"I am in constant thrifting competition with my friends," Sharp says, which reminds him that he's planning to write a thrifting column the minute he gets the time. In fact, he will write it for the Lounge magazine he plans to start any day now. "It's going to be called Mint, because mint is a swell word," he says. "After-dinner mint. The Mint Lounge in Las Vegas. A mint is always refreshing."

Mint's first issue, set to appear either this summer or maybe this fall, or possibly even this winter, will be entirely devoted to James Bond--including recipes for seven James Bond-themed cocktails "served, maybe, in a hollowed-out pineapple. Mint is going to be a very alcohol-friendly publication," Sharp says. "James Bond was always drinking martinis, and he's so dapper and suave and smooth with the ladies--the essence of Lounge. I will publish a list of all the James Bond theme songs.

"Not one of them," he adds reverently, "is without appeal."
The phone rings--the first of many reconnaissance calls from Sharp's friends. Like him, they are inextricably caught up in the world of Lounge, burned out by the club circuit yet determined to have a social life.

"We like to hobnob," Sharp explains. "We like martinis and Manhattans. We like to discuss current events."

Until the Kit Kat Club, life was simply too loud for all that. Then Stubbs came to the rescue. He and Sharp had known each other for several years--but then, everyone of a certain age who operates after dark knows Stubbs. It was not until the Kit Kat's debut that the relationship blossomed into mutual admiration. Stubbs appreciates Sharp's ability to stand around the club looking swell, chatting and snapping his fingers to the music. And Sharp is convinced that Stubbs is a genius. The club, he says, is proof.

"It is so stylish, as opposed to whatever else is offered," Sharp says. "It brought socializing to a higher level. Men in ties. Girls in dresses. The Kit Kat Club reeks of style."

By the time John Pike launches into "Come Fly With Me," the crowd is three-deep around the piano. No one remembers many of the actual lyrics--"But hey," Pike says, "some of these kids do an excellent job of singing, anyway. These kids--and they're kids to me--have a lot of class in their own way. I have a theory: A piano bar is a strange thing. People are basically paying to entertain themselves."

"Except we change it up," Stubbs adds. "We include the old standards, but we do modern stuff, too."

"All they have to do is bring in the music if they want to do the music of today, Eagles or whatever," Pike says. "I don't make it a practice to remember the names of these terrible songs, but `Purple Rain' is one of them."

"Most popular songs are fairly easy," Stubbs continues. "Sometimes, after midnight, I'll sit down at the piano and do `Benny and the Jets' or `Spinning Wheel.'"

Or "Luck Be a Lady." Or "Town Without Pity." But not yet. Stubbs is too busy studying the crowd. Yes, the rush has arrived, but now he must observe it for signs of incipient disinterest. Some Thursday soon, he fears, the Kit Kat will hit a plateau and Stubbs will have to get out, fast. This is a skill he learned during a year and a half spent working promotions at Rock Island, and more recently at AD, the downtown club where he still runs a popular Tuesday-night party known as Havashag. Depending on who you talk to, Havashag is either a hip-hop, acid-jazz or skater theme night.

"In England, shag means `fuck,'" Stubbs says helpfully, "but `Havashag' doesn't necessarily translate. It means whatever you want it to mean."

"Let me explain it," offers Christine Schubert, a young Tattered Cover worker in a nose ring and sleek Marlene Dietrich pants. "Darryl always knows what will be amusing, and as soon as something wears out, he knows when to stop. He always has these new developments for the crowd. We all go to Havashag, but it was getting really loud--we have to go outside the club to talk to each other. The Kit Kat Club is an opportunity to wear lovely gowns and smoke unfiltered cigarettes. It's like this: Tuesdays are for dancing and being stupid. On Thursdays, we talk."

"Do you know who that is?" Stubbs asks Schubert, indicating a freckle-faced young man sitting moodily at the piano bar wearing Franz Kafka glasses, drinking a Manhattan and smoking a cigar. "It's the Teledeutsch guy--from cable. He actually sits there, on TV, speaking German for about six hours a day. I can't believe he came to my club!"

"Actually, I speak German for three hours a day, with a ten-minute rest period and a break for lunch," clarifies Clark Nelson, who is indeed the Teledeutsch guy. "I don't know a single word to any of these songs, but I love the Kit Kat Club."

Nelson is just one of the luminaries visiting the club this night. Across the piano bar, Steve Cruz, editor of Fag Mag and a former professional cabaret singer, finishes up a torchy version of "Mean Old Man's World."

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