The bleached blonde wet her lips, leaned forward and pressed her hand dramatically against the mammoth mammary glands that were on the verge of busting out of her black evening dress like two fat kids escaping an overheated car. "The problem with DIA," she said, "is that a minority mayor hired minority companies that weren't qualified to do the job."

By this time, we were getting used to the astute commentary of Bridgette, our lovely dining companion at the Diamond Cabaret Steakhouse. The truth is, Bridgette turned out to be the dinner date of the year--she was beautiful, yes, but she was also charming, witty, warm and wonderful. The fact that earlier in the evening she had been standing on a table allowing a half-dozen guys to perform a visual gynecological exam of her G-string-clad body was quickly forgiven and forgotten, and we wound up eating, drinking, laughing and gossiping with her. In short, we had a hell of a good time.

Which is exactly what you pay for at the Diamond Cabaret, and I do mean pay. Forget for a moment the $100 fee to have a lady hang on your every word for the evening (pick a skinny one--you shell out for her meal, too), and forget the additional $20 to have your date hoist herself on top of your table and do the hokey pokey. Dinner for two at the Steakhouse will cost no less than $60, and that includes nothing but two side dishes and two pieces of meat (let's dispense with those jokes right now). Of course, those are big pieces (let this also be the last time I mention that everything at the Diamond Cabaret is big, including the portions). But you're not just paying for the food--you're also covering that cutie languidly twisting and turning in a cage set in the middle of the velvety red, dimly lighted dining room.

For me, the only nonemployee female in the place during our visit, there are better ways to spend money. On a personal trainer to help me get a body like one of these dancers, for example. But for my guests, one of whom was my husband (who wins the Academy Award for Guy Trying to Appear Uninterested), and the other a friend of ours, a visit to the Diamond Cabaret was like having all the Playboy Playmates leap off the pages and into their laps. And since we knew it was going to cost us, we endeavored to get our money's worth.

The first thing we did after taking our seats in the tastefully decorated Steakhouse (separated from the Cabaret, where the real action takes place, by a tinted window) was to go over our criteria for a dinner mate for our friend, who--no joke--is named Dick. Dick was looking for a real woman, one with whom he could have a rousing, if platonic, evening. My husband, whom we'll call Dimples--Bridgette embarrassed him by playfully mentioning this particular attribute of his--stipulated that she had to be stacked. I just wanted someone who wouldn't want to talk about hairspray the whole time. Astonishingly, Bridgette was all that and more. Lots more.

So there we were: me, Dick, Dimples and Bridgette (we got to pick her outfit, too), pretending that it was perfectly normal for us to be stuffing our faces ten feet away from a dancer wearing nothing but a rubber band and a pair of perkies. After our initial heart attack over the prices and a quick refiguring of the budget, we settled on two $25 bottles of wine, the cheapest available (prices go up to $200 per bottle). Bridgette gave the toast. "To honor," she said. "And I mean get honor and stay honor." (Read it again; perhaps you missed it.) She then told us that just about everything on the menu was fabulous except for the chicken, which she thought was dry and chewy. Since this is a steakhouse, it seemed wise to go with a steak or two, although the corporation that owns the Diamond Cabaret also owns the Fresh Fish Company (as well as Proof of the Pudding and the Boiler Room), so ordering fish didn't seem out of line, either.

But first we had to resist the sales pitch of our waitress, Tina, who really should be selling cars. She almost had us talked into an appetizer platter, which would have set us back $12 a person. Instead, we opted to split two salads, which turned out to be a wise move. The Caesar ($4.95) was a mountain of romaine mixed with a fairly decent dressing flavored with anchovy paste; parmesan clung to the sides. The dressing on the large bowl of well-cleaned spinach ($4.75) arrived warm and filled with bacon, but the fresh mushrooms were mushy and past their prime.

In the meat category--easy there, fella--the prime rib beat out the filet mignon (both $25.95). Both were top-quality cuts and arrived cooked as ordered, but the filet's charred exterior had dried out. An order of grilled swordfish ($20.95) brought an entire cross-section of a mighty specimen, tender and dripping with juices. But the single eight-ounce lobster tail ($24.95) had been cooked too long, and its sweetness had evaporated into the stove hood.

The side dishes featured the same manly bulk--and lack of attention to detail. The half-pound of asparagus ($5.50), while bright green and lightly coated with butter, had not been properly trimmed. And the entree-sized fettuccine Alfredo ($7.95) was too heavy on the butter and the garlic--not the kind of thing you want to eat with a woman who looks like Heather Locklear. The potatoes ($4.95), on the other hand, were like Mom's casserole: mixed with onions and baked until everything was all soft and comforting.

We ate until we could hold no more, all the while enjoying Bridgette's amusing tidbits. "That girl over there has a pierced eyebrow, a pierced tongue and a pierced belly button," she shared. When we told her we worked for the media, she shot back, "Oh, so you're liars." She informed us that Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are their busiest nights, "because guys have to go back to their wives on the weekends." And when we made a comment about her one day having blond kids, she winked and said, "Sure, I will." We didn't ask the obvious, tired question about why she takes off her clothes for a living, but we certainly wondered.

Bridgette has worked for the Diamond Cabaret's owners for seven years and started at the Cabaret the day it opened in June 1991. Her experience shows: She was an expert at making us feel like we were her close, personal friends. In fact, we later wondered whether we should have her over for dinner (no, really). But that kind of welcoming attitude--as well as the bosoms from which it emanates--is clearly what fills the place every night (it obviously isn't the overpriced, average food).

So while the T&A is a draw, it was readily apparent that the men beyond college age were here for something more--that gentle hand on the arm, the soulful looks, the I'm-here-for-you dancers. One guy showed up wearing an apron covered with $5 and $10 bills that he had sewn on by hand. "I'm not good at sewing," he told me when he saw that I was intrigued by his getup. "But this is for my special lady. I love her."

He wasn't the only one so transfixed. Our buddy Dick was starting to talk china patterns and children, so we were relieved when Bridgette said she had to leave for, of all things, a date. First, though, Dick dragged her into the Cabaret area. We thought maybe he was going to have her do a table dance without us, so we snuck through the swinging door and hid behind a potted plant--even though, by that time, I felt that watching Bridgette take her clothes off would be like watching my sister, for crying out loud. But we should have known better--surrounded by gyrating women and men with grins plastered on their faces and flashing cash, our friend and the showgirl were simply exchanging heartfelt goodbyes.

Dimples and I didn't even get a chance to invite her to dinner.

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Diamond Cabaret & Steakhouse

1222 Glenarm Place
Denver, CO 80202


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