Mary's Club is infamous as "Portland's First Topless". We get questions all of the time about how long the club has been open, who Mary is, when the murals were painted and by whom, who used to dance here, etc. There is a lot of history to this club, what follows is a little bit of that history and some fabulous images from the past. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do because part of what makes Mary's Club so great is it's colorful history!
In 1954, Roy Keller bought Mary's Club, a piano bar that catered to Merchant Seamen. He purchased the club from Mary Durst who had won the club as part of a divorce settlement. Initially she rejected his offer to buy the club, telling him "I'm not gonna talk to you tonight 'cuz I've been drinking!" Undeterred, Roy returned promptly the next morning and the club was his for $26,500.
Between 1956 and 1958, Roy decided to spruce up Mary's Club and hired La Monte Montyne to paint murals on most of the available wall space inside the club. The murals remain today and get almost as much attention as the girls do! Painted with paint that glows in blacklight, the murals depict scenes that Roy thought the regular crowd would enjoy. There's a tropical scene with sailors loading a ship with bananas while an island beauty watches, a Cleopatra-like figure lounging with the Pyramids in the distance, a ship docked in a Portland-like harbor with Merchant Seamen working in the foreground, an exotic Priestess performing a sacrifice with a volcano behind her, and this scene depicting the Orient.
In February of 1965, he decided to offer something else his customers would enjoy: entertainment of the girlie variety. Roy brought in exotic dancers to perform during the piano player's breaks. The change in entertainment packed the club, but the business would fade when the piano player resumed his set. The piano players left of their own accord once they realized there was a line of people waiting for the exotic dancers and not them. From this point on Mary's Club was strictly a strip club where girls were topless only and pasties and g-strings were standard attire. This all changed in June of 1985 when the laws changed and Mary's Club went totally nude.
Initially Mary's Club brought in exotic performers from out of the state to perform. Many had elaborate costumes and routines and were well known. At one point Mary's even employed female impersonators and comedians. The walls of the office at Mary's Club are still covered with entertainer's promotional material. Click on our slideshow
to see just a small fraction of the lovely beauties who have graced the Mary's stage since the club began. Most of these ladies went on to do other things, some have even become famous in their own right: Courtney Love is one example- she danced here in the 1980's as "Michelle".
Throughout his career as a club owner, Roy owned seven clubs - three in Portland and four in Sacramento, CA. Only two of the clubs, Mary's Club and the Carriage Room, were strip clubs. The Carriage Room ran for 18 years at 1000 SW Broadway, below the Broadway Theatre. The club closed when the building was torn down in 1988.
Mary's Club has been a popular staple in Portland's nightlife scene for over fifty years. It has changed and evolved with the times but it remains a family run business. Roy's daughter, Vicki, manages the club and can be found most nights delivering cocktails to customers; two of his granddaughters work in the club, one as a bartender and one as a waitress; a daughter-in-law rounds out this family run club.
Roy Keller died on July 9, 2006 at the age of 90, peacefully and in the presence of family. Although he has left us, his legacy will live forever.
Mary's Club is a Portland nightlife landmark. The logo is extremely well-known and very popular. The club itself is a popular stop with people passing through Portland, especially musicians and actors. Three different movies have been filmed at Mary's Club: "Bongwater", "Dangerous Pursuit", and "Brainsmashers". The exterior of Mary's was featured prominently in "The Hunted" and has been seen on CNN, E!, and MSNBC. Local press has also given Mary's rave reviews including: The Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, the Portland Mercury, the Willamette Week, WW's Finder, Portland Monthly, Mansplat, Exotic Magazine, Barfly and Seattle's Tablet Magazine. Mary's was featured in a comic strip in Marvel Knights and was named one of the best strip clubs in America by Men's Fitness Magazine. Most recently, Mary's was featured on the show "Sexetera" on the Playboy Channel. Check us out in the July 2007 issue of Portland Monthly!