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.
As far as I can tell, time stopped at Catalina one day around 1950 or so…
…and the minute hand hasn’t ticked since. And man, is it beautiful.
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…
When you enter, you first come to rows of locker rooms, painted in a picture-perfect sea green/white color combination:
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!
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.
Much of the stucco entrance has an awesome art deco design…
And call me crazy, but does this not clearly feel like an art deco cruise ship?
Continuing in toward the beach, hang a right…
…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).
The surrounding buildings house dozens of cabanas for members…
…each painted in those great pastel shades:
Four benches, an archetypal beach club fence, and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.
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:
Also, somewhere on the property, Joe Pesci’s Tommy Devito got wacked…but some things must remain a secret!
I can only imagine those filming fees are going right back into the club to keep it looking as pristine as ever. Compare this…
…to a photo taken decades ago:
I especially love all the design work in Catalina’s fences. Hidden on the stairs to the second floor, a pink sun blazes away:
On the second floor balcony…
…a rectangular pattern:
Finally, the classic diamond-patterned fence lining the perimeter of the club:
The beach area in front is owned by the club:
A restaurant/snack bar on the promenade:
Above the side entrance to the restaurant…
…a neat little nautical design:
Even the plant potters match the theme:
Inside the lobby, one of the coolest bits…
…this wall mural, which dates to the 50’s or 60’s…
…and features bathers having all sorts of 60’s-ish fun on the beach!
Everything you could want, from sailing and palm trees to sunning and eating hot dogs:
Finally, lining the ceiling are these great mermaids:
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.
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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