Is there anything to do tonight? Scot thinks the Gold Club has closed?"I heard they found a bunch of Falcons in there, having sex." I ask him what the Gold Club is, and he tells me it's a strip club, and as I always do when I'm in another city, I get very wide-eyed and say, "I've never been to a strip club." And finally it works. Scot stares at me and says, "That's it. We're going to one tonight. A different one."
As pleased as I am, I do insist that we not eat at the strip club, so he takes me for great cheap barbecue and the city grows a little in my harsh estimation. Fat Matt's quarter chicken, order of ribs, rum baked beans, a pitcher of Foster's, live blues and we are out of there for 13 bucks.
The Clermont Lounge is in the basement of one of those kind of skeevy residential hotels. You go down some rickety stairs and?wow. I'm nervous. I'm going to a strip club. I have a girlfriend. Will she mind? Do I mind? Should I be supporting the sex industry? Do women really find this empowering? Was that chicken cooked? From out of the club comes a very heavyset blonde woman. Scot shoots me an "Isn't this awesome?" look and we go inside.
It takes a moment to adjust to the dim red light, but it's really not too long at all before you notice there is a completely naked woman standing on top of a bar, whom we came to know as Isis. She is between songs and waits petulantly, while quiet bar noise and the ding of an X-Files pinball machine fills the void. Scot sits down and loses a bunch of Clermont points by asking for Foster's from the very sweet bartender. We drink cans of Rolling Rock and eventually get buzzed enough that we are toasting the Clinton administration for creating a climate where two men can toast whatever they want in a strip club. We tip. Isis finishes her two songs (one of which is Run-DMC's "It's Tricky") and I applaud. People stare at me. Scot stares at me. I keep applauding and another guy at the other end of the bar catches on. Just two of us. Did she not just put on a show?
An enormously unattractive woman gets up and I shiver. Ask anyone, I am open and attracted to a mess of different body types, but this woman had an unsettling quality of fat joined with haggard. I am the first to tip her.
Apparently, Blondie is not in tonight. Blondie is an African-American woman who has dyed all of her hair blonde. All of it. She reads poetry between songs. Her own poetry, of course, and she writes for a couple of local zines. Just my luck to miss her. Instead, it's Lisa, who has a mess of tattoos and has had her name changed in this article. The tattoo across her back reads Tainted Angel, with a wing on either side of the phrase. She's slender, and Scot thinks she has a big butt, but he's mad. She's got one of those pink skinhead haircuts, with the fringe, and appears to be pierced in just a bunch of places. She touches herself a mite more than the others, and I tip and applaud her warmly.
The dancers come by after their sets to say hi, introduce themselves, scratch your back and solicit table dances. Scot has recently sold a screenplay, tosses a $20 and I am whisked away by Lisa. She sits me down in a corner of the bar and begins to take her clothes off and dance in a slightly more slinky fashion.
I look around. There's a guy with the sad, fat stripper twisting in front of him, and another guy who, God help us all, is watching Lisa and me with his hands in his pockets. I don't know what to do with my hands. They feel wrong in my lap, worse in my pockets. I cross my arms and say, "Hi, I'm John." "Lisa." She smiles, very sweet. "Oh, I love this song." It's that Backstreet Boys song where they insist that they don't care who I am, what I need or where I'm from. "You dance very well." "Thank you." And she continues to dance very well.
Now, being neither gay nor dead, I am semi-chubby here, but the fact of the matter is I don't know this girl at all and am thinking about this time a few months ago, when my girlfriend was auditioning for the touring company of Cabaret and she demonstrated the Wilkommen dance combination for me. That was ridiculously hot. "Where are you from, Lisa?" "Clinton County. I just moved to Five Points, though. I'm a Jawja girl." She says it like she thinks Yankees want her to say it. "Is that a heart?" I ask, pointing at a small red tattoo. "No, it's Elmo."
And lo, it is. Elmo's head. This she wants to talk about. "I was into Elmo before the whole Tickle Me Elmo thing was big. I used to wear Elmo stuff all the time, four years ago, when I was in high school. My kids love Elmo, too."
"You have kids?"
"Two. A boy," and I miss the boy's name and don't think I should make one up, "and a girl, Skylar." "Wow, you wear it well," which is not a line, because I've seen three cesarean scars this evening. "Thank you." And Lisa smiles sweetly, turns around, bends over and puts her index finger inside of her.
I am not nearly drunk enough for this. Her piercing is extremely evident now and I say, "I've never seen a piercing like that in person," because that sounds cooler than, "Did that hurt?" And they're both completely idiotic because why do you have to sound cool in front of a stripper? "I just had the lip done. That was my first piercing. I'm getting the hood done next week. I was going to get the clit done but the guy said I had a 50 percent chance of losing all sensation."
"Yikes," I reply, through being cool.
Lisa is done, and I shake her hand, and we don't hang out at the bar for much longer. By the time we leave, though, about five or six people are applauding at the end of every song. Small victories.
The next day I feel guilty and call my girlfriend, who doesn't mind at all, even after the whole story. "I know who you're coming home to," she says. I think the detail about the Elmo tattoo helps.