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Drunk of the Week

Penthouse Club

This is my favorite time of year. By early September, the temperature's cooling off, football is dominating more and more of SportsCenter and every other sportscast, and vicious campaign advertisements start showing up on TV. With the close presidential race and a hotly contested Colorado senatorial campaign, I foresee spending a lot more time in the shower as we get closer to November -- because I feel dirty watching just the ads that are on now.

Remember, though, the really dirty ads aren't coming from Bush, Kerry, Nader, Lucifer and the more obscure candidates. We know this because, in a move to absolve supposedly responsible adults, a candidate's official campaign commercials now feature the extremely sincere candidate saying -- in a voice similar to what he'd use to tell his mother he's gay -- that he approved this message. Fortunately, there are still plenty of psychopaths with money and Internet skills sufficient enough to brutally assassinate the character of every candidate via unofficial campaign ads. These have gotten so bad that the next escalatory step will be to make supremely distasteful Mother jokes.

But a recent visit to the Penthouse Club (4451 East Virginia Avenue, Glendale) renewed my faith in America's political process. A former elected official has returned to her roots to thrill the club's paying customers -- some paying more than others. I don't remember exactly how we figured it out, but we realized early in the night that the woman crawling all over the Head of Drinking Regrets was a famous political figure and constitutional crusader (much like her ultimate boss, Bob Guccione -- if he still ran Penthouse). In true skin-club fashion, after a brief courtship she took the Head of Drinking Regrets to the upstairs lounge to assure him that she was interested in him and not his money. Shortly after they'd ascended, two of Glendale's finest showed up to take a tour of the proceedings. We all envisioned the Head of Drinking Regrets and said stripper being unceremoniously propelled to the front door at any minute. Amazingly, this did not occur -- perhaps because the ex-politico still has diplomatic immunity.

Even without celebrity strippers, any trip to a gentlemen's club is uplifting (rimshot!) because it helps reaffirm your belief in democracy and the few constants of life. Every time a guy goes to one of these places, he sees the same scenes played out. The very first time I ever went to a strip club -- in Minnesota -- I saw Jesus (or maybe just John the Baptist or one of the lesser Apostles). By this, I don't mean anything uncouth, like I had a religious experience. No, there just happened to be a guy sitting on sniffer's row who looked like Our Lord, or maybe Charlie Manson. To this day, I have yet to visit a strip club without seeing some guy who looks like he's having a religious experience.

At these clubs, all guys also resort to the same tactic whenever they have an up-close encounter -- what I call the "stripper stare." This is where the guy does whatever he can to avoid looking directly at that most feminine of anatomic landmarks. He'll gaze dreamily into the stripper's eyes, comment on her shoes or make childish comments to his friends, but he won't look down, lest he appear to be a pervert. Beads of sweat will break out on his forehead, and his face will contort with the effort. At the Penthouse Club, one guy sitting across from me smiled, tried desperately to appear sincere, leered and licked his lips simultaneously -- all while facing the impossibly long legs of one of the girls. His conflicting emotions seemed on the verge of inducing a seizure.

Since our group lacked both morals and consciences, we were able to entertain ourselves without becoming overly concerned about his health. We commented at length about how much those four-inch platforms must weigh. We voiced our concern that missing the mark when clapping those babies together could buy the performer a shattered ankle. Even more disquieting was the possibility that momentum generated by those shoes could carry a dancer backward into the front rows if she flipped on her back too vigorously.

Our discussion was halted by the announcer who, as in all such establishments, had a voice that was a cross between Darth Vader and Michael Buffer. He used it to announce impossibly absurd stage names -- if you really named your daughter Lexus, would you expect her to be anything other than a stripper? -- and cajole the crowd to tip everybody really well, thereby blowing the whole illusion that the guys were there looking for true love.

Still, after a night at the Penthouse Club, I feel much better about myself, America and the Americans who live life, instead of telling others how to live theirs.

So for all the political pioneers at the Penthouse Club, we here at the Institute salute you.

 
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