Indian Givers

They induced the best national acts to play in a small barroom, and now they're shutting down. Blame the owners. Blame the Beach. Blame yourself.

Pathetic might be a better word. More than anything else, Peter Honerkamp has come to believe, South Beach's nightclub scene, which revolves around a glorification of the superficial, was all wrong for the kind of bar he wanted to run. "I don't want to come across as a bitter New Yorker; we came down to be part of Florida, part of Miami Beach." Having said that, he adds, "I think South Beach is the most emotionally retarded stretch of real estate -- I've never seen such massive stupidity. This is the only town where I've ever been refused entry into a bar -- and it happened twice in one night."

On that same topic, Honerkamp adds that while he prefers not to mention specific names, the area's reliance on promoters -- people who move from club to club generating of-the-moment publicity that has nothing to do with substance A makes him sick: "The posturing, the pure posturing that goes on is enormous. In any sophisticated city, it would be laughed at. I just thank God that in my worst desperation financially, I never reached as low as to hire one of these people who say, 'Pay me and I can make [your club] hip.' In that way, in my personal opinion, this place is just a sewer."

Arthur Barron believes that the Talkhouse's high overhead, and its proprietors' status as outsiders, resulted in an unfriendly tension that was tangible inside the walls of the club. "A nightclub is like a living, breathing organism, a home for its own subculture," he says. "The owners set the vibe. There was a reason people wouldn't hang out there after a show."

Perhaps not surprisingly, Barron is just as adamant in his empathy for the Talkhouse's owners: "They got beat up a lot of times. This is just a horror to a club owner. Not just the fact of losing money. You spent so much time in trying to do the right thing A all the days you spent constructing that place, the sleepless nights. You finish and you feel like you've got it made, and then no one shows up. You feel like fucking dying. It really takes the guts out of you."

"This isn't all that great a turnout for Nil Lara. That people just can't seem to get together and have a good time listening to music -- I take it as a sign there's something really wrong in this country."

Like many fine conversations that take place in bars, this one moves rapidly from the specific to the general, and stays there. And like many such conversations, it begins in the vicinity of the men's room. Finally, this being the end of the evening, the speaker is nearly as well-lit as the neon on Ocean Drive.

On stage Nil Lara is wrapping things up, having played one more encore than he'd intended. Through the haze of stale air and smoke that has been rising since the show began, the Sound God in his distant booth looks like an apparition, his head crowned by a shaggy nimbus of thinning hair.

"There just doesn't seem to be that basic contract between human beings any more A the agreement that 'I won't hurt you,'" the man says. A regular Talkhouse fixture who favors bright Hawaiian shirts and a beat-up Panama hat, he is Michael Genth, one of the club's investors. Honerkamp and Gallo met him in Ibiza. He's in his sixties, with delicate features and the tolerant, reflective demeanor Americans tend to develop when they spend long periods of time out of the country.

In a more sober, though equally sobering, moment of reflection, Honerkamp says South Beach's lack of community might be at the root of his own disaffection. "People can grow up in good households even if the family breaks up, but people who come from stable families do better. In the same way, I think, transient towns suffer, whether they be Houston or Miami or L.A. I think you need a certain percentage of people who grew up together, who went to the same community centers, churches, whatever, and then to the same bars. Here, everyone is constantly coming and going, and I think it makes people more superficial and more on the scam."

Honerkamp doesn't want to go into details about the sale of the bar -- "Something could always go wrong at the last minute," he says -- and refers questions to Neisen Kasdin, the attorney for the prospective buyer (and a Miami Beach city commissioner). Citing his client's right to privacy, Kasdin declines to comment about the sale price or the buyer's plans.

Most Talkhouse staffers have been offered jobs for the season at the Long Island club. Some, such as bartender-investor Paul Coyne, will make the trip north for the summer and then return to Miami Beach. Drew Holshouser, a Coconut Grove native, will stay in South Florida. After a vacation, he'll likely look for free-lance work.

Loren Gallo will stay here, too. He's hoping to promote shows on a part-time basis. "I look at this like we succeeded in doing something. When you see a lot of music, and there's so many memorable shows that come to mind, that's something to be proud of. It's just not permanent, unfortunately," he says.

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