Fantasy Interrupted

The X is gone, and the strippers have crooked teeth. Thank the war on drugs.

The strippers at Fantasy Lounge go two dances on-stage, two off. The first number is the warm-up, the second is the money shot. About 5 p.m., a slim-hipped dancer named Alexis loosens her bra straps and lowers her pants below the buttocks, then suddenly, as a loud techno-screech reaches crescendo, she kicks the garments away, and she's stark naked. That state law that prohibits removing your pants? It doesn't apply when you're doing your artistic thing.

Next is Kelli, a Rubenesque country girl who does strange things with her hips and ass while bending over. Tailpipe plants his tube next to Alexis at the bar, where, slightly breathless, she's putting those skimpy garments back on. She's a bony woman with a haystack of blond hair and a snaggle-toothed smile. Pushing her breast perilously close to Tailpipe, she invites him to stick a bill into the panties. Then she pulls the bikini top back on.

Drink? "Ooh, twist my finger," she says.

Laurie the bartender steps over quickly. "There's a bottle for $20 or a glass for $5," she says.

Bottle of what?

"Champagne."

Let's start with a glass, Tailpipe says. Laurie disappears into a backroom and comes out with a stemmed glass full of yellowish liquid and ice. Alexis toasts with the "champagne," and Tailpipe swigs a Corona.

With clothes on, Alexis is just an ordinary gal trying to get by. Off the stage, the flash of tawdry glamour dematerializes into raw-boned angularity. "Most of my money goes to family," she says. "I drive a very modest car." When she's not stripping her way through disco numbers, she's bartending at yacht parties, she says.

Since eight employees of the squat, unsightly Dania Beach strip joint were busted by state agents on July 25, right there in the club, the place has become a pale remnant of its former self. It used to be that, at any given time, there were a half dozen dancers in the place, dangerous-looking women in heavy makeup, taking turns on the little platform stage and cadging expensive drinks from the customers.

Need a chemical high? That could be taken care of too. No prob. This square cement building on Griffin Road was party central.

The place was like a drug supermarket, says Capt. Pat Roberts of the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco. Based on the experiences of state and county undercover officers, who made 15 drug buys during a week and a half in June and July, it would seem that drug dealers at Fantasy Lounge had thrown all caution to the wind.

"You'd belly up to the bar and order a drink," Roberts says. "A dancer comes over and wants to dance for you. You give her a tip and say, 'You got any party favors?' Tell her what you're looking for, half a gram of cocaine or a couple of joints, and she says, 'Sure, let me take care of you. '"

Selling drugs when you're working as a stripper/lap dancer -- that would seem to present something of a, well, logistical problem, Tailpipe notes. The clientele is right there at arm's length, but how do the women carry the stash when all they've got on is a bikini bra and a thong?

Roberts snorts. "The dancers were pretty much nude, but they'd carry little black purses," he explains.

After the raid, in which seven dancers and the manager were hauled off and charged with possession of drugs with intent to distribute, the state shut down the club for 30 days. Even now, the place seems to be in a dark funk.

When Tailpipe himself bellied up to the bar last week, the club had reopened just two days before. It took a few minutes to adjust to the darkness. Some thin neon strips along the ceiling barely penetrated the dense twilight on the dance floor and the stage, and we squinted to make out the dancer going through her paces.

In fact, it was Alexis. As Barry White neared the climax of "You're the First, the Last, My Everything," she propelled herself around the stage's brass pole and, in the old stripteasers' pièce de résistance, clutched it between her thighs and circled it several times without touching the floor.

Three or four men watched joylessly, each with a bottle of beer in front of him and a look of glazed distraction. One finally got up and, standing unsteadily next to the stage, fumblingly pushed a dollar bill into Alexis' panty strap.

Now, Tailpipe has always been partial to the ladies and -- why not? -- having a good time. Life is short. But this sad display of public licentiousness, with a couple of warhorse veterans on-stage pleading for dollars ("Got a dollar for the jukebox, sweetie?"), was an insult to the venerable American tradition of sinning in your spare time.

Sadly, Fantasy Lounge has gotten caught in a new get-tough-on-party-drugs sweep by federal, state, and county authorities. Just last month, a couple of weeks after the Dania Beach bust, agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration marched through a bunch of nightclubs in Broward and Miami-Dade, arresting 27 people on a variety of drug charges.

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