"Can I buy you ladies a drink?" shouts the gentleman with the freshly mowed buzz cut, leaning in so his appeal might register above the throbbing strains of "No Diggity." He smiles broadly, revealing a blinding set of glow-in-the-dark green teeth (mood lighting isn't kind to plaque). Ouch! Avert eyes at once. But where? Look down, and see the Day-Glo solar system with pink Jupiters sprayed on the wall-to-wall (and-then-up-it) carpeting.
Turning down a pickup at Dance.com is brutal. You have to look 'em straight in the eye, or the surrounding strobe might singe your corneas. Better just to face the music, in a joint where "melting pot" means a smooth segue from the "Atomic Dog" to Shania Twain.
If only it sported UFO taillights, this new Parma nightclub--where the Flats meets Sam's Club--might be mistaken for a spacecraft landed in the asphalt crater left by an old Kroger grocery store. But really, it was built here, on the backs of contractors who believe in concrete, and lots of it. It won't merit a spread in Better Homes and Hangouts. But patrons who remember they're out of toilet paper during "Funky Cold Medina" can simply dash over to the Medic drug store, which occupies the other half of the building.
"We just thought the suburbs needed a dance club," says co-owner Frank Kosek. "All the dance clubs seemed to focus on downtown--all had high parking prices and high cover charges." He and his partner, Tony George, laid out five hundred grand to swath the cinderblock walls of their former Slam Jams sports bar in Swedish-style wood paneling, and pump up the volume with a computer-generated sound system, fog machine, and laser show.
But will velvet upholstery play in Parma, cradle of the corner bar? Free parking notwithstanding, some of those shaking their thangs on a shoulder-to-shoulder Saturday night were also shaking their heads at the "high" drink prices, which wouldn't raise an eyebrow in most burgs. On weekends, cover is $3 (free for ladies before 11 p.m.) and a Coke costs two George Washingtons. Bud isn't your friend here--howsa 'bout a Heineken? Paparazzi? That might be some sort of Italian pastry.
"In the Flats, people are more good-looking," observes Jordan Munn, an engineer partying with a bunch of other engineers. "Here, it's all normal people . . . Parma people," she adds, joining friends in a pick-up conga line to "Wild Thing."
In truth, only about a fifth of the clientele can claim Parma origin, says George, who has Ernie the bouncer keep tabs on locale when he checks IDs. Some hail from Cleveland's southwest side, some from surrounding West Side suburbs--and some practically swim the English Channel to get here, driving in from the East Side. "We've been downplaying Parma," says Kosek. "There seems to be a stigma involved."
For some, the crowd is a rainbow of possibility. "You've got everything from punky assholes to arrogant assholes," gushes Kim, a 37-year-old secretary at NASA. "It's a wide variety." But "blending into the furniture" was the catch phrase during engineer Tom Klimchak's virgin visit. "When we first got there, it was just all these guys sitting on all these couches, waiting for all the girls to arrive."
Way too early on a Ladies Night Thursday, throngs of young men hover around the dance floor, mustering up the collective courage to hit on the two women thrusting their hips to the beat. Will the planets align? Will the carpet universe ever end? Maybe not, but the earth's still fixed to its axis, spinning in time to a clock-punching sun.
"I love this place," says Linda Bunch from Cleveland. "It's like a whole 'nother world."
Dance.com, 5513 Pearl Road in Parma, is open Thursday through Saturday from 8 p.m. until 2:30 a.m. Cover is $3, free for women on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday before 11 p.m.; call 440-843-6550.