Saw Your Mama Dancin' at The Clermont...
Photo by JGlide
In Atlanta, there are few cultural icons that possess the history, the uniquity, the jaw-dropping awesomeness of that dark, seedy little bar on Ponce de Leon Ave called The Clermont Lounge. Much has been written about this local strip club: the culture, the diverse clientele, the celebrity sightings and the club’s own homegrown celebrity, the perennial Blondie and her ample, can-crushing tits. I went there recently, for the first time in a long time and for the very first time while the sun was still shining (and not just coming up).
Seeing as strippers are a major focus of my consulting business, a friend had recommended “Dancing Naked in the Material World” by Marilyn Futterman (available used on Amazon.com) It’s a photo book that covers the Atlanta strip club scene from the early 80s all the way to ‘92 when the book was published. As a 16-year resident of Atlanta, familiar with all of these clubs and the areas of town they’re in, it was absolutely fascinating to take a peek into this time warp and see what dancers looked like when I was in 5th grade.
I took the book with me to the club, interested in what the dancers’ response would be. It was reeeeally quiet in there at 4 on a Friday. Two dancers and no music playing. Awkward...but I’m a seasoned barfly, so I sat down, ordered a drink, tipped well, which elicited a generous top off (live and learn, people!) and got to chatting with Christina, the bartender. As soon as she saw “Dancing Naked…”, she recognized it: “Oh! You have that book.” I was surprised and then felt a bit foolish...did I really think I was the first person to bring that book in or that no one in there had seen it??
Anyway, Christina was très cool - she started flipping through the pages, telling me about the women in there, who she knew, who had died, who had moved on to other things. Showed me where SHE was IN the book! How cool is that?! I had also been chatting for some time with one of the dancers and around 20 minutes in, she told me she was in it also, so naturally, I had to yell at her for not telling me that right off the bat. When we got to it, she laughingly informed me that she was totally on drugs in the photo. It was over 25 years ago and she actually looks better now!
At one point, there was a circle of employees and regulars at the bar, flipping through it like a yearbook, which I guess it kind of is. I had figured I was in the club far too early to catch Blondie, but I still thought it would be cool to have seen her and speak to her for a minute.
Some things are different, obviously: styles of outfits, hair and makeup, there was no social media back then, or even widespread internet. These ladies did everything with power of personality and relied on their club time with customers to build their fan base - they didn’t have the benefit of a filter friendly Instagram account, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and every other promotional tool out there to get customers to come and see them. It was a lot of Aqua Net, tassles and smiles.
Anyway, cool experience, great little dive bar and chill folks. I promised myself I would try to find another copy, which I did after a bit of hunting. I’ll deliver that to them next week and maybe this time, I’ll be lucky enough to catch Blondie in all her glory.