Readers of my book FirstStop in the New World may remember the chapter about the Savoy, the last cabaret in Mexico City, with its live orchestra, plump dancing girls, a mariachi who sang to piped-in music, and the Euterpean talents of Claudia Tate, who had been the star of soft porn comedies in the 1970s. The Savoy is still here. But sadly, the floor show is gone (except for the warbling mariachi). It has become a table-dance and fichera joint, where you can cut the rug to live salsa with one of the women on the premises for a modest fee, and perhaps negotiate other services for proportionately higher honorariums.
Mexico City art
About eight years ago my friend Sergio González Rodríguez “discovered” a tiny, hole-in-the-wall dive called El Bull Pen on Calle Medellín near Calle Yucatán in the Colonia Roma. At the time, it had a certain clandestine charm (that remained elusive to many) – one got the sense that anything was obtainable at the Bull Pen, if you lived long enough to obtain it. (This is not precisely a joke. At least a couple of friends were mugged while leaving the Bull Pen late at night, one of them by a policeman.)
In any case, Sergio published an article about the place in the newspaper Reforma, and the Bull Pen became incredibly (you might say insufferably) popular, particularly among the hippy-ish young. The place expanded to the property next door, live rock bands played at earsplitting volume ... it struck me as way too much of a good thing.
Then it closed down. For what at least seemed like years. This happens often to such places in Mexico City, and it is usually assumed that the owners haven’t paid the requisite bribes, or the person who was accepting the bribes can no longer protect them, or they have made so much money that it no longer matters … variations on a theme. The Bull Pen recently reopened its doors, now back to being a tiny hole-in-the-wall. We’ll see how long it lasts in its present incarnation.
When people ask me for hotel recommendations in Mexico City, they are usually looking for budget options, but if money is no object I steer them to the Camino Real on Avenida Mariano Escobedo in the Colonia Anzures. Opened in 1968, it was designed by architect Ricardo Legorreta in the form of a pyramid, evoking pre-Hispanic Mexico. Yet many of the design elements, including bright yellow and pink paint, are very much of the period. Indeed, while walking through its halls, or sitting in the lobby bar (with a clear plastic floor, and water underneath), I feel like an extra in a James Bond movie.
Even if you aren't looking for a place to stay, or cannot afford the Camino Real, you might want to have a drink in that bar. Or better yet, a coffee in the cafe, where you can ponder this Rufino Tamayo painting.