Mardi Gras Memories

Locals look back as auction held at famed nightlife venue

Warwick Beacon ·

Bruce Springsteen famously sung about “Glory Days” – how experiences and places from youthful times loom large in memory.

For generations of local revelers, the former Mardi Gras Multiclub on Oaklawn Avenue fits squarely into the song’s theme.

Nights spent celebrating with friends and loved ones at the well-known venue may seem to have passed by, as the song says, “in the wink of a young girl’s eye” – but the glory, in many minds, lives on.

The widespread affection for, and interest in, the once bustling nightlife hotspot was on full display Feb. 16, as a large crowd turned out for an auction featuring a broad range of items from the club. The event, and the weeks leading up to it, drew reminiscences from countless Rhode Islanders.

“We’ve been coming here for so long,” said Warwick resident Jenn Dunwoodie, who attended the auction with her husband. “We will miss this place forever. There is and never will be another place like it.”

In all, 462 items were up for auction. The first six pieces were designated as being donated to The Tomorrow Fund.

All manner of club supplies – coasters, ice buckets, glassware, stepladders, sound and lighting systems – were among the items up for purchase. There were also Mardi Gras masks, disco balls and the famous pirate statues.

Other auction items included a guitar signed by the members of the legendary rock group The Eagles and two bronze ponies statues that had previously been located at the Hotel Fontainebleau in Miami.

Dunwoodie and her husband had their eyes on one particular piece of the club’s past.

“I want a pirate,” she said. “Everyone needs a pirate.”

Besides the neon palm trees outside, the single item that has been most broadly associated with Mardi Gras was the 25-foot, fiberglass great white shark that took a tumble off the roof during a storm last year. After the fall, people flocked from all over the state to take their picture with the iconic shark, which was purchased by Flo’s Clam Shack in 2018.

Still, there was no shortage of Mardi Gras history available during Saturday’s event.

“We have 45 years of club history, from every year and every decade,” said auctioneer Michael Salvadore of Narragansett-based Salvadore Auctions. “The items are so diverse.”

Over the years, the club has changed several times into different venues, and there are many names associated with its decades-long run. In addition to Mardi Gras, past patrons will remember names such as JR’s Fastlane, Johnny Bahamas, The Diamond Rodeo, Monkey Bar and Mustang Sally’s.

The venue closed in November 2017 and briefly reopened as Club 5 in 2018, but shut its doors against shortly thereafter.

For some, including Mike Rossi of Antiques Alley in Greenville, the auction was less about nostalgia than business.

“It is all numbers, not personal,” he said.

For many, however, the auction was an emotional experience. One viewer teared up as she walked through the room to look through the available items. Another, who gave her name only as Nicole from Cranston, recalled how large a role the club played in the lives of her group of friends.

“I came here every Friday night after work, met my six girlfriends from high school,” she said. “We were carefree and full of life. Two of us met our husbands here, and now we all have families and other obligations. I wanted to come and pay my respects to a place that will forever live in my memories.”

Brenna Carnevale of Johnston shared the story of how her late mother, Paula, met her future husband, Anthony, at the Diamond Rodeo – and how dancing at the Diamond Rodeo brought joy to her mother, who had aspired as a girl to one day be a ballerina.

“The Diamond Rodeo was my mom’s escape,” Brenna said. “It was where she could do what she loved the most, even if it wasn’t the way she had dreamed of. My parents went dancing as often as they could.”

Oh, those glory days.