And then there was the nightly bacchanal.
It began when the jukebox amplified Donna Summer’s cooing the opening bars of a song that became an Anchorage hymnal.
Last dance for love
Recognition of the song would cause a drumbeat among the college-age crowd. They’d immediately focus their attention on Ralph, and a burlesque-like negotiation would begin. The crowd demanded action. Ralph feigned a lack of interest while filling patrons’ glasses. All the while the song continued.
Yes, it’s my last chance
For romance tonight
By now the shouts from the barely legal crowd would almost drown out the jukebox while Ralph went about his work.
I need you by me
Beside me, to guide me
To hold me, to scold me
'Cause when I’m bad
I’m so, so bad
Then, borderline pandemonium and a brief suspension of disbelief. Maybe he really wasn’t going to do it tonight? Hey, what’s wrong with Ralph? But with the timing of a DJ who could hit the mark, just when the music built to a crescendo, Ralph would run the length of the joint, scale the bar, and commence dancing for the crowd, all the while the music thumped …
So let’s dance the last dance
Let’s dance the last dance
Let’s dance this last dance tonight
The Anchorage was heaven on those nights. Ask patrons about some of the other legendary haunts — Beachcomber, Maynards, Tony Mart’s, Dunes ’til Dawn, Mother’s, Phil’s Bongo Room, Bayshores — and chances are they can tell you similar traditions about each.
Summer unofficially begins this weekend, and there will be plenty of celebrating the Shore for its beaches and family memories. Those of us born and raised here tend to maintain an allegiance to a particular Shore town and relish taking our kids to the same beaches we once visited with our parents. We also hold firm in our opinions about particular watering holes, and we resist change.
The Geator, Jerry Blavat, who has owned Memories in Margate for 40 years, broke it down for me.
"When you own a bar or club and open it up Memorial Day weekend after closing it Labor Day, you don’t have to do a thing to it," explained the Boss with the Hot Sauce. "You don’t have to renovate. Because next year, people want to come back to the same feel. But when you own a club in Philly, people are always giving it a different look. The Shore bars, they always look the same."
He’s right. It’s been a few decades and Ralph’s Lounge is now a dining room, but the main bar at "the Anch" still looks the same. Sitting on a bar stool there last summer, I was struck by how many patrons seemed to walk in the door and survey the landscape with a look that says they were there long ago, and have been coming back ever since.
"You want to relive the memory of what you had the year before," the Geator told me. "That’s why I call my place Memories."
Contact Michael Smerconish via www.smerconish.com. Read his columns at www.philly.com/smerconish.