Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pangaea is history

In what should come as no surprise to anyone, the trendy, overpriced bottle lounge Pangaea has closed down for some (ahem) retooling. Principal owner Michael Ault now plans to turn the space into something called The Phoenix.

Ault says Pangaea had attracted "a growing number of haters," which is putting it mildly. In flaunting their velvet rope exclusivity, the club made itself an easy target for everyone who finds fault with the "new" Austin. There aren't many other businesses in town whose (temporary) demise could elicit more grave-dancing.

In an October 2007 story preceding Pangaea's opening, Statesman arts reporter Michael Barnes described Ault as "a self-effacing, self-made offspring of New York gentry." Now Ault may well be self-effacing and a nice guy to boot, but calling someone a "self-made offspring of New York gentry" is a contradiction in terms worthy of a million spit takes. If there is such thing as a self-made man, it certainly isn't someone whose prep school roomie was the King of Jordan. Nevertheless, when Kate scored guest list spots for Pangaea's press preview, we figured it was something we had to see for ourselves.

The club's aesthetic recalled the good ol' days of colonial Africa, when any rich honky in a pith hat could plunder the Dark Continent's spoils for tacky parlor decorations. Game trophies from Ault's personal collection adorned the walls. A DJ spun Beyoncé while a saxophonist and several percussionists played along to no real effect whatsoever. Scantily clad women danced on perches in a manner best described as sizzle without the steak. It reminded me of a Las Vegas topless show - mouth-breathing titillation re-imagined as a bad musical to make it palatable enough for conventioneers who want to drag their wives along.

I wasn't about to complain to people serving me free drinks, but I got the impression they found my earnest-yet-paltry tipping slightly pathetic despite the fact that no one else even bothered to tip. And why should they? Pangaea's target audience was the expense account and swag bag crowd, not people who get pissed when a club charges more than $3 for Lone Star.

While pursuing the highbrow wasn't necessarily a bad business decision, not being more demure about it ensured the club would forever be perceived as the place most likely to attract doppelgangers of James Spader's character from Pretty in Pink. Given the perilous economy, it's a wonder they held on this long.


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Anonymous said...

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Tim said...

Greg Beets...from Houston?

Lee said...

How convenient — they didn't want a slob like me coming in, and I had absolutely no desire to ever patronize them. Everyone ends up happy.