The Full Bernie

Three failed marriages, his family's scorn, an ongoing battle with cancer: Bernie Barker just grins and bares it

It wasn't long, however, until Barker was restless and looking for another career change. In 1981, his ex-brother-in-law, who worked for a nuclear power plant in Indian Creek, New York, helped Barker get an entry-level job as a guard there. Barker quickly advanced in the industry, eventually becoming a nondegreed nuclear engineer working jobs in nuclear power plants in a host of cities until retiring in 1996. "He's a crazy guy," says his old friend House, "but on the other hand, he's done things that required concentration and discipline. He ran a nuclear power plant for a while. That's a lot of responsibility."

When he was living in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, in the early 1980s, Barker realized that he missed Florida's water and sunshine. "I had a sun lamp hanging over my waterbed and 55-gallon aquariums on both sides and behind the bed, just to make me feel like I was in Florida," Barker says. It was during this period that he decided American girls were bad news. After two marriages had ended in divorce and a long-term, live-in girlfriend turned obsessive, Barker decided on a new tactic.

"His last wife came out of a catalog," Luzzi says. "I don't know why he even bothers getting married. He's not anyone I could be married to." Barker wouldn't elaborate on how he met his last wife, an Indonesian woman whom Florida divorce records show to be named Ifa, but did allow that if he had got her from a catalog, that would be proof of his frustration with American women.

Clockwise from top: Barker, tanning poolside; surfing 
the Internet  from his Hollywood condo;  Barker's 
unofficial but enthusiastic manager, John Bedrosian
Colby Katz
Clockwise from top: Barker, tanning poolside; surfing the Internet from his Hollywood condo; Barker's unofficial but enthusiastic manager, John Bedrosian

Though they stayed married for 14 years, his longest union by far, marrying her wasn't easy. He had to go to Indonesia for the wedding; when he arrived, her family arranged for him to be examined by their doctor before the ceremony. During the examination, the doctor noticed that Barker was not circumcised; being strict Muslims, her family insisted that he undergo that procedure first and that he convert to Islam -- at age 45. So the Connecticut Protestant/Catholic did -- and suffered a nasty infection that he says ruined the honeymoon. House laughs at this story. "I never met any of his wives, but I seriously doubt he was ever a devout Muslim." Barker's divorce from Ifa became final in August 2001, and he stopped attending mosque, even for his previous twice-a-year holiday visits. These days, Barker doesn't really associate with any religion. "I have religious beliefs," he affirms. "I definitely believe in God. I'm definitely not an atheist, but I don't go to church."

Barker moved to South Florida three years ago from Orlando to be close to his nephew, a doctor, while being treated for prostate cancer. Lonely in a new town, he began visiting Miami Gold nightclub several times a week, eventually, he says, dating several of the girls who worked there. Barker's friends and the manager of Miami Gold confirm that Barker has dated several of the strippers there. But when pressed for the names or numbers of girls he claims to have dated, Barker becomes reticent. "In that club [Miami Gold], it's all an illusion," Barker explains. "Nobody gives out any true information on anyone, and they've let me into their inner circle. A lot of these girls are married. There's a code I have to live by. I'm kind of like one of them. I can't violate that code."

As Barker became a fixture at Miami Gold, he began to loosen up and show his personality, among other things. One night when business was slow, he climbed up on-stage, took off his shirt, and danced. "It was a slow night, so we let him up there," recalls Arnold Quijada, Miami Gold's manager for the past seven years. "People liked it; it was different. After that, it became regular for him to dance."

From the first night, the girls loved it. Accustomed to being the entertainers rather than the entertained, the dancers shrieked and giggled as a man near the age of some of their grandfathers bumped and ground for their approval. In time, the girls would give Barker pointers on seductive dancing: how to make eye contact, effective gestures, and the type of moves that turn women on. Barker bought his first G-string, a Day-Glo orange, pink, and yellow bathing suit, and fleshed out his act, so to speak. "If you have a drink, the right music, the right mood, then it really can be something," says Barker, who describes his own routine as "erotic" and "sensual." "Women are dreamers, and I'm a dreamer too. Sometimes I try to figure out what they're thinking, and I try to become that. I'm an illusion." When customers were scarce, management at Miami Gold would let Barker take one of the girls to the VIP room and perform a couch dance for her, a privilege for which he pays $20. "I don't think he's doing this for the money," Quijada says. "He likes to be in the show."

Guiding one of the dancers, a chesty woman in her mid-20s who goes by the stage name "Brianna," to the couch early on a slow Monday night, Barker explains that he is going to dance for her. Brianna has never met Barker before and is nervous that she will get fired for letting a man take off his clothes in the club. As he awkwardly drops his pants to the ground and gingerly lays his unbuttoned shirt across the arm of the black leather couch, he begins an erotic, upright version of breakdancing's Worm. The blacklights cause Barker's teeth, eyeballs, hair, and tube socks to glow incandescent, perfectly matching Brianna's glowing blond hair and white micro-mini and bra top. He locks eyes with her. She is not sure if Barker is joking or serious. She giggles nervously. With the two pen-sized strobe lights attached to his G-string on either side of his penis blinking wildly, Barker begins to pulse faster. He parts Brianna's legs and, standing between her knees, strokes the sides of her body, beginning at her jaw and trailing down to her hips. She squeals and playfully spanks his bare buttocks several times. Grinning and easing into a serpentine, slow-thrust dance, Barker maintains eye contact for the rest of the song. When he is finished and getting dressed, Brianna, without being asked or encouraged to, proudly displays her new clitoral piercing.

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