A Tiger by the Tail

A few years ago, when Off Limits referred to the Paper Tiger as the place where strippers go to die, we caught hell. "I think that you have been very rude to the ladies that currently work there," wrote a bartender and occasional Tiger dancer. "I'll bet you've never even been in the Paper Tiger! Before you are so quick to assume that we have nothing but run-down, old, fat, way too ugly or just plain horrid women at our club, perhaps you should see our women. Perhaps we aren't Penthouse pets, but give us a wad of cash and we could be. See, we could buy our breasts, our extensions, our tans, our nails, our expensive costumes that all add up to one thing: fake personalities out for one thing -- the man's wallet."

She was wrong about one thing: We had been to the Tiger, a sagging strip club at 1196 South Santa Fe Drive known more for its Thursday-night six-buck steak special than the prime meat on the dance floor. And when we drove by last week and noticed that not only had the steak special on the sign been replaced by "Girls and Grub," but the joint's very name had changed to Maxim, we knew it was time to return.

On Monday night, the few men in the joint were more intent on the Cowboys Eagles game playing on the newly installed TVs than they were on the also newly installed strippers. Along with one of the city's great dinner specials (the sirloin is now $10.95), the club's new owners have tossed out the old carpet, the old fixtures, the old cooks, the old bartenders, the old managers and almost all of the old girls.

"On Saturday, October 15, the old owner was there until about one in the afternoon and never said a word," says Viv, who worked as a cocktail waitress at the Tiger for thirteen years. "Later, his niece came in for her last beer. That's how we found out, but not officially. The next day the bar was closed. It was always closed on Sundays, but I got a call from the owner saying the bar's been sold."

While Off Limits operatives were looking over the new joint, Viv was looking for work. "This is the first time in 35 years I've had to look for a job," says the former Playboy Bunny and burlesque dancer who's now finishing her degree in human services at Metro State. "My reputation always preceded me back then, and I never had to look for a job. I worked at Aloha Beach when I came here from Canada -- I was originally from Boston -- and that was a very notorious, nefarious club back then."

There's nothing notorious or nefarious about Maxim (no relation to the lad mag, by the way). It's still a low-rent strip club compared to the town's higher-priced spreads, but the girls are real, youngish and have some moves -- including one ass wiggle that held everyone in awe. The new carpet is sheer Vegas and the booths are clean and new, if floral-patterned. And the new bartenders are quite personable; one even bragged about the club's most exciting addition, a new gun. Still, Off Limits was most pleased to see that the giant neon "Paper Tiger" sign still hangs over the bar.

"We called it Cheers with dancers," Viv says sadly. "Everybody greeted the regulars by names. We knew their families, their backgrounds; we cared about each other."

The bare necessities: In other topless news, it's all coming off in the 2006 Bartenders calendar that goes on sale this weekend. Anton and Sherri Antokhin organized the local peek-a-boo to raise money to help cover the cost of adopting two children from Ethiopia.

"We both wanted a bigger family," says Sherri, a mother of two. "We figured we'd already replaced ourselves, so we decided to start looking into adoption. We looked at domestic and international adoptions and we were just drawn to Ethiopia because of all the AIDS orphans."

When they discovered that bringing home the bundles of joy could top $20,000, they looked at fundraising options -- and discovered that nude calendars are cash cows. "At first we didn't even think about bartenders," Sherri says. "My husband's idea was teachers, but I didn't think that would fly. That's when I thought of bartenders."

And who better to turn to for help than big brother Frank Rich, founder of Modern Drunkard, who rounded up some Mile High hotties, including the ubiquitous Luke Schmaltz of Bender's and Red Square, and the beautiful barmaids of the hi-dive (Kelly Wearne) and Tavern 13 (Jennifer Foreman). Many will be on hand at the calendar's unveiling from 8 to 10 p.m. this Sunday, November 20, at the Streets of London pub. We'll drink to that!

Scene and herd: Cynics might consider a world with a few less journals a better place. But not Dave Pihlgren. The fliers he posted on poles around Old South Pearl scream desperation as they offer $1,000 for the return of a journal. But not just any journal, he elaborates: six years of his life, "poetry and photos and personal things." Pihlgren, who lives in Telluride, had rented a house for a month in the 1400 block of South Pearl Street -- and on Saturday, October 22, someone broke into that house, stealing his bicycle and his laptop bag, which contained two volumes of his journal. Discovering the theft, Pihlgren went through dumpsters around the neighborhood, but found nothing. "Who knows what block it could have gotten thrown away in?" he laments. "As more time goes by, hope is wearing thin." Have a reason to get his hopes up? Call 1-970-708-1426.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.