Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Among the many historic landmarks swept away last week by Hurricane Ike (such as the venerable Brennen’s restaurant in Houston), I was saddened to learn that The Balinese Room is no more.

Built in 1929 as a Speak Easy and illegal casino, the B. Room stretched out from the Galveston Seawall some 600 feet into the Gulf of Mexico. (I have always heard that this was supposedly to give the proprietors enough time to hide all the illegal paraphernalia before the Feds showed up). Although they were long-gone by the time my college friends and I showed up back in the late 70s and early 80s, folks like Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and Howard Hughes apparently liked to hang out there. I guess they all got bored and went back to Hollywood or Palm Springs, though, because the place fell on hard times and was boarded up off and on, occasionally re-opening as lesser versions of itself over the intervening years.

During my own personal hey day (the twenty-something years) I used to frequent The Balinese Room with my buddies, including my cousin Clare, who’s parents had a beach house on the bay side of the island. Over the years our group matured somewhat and eventually we discovered that it was cool to hang out with the Older Generation. Cousin Clare’s parents and their pals where way more hip than we could have ever been and were much better party animals to-boot. I learned to mix a mean High Ball, play Dirty Boggle and watch the sunset from a beach chair, table and umbrella set up in the surf with this crowd. When the afternoon revelry had subsided and naps had been taken we would head into town for martinis and dancing, usually ending up at The Balinese Room.

I guess the dancing part is what proved to be my undoing. Undoing that has followed me into mid-life, into Book Club which is made up of the Balinese Room beach crowd who are now also middle-aged. Each time “the incident” is brought up to much laughter and eye-rolling I laugh along with everyone else. 25 or 30 years has done much to dull the full brunt of my embarrassment but it still makes me cringe.

The Jitterbug is one of those dances that no one has any business attempting, unless maybe you’re on Dancing with the Stars (and I don’t mean Marie Osmond). At any rate, my dance partner Bob and I were out there mixing it up and twirling around like we knew what we were doing. (I should also add here that black lights were all the rage at the time and it was switched on that night). About half way through our performance Bob decided to toss me straight up into the air just like I was Judy Garland, then catch me and throw me down and backwards, sliding me across the polished floor like a sack of potatoes. Did I also mention that I was wearing a strapless sundress at the time? What about the high-top white cotton panties? Did I mention that part, too? As Bob artfully slid me across the floor between his feet he still had firm hold of my hands, rendering me completely helpless and unable to pull down the skirt of my sundress which was now plastered to my face, leaving me lying on the dance floor with the entire lower half of my body exposed. Keep in mind that this was the middle of summer and I was very tanned. And my sundress was tan. But my panties were WHITE. And the Black Light was switched on, remember? So there we all are, everyone and everything in complete darkness except for one very bright pair of High Top White Panties. Just panties in the middle of the Balinese Room dance floor. And Bob is still standing over me, trying to figure out what he was now looking at. Where had I gone? What had happened to my body? Had the Rapture suddenly taken me away, leaving only a pair of bright white panties in my place?

My hands completely immobilized, I could only squirm and squeal “Please, please, Bob, let me up. Help! I’m stuck. Please, somebody, pull down my dress, turn off the black light. Help, help. Oh please, please don’t let this be happening.” Finally, Bob sprang into action, helping me to my feet and pulling my dress down off of my head. I fled to the Powder Room, Cousin Clare finally managing to coax me out after much effort. Poor Bob was mortified and very apologetic but the damage was done.

It was the end of an era when The Balinese Room was finally swept into the sea last week, having survived a long list of deadly hurricanes going back to 1929. No doubt there are lots of stories out there similar to mine and I'm so glad that I got to experience a part of that history. Even if I had to jitterbug my way into infamy.


  1. great story, Race....
    I had drinks there in 2002 for the first and last time, and it was very cool then....too many memories went out to sea that day, and I will forever have a visual now of your glowing underpants. thanks alot...

  2. also,is that the Balinese that ZZTOP talks about?

  3. Great story!!

    But you know what? You should be grateful that you wore the granny panties. Can you imagine if THONGs were the undergarment of choice back then??? You might have ended up with some sort of infection or rash on your bottom! You know dance floors are notoriously dirty.

    Very sad about everything that's gone in Galveston. I remember (sort of remember) a few Galveston Mardi Gras celebrations, and a lovely Christmas party at the big hotel.

  4. we are so fated to be BFFs! Almost the exact same thing happened to me--except it was at a friend's wedding and the entire thing was captured on videotape. If a hurricane could hit that reception hall it's not like I would have huge regrets....

  5. I agree with Sheila - yay for the granny panties.

    I bet they look HOT when the glow in the dark!

  6. Tears were literally streaming down my face as I was reading this blog. You are TOO funny!

    Maybe I should bring out the picture of you and me at the tender ages of one and three in the backyard of M's house in Marlin. We were enjoying the wading pool sans swimsuits and having the time of our lives. A simpler age...

  7. Yes, please do! I would love to see that photo. I could put in on my Facebook page.