Today’s gay history lesson: Fort Lauderdale’s Marlin Beach Hotel, the place that caused so many men to move to Fort Lauderdale in the 70’s and 80’s. Busy in the winter, but not so much in the summer, the Marlin’s famous t-dances on its Poop Deck packed the boys in every day during the 6 weeks of spring break. It’s where I met my first serious man-crush, in 1978. It’s where I met Sylvester, in the elevator. It’s where I embarrassed myself terribly on my first visit, by swimming to the bottom of the pool at night to investigate the strange flashing lights. Only later that evening did I find out that the lights were shining through the windows of a disco under the pool, and that I’d been cracking everybody up down there with my puzzled, puffed-out cheeks investigation.
The Marlin Beach fell into disrepair and disrepute in the late 80’s when South Beach became popular, drawing most of the beach crowd 30 miles south. After a few years operating as a defacto hustler joint, the hotel closed in ’92, later torn down and replaced with a massive Marriott Hotel tower atop a multi-floor open-air retail arcade. Here’s what it looks like today, third picture down.
I miss the Marlin. It was an amazing place. Entertainers I saw there include DJ Robbie Leslie, Dana Manchester, Viola Wills, Sharon Redd, Karen Young, Pamely Stanley, Two Tons Of Fun, Sylvester, Paul Parker and many more. And oh yes, once or twice I rather enjoyed that long subterranean tunnel that led from the basement disco, under the highway, and up to the beach. For at least ten years, my favorite t-shirt in the world, worn almost weekly, was the image depicted on the right in the top photo. My favorite part of wearing that shirt was pointing out that you could see the reflection of a shirtless man in the guy’s sunglasses.