A Party For Unapologetic
“Big Girls” Puts An Unlikely Promoter On The Map.
By Kevin M. Mitchell
Photos by Rob Parhan
The story of Maggie Barrington is about vision, literally
It was an April evening in 1999 when the simple task of removing
her contact lens set off a chain of freak events. Barrington
scratched her cornea, and three botched operations later she
was blind in her right eye, causing her to lose the job she
held for 22 years as an adult abuse investigator, adoption
worker for special needs children, and professional child
But it was also the start of an unexpected, wild ride that
would bring this unlikely, self-taught club promoter of Jacksonville,
Florida to impressive success. She now runs two club night
sat Best Hotel nightclub Da Capo, with remarkably instinctive
and low-budget marketing tactics. The longest-running is Maggie’s
Underground, but it’s her newest creation that’s
blowing up in the press: Club Galore, “for Curveceous
[sic] and Beautiful Women of North Florida AND their Admirers!”
How did you get started?
I got one of those AOL free hours offers, and although I could
only go online five minutes at a time because my eyes were
light sensitive, I joined a local chat room. The members would
meet at clubs, so I went out – with my black eye patch.
There were only eight of us when I started organizing [the
What made you leap from organizing groups to promoting
clubs? A friend, Bruce Chambers, owned one of the
biggest nightclubs in town, Club 5. I told him I wanted to
bring some friends. I brought 40, and he asked where I got
all these people “following me around like the Pied
Piper.” He asked if I could do it every week.
Bruce was a visionary. He passed away in 2002, but was constantly
reinventing himself: “They will go to your club for
six months and then there’s something new on the other
side of town. You have to be open to the new. You can’t
enforce your vision on the population.”
How did your first club start? Bruce had
another club, Xanadu, in the basement of a downtown building,
[so] I started [a Saturday night party] and called it Maggie’s
Underground. When we opened in July, the air conditioning
broke. I closed it down by September, reopened at the Fat
Cat, and [finally] moved into Da Capo, where we are now.
What ignited your Friday night party, Club Galore?
Different sponsors came into [Maggie’s Underground]
and provided prizes for contests. One of them, Laura McSwain,
a “Big Beautiful Woman” herself, said “we
need a nightclub for BBW’s.” I said, “You’re
absolutely right, and I can do that!”
For a while we had to rotate around. These large women would
dance and the place would just stop and stare. Then we [moved
to Da Capo]. Now a 340-pound woman dances and she gets applauded.
I’m very proud of that.
How do you publicize? My Saturday is very
Internet-driven. I make sure it’s in the club listings,
[but] as far as radio commercials, I don’t need to.
For Galore, when I started out, I sent an email press release
to every newspaper, radio station, TV newscaster, every DJ.
And I didn’t just send them to the editors, but to all
the reporters, production teams, and the little people. I
thought if they weren’t a BBW themselves, maybe they
knew someone who was. I sent out 250 press releases two weeks
before I opened Galore.
The response? We were on Channel 12 news,
Channel 4 news. I’m talking two to five minutes of play,
and the lead story. We had a photo on the front page of the
daily newspaper. I’ve been on many radio shows, including
8 a.m. on a Saturday. Ugh!
You mentioned radio advertising… For Galore I do radio
spots. One month I’ll advertise on the ’80s station,
then a ’90s. I place them so they have an impact. I
pay attention to the demographics.
Has your social worker background helped?
It’s been a tremendous asset because I learned how to
talk to everybody, every age, every social group. I know how
to make people feel good about themselves. If you want to
be successful, you have to know what motivates [customers]
and what turns them on. You have to pay attention to everyone
who comes in your door and know how to please them to keep
them coming back.
It can be a rough business – any secrets?
Know how much everything costs. I know the cost of every balloon,
Mardi Gras bead, wristband.
I know how many couples come in between nine and ten, how
many single males, females. I keep track of the theme and
DJ. Do you have an early crowd? Late? More females? Males?
Then do advertising to keep things balanced. With Galore I
was told I’d have 30 women to every one man, but that’s
not been the case at all. We had 45 women and 90 men last
And now? I’m making more money than
I was as a social worker, and I get emails thanking me all
the time. One of my DJs has been doing this for 20 years and
says I’m the best he’s worked for, because I’m
always looking to the future. Is this working? What needs
to change? I’m constantly re-evaluating. If they aren’t
in my nightclub, where are they and why? •
The Jacksonville Market
What’s the market in Jacksonville like? “That’s
a complex question,” laughs Maggie Barrington. “It’s
kind of pseudo-sophisticated. We have an NFL football team,
but we still have a small-town mentality, which is good and
bad at the same time. Nightlife here is very ordinary; very
few cutting-edge places. It’s not a risk-taking town.
The clubs I have are very unique, and that’s why I’ve
Here are some stats on the area:
• The Jacksonville area includes six counties in northeast
Florida totaling a million people, but the city itself is
in Sarasota County with a population of 335,323
• 79.1% own homes
• Median value of owner-occupied
home is $122,000
• Median household money: $41,975
• Per capita income: $28,326
• Persons below poverty line: 7.8%
• High school graduates: 87.1%
• Bachelor’s degree or higher: 27.4%
Sources: Jackson Chamber of
Commerce and U.S. Census Bureau