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Adam's Mark memories to outlive hotel

Thoughts of disco dancing, free sunsets and pretty people - no darts, no big-screen antics - will remain after the hotel falls.

By TAMARA EL-KHOURY
Published October 8, 2005


[Times photo: Jim Damaske]
The Adams Mark Hotel on Clearwater Beach collapses in front of a crowd early Saturday morning after explosive charges went off to make way for a new development.
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CLEARWATER - Beverlee Whitmore nearly spits out the words:

Football.

Basketball.

Darts.

Today's bars and clubs provide little opportunity for social grace, she said.

And she can't wear her evening gowns.

But a couple of decades ago she had a patch of sand next to a fabulous steel drum Caribbean band. On the weekends she stayed for the tiki bar, the sunset, the people.

Mostly, she stayed to dance.

"I wanted to be near the music and that's where it was, the Adam's Mark," Whitmore, 71, said.

Today, the 14-story Adam's Mark Hotel will be demolished with explosives.

British developer Taylor Woodrow paid $31.5-million for the 2.45 acres of gulf-front property. The 30-year-old hotel will be replaced with a West Indies-style project of 113 condos and 78 hotel rooms.

That's what's to come. Let Whitmore take you back to 1973, when she escaped upstate New York for Clearwater with three cats, two kids and a Gremlin sans air conditioning.

Clearwater was all beach then, she said. There were no Miami-style condos, no barriers to the water and no stretches of asphalt parking lots.

She barely had any money.

She did have the beach.

"I felt like I was the richest princess in the world," Whitmore said. "There was my little place on the beach, there was the Adam's Mark, and I was thinking, "What are the poor people in Syracuse doing right now?' "

The music hit her as soon as she drove up to what was then called the Caribbean Gulf Hotel. A stairway led up to a concrete deck where the band played.

"It was the ambience of this incredible place," Whitmore said. "For practically no money you could be one of the richy girls."

She never tired of watching the sun set.

"We'd think to ourselves, "People come from all over the United States for this, and we live here and we enjoy it . . . and not have to stay at the hotel," said Whitmore's friend Carolyn Romano, 74, who moved to St. Petersburg in 1973 and has lived in Clearwater for more than 20 years.

Whitmore, who taught ballroom dancing, and Romano, who grew up in a dancing family, were heavy-duty disco dancers and would meet to go out "dancing and prancing."

Inside the hotel was the Starlight Room, a club with a dark blue ceiling spattered with little lights, like the ones you put on your Christmas tree, Whitmore said.

"It was the disco era," Whitmore said. "Everything was about lights. Lights on the dance floor, lights all the way around the bar, a huge, huge bar."

To the right of the club's entrance were a dance floor and a stage where a live band played. To the left were a circular bar and a door leading to a deck where clubbers could let the ocean breeze cool them.

Whitmore, who was a size 3 and stands 4 feet, 11 inches tall, designed and made her own clothes. She said she wore tight satin pants that looked painted on. She had them in turquoise, gold, silver. Even before the days of the glue gun she found a way to bedazzle her funky tops with sequins.

She swears she still wears platform heels.

"I always dressed like it was Studio 54," Whitmore said.

A Caribbean band seemed to always be playing at the hotel, which took on the name Adam's Mark Caribbean Gulf Hotel in the 1980s, said Clearwater historian Mike Sanders.

"It really was the closest thing to capturing the flavor of the islands," Sanders said. "You'd go out there on a Sunday afternoon, the steel drum band would be out there and the water would be lapping up on the rocks, and the sunset and the tiki bar were quite popular."

The hotel's nightclub, Jack's Place, became a noted pretty-people place on the beach in the '80s.

"It was kind of the hub of a lot of meetings and nightclub activity and dining," Sanders said. "It was just one of the first major resorts on the beach. It anchored that south end of the beach."

The crowd at Adam's Mark was more mature, Romano said. The youngest bargoers were in their 30s. "I think it was really more of an adult place," Romano said. "We weren't used to seeing cars going down Clearwater Beach with their music blasting."

As Whitmore tells it, Adam's Mark was a place for adults to socialize against a beautiful backdrop with a band bringing people to their feet.

"That's what it was about. "You didn't go to nightclubs to throw darts or watch football," she said. "No, you went to dance and listen to great music."

[Last modified October 8, 2005, 01:26:19]


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