When we were all on Cloud 9
Cloud 9 Restaurant and Bar turned off the lights forever last month and, as Joplin sang, “It took a little piece of my heart with it.”
As it happens, Cloud 9 began its Rehoboth existence 19 years ago, just as I started visiting here on a regular basis. Looking back, I realize how many of my milestones and special memories happened at the Cloud.
We were in our 40s, Bonnie and I, weekending here, arriving as unknowns, sitting at the bar and introducing ourselves to owners John, Paige, Michael and Kelly. Sadly, Michael and Paige are gone, but John Berdini and Kelly Harp have taken the whole crazy ride.
Cloud 9 hosted my father’s first gay bar visit. I assured him there’d be other straight people there. Not, as it turned out, on that frigid December night in 1995. My parents were the only heterosexuals in the room. Amid a gaggle of gays on this 12 degree night, one bunch of guys, God love them, sat in sleeveless undershirts and leather vests.
Glassy eyed from both the experience and one of those humongous Cloud 9 martinis, my 76 year old father said, rather loudly, “okay, okay, so there are a lot of gay people here. I just want to know one thing.”
A suddenly hushed crowd leaned in for Dad’s question, “Are they gonna vote for Clinton, cause ’96 will be tough!”
Pretty soon, half the guys and gals in the room were thick as thieves with my Dad, jabbering about politics, as Bonnie and I exhaled in relief.
I went through lots of life cycle events at 234 Rehoboth Ave., including menopause. I can still picture manager Randy Overbaugh trying to adjust the air conditioning at a gay and lesbian 50th birthday bash. The men and pre-menopausal women turned into popsicles while the hot flashers sautéed in their seats, fanning with menus. Randy adjusted the thermostat three times before the appetizers came.
One night, it was either me or Bonnie, too vain for reading glasses, who stiff-armed the menu so far in front of us we hit the candle and ignited the daily specials. The drag show had its flaming performers and we had the flaming menus. It was a hot time in the old town.
One weekend in the late ‘90s, we arrived in a blinding snowstorm. Outlets, closed; gas stations, closed; 7-11, closed; Cloud 9, open. We’re nothing if not spunky.
Back in the day, my spouse had an accident that turned into a life-threatening hospital stay. And yes, I meant that sentence exactly that way. Upon her return home, more than a month later, who showed up with platters of food, completely unsolicited? Yup, C9.
Oh my goodness, it was right there at the big circular table for eight by the door (Table 20 in the reservation book), that we dined on steak and lobster as we discussed stockpiling Dinty Moore and bottled water to survive the computer chaos of the coming Y2K event, when the world would end. It didn’t.
Neither did my roundtable dinners with the wonderful cuisine of Chef Richie. Or Chef Marcus. I’d host frequent dinner parties at that big round table, with my bio family or my family of affinity; friends from before my move to the beach; and new and cherished friends made here. And yes, I loved it as everyone coming or going to or from the bar would wave or stop at the table to chat. I never minded my French onion soup getting cold or my Caesar salad (with a touch of cayenne) getting warm.
And the 40th, 50th, or 60th birthdays! The dance parties! The reliably wonderful Friday night womens’ tea where you always started the weekend. We have several great watering holes and restaurants having admirably taken over that task, but I will always smile at the days when the girls knew, no decisions required, where Friday night began.
And how many anniversary parties and commitment ceremonies have we all celebrated at the Cloud? I recall with the very most fondness of all, the 25th anniversary party, in the year 2000, of my dear friends Larry Hooker and the late Robert Gold. What a night that was!
In 2004 Bonnie and I hosted a champagne-fueled back room dinner party there to celebrate the launch of my first book. With us were my mentors and friends, the late Anyda Marchant and Muriel Crawford. So too, did I launch the second book there and in 2010, the third book, with a signing and disco party compliments of Viki Dee and John Berdini. It was a blast! And speaking of Viki, I heard her perform for the very first time at the Cloud. I was mesmerized.
My head is bursting with random thoughts of winter nights, with coats piled on barstool backs, often ten coats deep; friendly bartenders, from Paige to Chad to Stephanie, to Brenda, knowing what you drank before you asked; and the generous pours that, whenever we went to another resort town bar, made me utter “Sure isn’t Cloud 9.” I recall sitting at a window table as folks we knew walked by and tapped on the window to get our attention, parking by the Senior Center and coming in the back door, right into “I Love the Nightlife!” on the dance floor.
And sipping cocktails with friends in the back courtyard on a gorgeous summer night. We were all truly on cloud nine.
I remember too, the owners’ generosity to the community, special breast cancer fundraising events, and the overwhelming support for Sundance and bar operations at the huge Convention Center dance parties. I’ll remember the Cloud 9 family for their donations, their caring and their community spirit.
1000 words is just not enough. I could go on and on. Instead, I’ll quote Oscar Hammerstein.