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Sunday, March 19, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Not a legend? Wait 20 years

The Seattle You Don't Know isn't just about vacant or torn-down buildings and places that no longer exist. It's also about that little joint that opened a few years ago, and which, 10 or 20 years from now, will have become legendary.

Tell me, and your fellow readers, about such places, such neighborhoods.

For example, in, say, 2020 or 2030, when the current generation of customers at the Crocodile Cafe in Belltown are middle-aged and living in a rambler in Auburn, they'll be remembering nights and breakfasts at the Crocodile.

This is the place that hosts an annual amateur Elvis impersonation contest, the place where Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Cheap Trick and Yoko Ono and her son, Sean Lennon, played in the music room, jammed to its capacity of 350 or so.

This is the place that opens for cheap and hearty breakfast at 8 a.m., and then doesn't close until 1:45 the next morning, with maybe some of the same customers just continuing after a few hours' rest. As the club's founder, Stephanie Dorgan, says about the menu, "The starving musician can find something he can afford, and so can the condo dweller."

Dorgan, 40, who grew up in the Tri-Cities, was an attorney with one of the big Seattle law firms, Davis Wright Tremaine. But she found rock 'n' roll more interesting, and in 1991 opened the Crocodile Cafe at 2200 Second Ave., getting fellow lawyers to invest along with her savings.

With its eclectic mix of paintings, sculptures and papier-mache monsters on the ceiling and walls, this is no stodgy place. From the beginning, it was a place for musicians to hang out. That's how Dorgan met her husband, Peter Buck of the band R.E.M. He had dropped by when the group was in Seattle mixing an album. He stayed, they married, and now the couple have twin kindergartners.

Dorgan recently was thinking about the Crocodile and its legacy. The place makes money; she's got a good lease.

"Wouldn't it be cool if when my daughters were teenagers, they came here?" she said.

And, oh yes, the Crocodile has a direct link to another legendary music joint, the Spanish Castle. Back in 1995, guess who played the Crocodile? The same Wailers who used to rock the kids 30 years earlier.

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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