365 Things to Do in Memphis #280: Dance at Paula and Raiford’s Disco
There’s only one place in Memphis where you can dance on a light-up dance floor while an octagenarian in sequins spins your favorite classic hits.
Assignment #280 in the 365 Things to Do in Memphis is to get on the dance floor at Paula and Raiford’s Disco.
While I had been to Old Raiford’s (aka, Raiford’s Hollywood Disco on Vance) before it closed, I had never been to the new club that Raiford opened with his daughter Paula on Second St. And because I loved Old Raiford’s in all of it’s cash-only, brightly lit, 40oz. glory, I was a little apprehensive about this new space. What if they had decided to do away with the office furniture, poles and light up dance floor and get disappointingly classy?
As soon as I walked in, my fears were eased.
When you walk up to Paula and Raiford’s, there’s a red carpet and a velvet rope (making it possibly the only club in Memphis with a rope line). There’s also a pair of chrome-plated bicycles chained up outside. When I was there on Friday night around 10 p.m., there was no line outside. There wasn’t even a line at the little window just inside the door where you show your ID and pay your cover (usually $10).
That’s because I was early – way early. It was just me and a handful employees hanging out, watching the Lakers game. Even though I was all alone, the place was set to maximum party – the music was turned up loud, the fog machine was going full blast, and Mr. Raiford, the club’s octagenarian DJ, was still going through costume changes like it was a packed house.
I went to the bar, forked over my $6 for a bottle of Heineken (all of the regular-sized beers are $6, but they have Bud Light by the 40oz.) and sat down in a u-shaped white vinyl booth to wait on my friends Elle and Claudine.
Even though Paula and Raiford’s Disco is much larger than the old space on Vance, it’s nice to see that some things haven’t changed. Every available surface is covered in red and white rope lights, streamers or red balloons. There are still hand prints on the walls and the signage is still kind of hilarious. I was happy to see that they also kept their seating the same – white vinyl booths, reflective silver tables and high-backed rolling office chairs, exactly like the ones in your work’s conference room.
Also, not only does Paula and Raiford’s have a pole, the new location has enough room for several of them. Anyone is allowed to dance on them (or, as the case was when I was there, run and leap onto them and slide down fireman-style), just know that they’re not responsible for your pole-related injuries.
Around 11 p.m., the club started to fill up.
The three employees who had been dancing on the light-up dance floor in an effort, I suppose, to make the rest of us feel less intimidated by an empty floor, gave way to a crowd of people.
Mr. Raiford was manning the DJ booth in the way that your most ADD friend controls the car stereo. He would get halfway through a song, then skip abruptly to the next one if no one was dancing (or in some cases, even if they were).
The music was a mix of old Memphis (Elvis’ “Suspicious Minds” and “Jailhouse Rock”), current top-40 songs (that “Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night” song), group dances (the Cupid Shuffle was played at least twice) and 1970s classics like “Let’s Get It On” and “Purple Rain”. I’m pretty much convinced that Prince is Mr. Raiford’s spirit animal.
Everyone was friendly (other than the armed dance floor bouncer, who really doesn’t like it when you leab over the railing to take a sip of your beer) and the boys weren’t shy about asking the girls to dance. I also wasn’t shy about dancing – Claudine got pictures of me doing the Cupid Shuffle.
I danced with my friends, I danced with a nice guy that politely asked for my hand when “Purple Rain” came on. I danced with a charmingly inoxicated man with no shoes on, and I danced with a guy who offered to steal me from my boyfriend in the least creepy way possible.
When I decided to head home around 1:45 a.m., people were still streaming inside. I’ll definitely be back though, sooner rather than later.
Paula and Raiford’s Disco is open every Friday and Saturday night from 9 p.m. until 4 a.m. If you’re planning to be unable to drive, they offer limo service to and from the club. Cover is usually $10 though I’ve heard that sometimes, it’s $15 or $20, so bring at least $20 in cash with you. Drinks start at $5 for shots and $6 for beers, cash only. There’s an ATM inside, but the fees are high.
You must be 21 or older to get in.
14 S. Second St.
Memphis, TN 38103