I don't go to strip clubs anymore. Not that I cast aspersions on strip clubs or their patrons. When I was younger, my buddies and I would go often to an old place near Southeast Holgate and 82nd, near Walmart and Regal Cinema. The beer was 75-cent tallboys, the dancers were tight and the food was pretty good. The place was called the Atlantic Club, and as you might guess, there was a water theme. The club had a silly little moat and drawbridge that you had to walk across to get inside. There was also a video poker room, and a room where they let you smoke weed.
Downstairs, there was a hot-tub room where you could pay the dancers to get in with you. Next to that was a room outfitted with row after row of cots. Occasionally, you would see a drunk passed out on one of the cots, and supposedly the room functioned as an opium den during the day, but I never saw or smelled anything like that.
Related: Our Favorite Strips Clubs, from A-Z
There was another room in the basement with a card table and six chairs where I once saw a group of people, including one of my buddies, play Russian roulette. My buddy survived that night, and said the whole thing was very much like the scene from The Deer Hunter. I probed further, asking in vague terms if anything had happened to anyone, but he declined to elaborate. He only said it was against "house rules" to discuss results of the game. However, this was not a one-time thing—it happened a few times a year, and I could get on the waiting list if I wanted.
I considered my friend's offer, but it ended up being moot. The Atlantic was raided by the police. Shortly after, the entire building disappeared, under circumstances that remain very perplexing. One night, it was open, and then later that night neighbors said they heard a series of loud booms. The next morning, on the site where the club had been, there was nothing. No moat, no walls, no lottery machines—just a razed dirt lot. It was as if the Atlantic had sunk into Southeast Portland.
It was really a shame that overreaching regulation led to the demise of the club, and with it one of the Portland ideals that I had most valued, which is that consenting adults should be allowed to do whatever they want in the basement of a strip club.
Dr. Mitchell Millar is president of the Olde Portland Preservation Society, which holds in its collection the men's room urinal from Magic Garden and what is purported to be the G-string Courtney Love wore during her final shift at Mary's Club.