Thursday, July 29, 2010

an eternal constant

neon cocktail sign, ne 33rd & sandy

As seen near NE 33rd & Sandy. I'm not really a historian of commercial art, or a historian of any kind really, but I'd guess this "Cocktails" sign was created somewhere on the far side of 1960, maybe 1950, maybe even earlier. Since the sign doesn't appear to have moved between then and now, I'd imagine the adjacent building has been home to one bar after another for at least half a century if not more. All of them presumably offering cocktails.

A couple of years ago this spot was home to a Mexican restaurant & nightclub, but a fatal shooting in January 2008 seems to have put an end to that. More recently -- and controversially -- the building reopened as an upscale (by Portland standards) gentlemens club. So I can't help but wonder what some of its previous incarnations were like. Perhaps an outrageous 60's tiki bar, with ridiculously strong cocktails in ceramic moai mugs, and a house orchestra covering Martin Denny's greatest hits. In the 50's it could have featured an ooky racist theme, trying to compete with the infamous Coon Chicken Inn 20 blocks to the east. Could be there's an authentic vintage 70's disco ball gathering dust in the attic, next to a crate full of 45 singles and long-expired Quaaludes. NE Sandy was kind of a dump in the 80's, so I doubt this spot ever featured ferns and wine coolers and Nagel prints and cokehead stockbrokers. Unless they were slumming, which is possible of course.

We may never know for sure, as "real" historians aren't overly interested in this sort of thing. Perhaps if it gets turned into a McMenamins someday we'll get the full story. Generously embellished, of course, and presented as a wacky psychedelic mural. But hey.

1 comment :

Dan Kaempff said...

This used to be Poncho's Restaurant, a much-beloved haunt of my youth. If you're a Facebook user, they have a page with a picture showing the way the exterior looked in the late '50s/early '60s. You can see the "Cocktails" neon sign clearly.