The distinctive cries of Daniel “Hollywood Breeze” Clayton, 62, were so loud that even the bouncers standing in front of his Bladensburg Road NE nightspot, Club Rio, heard him inside screaming: “Excuse me! Excuse me! Excuuuse me!”
“What the…?” said one of the security guards as he ran into the club. “There can’t be nothing going on in there.”
After entering the building, the security teams realized the yells were just Clayton’s attempt to quiet a crowd gathered at the club on its last night of business. An employee wanted to say a few words about the joint and the man who had operated it for nearly 30 years, and Clayton wanted everyone to listen.
“We stood in there with Breeze when he had no liquor license, when he couldn’t pay us enough,” said a former security guard named Bam. “Thank you for all of those years. We’re sorry to see you go.”
On Saturday, July 30, Clayton hosted his last party at the infamous establishment, which had endured numerous problems since Aug. 14, 2003, when a shooting outside the club wounded eight people. The city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board revoked the club’s liquor license for almost two months following the incident. The license was restored in October 2003 but under the condition that Clayton refrain from playing live or recorded go-go or hiphop music—a provision that drove away much of his client base.
Though the violence, which prompted Clayton to change the club’s name several times to avoid bad press, defined the venue’s later years, back in the day the nightclub variously known as the Metro Club or “the Met” gave many go-go bands their start and provided a place for area seniors to hand-dance to oldies-but-goodies.
“I’m gonna miss it,” said Roxine Taylor, a Temple Hills, Md., technical writer and a regular at the Sunday-night taping of Breeze Country, Clayton’s oldies cable show. “There are no other places playing my age of music.”
But for the owner, the closing of the club was “like a load lifted off my shoulders.”
Clayton said that because the city government “doesn’t care about small-business owners,” he was moving. “After 30 years, I’m going to go to another state—and take my business and my tax money with me.”
According to Clayton, he has sold his building to a catering company. He says he is searching Maryland for both a permanent home for a new nightclub and a temporary home for Breeze Country so that interruptions in the taping schedule can be avoided. But not all of his hand-dancers said they’ll follow Clayton to the suburbs.
“I’ll go to church,” said a hand-dancer named Emily who declined to give her last name. “If I have to find something else to do, I’ll do that.”
The farewell party was carried out in the over-the-top manner that Clayton’s patrons had come to expect. In addition to a buffet and free-flowing André champagne, Clayton’s bash featured a cake decorated with a picture of himself, plastic dice and dancers, and every iteration of the club’s name rendered in black and red frosting: “Metro Club,” “Breeze’s Metro,” “Deno’s,” and “Club Rio.”
Not to be outdone by the food spread, Clayton changed outfits three times and made sure every attendee got a six-page hand-out detailing his accomplishments and setbacks. He had even cut off his trademark ponytail in anticipation of the upcoming changes. “I feel great,” he repeated over and over again throughout the night.
From employees and friends to radio-station personalities and musicians, everyone wanted a turn either toasting or roasting the club owner. One employee talked about how Clayton had helped him bury his father; another made fun of an all-orange get-up Clayton once wore to a family reunion. “I said, ‘He’s got on all orange?’ But that’s Breeze.”
When impressionist Greg Copper stepped to the microphone, he offered a little bit of Jackie Wilson’s “Baby Workout” and a few encouraging words about Clayton. “He will rise again!” Cooper predicted. “He’s like Bernard Hopkins! He will rise again!”
“You sound like I’m dead!” Clayton said. “Hold up! Where am I going?”