May 27, 2024

Column: “That Got Me to Thinkin’…?” Strip Clubs

That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” “Strip Clubs” Chapter 35
By Bruce Williams

On several occasions in my life, always at the behest of my lascivious friends, I have gone to a strip club.  Each time it was a little different, a little enlightening, and a little depressing.  Here are a few of the most memorable of those excursions.

El Morocco Bottomless Gogo—Waikiki Beach, HI 1983.

I was 16 and on Oahu with my friend Andy and the McLaughlin twins.  Doug had been able to purchase us some beer because, with his sun-darkened prescription glasses, stubble, sweaty countenance and missing right arm, he was so much to take in at first glance that the convenience store clerks would usually just slide the beer absent-mindedly across the counter to him.  We sat on the beach that evening and drank—I had a six-pack of Schlitz Malt Liquor that I was already regretting one can at a time.  Doug’s twin Dean wisely opted out, figuring that the three of us would only end up in some kind of trouble that night (what could possibly go wrong?) 

We stumbled back to the main drag to sit on the street corner and people-watch, and count how many times we were offered pakalolo (33), and there like a forbidden oasis sat the neoned El Morocco, beckoning.  Gathering up all our liquid courage, we headed across the street and went inside.  We were seated at a table where I was fortunately in the middle of the other two.  An older, wide-hipped native woman was grinding on stage, bottomless as promised, performing some combo of the hula and a sadly inebriated reel. 

Just then, two large punch bowl drinks were plopped down next to the boys, and they were immediately paired with two more haggard looking strippers that introduced themselves as “hostesses” as they positioned themselves in front of the cocktails.  We were then firmly informed that we would be responsible for those drinks (limply, “…how much are they…?”) which were $22.50 apiece—a princely sum back then and too big of a chunk of my allotted Hawaiian spending cash. 

Just to make things clear, two big bouncers, locals with faded tribal tattoos on their massive arms and long, black, wavy hair, came over to clarify exactly what we’d managed to get ourselves into.  I promptly excused myself to the bathroom—the entire predicament was loosening my bowels—scooching around the booth as Andy and his new “friend” let me out, careful not to topple the fruity, umbrella-ed monstrosity on the table. 

Back near the bathroom I discovered an open back door.  I took a leak and then peered outside, searching for a third bouncer, but the coast was surprisingly clear.  I stepped out into the cool night air, paused momentarily in a brief pique of conscience, then sloughed off a fair distance and waited in the alley as I hoped for the same good fortune for my friends.  Ten minutes later, Andy shot out the back door like he was being birthed, responding warily to my rasped, “Pssssstt!—over here!”  We hid in the shadows together for another half hour…but no Douggie. 

We went back to the hotel and waited, assuming that Doug was either dead, in the hospital, or in jail now and began cooking up our cover story.  At two a.m. Doug came wandering in, laughing and singing loudly.  He’d paid for one punch bowl, and then stayed and drank some more—taking in the rest of the show.  He said he’d had the best time, though it’d cost him most of his cash for the trip.  He crashed on his bed and proceeded to sleep until noon.

The Lusty Lady—Seattle, WA 1985

We’d all just recently turned 18–legal tender in our state for serving in the military, buying smokes, voting and admittance to strip clubs.  Gordie, Lyle, Tanner, Rob and myself (I’m hoping I got the group right) headed up I-5 for the hour-long drive on a weekday afternoon—as I now understand to be a bit of a rut in the strip club roster’s scheduling. 

Using my knowledge from The El Morocco, I again positioned myself in the middle, as 6’8” Gordon and his big Adam’s apple on the end began getting asked politely if “he’d like a dance?”  There was a gal performing, so we all declined the repeated offers—preferring to watch the dancer up on stage that appeared to be the best of the seamy daytime lot.  As we sat on the red velvet couch (covered with unidentifiable stains), a grizzled veteran in a negligee and robe angrily approached Gordie—her stringy salt-and-pepper hair framing her pinched, gaunt face—and demanded that we, “…better start putting out some money to help support us broads.” 

Horrified, we all got up and left—opting for the adult arcade across the street and across from Pike Place, where you’d drop a quarter in the slot of a booth, a screen would roll up and a dancer would begin strutting her stuff.  It was only after looking around and noticing the tissue box built into the wall and the alarming splatter marks in the dimly-lit room that my gag reflex sent me hurtling outside to wait for the others to emerge.  Our ride home was mostly in stunned silence…our new, unglamorous discoveries sinking in as we digested one of our first stark reality doses of adulthood.

The Crazy Horse—Las Vegas, NV 1997

On a trip to Vegas with co-workers John and Dave, and after winning $1000 on a Wheel of Fortune jackpot and sporting for some filets, scotches & cabernet, we piled into a cab and asked for the Spearmint Rhino—we’d heard that was the spot, alright.  “No…you want the Crazy Horse…” he advised “…trust me…”—and who doesn’t trust a Vegas cabbie? 

We arrived, were seated (again me in the middle), and again were immediately bombarded from both sides with dance offers—the fellas declining repeatedly as we continued to get our bearings.  Suddenly, a petite dancer plopped herself into my lap, introduced herself and asked if I’d like a dance.  She was a few years younger than me, tan, healthy and attractive, a student at Pepperdine who flew out on the weekends to make a couple of thousand dollars for school and then flew back—a story that I really wanted to believe was true. 

She completed her mesmerizing dance, whispered that she’d be back later if I’d like—a mix of musk and vanilla emanating from her bangled wrists as she floated away with my tip—looking entirely comfortable and confident in her workday lingerie.  Awakening from my stupor, I looked over to see my cohorts wide-eyed and grinning.  John immediately waved down the most buxom blond he could find to begin his go ‘round, she slapping his hands away every time they wandered curiously from his randy sides as I watched the dumb look of boyhood awe on his face.  The cabby had been right about this place.  I received one more dance from Miss Pepperdine, then we headed back to the casino, the (then) newly opened Monte Carlo.

It’s been years since I’ve been to one of these tawdry establishments.  I can’t imagine going again, now that I have a daughter.  I’m too old to be a groomsman in anybody’s wedding anymore—at my age it’s usually a second wedding and groomsmen of any kind are a little gauche—just get up there and get it over with already.  Bachelor parties, though, were usually the big catalysts to getting me through the threshold of one of these houses of ill repute.  I’m glad I have some knowledge of these dingy, colorful corners of society, these studies in the animalistic tendencies of human nature.  And to say I’ve been to the Crazy Horse.  Stop by if you happen to be in Sin City (It’s still there—I checked).  And stay out of The El Morocco for heaven’s sake.