Back In Time At The Catalina Beach Club

If you’ve ever dreamed of going back in time, forget the DeLorean and simply drive out to Atlantic Beach to visit the Catalina Beach Club.

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As far as I can tell, time stopped at Catalina one day around 1950 or so…

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Picture courtesy the Catalina Beach Club – Click for more!

…and the minute hand hasn’t ticked since. And man, is it beautiful.

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I was working on a film shoot here recently, and when I walked through the doors, I was blown away. I had scouted a number of so-called “period” beach clubs for the movie, all of which ultimately turned out to be tacky skeletons of a former glory. Yet Catalina seemed to have been frozen in time…

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When you enter, you first come to rows of locker rooms, painted in a picture-perfect sea green/white color combination:

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One detail that feels extremely period: each locker door has a top and bottom section, to allow you to see out while changing. A few are even equipped with peep holes to see who’s knocking!

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The club’s early history is murky. The initial building was constructed sometime in the last 1920’s along with a number of other beach clubs, as New York’s wealthy discovered the beauty of Atlantic Beach. In 1944, it was purchased by the Carasso and Sevy families, who still own and operate it as a private members club to this day.

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Picture courtesy the Catalina Beach Club – Click for more!

Much of the stucco entrance has an awesome art deco design…

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And call me crazy, but does this not clearly feel like an art deco cruise ship?

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Continuing in toward the beach, hang a right…

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…and you’ll find yourself at the Catalina’s pool, gloriously unchanged for decades (I swear, it felt like a teen party from one of those campy 1960’s beach party movies was about to break out).

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The surrounding buildings house dozens of cabanas for members…

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…each painted in those great pastel shades:

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Four benches, an archetypal beach club fence, and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.

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If you’re having a bit of deja vu, don’t be surprised: Catalina has been featured in hundreds of movies, television shows, and print ads over the years. Royal Pains spent quite a lot of time filming here recently; Sports Illustrated shot swimsuit edition photos here; and the beach club scene in Goodfellas took place by the pool:

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Also, somewhere on the property, Joe Pesci’s Tommy Devito got wacked…but some things must remain a secret!

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I can only imagine those filming fees are going right back into the club to keep it looking as pristine as ever. Compare this…

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…to a photo taken decades ago:

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Picture courtesy the Catalina Beach Club – Click for more!

More cabanas:

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I especially love all the design work in Catalina’s fences. Hidden on the stairs to the second floor, a pink sun blazes away:

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On the second floor balcony…

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…a rectangular pattern:

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Finally, the classic diamond-patterned fence lining the perimeter of the club:

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The beach area in front is owned by the club:

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A restaurant/snack bar on the promenade:

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Above the side entrance to the restaurant…

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…a neat little nautical design:

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Even the plant potters match the theme:

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Inside the lobby, one of the coolest bits…

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…this wall mural, which dates to the 50’s or 60’s…

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…and features bathers having all sorts of 60’s-ish fun on the beach!

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Everything you could want, from sailing and palm trees to sunning and eating hot dogs:

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Finally, lining the ceiling are these great mermaids:

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When a director asks us for a dank alley, a chicest of chic Wall Street office, or an abandoned warehouse, it’s often an impossible task because he’s expecting us to find the perfect prototype of his imagination. Rarely does reality live up to this standard.

Catalina amazes me because it is that perfect prototype: exactly what you imagine when you think of a 1950’s beach club. Free from feeling intentionally retro and wonderfully devoid of any hipster irony, Catalina is that rarest of rare place, where time has simply come to a halt.

-SCOUT

Note: Though a private members only club, Catalina is very film friendly, and will consider all serious (read: must have serious budget!) proposals.

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20 comments

  1. Would this also be perhaps the place where the Good Fellas scene where Karen & Henry are at the “Country Club” sitting at a table when Karen’s friend stops to talk to her? When I saw your post on this that is what I instantly thought of.

  2. So cool. Thanks.

  3. Excellent stuff!

  4. I’m a member of Catalina…It’s wonderful! Although the rules are much stricter than at other beach clubs on Atlantic Beach.

  5. Great location for a scene in Mad Men…

    Reminds of that scene of Don at the pool in California with his new wife. (From the very last season)

    This song was playing..

  6. This got me thinking about “The Flamingo Kid”. I looked it up to see it was filmed just west of hear at “The Silver Gull Club” in Breezy Point. Oddly, they have no mention of it on their website.

  7. Makes me wanna sit by the pool and have a nice cocktail, just chilling out.
    I’d love to meet the decorator!

  8. Big up to Adam Rand, cabana boy extraordinaire

  9. Amazing that it stayed 50’s even as 50’s wasn’t cool. Wonder if that was just super conservatism by the management, to never change anything.

  10. Dude, sign me up. How do I join?

  11. While the club may be making a decent amount of money from filming charges, its real gold mine is the ridiculous $650 for a reserved parking spot!

  12. Very nice work! I was a PA on Goodfellas and the 1st AD on the pilot for Royal Pains and you are indeed correct. We filmed there for 2 days on the pilot and used the pool area for the title sequence.

    On Goodfellas, we shot there for one day. And I remember it was cold that day.

    As for Tommy getting whacked, it was not Tommy who got whacked there, but Stacks (Samuel Jackson) It was in a small building on the other side of the parking lot out front. Every time he got shot, the cleanup took 45 minutes!!

    Tommy was whacked in Park Slope off 7th avenue. I remember so many details about that job.

    Love the site. Keep it up!!

    • I’d love to read ANYTHING about the making of Goodfellas. You should write down your memories before they get too fuzzy and share them with the world.

  13. Your vision of the world is so incredibly lush. It continues to astonish me.

    Until 10 minutes ago, I would have told you I unarguably do not give a crap about any old Long Island beach club, and now I am infatuated by this style and wish DESPERATELY I could go spend a day as a member of this place. Thank you for consistently writing posts that make me have this same reaction to other locations I have never even considered for a moment before.

  14. I agree with Kate. Your site is awesome! You always offer something new to consider and appreciate.

  15. Hmm, they didn’t do the entrance any favors by broadening the overhang and sticking columns under it. Is that facade stucco? The pastels make me a little queasy too. But yeah, these are quibbles. The place is kind of a miracle.

  16. I love the Scouting NY site! Yeah, I agree with your idea, that the beach club looks like a cruise ship! That’s the first thing that I thought of when I saw your pics of the club…that it looked like a 1940s cruise boat, or a “Tom Sawyer” era-paddle wheel boat.

    Your article is a lot of fun!

  17. I remember that club! I think it was just to the right (west) as you crossed over the bridge into Atlantic Beach. I could be wrong about this, but I seem to recall that back when I lived in Lawrence as a kid in late 60s and early 70s, that club was getting kind of run-down and seedy. Whatever . . . it certainly looks today like a lot of money and care has been has been put into restoring and keeping its original 1920s-era splendor.

    P.S.–I didn’t know that this was the setting for the beach club scene in Goodfellas! Bruce, the cocky rich brat in that scene, gets his comeuppance a few scenes later, when he tries to rape Karen and instead gets pistol-whipped by Henry to within an inch of his life: “I swear on my f**kin’ mother! If you ever touch her again I’ll kill you!”

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