It was at the bar at Mozelle’s, in the middle of the day, and we just stared at each other for a second, looking back through the years to recognize the gleam in each other’s eye.
For the first time in at least a decade I found myself face to face with Joey Medaloni, the one-time mayor of Elm Street whose N Club, Heaven and Much set the pace for downtown Greensboro’s nightlife resurgence back at the turn of the century.
I first interviewed Medaloni in 2001 as a nightlife columnist for Triad Style, and would do so perhaps a dozen more times, both formally and informally, while his reign on Elm lasted. He always made sure I got in the room and had a drink in my hand when those things mattered very much to me. He always remembered my wife’s name. One night he took me on a back-circuit tour of his clubs, through alleys and side stairwells and even, I think, across a rooftop so he could show me the VIP beds at Heaven.
Medaloni never actually ran for mayor, but I ran the numbers back then and thought that, with an aggressive get-out-the-vote campaign at his clubs, he might be able to get through a primary. And he did once spend time in the back of a limousine with President George Bush.
Everything, we both agreed, has changed since those halcyon days when the mayor of Greensboro had to go downtown at midnight to see for himself why he should allow the hot dog vendors to operate past 9 p.m.
“I never go down there anymore,” he told me. “It’s like an old girlfriend.”
He said he occasionally ventures down to Winston-Salem’s West End from Lewisville, where he’s built a winery, Medaloni Cellars, that in some ways is a natural extension of his work on Elm Street: tastings and wine dinners, wedding parties, couples cabins for rent, and then on Sunday afternoons a food truck pulls up and just about everyone in Lewisville comes out to drink wine and listen to music.
But there’s no more nightlife for Joey Medaloni. Not when there’s so much to see and do in the light of day.