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Nightclub provides a singles' spot in area known for favoring families


At the Silver Shadows night club in Columbia, doctors groove with lawyers. Educators jam with entrepreneurs. And DJ Anthony "Tony T" Ervin interrupts the party-goers with the unusual demand: "All the ladies in the house making over $30,000 make some noise!"

An explosion of screams and hand-clapping rock the house as revelers work their bodies to the pulsating beats of such songs as Montell Jordan's rhythm-and-blues hit, "This Is How We Do It."

It's Saturday night at Silver Shadows, Columbia's only true night club, Howard's only black-owned club and a magnet for black professionals throughout the Baltimore-Washington corridor.

Silver Shadows provides a rare burst of night life in a planned, family oriented community better known for its tot lots and community pools. It's also one of the few examples of the kind of lively diversion long sought with little success for Columbia's Town Center by the new town's developer, the Rouse Co.

Over the last six years -- located in an otherwise sterile collection of office buildings off Sterrett Place -- Silver Shadows has gained a reputation for being a fun spot for older, professional blacks.

Co-owner Tanya Hobbs says its success is simple: "Number one, because of the music." The club offers live jazz on Thursdays and Fridays and a reggae band on Sundays. And its DJs play a variety of other music -- hip hop, rhythm and blues, go-go and even 1970s funk.

"They love the DJ," Ms. Hobbs says. "Whenever we change the DJ, they have a fit."

Adds Columbian Edward "Eddie" Brooks, 48, sitting at the club's dimly lighted bar, smoking Marlboro Light 100s and sipping Long Island tea: "What I like about it is it's close and convenient. I like the mixture of people who come in -- the age diversity."

Silver Shadows has such a steady following that its dance floor, with a capacity of 80 to 100 dancers, often overflows. "Our crowd is getting so big, especially on Saturday nights, that we have to turn people away," Ms. Hobbs says.

Last week, work began on expanding the 5,100-square-foot club. By year's end, it will have a second dance floor, new sound system and room for 700 party-goers at a time -- instead of just 400.

Also last week, amateur singers conquered their shyness to participate in the club's first karaoke night. Walter Morris, a 28-year-old medical assistant, sang several songs, including Boyz II Men's "I'll Make Love to You." After singing the song filled with high notes, he warned the crowd: "Boyz II Men is no joke. Don't do that at home."

Entertainment has been part of the club since Silver Shadows opened in 1987 under another name, the Native New Yorker. Wayne Hobbs, a native New Yorker living in Columbia, opened that club in the K & M Lakefront North building, which previously housed The Library and The Jukebox clubs -- both of which had closed.

His mother, Marcia Weider, took over the club two years later and then closed it, Ms. Hobbs said. Ms. Weider then reopened the club in late 1989, naming it Silver Shadows after a closed club in Manhattan.

That's when the club began tar- geting an older audience with live jazz. Six years later, it's thriving, Ms. Hobbs says. "We have doctors. We have lawyers. We have people with their own businesses, whatever they might be."

Usually open all but Monday nights, the club closes at 2 a.m. Its house jazz band, Spur of the Moment, plays Thursdays and Fridays, and a reggae band, The Image Band, on Sundays.

When it's party time, patrons dance, mingle or just sit and admire one another.

One recent Saturday night, with the blaring rhythms calling him, Mr. Brooks, tapped his fingers on the bar and rose to dance. "For an old man, I can go," joked the Apple Ford salesman, his hips swaying.

"Before I Let Go," a rhythm-and-blues song by a group named Maze, featuring Frankie Beverly, shook the crowd.

"Say what?" DJ "Tony T" asked the crowd, muting the music so the revelers could fill in the lyrics. "Before I let go!" they responded rhythmically in unison.

By 2 a.m., outfits were sopped and some hairdos had flopped.

And then party-goers had to let go -- scattering to vehicles in the otherwise empty parking lot of the downtown Columbia office complex.

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