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Bob Raley's Take One Cocktail Lounge, as it was called, featured a nightly folk guitarist. Signed photos of Loretta Lynn and actress Polly Bergen hung on the walls. Bob only invited the dancers when he realized that a few pals with interminable bar tabs weren't going to keep the place afloat.
But even before the battle against Miami's nudity laws, Bob had a knack for headline-making hijinks. He was with a film crew in Havana the day Fidel's revolutionaries stormed the capital. He once fell from an eighth-story scaffold of Miami Beach's Fontainebleau Hotel. According to family lore, he was saved by a wind gust that carried him to a lower scaffold, but he ended up with spine, chest, and arm injuries that left him stiff and creaky for the rest of his life.
Bob was Jackie Gleason's lighting director for the comedian's Miami Beach-based television revue in the '60s. He later became stage supervisor for the Miami Beach Convention Center. In 1972, he misplaced the building's keys two weeks before the Democratic and Republican National Conventions were scheduled to be held there. Bob was interrogated by the Secret Service, and the center's 150 locks were replaced in post-Watergate paranoia.
He was anything if not the Iceberg Slim character one imagines holed up in the office of the owner of a dangerous strip club. But through the years, his tiny tavern, tucked away as it is in the isolated 'hood a few blocks from Little Haiti, became known as a hangout for a murderous element. It seemed a magnet for trouble.
In 1989, two masked men robbed a manager as he counted cash in a back office, making off with a gold ring and $2,600. In 1995, a fugitive named Adrian Kinkead, wanted for murdering two sisters and a subway ticket collector in Toronto, made Take One his second home after his girlfriend started stripping there. He was eventually nabbed by a SWAT squad. Three years later, notorious drug dealer Luckner Joseph was drinking at Take One, according to a Miami Herald account, when he heard that rivals were claiming his turf. He pulled on a skullcap complete with fake dreads, drove to a drug corner controlled by his enemy, and shot to death the low-level dealer perched there. Joseph's gun was determined to have been used in five other murders.
In 1997, a Haitian Pentecostal church bought the lot next door. Bob knew that there was a City of Miami ordinance barring nudie joints from setting up shop within 500 feet of churches. He's believed to be the first club-owner to wield the law in reverse, convincing city officials to block Church of God of Holiness in Christ from building on the lot. "There's a Haitian church on every block around here," Bob grumbled to Christianity Today. "Let 'em go somewhere else."
Bob's stand was "about fairness," says Karen. It was also about parking: He was worried the tabernacle's overflow vehicles would end up in Take One's lot. "We still have love," says Rev. Nadege Dutes, the founder of the jilted church, which remains saddled with a $240,000 lot it can't build on.
A year later, Nation Satellite Sports sued the club for pirating the first Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield championship bout and airing it in the club. The lawsuit was settled out of court. Clearly, Take One Cocktail Lounge — Bob had removed his name from signage at his wife's urging years earlier — was no longer a guitar-and-roast-beef type place. And it had become a moneymaker: Bob helped Amanda, one of his two grown daughters, purchase a $430,000 condo in the same Aventura high-rise where he and Karen owned a $600,000 apartment.
Bob began delegating more of the club's tasks to James Wright, the intimidating, six-foot-four manager who had applied for a job after losing a pro-football career to injury. Soon James was doing everything but counting the cash in the morning — Bob's job. "When I met Bob, I was emotionally disturbed, because I couldn't play football anymore," James, now aged 40, says. "He was my mentor. He taught me the business."
People began to think of it as James's club. He filled it with relatives: His brother Marvin became assistant manager, and his brother-in-law Robert worked the bar. Bob Raley didn't mind. He liked to think of his staff as an extended family.
So in the summer of 2004, when Take One's longtime cleaning lady, Jenny, left for a vacation to her native Haiti, Bob didn't hesitate to hire her brother-in-law as her interim replacement — even as James Wright protested. Marc Placide, a squat man with hard eyes, had a sleazy reputation in the neighborhood. He was saddled with debt. He couldn't be trusted.
Bob refused to deny the guy a chance to redeem himself. "Mr. Raley's mistake was he was too trusting," says Joe Schillaci, the detective who would investigate his murder. "He didn't understand that the world is an evil place."
For decades, Bob followed the same precise routine every morning. Even the streetwalkers trawling Little River used it to set their schedules. When they saw his silver Mercedes turning onto the block, dawn had arrived and it was time to call it a night.
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How do you open an envelope "officiously"?I guess that you have to take over a club "officially" before you can open the envelope "officiously"
How does one open an envelope officiously?When you officially take over a club, you open an envelope officiously!
Thanks for putting Take One back on the map. Great story and editorial, I love Take One, the place is the best, love the girls and the atmosphere. I will drink to Take Love in a bit love the place.
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"....cops discovered strippers pleasuring themselves with toys and performing oral sex onstage...."
I love the Miami New Times!
Miami New Times is the hoodrat of Miami newspapers... you guys should cover Centro Español next...
nonetheless... entertaining I must say