Q and A with Peter Mott
Every Friday, the Portland Tribune puts questions to a prominent - or not so prominent - local person.
You'll have to forgive Peter Mott if he's in a mood for reminiscing. And it's not just Mott.
A wide swath of Portland's musicians and music aficionados this month are talking up a period of time when the local music scene was enjoying its heyday, at least judging by the number of local nightclubs.
Come the weekend of Sept. 15 and Sept. 16, Mott will be putting on a reunion for the Last Hurrah nightclub at the Wildwood Recreation Site in Welches (www.lasthurrahreunion.com).
In the 1980s, live music proliferated at what Mott estimates were 70 to 80 local nightclubs. And foremost among those clubs was the Last Hurrah in downtown Portland, which Mott ran with his brother, Michael, and sister, Susan, from 1975 to 1987. The Last Hurrah hosted local bands seven nights a week, and club policy held that an agreed-upon percentage of the music they played had to be original.
The Last Hurrah evolved from a 1,200-square-foot pizza joint/deli with a western saloon motif into what Mott and others consider the first Portland nightclub of its era.
There was a time in this city when music lovers could enjoy blues night with an up-and-coming Robert Cray Band, or Sunday night jazz for a $1 cover. Capacity was 300; some nights the place was packed with well over 400.
Since the club's closing, Mott has pursued a career as an events planner. He helped put on Mayor's Balls for Bud Clark and the waterfront fest for the Rose Festival. But nothing, he says, has been quite the same as a Saturday night at the Last Hurrah.
• • •
Portland Tribune: Can you take us back to a wild night at the Last Hurrah?
Peter Mott: The Rascals used to do Tuesday nights, and they used to do the Worm. They'd all wiggle on their backs on the floor like it was a pagan ritual. The crowd so often was maxed out wild. It was hot and smoky. It was a smokehouse of original music.
Tribune: Any disasters at the club?
Mott: One night, one of the light techs focused two lights right through one of our ceiling sprinkler heads (heating the head). It didn't do anything that night, but next morning that sprinkler head burst, and we were in the basement of a 13-floor office building.
I went back to the master valve and turned it off but it still kept coming down. I realized that all the water in 13 floors of piping had drained onto our dance floor. We had to close a couple of days.
Tribune: But not for good. Why did the Last Hurrah close?
Mott: It wasn't for financial reasons. We saw the pendulum swinging. Eight or 10 of our best acts had gotten national contracts. They were either off recording or touring. Also the mood had changed. Liquor liability insurance went way up for nightclubs. We had a perfect insurance record, but our rate went up 1,300 percent in two years.
When we decided to close we announced it three months in advance, and my brother immediately started coordinating a farewell deal. We had lines out the door and down the street.
We had limos stacked up in front of the place on closing night. Some people assumed we were going to keep the place open until the bar was dry and all the bottles were empty.
Around 2 o'clock I had to gather around 30 of my friends and ask them to help clear the house. Later we heard the police called an unofficial steer clear of our nightclub which basically meant, 'Don't go looking for trouble there and only respond if called.' We appreciated that kind of respect.
Tribune: You ran the club a little differently than most, didn't you?
Mott: Your employees feed your customers. You want new employees because they bring new customers; their friends come down to see them. We did things to keep employees there so it encouraged a sense of family
Tribune: Such as?
Mott: We used to have a barn dance once a year. We'd invite all our best customers and employees out to Sherwood and put on a barn dance in a hayloft-filled barn. It was an absolute gas, like the Beverly Hillbillies in reverse. It was the city kids going to the country.
- Peter Korn