Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Where exactly was the real 'Club Tropicana'?

It was never really made clear as to the true location of the 'Club Tropicana' referenced in Wham's classic pop tune, until now...

In fact I can reveal that the real Club Tropicana was actually situated in a basement flat in Clarinda Park, Dun Laoghaire.

The famed nightclub Tropicana in all its pomp.

UCD philosophy graduate Justin Ponce had spotted a gap in the market and opened the club in 1983. It's noteriety soon grew and began attracting top name celebs like Wham, Duran Duran, Grace Jones, Twink, Bishop Eamon Casey, and the Dalkey Rat-Pack (Adam Clayton, Chris deBurgh, Pat Kenny, Ronnie Wood and most of Def Leppard).

"Those were great days, in retrospect", says Ponce.  "George Michael became totally enamoured by the place when he first visited. In fact, he bought 2 places in Clarinda just so he could be close to my club, whenever he was in Dublin.

His lyrics really sum up what things were like in those hedonistic days.  The basement flat could accomodate up to 30 stars at any one time.  My mom served the cocktails through a sliding hatch in the kitchen. Her bedroom doubled as the orgy room.

The place once got so packed that I had to turn away Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall, Andy Warhol and Gerry Ryan all on the one night. Mick was quite dismissive and claimed he didn't want to come in anyway, as he was just 'waiting on a friend', and would get his limo driver to take him to Shaft in Ely Place instead.

Another night, Oliver Reed and Richard Harris dropped in. They were complete gentlemen, I must say, nothing like their reputations, although it took a few hours to clean up the vomit and faeces they left on the bedspread in my mother's room.

It was true that the 'drinks were free'.  I still managed to make a profit by imposing a nightly cover charge of 500 punts, although we'd let nurses in for free on Thursdays. I always wore a Panama hat while working the door, so I'm, sure that was a reference to me."

Let me take you to the place where membership’s a smiling face,
Brushing shoulders with the stars.
Where strangers take you by the hand,
And welcome you to wonderland -
From beneath their Panamas...

Club tropicana, drinks are free,
Fun and sunshine - there’s enough for everyone.
All that’s missing is the sea,
But don’t worry, you can suntan!

"It was actually possible to get a suntan. I had set up 2 prototype sunbeds in an annex at the back of the garden. Things went badly wrong one night when future Eurovision queen Linda Martin used one and fell asleep for 3 hours.  She sufferred 2nd-degree burns to most of her body, but I still maintain that it was her own fault for having knocked back too many cocktails and for fiddling with the controls on the machine.

Her lawsuit failed in the end as I had put in CC-TV and could prove that it was Twink who locked her in the sunbed.

Those were great days. We always had the heating turned all the way up to give the place that tropical feel, and planted some plastic palm trees beside the fish pool in the back garden."

Castaways and lovers meet,
Then kiss in tropicana’s heat,
Watch the waves break on the bay.
Soft white sands, a blue lagoon,
Cocktail time, a summer’s tune,
A whole night’s holiday!

Justin was forced to close the club a couple of years back when an internicine feud between the entourages of Eminem and Westlife exploded into violence. A shootout ensued, the guards were called and Justin was questioned as to why he had been operating a nightclub for 23 years without a licence.

He fled to the Bahamas a couple of days later, where he now has plans to open a new Club Tropicana.

His 83-year old mother got sentenced to 4 years in prison for operating an unlicened premises, as the flat was in her name. While inside, she became involved in a passionate affair with nastier one of the scissor sister murderers. Unfortunately Mrs. Ponce was shanked in the showers in Wheatfield women's prison last month and is no longer with us.  49 Clarinda Park West is still up for sale....

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