Most of you are thinking, why is this guy writing about strip clubs and rock clubs? These are the types of places the guy has barely stepped a foot in since he moved to Portland eight years ago. That thought, if we were communicating telepathically, would have me stammering, hemming and hawing for several minutes. Given time to defend myself, I’d acknowledge the need to mourn the loss of our local cultural institutions. Then I’d offer up what little I may have experienced of these places in tribute.
Use the old shoe store photo filter.
What’s not to love about a place that may (or may not) have been named after a Velvet Underground song? I’ll live with many regrets, one being not having tried the pierogis they served there. We came close once on a walking tour of Lombard Street that ended at the bar, where all walking tours of this area should end. It wasn’t in the cards that night but I did have time to be critical about the decor. In hindsight I have to admit that the kind of rock club I want to go to should have a picture of Mick Jones and other assorted punk rockers on the wall in a stark black and white mural. It’s good to see Mick represent so how can I complain? Besides there was a nice high stage, skee ball and Arizona ice tea if you were in need of an alternative to alcohol. My best memory was standing outside the club waiting to meet up with someone and listening to a beautiful, god awful racket as the noise roared out of the club through the windows. A group of people spilled out of the door and seemed in parts bewildered, amazed and in good humor about the whole thing.
I have no idea what it takes to keep a club going but I know it has to be a challenge. Even a cooking show make over of the bar menu couldn’t save the place. In an area that seems to have 10,000 bands performing on any given night it also seems impossible to compete for people’s entertainment dollars. I was hugely inspired when the Foggy Notion got an exterior paint job with what looked like a row of record albums and bright colors for the trim. They jazzed up the old shoe store they were headquartered in which makes the silence from the closure all the more deafening.
Exotica International Club for Men
If Exotica International Club for Men could talk it would say, “rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated.” This is what I found out after riding my bike through the glassy sidewalks along Columbia Boulevard to arrive in the empty parking lot. It always looked like a classy place in passing. Then again how much class can a business retain when its nearest neighbor is a Jack in the Box restaurant? I was always attracted to the exterior decor. The dark stone mixes well with the odd shade of blue. I was struck by the attempt at what I’d call tiki-exotic. I was never inspired enough to succumb to the temptations inside that would have led to an inspection of the interior design. Upon further review while visiting the site, I spied a note that stated that Exotica was closed due to repairs and maintenance. It seemed a safe bet to conclude that an empty lot and a for sale sign meant it was shut down for good. It all feels better to be able to report that a repaired and refurbished Exotica International Club for Men will return some day.
Note: Jack in the Box Reflection
Now I can say I come to praise Exotica not to bury it. I used to look over at the club every time I was on my way to pick up take-out. I knew little about what went on there besides an old coworker telling me that some of the Blazers from long ago, well, after 1999, would hang-out there. The truth to that rumor (or fact?) could not be confirmed at press time. If there’s anything that distinguishes this place from other strip clubs it may be the name and other details on the sign. I’ve always had in my head that it seemed upscale, as far as strip clubs go and the loopy font of the basic Lounge sign add to its charm.
It hardly matters at all now that I’m finding that I’m merely mourning the end of an era: Exotica International Club for Men 1999 to 2015. No word on when it’s coming back, but it sure seems likely to spring back to life. Men are waiting.
See a Portland Orbit video report about Exotica: https://youtu.be/FdLE8ljT3L4