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By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
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While Patrick invokes the specter of Hollywood with his mention of the Cry Baby-face Depp, Rollo's never held much appeal for the cutting-edge trendoids. Vice never shot there, nor did Don Johnson bless it with his off-camera pastel presence. The bar was too real for Tinseltown, too blue-collar and unapologetically heterosexual for the house-and-Ecstasy nightclubbing crowd. It was never the biker hangout that many who couldn't work up the nerve to venture inside seem to think it was, but neither was it a quiet little yuppie fern bar. Rollo's in its prime was an adventure, a trip to a place where hormonal fires raged out of control, stoked by loud music, cold beer, and the imperatives of postadolescence. It was the perfect antidote for a world of gridlock and mortgage payments; no problem was so grave it couldn't be washed away with a few 25-cent drafts or dollar Heinekens and a spin around the dance floor to the sounds of Wolfgang or Cameron covering "Black Dog" or "Radar Love."
Testosterone and alcohol have always been a volatile mix, and Rollo's was not immune to the occasional barroom brawl, although most violence was directed at the bathroom walls and fixtures. "We'd replace the mirrors about once or twice a month until we got smart," says Carman Rollo. "We reinforced the bathroom doors with 3/8-inch plywood, heavy-duty. They'd still knock 'em down every couple of months. Finally we just got tired of it, we'd just leave the doors there with holes, or the urinals half out of the wall, or holes in the ceiling big enough to land the space shuttle through. Nobody seemed to mind."
Women would dare each other to enter the men's room and lipstick-scrawl obscene invitations to the guys in the band onto what was left of the mirrors. Sometimes the musicians took them up on it. Hustling wayward guitarists, drummers, and bass players out of the bathrooms, alcoves, and the parking lot was a nightly ritual.
"A lot of strippers used to go there from the Organ Grinder or Stir Crazy when they weren't working," says Corugedo, slightly wide-eyed at the memory. "You had sex, drugs, and rock and roll all rolled up into one place."
Bare Necessity dancers are strictly prohibited from fraternizing with customers or boyfriends/husbands in the parking lot, and the back-seat lovemaking and petty drug deals that were such a rich part of the Rollo's heritage have all but disappeared, as have most of the conflicts that used to arise as a result of such shenanigans.
Carman Rollo bids them good riddance. He says he will not miss having cue sticks broken over his head, getting sucker punched more times than a B-movie stunt man, and being threatened with tables, chairs, and lawsuits. He remembers most vividly the night, a few weeks before the switch to Bare Necessity, when he broke up a domestic dispute at the pool table. Rollo dodged a swinging cue to subdue a belligerent male patron, only to experience a most distressing crushing sensation between his legs. A young woman had grabbed him by the family jewels and was squeezing with all her might. Luckily, one of Rollo's assistant managers leaped to his aid. As the woman with the vise -- or was it vice? -- grip and her stick-wielding cohort were escorted to their car, she paused to apologize. "I had to do something," she explained. "He's my husband."
Rollo relays this anecdote, and many others, with only the slightest hint of wistfulness. "It's a completely different kind of customer now," he notes. "More mature, more upscale. We used to sell a lot of booze cheaply. Now we sell less alcohol for a lot more money. The customers rarely get out of hand, and if they do, we offer to call them a cab or whatever. And that's usually the end of it. Problems with customers are almost nonexistent."
Rollo's is not the first South Miami- area rock and roll nightspot to have resorted to strippers when the baby boomers started spending more time changing diapers than CDs. It would not be farfetched to assume that the runaway success of Lipstik (formerly One South), just a table dance or two north of Bare Necessity on Dixie Highway, had something to do with Rollo's decision to change formats. Lipstik's patrons are a cabaret owner's dream -- well-dressed young professionals in three-piece suits with fat wallets and $40 haircuts. It is a far cry from the days when the late-evening crowd from the Village Inn or Monty's would head to One South for a nightcap. At one point a synergism developed between Rollo's and One South as bands and musicians hopped from one watering hole to the other until the wee hours. As David Sierra, current general manager of Lipstik and one-time patron of the hotspot in its previous incarnation, says, "When no one else was open, there was always One South."
Lipstik employs an operating staff of twenty in addition to the 75 or so independent contractors who bare their flesh in the course of a week. While the rest rooms at One South sheltered a veritable bazaar for vendors and users of illicit substances (as did Rollo's), Lipstik employs two full-time floor managers whose sole job is to keep an eye out for drugs. They are not about to risk shutting down the gold mine due to a customer's or a dancer's indiscretion.