I got a nostalgic feeling from news that the Flamingo Club lost its liquor license after an investigation found cocaine sales on the premises.
The Flamingo club was the site of one of my favorite columns, ever — a story about hundreds of Stocktonians who truly believed the devil — Satan — paid the club a visit.
Here’s the 1995 column. Below it is a post script about the explanation,which I learned later.
Dancing with Satan in Stockton
By Line: Michael Fitzgerald
Hundreds of Stocktonians believe that the devil recently visited the Flamingo Club. Yes, the devil — the actual Christian devil, Satan, Lucifer — at the Flamingo Club, the dance bar at Charter Way and Wilson Way.
People believe that the devil levitated off the dance floor. They further believe that he fatally mauled a woman, slipped police handcuffs and vanished mysteriously.
Over the past month, numerous terrified readers have called The Record to report the diabolical visit. The Flamingo Club’s owners receive constant jittery inquiries from spooked customers.
Here is the rumor, compiled from a half-dozen accounts.
On or about Fathers Day (June 18) a charismatic man, draped in gold jewelry, entered the Flamingo Club, where live music was playing. Every eye was on the magnetic fellow as he asked a young woman to dance.
Dancing, the young woman glanced down and saw … that the man’s feet were not touching the floor!
As she screamed, the house plunged into darkness. The lights finally came back on to reveal the young woman bloodied — viciously cut up somehow. Police, responding, handcuffed the man, locked him in the back of a patrol car and set about questioning witnesses.
But soon the cops halted; the man had vanished from the locked car. Only the handcuffs remained.
Although her wounds did not appear lethal, the young woman lapsed into a mysterious delirium and died.
Attempts to find someone present on the night in question were unsuccessful. There is no shortage, however, of people who believe the pervasive rumor. Jackie, a 29-year-old dance instructor, said the incident has scared her from ever visiting the Flamingo Club.
“I get scared every night,” Jackie said. She added ominously that on the day she first heard of the devil’s visit, On Days of Our Lives, Marlena was possessed by the devil. “That really gave me the willies.”
Naturally, I asked Peter Halamandaris, owner of the Flamingo Club, if the devil had visited his establishment. “Of course not. Nothing (happened) whatsoever. Nothing, nothing, nothing. Never, never, never.”
“Halamandaris, who suspects his business rivals started the rumor, invited me to visit the Flamingo and see what a nice club it is. I accepted. The Flamingo is a nice club.
Coroner’s files show no female homicide victim on or about Fathers Day. Police records show no incident at the Flamingo around that date.
“The devil did not escape from the back of a police car,” stated police spokesman Sgt. Billy Wykert.
Mark Zier, a Methodist minister and Ph.D medievalist at University of the Pacific, said the devil story tells us something about our times.
“We are living in a world that is so complicated, and we as individuals are so powerless, we have come to believe in all these unseen forces that control our lives: sometimes for good, as in the case of angels, sometimes for evil as in the case of the devil. On one level, it is a cry of despair.”
Attempts to reach Lucifer were unsuccessful.
(Fitzgerald’s column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Mail: P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. Phone: 546-8270. E-mail: Mikol@546-8375.)
The punch line: Turned out that story is Mexican folklore. Not urban folklore, like the poodle in the microwave, but folklore from rural Northern Mexico. Immigrants carried it up here.
In an alternate version of the folk tale, the dancing woman looks down to see the one of the man’s legs is the leg of a rooster.
Farewell, Flamingo Club. Thanks for the memories.