129 SW Broadway, 227-3023, marysclub.com. 11-2:30 am Monday-Saturday. 11:30-2:30 am Sunday.
You know Mary’s Club. Even if you’ve never been there, the legend is part of Portland’s collective consciousness. It’s the oldest strip joint in the city, if not on the West Coast. The marquee, blue and star-spangled and coyly advertising an evening of “Dine and Dance,” is as iconic as the neon on the “Made in Oregon” sign and the line outside Voodoo. Courtney Love danced there. Tom Waits wrote a song about it. You hear all that, then you actually step inside and go, “That’s it?” Indeed, it’s darker and smaller than one would imagine, with a short bar running directly into the single tiny stage and about 15 feet separating the rack from the mural of longshoremen on the back wall. The dancers—mostly of the approachable, “hey, weren’t you in my math class?” variety—pause awkwardly between dances at a stage-side jukebox to select songs that are usually of the punk era or older. In a downtown sanitized beyond recognition, Mary’s preserves a wee bit of Old Portland scuzz—not enough to scare off the tourists, but just enough to stand as a rare monument to how much this town has changed in 40-plus years. MATTHEW SINGER.