“Jello Shots: All night long!” Each letter is a different bright color, like a clown costume. I lean up against the highly-durable bar at the saucy Cactus Club on Fore Street, admiring the staff’s threshold for its dizzying, roller-rink d?r.

“Make me your favorite!” I holler at the bartend. Turns out the big winner at the CC tonight (besides you, young lady) is a drink that can only be referred to in these pages as an “Adult Film Star.” As the three-booze, three-juice blend goes down, I feel it slithering into my blood stream.

The Cactus Club is best known for its precocious babes, shimmery lights and unrelenting subwoofer. It’s a tourist hotspot, and, by its own admission, Portland’s Bachelorette Headquarters. Tonight is a so-far, so-slow type of May Monday evening that wears on the souls of restaurant staff. Nevertheless, the bartender is alight with tales of perfect parties. After all, according to many, the Cactus Club is Portland’s Coyote Ugly, only here the bartenders mix drinks, and dancers dance on the poles, not the other way around. “Oh yeah, we get ’em dancing. A lot of Portland bachelorettes don’t feel complete until they dance on the bar at Cactus!” (Bar at Cactus, you complete me.)

There is no question that the Cactus Club is a party machine with twin Yamahas. Just ask the ginormous Negro Modela bottle, yourself in the huge mirror or the perpetual “Happy Birthday!” sign draping over bottles of hooch. I get it, every day is someone’s birthday! Somewhere, air is wheezing out of a balloon and a kid’s scoop just fell out its cone.

Tonight, however, is not my birthday. In fact, I’m the only patron in the tiny room, and the house lights are blaring. There is bit of an abandoned amusement park vibe. Imagine what this place would be like if a guy came in blowing up in Bee Gees’ white sequins on a Saturday night? Who minds a dancing girl when you’re lit and all you see is strobe?

The CC’s problematic dynamic has never been with its sassy clientele, but with its neighbors. Maybe it’s a club cranked to 11 when the community can only handle an eight. Girls come here to have fun, shake their thing and let their hair down. Everything you regret doing freshman year is well within reach and in abundance.

There’s maybe something poignant in there, but maybe not. There’s nothing wrong with reliving the glory years, but it’s good to gauge whether you can still suffer the same old savage hangovers.

 

Mike Olcott is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.