My girlfriend leaned over the table during brunch at the Pork Store recently and stared deep into my eyes. "Baby," she said, "when you're out there looking at all those boobies today, just remember that they're fake. And when you're petting asses and sticking money in G-strings, just remember that those bodies, unlike mine, are going to be saggy and horrible-looking in a few years."
Not exactly our ordinary breakfast conversation, but then again, it was no ordinary morning. I was about to embark on a whirlwind tour of some of the city's notorious gentlemen's clubs, and that gloomy Sunday seemed perfect. What better day than the Christian Sabbath to burn some cash on sex, right? I finished my eggs, said a little prayer, and hit the streets to find some heathens I mean, strippers. I knew exactly where to go.
THE SEEDY START
By the time I got to the corner of Market and Sixth streets, it was raining like hell, and various shady-looking characters were hogging every dry spot in sight. Despite my burning desire for a nip of whiskey, I decided to abandon my preparty bar plans and walk directly into the Market Street Cinema. I passed through the mirrored doors, paid the cover charge, and found a seat at the foot of the catwalk just in time to catch the next act.
I don't know if the girls or the DJs pick the songs, but the music fit the sad spectacle like a latex glove. As the opening riff of the Smiths' "How Soon Is Now" filled the club, a young girl stepped out onto the stage. Sexy Susan (or Luscious Lucy or whatever the DJ-MC had decided to call her) strutted down the catwalk in her fuck-me pumps, looked at her scant audience, and made her way to the pole. She swung around it with one leg and rubbed herself up and down before finally climbing to the top, where she hung for a full minute before sliding to the floor with a thump. She then stood up and beelined toward me.
"You look shy," the stripper whispered as she squatted in my face and began tugging at the elastic rim of her panties. From a distance the girl had seemed rather pretty, but up close her jagged teeth, stretched belly, and hollow eyes bespoke a street-style homeliness. She made me uncomfortable, and I knew the only way to shoo her off was to produce an embarrassingly small tip. So I dug down in my wallet and threw a buck by her feet. "Uh, thanks," she said. "Do you, like, want a lap dance or anything?"
"No, I'm OK. But I think that guy might want something," I said. She took my money and walked across the stage toward a scary-looking dude waving a five-dollar bill around in the air.
The young girl finished her set with a clumsy attempt to sync her body movements to Nine Inch Nails' "Closer." She humped the pole, stumbled down the walk, and finally bent over for a spread-eagle encore. She then picked up her seven- or eight-dollar tip stash and took off. I was blown away. This girl had just showed us the holiest of holies for less than it takes to fill the gas tank on a moped. This was, presumably, her daily routine. Was it worth it? I felt too guilty to ponder the question. As soon as the young stripper was out of sight, I pushed all sympathetic thoughts out of my mind and bolted. Next stop: the Crazy Horse.
I didn't expect much from the Crazy Horse, but it proved to be less depressing than the previous venue by a long shot. Sure, there were weird old men roaming around the lobby. And yes, the girls seemed a little sad. But at least the place was clean. The bouncer gave me a knowing smile, opened the door, and pushed me into a dimly lit room where 30 or 40 businessmen sat watching the show.
This stripper was definitely not a drug addict or a runaway who had recently celebrated the big one-eight. She was fit and healthy, and her dance routine was well rehearsed.