Gold Club: Anniversary party shiny but not new

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By Molly Freedenberg

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Gold Club's Website cover girl knows what you want (what you really, really want).

It all started with this:

Are you into booze???

What about food??

How do you feel about boobies, then??

Gold Club's giving 'em all away next Thursday evening...

That was the email from a friend whose expertise - besides playing Magic, drawing octopi, and arguing with me about why Macs aren't better than PCs - is finding free shit to do. This time? It was free nudity. And there was no way I was missing out.

Thing is, after several years of going to Burning Man - hell, even just of living in San Francisco - seeing naked people isn't really a big deal. And after spending six years in sexually-progressive Portland, where going to the strip club was as normal as going to the local pub, the idea of seeing nudity in a bar isn't a big deal either.

But I've never been to a strip club in San Francisco. Would it be weird, seedy, and full of mainstream guys ogling surgically-enhanced women, a la Southern California? Would San Francisco culture have seeped inside its walls, meaning tattooed dancers with plug piercings and pink hair? I had no clue what to expect.

Apparently, I wasn't alone in my curiosity. When we got to the 5th Anniversary party at Gold Club, the line to get in snaked around the block. As per the invite's instructions, most people had "dressed to impress," most men in some version of business casual and most women in dresses and heels. There were more men than women, by far, but the ratio was considerably closer for this event than I suspected it normally would be.

Inside, the club felt like Vegas. Carpeted floors, special areas separated by artificial glass walls, their insides rippling with neon bubbles. An ice sculpture of a naked pole dancer slowly melted in front of a glassed-off smoking room (which, itself, was much like a slightly swanky airport smoking area). The one stage was surrounded by heavy-duted scaffolding, which held arena-worthy lights. And on the stage, from the event's start at 7pm until its finish at 9pm, was a steady rotation of topless dancers.

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Though heavier on neon and glass than I'd prefer, the decor of Gold Club is still classy enough for me to consider it a "gentleman's club," rather than a mere strip joint.

But my friends and I were famished. And thirsty. We glanced at the blonde dancer who was on when we entered - conventionally pretty, but not artificial, it seemed - whose acrobatics on the pole were impressive. But we were more focused on getting in the ridiculous line for (free) food, and on acquiring our (free) well drinks and domestic draft beers.

Our peers were mixed. Some mainstream strip club types, it seemed, but also a good amount of people who might not necessarily come to the Gold Club on a usual night. Most in their 20s or 30s, with the notable exception of several elderly couples who clustered around the front of the stage. Performers' parents? I wondered. It was like any other mainstream SF event, it seemed, plus slightly more nudity.

The food was phenomenal and plentiful: sliders with bacon, brie baked into a puffed pastry, ribs, polenta fritters, artichoke dip with three-color chips. In fact, it turned out to be more exciting than most of the dancers. Though all were attractive, few were impressive performers. E.g. A blonde's gorgeous Marilyn-like red dress completely contrasted with her modern, pulsing music. A cute but brunette looked so young, and her expression so distant, that it was hard to find her sexy without feeling guilty. Others seemed to have a better time, but still didn't seem to be moving to the actual music (which, I admit, has been a longtime stripper pet peeve of mine).

The exception was the talented ladies of Cirque Noir, who punctuated the evening with aerial and dance performance, Edwardian-inspired costumes, and little (if any) nudity.

One dancer performed her entire routine on a table, easing out of her masculine suit with dexterity and sensuality... and along with the music. In fact, her way of scissor kicking her pants off was the most ingenious and entertaining technique I've seen for getting rid of that pesky clothing item.

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Cirque Noir: The best strippers of the night weren't strippers at all.

My other favorite? The Cirque Noir dancer who performed on a swinging pole - employing techniques I've seen on dangling ropes and on stationary stripper poles, but never the two together. The combination of centrifugal motion and a rigid object made an entirely new art form out of two I've come to take for granted.

I wondered if Cirque Noir performs at Gold Club often, and if so, it's amazing proof of how Burning Man/circus arts are infiltrating mainstream culture. But I'm guessing they were special performers for that particular night. It's too bad. Aside from the free whiskey, they were definitely the sexiest part of the night.

Gold Club
650 Howard, SF
(415) 536-0300
www.goldclubsf.com

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