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Monday, July 17, 2006
The time my grandmother went to Mary's Club...
So this is a belated tribute to the late, great Roy Keller, a local pioneer of a different breed. I can't say I ever met the man personally but, a few months ago, I watched his daughter and a bouncer break up a fist fight in Mary's Club, the old piano bar down on SW Broadway that he transformed into the region's first strip club.
While it may not be what comes to mind when you're slapping a "keep Portland weird" bumpersticker on your car, I'll go out on a limb here and say it's one of the most unique businesses in town. Take, for example, the black-lit mural of shipyards that wrap around the back wall. Mary's Club also shares a swinging door with El Grillo, the Mexican restaurant next door where you can order a beef tongue burrito.
Word to the wise, if you ever have to hit the bathroom while dining there, you'll have to head next door. To be honest, this is why Mary's Club holds the title of "First Strip Club I've Ever Set Foot In." They also have this really amazing stripper with a giant snake tattoo that spins around like a break dancer and, while hanging upside and slowly sliding down the stage's pole, can jiggle her...nevermind. The place is weird, you get the idea.
Also, as I just learned over the weekend, once upon a time Mr. Keller was my grandparents' neighbor. Somehow, back in the early '60s when Mary's Club was making the transition between piano bar and full-fledged strip club, my grandfather convinced his wife and his sister to head down there for a night on the town. As she regaled my mother with this story a few days ago, my grandmother reportedly told tale of a "shocking" cabaret singer on stage that evening. "She came out dressed like a man," she said. "A man! Can you believe it?!" And then, much like Julie Andrews in Victor/Victoria, she sang a couple of songs and that was pretty much it.
I don't know if either of my grandparents know what goes on down there nowadays. Maybe I should call them up and tell them about the snake lady.
Here's to you, Mr. Keller. Thanks for helping to turn Portland into the city with the highest amount of strips clubs per capita in the United States. And for given my elders something to blush about all these years later.