Barfly - The way we ball

Hard times can't quell the money (and bunny) lust at Mansion Elan

It's Saturday night, and even though little more than an echo inhabits my pockets, my boys and I want to go out to a club and live it up.

The old club Dreamz ATL has been reincarnated as Mansion Elan (3595 Clairmont Road, 404-997-6900, www.themansionelan.com), the newest Atlanta mega-club to brave the mega-recession. It's free entry before midnight so we arrive at 11:30 p.m., park in the humongous, free lot and hit the line with hopes that the clock won't strike 12 before we take advantage of the complimentary admission.

Tonight is New York DJ Kay Slay's birthday bash, and some of the members of Diddy's busted boy band Day 26 are in the building, along with Raekwon the Chef. But it ain't as Black Hollywood as it sounds. The V.I.P. sections aren't even roped off. And the dance floor actually has people dancing on it.

Although a massive bar sits dead center, a stunning cocktail waitress in a shiny silver vest, matching bow tie, cuffs and short shorts captures our attention. A Playboy bunny without the tail, she hops right past us, delivering a bottle of pricey bubbly — with one of those "Look at me, I have money!" sparklers attached — to V.I.P.

Seconds later, a more attractive bunny takes her place, asking us if we, too, want the fireworks. There's a whole colony of these cocktail beauties bouncing around, to encourage the pocket-breaking bottle service, no doubt. When we fail to offer her a credit card and begin to order our drinks separately, her enchanting smile almost fades into a frown. Our frugality is not part of Mansion Elan's master plan.

DJ Trauma provides a soundtrack to satisfy the Soulja Boys, Gucci Men and anyone interested in "Blowin' Money Fast." Big Meech was nowhere to be found, but some act-a-likes in V.I.P. began tossing ones atop several fully-clothed, dancing women. It didn't even matter that the waitress kept picking up the bread and returning it to them so they could repeat the process. As long as they were willing to keep up the illusion, she was willing to play along.

When I wander upstairs to get an aerial view of the floor, the interior design of Mansion Elan is striking: the Gothic columns, the Roman statues, the crystal chandeliers all hit me in one grandiose gulp.

Free parking, a lenient dress code and a relatively moderate price of admission ($20 past Cinderella's curfew) may not cancel out the excess of a giant venue that encourages patrons to shine at all costs. But the folks behind Mansion Elan have succeeded at making the mega-club the main attraction, regardless of the promoter or the celebrity on the bill.

The drunker I get, the more novel the idea becomes. It's as if I'm the star and this is my mansion.

I'm about one-and-a-half drinks away from intestinal upheaval when I meet the implants of my dreams. Four cheeks and two smiling faces want to take a picture with me. The camera guy snaps two shots and I'm thrilled to know I'll be featured on one of those clubhopper websites with two fiery females. One of the ladies is pretty hyped about it, too, as she asks the photographer where she can view her photos.

He tells her, "Creative Loafing." And she responds with an, "Oh, OK!"

As soon as he walks away, she turns to me and asks, "What's Creative Loafing?"

"Who knows?" I shrug. "But if you bounce up and down like a bunny rabbit, I can make you famous."

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