Mayor of Ponce throws down at the Clermont Motor Hotel
Walking down Ponce de Leon Avenue, its 6 a.m. and all the good people are getting ready for church. Me, not so much. Im heading back to my room at the Clermont Motor Hotel. A hotel thats as spiritual as it is profane. A place that isnt much a destination, more a punctuation. An ending. Unglamorous and real as it can be.
The glow of the Bank of America building, the art deco neon of the Clermont, and the Sunday morning sun are all fighting for attention in the Poncey fog. And Im walking a crooked line, cracks and all, trying to decide if the night before proved worthwhile. So what if the end is near for the Clermont Hotel? I know what they say about good things coming to an end, but what about unfortunate things?
It seems this story comes up every few years or so. The Clermont is always rumored to either be up for sale, tittering near foreclosure, or turning into something of more worth. But now it seems its filthy days are really numbered. The bumbling and confusing ways of Inman Park Properties have finally led to a 90-day extension before the property goes up for auction on the courthouse steps. And maybe thats not as tragic as it sounds.
With the clock ticking on the ol Tetnas Inn, I figure it could be now or never to assemble my Dangerous Crew for some disgusting moves. A nice little weekend getaway from our honorable and sanitary ways. Its time we take off the kid gloves and throw down in the trophy club of questionable accommodations. Hotel party at the Clermont! Let's catch something bad while the gettins good!
An All-Star Ensemble
For psychological and sterilization purposes, we figure before we check in, getting good and soaked in whiskey might be beneficial. So we take it to the streets; and Model Ts looks like a friendly place. Jared Swilley of Black Lips, whos never been to the tranny bar underneath the Ford Factory Lofts, cant understand why we dont just go to the Local. Ive never even heard of this Model Ts place, he whines. We can get boiled peanuts at the Local.
Dont worry, Jared, we explain. You can get some nuts at this place. (rimshot!)
All five of us stroll in, dicks swinging, and post up at the corner of the bar. Not sure how long it takes Swilley to figure out what variety beer joint this is, but Im pretty sure its before our first sip that he knows the T in Model Ts aint what Henry Ford intended.
Elvis the bartender is slinging drinks. Love the guy. Pink New York Yankees hat smartly matches the pink Myrtle Beach sweat shirt. Fuckin class, our boy Elvis.
Sipping and grinning, the sights are quite fabulous at this hole in the wall. Keeping one eye on all the action and another glancing up to watch a shitty Matthew McConaughey movie on the lone television, I realize most eyes in the place are fixated on Team Dangerous own Jon Slay. Admittedly, hes quite handsome, and until now I havent taken notice as to how much Slay resembles Matthew McConaughey. And if these dudes think some of these queens actually resemble anything close to a human female, then lord knows they might think a Hollywood A-lister has stumbled onto to Ponce for some adventure with a surprise ending.
The patrons of Model Ts are true Ponce throwbacks. Just as unrefined as anything the street had to offer in the 80s. Just as proud and strange as the hotel where well be laying our heads. And after a longer glance, these guys look like the To Catch a Predator all-stars. I keep waiting for a guy in a suit with a camera crew and boom mic to say, Hi, Im Chris Hanson from Dateline NBC. Sir, did you know she had a penis?
But all in all, the place really is a blast. Cheap drinks and cheaper entertainment. Some random highlights:
A guy who looks like Steve Guttenberg walks by with a Dodge hat that reads, GOT A HEMI? Write you own punchlines to that one. But Im betting folding money his mechanic doesnt know hes here.
One of the performers has a large Superman tattoo on his/her bulging right bicep. Really ruins the illusion for me.
When one queen, looking particularly glittery in his sequence dress approaches, my friend Phil whispers without flinching, Please be 18.
Jared questions whether or not they have his and hers urinals.
And after the MC keeps insisting that two of the three girls doing the Wilson-Phillips rendition may be retiring from performing, Slay gets all serious and reminisces to himself and whoever is listening, This may be the last time these three are on stage together.
I think all three of them were Carnie Wilson. Hold on, indeed.
We catch and good buzz and a few laughs and bid adios to Elvis and the girls. McConaughey has an early call time tomorrow.
We cross Ponce in hope of finding some trouble in MJQ. We quickly realize its Sloppy Seconds night, so after half a drink and a yawn, we decide to bounce across to Greens, get some hotel party essentials, converse with the local color, and finally quit procrastinating for what weve come to do conquer the Clermont Motor Hotel.
Or at the very least, survive.
Stay tuned for part 2. Meanwhile, enjoy CL's 2002 cover story about Scott Henry's unbearable experience at the Clermont Hotel, "Do not disturb please!"
(Photo courtesy J. Winter)
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