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Dennis Doheny, owner of iconic South Beach gay dance club Paragon, dies of ALS at age 47

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

Dennis Doheny, whose dance club Paragon became a center of gay nightlife in South Florida in the early ‘90s, died early Thursday in Connecticut of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). He was 47.

"If people associate us with fun, then that reflects well on us, " Doheny told The Miami Herald in 1992.

A wake for Doheny will take place on Sunday from 4-8 PM, and the funeral will be on 10 a.m. Monday. Arrangements are being handled by Smith & Sefcik, 135 Broad St., Milford, CT 06460. 203-874-2588.

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Above is a 1994 photo of Doheny, right, with partner Patrick Reilly at the Shore Club Hotel, which they renovated in the mid 1990s. Here’s one of the last Miami Herald stories about Doheny, from April 2,1999:

PIER OFFERS VARIETY TO GAY FUNSEEKERS

BY JOHNNY DIAZ, Miami Herald Staff

Don't call it a club. Or a bar. Or a restaurant. It's all three.

The Pier, making a splash at 3333 NE 32nd Ave. in Fort Lauderdale, is being billed as the gay entertainment complex in Broward, perhaps South Florida.

Its 22,000 square feet of space is filled with bars, lounge rooms, an arcade, a garden, a dock and a soon-to-be restaurant, or what co-owner Dennis Doheny calls "a bar that serves deli-like food."

Ask him to define the place and he searches for the words. He can't find them.

"It's hard to define because we have a little bit of everything, " said Doheny, who opened The Pier with partner Patrick Reilly on March 18. "It's a little bit of everything but not absolutely everything. We are a lot of different things."

Whether you wear a tux or a tank top, Dockers or dresses, there's a room for everyone here.

They've got music: South Beach deejays Monty Q (Score) and Abel (formerly of Paragon, currently of Salvation) spin the latest in dance songs along the Pier's waterfront windows throughout Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. From 4 to 9 p.m. Sundays, dance into dusk during the Pier's tea dance ($3 cover).

For the crowds who want to mellow out with a stogie and Scotch after work, there's the "grand salon, " a bar reminiscent of those old steamboats floating down the Mississippi.

Look up and see sparkling chandeliers. Video monitors play smooth Ol' Blue Eyes and Basia. Chandeliers light up the soft sapphire-linen walls (we touched them) and the plush African printed couches (we sat in them).

If guys and girls in tank tops feel out of place in this room, they should report to the tropical-feeling, lime-colored Key West bar room by the dock, or they can throw darts in the dark arcade room next door.

A store up front features Pier-wear shirts, cigarettes, magazines and computers. Patrons can log on and check their e-mail. In a few weeks, owners will hook up real-time live cameras so anyone, anywhere can visit the Pier's Web site for a peek.

And for those who travel by sea via the Intracoastal, they just need to slip into one of the Pier's dock slots.

So why open such a posh place?

"For a large number of gay men and woman there doesn't seem to be upscale businesses, " said Doheny, who along with Reilly ran South Beach's three-level Deco dance club Paragon before The Artist, formerly known as Prince, bought it.

They also have been creative forces in Hollywood, with Young Circle's extravagant (and now closed) Cafe Erte, which featured rotating artwork, blood-red carpets and 18 video monitors simultaneously showing music clips.

They hope The Pier will make waves in South Florida's nightlife.

"It's kind of like a full-service, one-stop shopping for the gay crowd, " Doheny said.

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My deepest sympathy goes out to Patrick and the Family of Dennis. Dennis was a great person, we worked together many years ago and I will never forget him.

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