Twelve Hours at Mac's Club Deuce
In 1963, the owner of a four-decade-old South Beach dive called Club Deuce — Harold Schwartz — died. The same hour, Mac Klein's daughter Zina was born in Miami Beach's Mount Sinai Hospital.
"Everything happens for a reason," Klein says. He bought the club a few days later.
Today its name has been tweaked to Mac's Club Deuce (222 14th St., Miami Beach), and menu items such as "stingers" and 65-cent steak sandwiches have been eighty-sixed. But little else has changed in this neon-lit Shangri-la.
Mac's Club Deuce
Although it lacks the glitz of the Florida Room or the Gansevoort, it is home to deucetacular tales of flashed boobs, sex-happy inflatable dolls, and drunks in bumblebee costumes. Celebs such as Quentin Tarantino and Keith Richards have hung out there (Kate Moss was denied at the door).
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So on a recent sunny day, I headed over with an idea: If Mac gained a kid and a legendary pub in a single hour, imagine what would happen if I camped out there for, say, 12 hours?
Here's the story:
2:02 p.m.: I'm standing in Mac Klein's walk-in-closet-size (think your walk-in closet, not Mariah Carey's) office. It's adorned with liquor bottles from floor to ceiling, pictures of Klein's Westminster Kennel Club-worthy Doberman, and a photocopied letter with a very familiar Art Deco-ish logo on the letterhead.
"It's a thank-you letter from Miami Vice," he says. "The biggest show in Miami had their wrap party at the smallest bar in Miami Beach."
Of the five sentences, one catches my eye: "Even Don Johnson felt comfortable there."
2:36 p.m.: At the chipped linoleum serpentine bar, a man wearing a bicycle helmet flips through Playboy as a brittle, elderly bartender hands me a frosty Amstel Light. Drinks are two for one from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. — a happy hour on anabolic steroids.
"It's the only bar I could go to after work and not feel like a vagrant," says a dark, thinly mustached boricua named Lil' Bori. "You can be the ugliest person in the world, walk in here, and everyone gets the same treatment. The best people I've met in Miami I've met here."
And some of these awesome people include carnies. "Once the fair came to West Palm or somewhere up north and a few of the circus folk came in here — a guy with hands that looked like lobster claws and woman who swallowed swords."
"Did she swallow anything while she was here?" I ask.
"No," he says, "but I wish she had swallowed my sword, if you know what I'm saying."
3:11 p.m.: A white-haired man sporting Rollerblades skates in. He orders a beer, chugs it, and quickly glides back toward the open front door.
3:31 p.m.: A rowdy group of 20 or so enters the bar wearing cowboy hats, flip-flops, leis, and fanny packs. They're locals celebrating a friend's birthday with a pub crawl. The Deuce is their second stop. One guy, who is wearing a red and white Hawaiian shirt, stands on one of the bar's 32 stools and demands we sing "Happy Birthday" to his friend Marc. Everyone obliges, claps, and cheers.
"Very happy to be here in South Beach," Marc says. "Now where are the titties?"
4:48 p.m.: Bartender Melissa Burley, who recently published a pictorial history of the pub, shows up and tells me her favorite Deuce bomb. "This one dude who had an iguana was in here drinking one day when a transvestite came in and got in his face, claiming he owed her money," she says. "When the guy told her to fuck off, she grabbed the iguana by the tail, lassoed it above her head, and threw it across the room at the cigarette machine."
5:17 p.m.: Avery is a small, laid-back-looking chick with a perfect complexion and blond hair pulled back into a banana clip. She has won two multimillion-dollar grants for AIDS research — and she wrote most of one of the grant applications while knocking back a few at the Deuce. But that isn't her favorite booze-spiked memory. "Just a few months ago, this couple came in for their 25th wedding anniversary after they'd just lost everything in the real estate market. They were planning to move to another country, but because it was their silver anniversary and loved this place so much, they came in for one last hoorah and bought the entire bar shots of silver Patrón all night long."
6:53 p.m.: As I pass the pool table, a potbellied, dreadlocked man says, "Psst." He's wearing a diamond-studded Texas Longhorns charm on a necklace, and his ample nostril is pierced with a large silver hoop. "Hey, mama," he says before introducing himself as Prince Eli, originally from Sudan. He lets me know he likes "hot girls that aren't afraid of the dark." A few minutes later, a crackhead who looks like a (once) prettier, female version of Flavor Flav, walks through the door and bum-rushes His Majesty. He flees to the other end of the bar.
The crackhead strides up to the jukebox and selects Liz Phair's "Fuck and Run."
7:22 p.m.: Crackie is still fluttering around the bar like a social basket case. She walks up to a suited man with stringy dark hair, puts her arm around his shoulder, and starts whispering in his ear. He turns toward me with two desperate brown eyes and silently mouths the words help me.
After she departs, I approach the man and ask what she was saying.
"I'm not sure," he says. "Something about Jesus."
8:31 p.m.: Chris is a pudgy but good-looking 40-year-old whose entire face squints when he smiles. Down from D.C., he's escaping all the "inauguration craziness" while keeping true to his New Year's resolution of "detoxing" by ordering a third Scotch. He takes an instant liking to me and asks if my boobs are real.
"Great," he says. "Can you do me a favor? See that guy in the gray sweater? I can't tell if he's gay or straight. Could you walk by him with your cleavage out and see how he responds?"
Why not? I walk by and flirtatiously smile.
"How'd it go?" Chris asks when I return.
Not so well. Gray Sweater smiled back.
"Ah," Chris says. "I've got a boyfriend anyway, and although Sweater Man is cute, he's not totally my type."
"I like men who are hairy or chubby or have full beards."
"Exactly. That's why I prefer straight porn over gay porn. The guys in gay porn are too muscular and well groomed. I like my men more... realistic.
10:59 p.m.: As the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Give It Away" sounds throughout the bar, a girl in a green T-shirt emblazoned with a picture of a monkey begins to jump. And jump. And trip, crashing into some empty stools.
11:14 p.m.: Enter Xanadu — a 31-year-old "modern-day Robin Hood" (AKA a lawyer) with curly hair, a goatee, and a shirt unbuttoned just enough to divulge his manly mass of "gay repellent" (AKA chest hair). He reveals that his goal for the year is to swim in every fancy pool on South Beach, then he tells his Deuce anecdote: "It was a few years ago, when I was about 27. It was really early in the morning, this place was about to close, and the only other people in the bar were two blond women who had no intention of shattering stereotypes about Budweiser bikini posters from the '80s."
What follows is a choppy narrative that ends with a threesome. "And when I woke up in the morning, the two of them were on their cell phones, talking to their kids..."
12:06 a.m.: The music stops, but green monkey girl is still jumping.
1:42 a.m.: Fully loaded, I head to the bathroom one last time. As I swing open the door, an innocent girl with a short bob and a Tiffany chain around her neck looks at me with wide eyes.
"I'm sorry," I say. "Did I hit you with the door?"
"No," she says, tilting her head toward the single stall's door. "There's a guy and a girl in there doing something really weird... What do you think it is?"
I hear a loud sniff.
"Oh," I laugh, "they're just doing coke."
She's originally from Michigan, she says. I welcome her to Miami.
"So, are they, like, doing lines on the toilet or something?"
"Nah, those sound more like key bumps to me."
"What's a key bump?"
1:58 a.m.: Another morning glory: A pink-haired girl says, "I have a really naive friend who saw someone shooting up in the bathroom. She assumed the girl was a diabetic and started talking to her about vitamins and sugar-free desserts. The junkie stopped her and said, 'I'm not a diabetic; I'm a fucking heroin addict.'"
2:02 a.m.: Eager to tame my buzz, I head out for some pizza. On my way, I pass Mansion (1235 Washington Ave., Miami Beach), where there's a swarm of popped collars, hair gel, and Coach purses.
There's not a single crackhead or flying lizard.
But the entrance fee is $20.
What the deuce?
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