Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


November 27, 2012

Casablanca: Looking for the spirit of Rick's Cafe


For the most part, however, Casablanca's nightlife has moved away from downtown. The remaining cabarets are often venues for earsplitting Egyptian-style belly-dance music and prostitutes who tend to be more aggressive than the lazily swaying dancers in the Blue Parrot, Rick's main nightlife competition in the movie.

Casablanca's elite prefer the high-end bars and swanky nightclubs along the coast in the corniche area. A standout is the Cabestan, a multi-level restaurant, lounge and nightclub on the beach with stunning views of the Atlantic's crashing waves.

In the movie, Rick's Cafe is located by the airport, its façade swept by the control tower's spotlight. At Cabestan, Casablanca's lighthouse spotlights a terrace overlooking the ocean as patrons drink cocktails with names like the Pornstar, a voluptuous combination of vodka, passion fruit juice, rose petals and champagne.

The music is lounge groove, cocktails are pricey (upwards of $14), but it's worth it for the glamorous crowd and picture windows on the sea.

Getting into the fictional Rick's wasn't always easy. A curt shake of the head from Bogart was enough to tell the doorman when someone was persona non grata. Similarly, in modern Casablanca, where fancy neighborhoods often lie next to bidonvilles or slums, heavyset men in black suits stationed at restaurant doors also give would-be patrons the once-over.

The door scene is refreshingly absent at B-Rock, a club in the heart of the corniche strip that caters to Casablanca's alternative crowd. It offers a quiet bar area with pool tables as well as a lively downstairs where bands play. One night, a male-female team belted out North African songs and Western pop hits to a casually dressed young crowd. A French-language song from a Berber songwriter segued into Lady Gaga's Poker Face, followed by a fist-pumping classic from Metallica.

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