Bumping Ugly

Anonymity comes in various forms when girls go wild

When Night Rider met Coyote Ugly, two tight-bodied bartenders stood atop the bar, just like in the Hollywood movie. Except that one was bent over and the other was slamming her hips into the ass of her co-worker in a manner that can be described only as "banging." (Gotta wonder what constitutes sexual harassment in this workplace.)

Welcome to the South Florida version of the NYC version of a Western saloon.

History lesson, kids: The 1993 GQ magazine story about the Lower East Side original that "inspired" the film included sharply drawn characters of the Coyote's all-female staff and descriptions of the neighborhood bar, all the way down to the Hank Williams music that played on the jukebox. Part of the bar's appeal was that the girls' personalities were as well-known as the shapes of their other assets. On a Saturday night, however, the coyotes at this Himmarshee club were never introduced; with a couple of exceptions, more attention was placed on the sexual antics than the characters that fueled them. To boot, nary a Hank Williams song played all night.

Those inconsistencies in the translation to the Broward club didn't spoil 22-year-old Lauren's good time. She gyrated to the music, which was pumping as hard as the bartenders. Her best friend had flown her in from Detroit just for a few days, and at midnight, she was halfway to alcohol-induced amnesia.

The place was jumping, and soon so was she — right up on the bar. The Michigander bounced to the beat. It was more erratic than erotic — even when the left side of her pink tube top slid down, revealing, first, the cream-colored crescent of her strapless bra and, with another bounce, the delicate pink of an areola. Turning her back to adjust "privately," she looked up to discover the gaze of the crowd in the bar's mirrors. With a laugh and a shrug, she resumed her dance.

Bystanders lined the back wall, including a couple so wrapped up in each other that they'd missed the nipple peep show. I had to find out what would bring lovebirds like these to a place like this.

The guy was as crisp as his perfectly creased shirt: "We don't want to be in any story." His companion kept her pretty mouth shut.

"Really?" I said with mock surprise. "It'll document your romantic night." Clearly something was afoot.

"I don't want to be in a story. I'm running for office. Talk to them," he said, waving dismissively toward a group of guys.

Turns out, Mr. Candidate was one of a group of Nova Southeastern law students. Jon, 31, came along for the "cute girls and good energy." He wasn't too keen, however, on the drink size, which I estimated to be just slightly larger than the plastic cups used for urine samples.

Classmate Kunal, 24, boasted that he'd been to the bar's New York, Vegas, and Tampa locations. Obviously, he's a fan. And by the looks of things, more of an observer than a participant.

"So would you date a girl who danced on the bar?" I pried.

He nodded.

"Would you marry her?"

He shook his head. Ah, the double standard!

I figured I'd give the future politician one more shot. "Last chance. You're gonna be guilty by association anyway," I said, indicating his friends.

"Yeah, but there's still plausible deniability," he retorted in true officeholder fashion. Slippery fellow. Probably destined for great things.

The other side of the club was packed tight and had few spectators. Everyone jittered, gyrated, wiggled, and jiggled to the music. Even the Stones meditation on mourning, "Paint It Black," elicited undulations from the crowd. Many patrons commanded the room's attention from the bar top, and becoming a star required only that the customer be packing two X chromosomes. Or as the rule written on the mirror puts it: "No cock on the bar."

A group of guys asserted themselves in another way: with the unspoken suggestion that stripes are the new black. Each in a stripe of a different hue, the foursome — a mix of locals and visiting college buddies — looked like a boy band. In blue, Mike, a 24-year-old from Fort Lauderdale, explained that he likes Ugly because the girls aren't. And he likes the personalities of the girls the place attracts.

"Girls can come here and act 'bad,'" he explained, making air quotes, "and not get groped on by men." And he's right. The abundance of Coyote Ugly bouncers wearing shirts that say BMF ("big mother fuckers"?) puts the kibosh on bad boy behavior.

As Mike and I talked, a bartender was diddling her crotch with her finger as if she were playing air guitar. Another was spraying an arc of water over the bar so that it wet a hair-tossing coyote who was on her knees.

The rest of Menudo — Rob, Ihao, and Matt — weren't talking much, so Paul, 22, said, "Hey, let me say something quotable. Um, we're here to convert Europe to the metric system."

"None of us do drugs. Really," Mike said with feigned conviction, explaining Paul's behavior.

Enter the parties — bridal, birthday, and bachelorette. The wedding party was closed-mouthed. Bride Nicole revealed only that they had just tied the knot at Christ Church. Hubby Billy didn't want to pose for a photo or answer any questions. (Echoes of Fight Club: "First rule of Coyote Ugly is, there is no Coyote Ugly"?).

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