Blue-Collar Nights

To the sound of a Latin beat, the city's working stiffs escape the daily grind at Escapade, two of the biggest nightclubs you've never heard of -- not if English is your first language

"We have standards," Ferdows says.

A couple of more bouncers give everyone's various identification cards the once-over with the aid of a flashlight. Those over 21 are tagged with thick wax-paper wristbands, while both the right and left hand of those too young to buy alcohol receive the traditional nightclub mark of the beast--a giant black X.

Loud music and cigarette smoke beckon from the dark, propped-open doorway. Everyone digs in his or her pants pockets, skirt pockets and purses to pay the $7-$10 cover charge. One by one, they step across the thinly carpeted threshold into a temporary, intoxicating world of freedom and fun.

Western boots, hats and belt buckles are the norm at Dos Mil Uno--where this cowboy busts a move.
Mark Graham
Western boots, hats and belt buckles are the norm at Dos Mil Uno--where this cowboy busts a move.
Looks of longing: Ladies wait for a dance in the upstairs room of Escapade 2009.
Mark Graham
Looks of longing: Ladies wait for a dance in the upstairs room of Escapade 2009.


After another long summer day of heavy construction work, Benito Ruiz is losing himself in the luxury of darkness for a few hours.

"It's nice to get out and meet people, to just have fun," he says, dark eyes gazing out from under a black cowboy hat, fingers wrapped around a wet Budweiser bottle, a boot heel tapping the base of an Escapade 2001 bar stool.

The tall, lean 23-three-year-old, who has lived in the area about four years, spends almost every Saturday night and early Sunday morning at the Northwest Dallas venue. Although Ruiz doesn't know it, it's the Fourth of July tonight. An illegal immigrant from San Luis Potosi, Mexico, he isn't sure why his boss said he doesn't have to show up for work in the morning.

"I know it's for something you guys celebrate," he says.

Whatever the case, he's taking advantage of his holiday from the grind. He came to 2001 tonight to meet "chicas," he says with a smirk between slow scans for potential candidates to tap on the shoulder, lean in close to and ask to dance.

Letty Hinojosa, 35, visits 2001 every Friday and Sunday night. The first time Hinojosa's sister suggested they go she felt uncomfortable because her English is a lot better than her Spanish, and she knew Spanish was spoken here. Hinojosa, who crossed the Rio Grande into the United States when she was a child, is an American citizen. She thoroughly enjoys meeting Mexican men at the club, however. "The guys in here are a lot of fun, and they're gentlemen," she says, holding hands with her current love interest just off the dance floor during a break. She met Jesus Martinez, 30, here about three weeks ago. Martinez, who has lived in Dallas illegally for about 11 years, doesn't have a phone, so they arranged last Friday to meet at a certain time at the club for the Fourth of July.

There are quite a few more men than women in both clubs. Recent male immigrants are all over the place, but it's not as easy to find recent female arrivals. It seems like more of the women than men, especially in 2001, are like Hinojosa--U.S. citizens with recent Mexican roots. There are 1.5 times as many Latino men between the ages of 18 and 29 in this country, according to the 2000 census.

Hinojosa, who spends her days as a rehabilitation technician in a local nursing home, says she ventured next door to check out 2009 once, but wasn't at all impressed with the guys. The Mexican men in 2001 are more traditional, more respectful. They know how to treat a woman, she says.

"They are cute over there [at 2009], but I don't like the way they think. They want to see if they can get you drunk and see if they can get you to a hotel. These guys are different," she says, placing her hand on Martinez's shoulder. "They buy you drinks here, but then they ask you out to dinner."

"Cumbia!" an announcer's voice suddenly booms over the speakers perched throughout the high, black-ceilinged building.

Pairs filter to the middle of the space from the ranch-style oak walls, the handful of bars, the pool-table room in a back corner, and the raised table and stool areas at the far ends of the room. They file onto the giant floor by the hundreds to dance cumbia, a kind of music as well as dance originally from Colombia but also popular in Mexico.

Shiny cowboy boots begin shuffling to the hectic um-pa-bum beat; blue jean-clad and miniskirt-bare knees bend. The dance floor becomes a sea of crisp-collared shirts and shimmering, tight blouses; thin, groomed moustached mugs and made-up complexions (no shortage of red lipstick); bobbing black Stetson hats pulled low and in perfect sync with dark, styled, gradually disheveling heads of hair.

Shuffle-shuffle-twirl, shuffle-shuffle-twirl.


Another Fourth of July party unfolds next door at Escapade 2009, where Spanish trickles off most tongues and the clientele's Latin blood runs just as deep. But the 2009 scene is markedly different. An ATM is positioned near the main entrance. Red, white and blue electronic images of the U.S. flag occupy a giant screen stretching above and across one side of the dance floor, a stark contrast from the green, red and white Mexican banner dangling prominently from a high oak beam near 2001's entrance.

Digital photos of female patrons and flashing reminders of the $500 raffle prize alternate on 2009's screen with the Stars and Stripes. (Both clubs' Friday and Saturday-night raffle prize has since changed to a full car-stereo system, given away every Sunday at both venues.)

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