With another venue open in Hammersmith, the popularity of striptease as entertainment clearly continues to grow — unless you’re a Hollywood producer, in which case it’s better to cut your loss, give Demi Moore the $12m, and send her home. But the heterosexual male in the capital has an every-increasing variety of opportunities to see more-or-less gorgeous girls taking their kit off.
The reasons for this growth may be correlated to the decline in situations where men are allowed to openly interact with women on a sexual basis. Overstep the bounds and you could end up in court, as one prominent doctor found out. He either brushed against a waitress’s leg (his version), or put his hand up her skirt (her version): the truth most likely lies in between. Now, the “victim” worked in a theme restaurant, and dressed specifically to appeal to male fantasies: yet when they were acted upon, the perpetrator was found guilty of indecent assault, when surely “lack of self-control” would have been a more appropriate charge.
This just represents the bluntest over-reaction. Men are basically sexual creatures, and it’s not something that can be turned off like a tap. Two million years of instinct trump a century of Victorian morality, and less than a decade of political correctness: biology is destiny. Yet an off-colour remark in the office could result in a sexual harrassment suit, and catching a woman’s eye on the tube leaves you feeling like a pervert. It’s no wonder that men flock to places where they can release at least some unresolved sexual tension without fear of repercussions.
There are times, however, when the question of exploitation does rear its head. Less of the punters by the artistes, or vice versa, more the way both (but especially the girls) seem to be getting exploited by the venue. From what I’ve heard, it seems that at best they don’t pay the girls. At worst, the babes have to pay an up-front fee and also contribute a hefty slice of their takings – 30% was the figure I heard – to the house. Now, this money doesn’t seem to be used to subsidise the drinks prices: while not extortionate, neither are they exactly happy-hour-at-the-Student-Union. Someone, somewhere is making a very pleasant profit, which probably also goes a long way to explain the proliferation of such venues. From originally being little more than a way of getting customers into out-of-the-way pubs on slow evenings, the entertainment has now become the raison d’etre. However, it is something of a disincentive to realise that the asshole DJ is taking his pay out of every quid you drop in the jug.
A pleasant development on the scene has been the introduction of table-dancing to, first Metropolis, and then Brown’s — the service lets you select a dancer and have her perform for you in relative intimacy. The cost is about a fiver per head, which gets you a song’s worth of undiluted attention in a curtained-off area. While remaining strictly a visual pleasure, it’s an experience I’d recommend to anyone — these girls are good at their job, and when you get to pick the best of them, it’s like having a blow-torch turned on your libido. The sensual equivalent of freebased cocaine, you get a cheap, instant, intense high, followed by an overpowering urge to repeat the experience. Fortunately, unlike crack, the main problem is supply and demand: especially at Metropolis, after ‘booking’, you may have a lengthy and for some reason nerve-wracking delay as you stand around, waiting your turn.
This innovation appears to have come about partly in response to a venue called ‘For Your Eyes Only’, which opened last year in the exotic location of, er, Hanger Lane. This new Gyratory System specialises in the table dance, but has not yet been visited by TC since it’s a) miles from anywhere else you’d ever want to go and b) £20 to get in, which goes against our philosophy. When one can see babes of the quality of Ulrike and Marianne for free, why bother paying?
This is especially true when the escalative spiral is continuing apace in more accessible areas. For a while, Brown’s offered “lap-dances” — though let’s be clear, we are not talking anything like the full-contact, sticky trouser experience seen in Showgirls. [See Beer and Writhing in Las Vegas for details] It was more like a point-blank table dance, so close you could feel their body heat, and strictly no contact permitted. This required incredible will-power – or sitting on your hands and to enforce the rule, it all took place ‘in the open’. However, after about ten seconds, you didn’t notice, and though the girls may be only topless, it was better value than their table dances.
That wasn’t their only new feature, though the appeal of the tequila slammer escaped me: five quid to lick salt from your girl’s arm, down the alcohol and pluck the lime from between her teeth seemed a bit steep. Both innovations only lasted a few months, but it’ll be interesting to see how their competitors respond: will Metropolis begin doing proper lap dances? Whatever happens, we, the customers will likely be the ones to benefit, illustrating perfectly the delights of competition in an unregulated free-market economy…
[Eagle-eyed readers may have spotted Brown’s making the news in August — sadly, for all the wrong reasons. Three employees were shot, when a group they’d thrown out for hassling the girls came back. One bouncer took six bullets, while his colleague and the manager were also injured. Sobering stuff. Not that it’s stopped us from going there, of course!]
The Good Striptease Guide to London’
by Viad Lapidos, Tredegar Press, £4.99, pp.84.
A slim volume, and one surprisingly hard to track down. From first word of its appearance togqtt a copy took six months; “available from slightly disreputable bookshops”, maybe. It contains a swathe of information about the times and places in which striptease may be seen, right down to telephone numbers. All kinds of venues are covered, in and around London, from posh theatrical joints like Raymond’s Revue Bar to seedy dives, evaluated for ambience, visibility and totty quality. Fleshing out the bones are anecdotal tales and, for some reason, architectural observations. Perhaps behind the author’s (blatant) pseudonym lurks Prince Charles?
Given the anticipation, the book was something of a disappointment, inevitably. There’s not an enormous amount of information — I read it on the tube, between Liverpool Street and Victoria — and most of it will be known to any seasoned regular. Though a few venues were new to me, it didn’t sounds as if I was missing muchl The tales of attendance were the highlight; describing one dancer as like “a particularly languid sloth on a diet of beta-blockers” vividly evoke the imagination. But it’s all too slight to have more than passing interest: not worthless, by any means, especially for the novice, for whom it’s probably priceless. But anyone else would be better off using the money to get 4/5 of a table dance from the babe of your choice.