew until, soon, everyone wanted Miss Misty Eyez at their parties. And they started paying her. Now Misty is almost a corporation, and in Fort Lauderdale she is certainly an institution. We wanted to know what it's like to be wanton, large, and in charge.
New Times (on the telephone): Sorry to call you out of the blue, but it sounds like you're somewhere really fun!
Miss Misty Eyez: Actually, yes! I'm at a party!
It's 3:26 in the afternoon on a Tuesday. You're at a party?
Well, it's a pool party, if that makes a difference.
What's the best part about being, er, undercover?
Well, like today, for instance. I'm here at this pool party [in drag] and I could be Misty Eyez. I could be foolish or say something ridiculous. Then tomorrow I could go shopping at Kmart and nobody would recognize me! It's like Clark Kent changing into Wonder Woman. It's great.
Got any secret weapons? Some gadget that you pull out at crucial moments?
Easy. Pump It Up Gold hair spray! I found it by accident, and, I tell you, it changed my life. I sprayed it on the wig and realized, "Ohmigod. My hair's cemented."
Are there any exotic places that you would like your Misty Eyez character to take you? A fabulous beach resort? A city with rickshaws?
(Thinking hard.) Hmmm. Yes! Television! I would love for Misty Eyez to be a host correspondent on E-TV. Or a guest star on Queer As Folk. Or maybe a dead body on CSI.
We know, it used to be Blondies on the Beach. And not much other than the 50 upgraded plasmas TVs has changed here at this bar on one of the few historic blocks in Fort Lauderdale. It's back after a months-long closure not the kind of door-slamming where old management screwed up and you could count on some new guy swaggering in and fixing up the joint. It was the kind of goodbye brought on by progress and developers who don't seem to give a whit about anything other than making the South Florida coastline along the Atlantic look like Boca Raton. And this five-acre strip was no different at least until negotiations stalled. Partly because those developers are so uncaring and hard-knuckled, thousands more will get a chance to enjoy this old favorite in its new incarnation. Seems the buyout of the entire block including the hallowed ground of the Elbo Room got screwed up when not everybody could agree on the details needed to close the deal. At some point in our lifetimes, the entire block will likely still be cleared to make way for condominiums or hotels or mixed-use zoning something whatchamacallit. But in the meantime, pull up a chair out front or a stool at the bar and set your gaze on the ocean that's still right in front of you. This view still costs only the price of a beer. The pushy guys the new owners hired early on (the ones who rudely tried to pull you and your girlfriends out of the Elbo Room for a free shot at Dirty Blondes) aren't there anymore. And don't forget to head back to the game room (it's in the same spot in the back), shoot some pool, give your quarters to the Golden Tee, and drink until 4 a.m.
All that's old is made new again: pegged jeans, environmentalism, Cher, blues. Apparently, the same holds true for blues venues. The Backroom Blues Bar wasn't the most famous venue in South Florida when it closed six years ago, but it was one of the most storied. A list of blues greats had played its stage: James Cotton, who taught Muddy Waters how to sing "I Got My Mojo Workin'"; John Mayall, without whom you'd have never heard of Mick Taylor; Fleetwood Mac, or, arguably, Eric Clapton; Leon Russell, without whom neither The Byrds nor Joe Cocker would ever have sounded so cool. The list goes on. When owner John Yurt decided to throw in the towel to home-school John Jr., the blues done got blue. No more! The Backroom is back, occupying the space formerly known as Hideaway. Already, bent and broken-hearted notes from battered hollow-bodies are rending the air above Boca. Rejoice.
Imagine, for the sake of argument, that the retro-lounge art of Shag and the cartoon universe of The Jetsons were tossed in a blender and set to liquefy. The space-age concoction that pours forth will no doubt emerge as iconoclastic as the Jetsetter Lounge itself, a magical space-age tiki-hut where dreams (especially those revolving around expensive tropical drinks) come true. With furniture that won't be out of place on the next century's space station, live lounge lizards crooning on weekends, and the ubiquitous lowbrow paintings on the walls, the Jetsetter sprang forth fully formed when it opened in early 2006, oozing cool the way Mount Kilauea leaks magma. Owner and style consultant Mike Jones built himself a playground for grownups here, and now he's got the hipster crowd eating out of his hand. Out back is a luxurious terrace decked out in a sort of Easter Island theme, and even though you're next to the street, it feels like a friend's backyard barbecue.
Sometimes, all it takes to have a good rock club is good acoustics, a dark atmosphere, and bartenders serving stiff drinks. Longtime Himmarshee hangout the Poor House has all that, and it's one of the few places along the New River district that's down-to-Earth forget about a dress code and cover charge. The small room has the feel of an old country roadhouse, and it indeed began its life as a blues club back in the mid '90s. The music doesn't start until late, usually around midnight, so don't show up too early. But the atmosphere and décor scream old-school rockabilly, and folks can enjoy it without having to shell out a heap of cash. If the name doesn't give it away, the Poor House is also one of the cheapest rock clubs to drink at.