Tribute Must Be Paid
One’s first experience at the Clermont Lounge makes a deep imprint. It’s like walking into a world you thought could never exist. Not anywhere. After your first night at the Clermont, you’re never the same.
by Chuck Reece
Redneck GReece Delux
The first time Greg Reece walked into the Clermont a little over 20 years ago, he was bringing his giant country band, Redneck GReece Delux, to play a gig there. (Full disclosure: Greg is my cousin. We grew up together in Ellijay, Ga., a little town up in the Appalachian foothills. More than once, we speculated about what might happen to us the first time we saw a full-grown woman’s breasts.)
“We were sharing the dressing room with the dancers,” Greg remembers about his first visit to the lounge, “and that was an experience beyond my wildest dreams. That dressing room is not very big. It’s about the size of a pantry, but with lockers.
“We were a nine- or 10-piece band, and then you throw eight or nine dancers in there, and we were cheek to cheek, so to speak.”
Not long after, he wrote a song that still lives, to this day, in the lounge’s jukebox: “Mama Was a Dancer (at the Clermont Lounge).” The song first appeared on the second Delux album, “Cold Hard Facts,” the cover of which depicts Mr. Redneck GReece entering a room in the Clermont Hotel only to find his bandmates in bed with Blondie. Yes, that Blondie.
But before “Mama Was a Dancer” was released on CD in 1995, Greg had played the song countless times inside the Clermont.
“They loved it,” he remembers. “I don’t know how many dancers told me, ‘You wrote that song about me, didn’t you?’ I told ’em all the same thing: ‘Yes, I did, darlin’. Bless your heart.’”
~ Listen to the Track ~
The Clermont Cocktail
The Clermont Lounge received another tribute at Empire State South, chef Hugh Acheson’s Atlanta outpost: a cocktail called the Clermont, which pays homage to the ladies of the lounge. Appropriately, it’s partly sweet and partly bitter and designed to chase away the cold of the winter. Kellie Thorn, ESS’s bar manager, created the Clermont.
Here’s how to make it:
In a mixing glass, muddle a brandied cherry and an orange slice with .75 ounces of Cynar, a bitter Italian liqueur made from artichokes, and a half-ounce of Cointreau. Add 1.5 ounces of Elijah Craig 12-year-old small-batch bourbon. Fill the glass with cracked ice and stir. Double-strain the mixture into a double old-fashioned glass with one large ice cube, and top it off with soda water. Garnish with another cherry and orange slice.
The cocktail’s not currently on the ESS menu, but you can ask for it anyway. They’ll remember. The Clermont, after all, makes an unforgettable impression. As my cousin says, “The Clermont Lounge rocks. I’ve been in lots of strip joints. Hell, I’ve walked down the Reeperbahn in Hamburg. The Clermont beats them all.”