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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Dangerous Moves: All bad things must come to an end

Mayor of Ponce throws down at the Clermont Motor Hotel

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Walking down Ponce de Leon Avenue, it’s 6 a.m. and all the good people are getting ready for church. Me, not so much. I’m heading back to my room at the Clermont Motor Hotel. A hotel that’s as spiritual as it is profane. A place that isn’t 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 I’m 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 that’s 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. It’s 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 T’s looks like a friendly place. Jared Swilley of Black Lips, who’s never been to the tranny bar underneath the Ford Factory Lofts, can’t understand why we don’t just go to the Local. “I’ve never even heard of this Model T’s place,” he whines. “We can get boiled peanuts at the Local.”

“Don’t 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 I’m pretty sure it’s before our first sip that he knows the “T” in Model T’s ain’t 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, he’s quite handsome, and until now I haven’t 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 T’s 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 we’ll 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, I’m 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 I’m betting folding money his mechanic doesn’t know he’s 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 we’ve 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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