After School Special

These girls could use a few lessons in the slut department

When Crush — the Thursday-night indie-rock dance party — announced the Broken Hearts Ball especially for singles, I couldn't resist. I mean, isn't the ideal time to meet someone new when he's rebounding and vulnerable? Ignoring the event flier's lure of a "fiddy dollar bar tab" to be awarded to the "sluttiest and bloodiest" (for girls and guys, respectively), I decided to celebrate the party theme with my "Dump Him" T-shirt and a pair of jeans.

I arrived at Tabu (formerly the Factory) — the itinerant Crush's third and newest home — at nearly midnight. It wasn't long before the DJ was spinning the Ramones' "Rock 'N' Roll High School" and it dawned on me, as I swigged a beer, how appropriate it was. So many attending were literally out on a school night.

At the bar — or more specifically, near the bar, since many weren't old enough to drink — a handful of young women perched in their spiky heels as they waited for the band Modernage to set the night in motion. Each wore itty-bitty "boy shorts" on her narrow behind. And if asses were meat patties and J-Lo's was the Double Whopper, these girls' would be White Castle burgers. They were tiny.

Tony Gleeson

Their ensembles varied only by color and top style — pink bustier, copper bikini, black tube top, and red pasties among the selections. Vamped out in what were obviously stripper clothes straight off the adult novelty shop rack, the girls looked more like high-priced hookers than theme-night tramps.

It made me sad. Obviously, these girls lacked proper guidance. Why had none of their mothers advised them that being a slut is far more fun than being a ho? I mean, a hobby is always more fun than a job.

Far less popular than the slutty theme was the bloody one.

Slutty and bloody, by the way? I could only assume that this was some bizarre (and sexist) costuming metaphor that asserted that guys get emotionally bludgeoned (hence "bloody") by the women who lead them around by their johnsons (hence "slutty"). You didn't need a degree in psychology to conclude the organizers are dudes.

In fact, the two brothers — Isaac and Jonathan — responsible for Crush Thursdays sported white, "blood"-spattered T-shirts and comprised half the guys who dressed in theme. Instead, most guys stuck with the mod hipster look: floppy or choppy hair, tight T-shirts, blazers paired with narrow-legged pants.

The clientele seized on the vestiges of this former strip club to express themselves. A young woman in a sheer dress undulated around a pole, lifting her dress to offer a better look at her boys' cartoon underpants, which were already visible through a thin frock. When she relinquished her brass axis, a blazered hipster tossed himself around it in a perfect stripper spin, with one leg extended in front and the other tucked behind him. I was impressed that both had mastered such valuable life skills so early.

David, a.k.a. "The Commissioner," a 22-year-old DJ from Coral Springs, summed up the attendees as "students, models, actresses, and people who are funded by their parents," who, he explained, preferred this to other venues because they wouldn't "get hit on by dirty old men."

And by "old," he meant anyone over 30. It was then that I realized that in my attempt to celebrate broken hearts and indie rock simultaneously, I'd inadvertently stumbled into the dance party episode of Dawson's Creek. The flier had said "18 and up," but the "up" didn't go up too far, unless you counted me, the middle-aged sound guy, and the 30-something bartender. I felt like a chaperone at a school dance.

After the band played its half-hour set for the half-hearted, half-naked crowd, the audience became the spectacle. As the DJ began to spin songs seldom, if ever, heard on the corporate monopoly that is South Florida radio, the dance floor quickly filled with mod bods expending their energies to the Faint ("Worked Up So Sexual"), the Caesars ("Jerk It Out"), and Peaches ("Fuck the Pain Away").

There were few wallflowers. Eighteen-year-old Jessica, a flower shop worker, and her unemployed boyfriend, Daniel, 20, sat in the padded booths (once the ideal spot for a lap dance, now perfect for an intimate discussion). Indie rocker poster children, both were pierced — nose ring for her, earrings for him — and both were dressed in jeans and T-shirts. They'd heard about the place from friend John, who now dispensed his verve on the dance floor. Fauxhawk-sporting Daniel confessed that while his hair was spiked, he himself was bushed.

"I've been with her all day in the ER," he confided, "for her groin problem."

"Her what?"

"Groin problem," he repeated with a smirk. "We've been having too much sex."

I was uncharacteristically speechless. The awkward silence was broken when a crowd suddenly formed around a shadow box that I hadn't noticed earlier. The figure inside — which I recognized as the pole dancer — writhed to the music as she lifted her dress above her bare breasts, the silhouette of her erect nipples larger than life on the illuminated fabric screen.

When I finally got to meet the woman from behind the projected image, I sadly realized that, at 26, Mindi was the club's old lady. Her heavy-lidded eyes complemented a detached ennui, whether from conceit or inebriation, I couldn't tell. The receptionist/journalism sophomore explained the obvious — that Crush's music appeals to younger audiences because they're more open-minded and seek novel experiences — so I decided to delve for the real story.

"Is that Spiderman on your underwear?"

"Scooby-Doo," she answered with a too-cool-to-be-bothered dismissiveness.

A little after 2 a.m., I was among the few who opted to drink and declined to dance. If tomorrow they were being tested on how well they could have a good time, these kids were getting an A. The dance floor was a frenetic playground as the crowd danced beneath ever-changing, colored shafts of lights to every song, even when the DJ threw in oldies like Prince's "Kiss" and the B-52's "Love Shack."

Christian, 26, a friend of the band's and not a weekly regular, observed: "The music goes from one extreme to the other. But at least it's not shitty."

"What about tonight's theme?" I inquired.

"Can't complain," he said with an eye on the wagging tushies.

Outside, teenagers were still making that awkward transition from adolescence to adulthood.

"I thought you had to have tits to wear a bustier," 19-year-old Natalie sniped, loud enough to be overheard by everyone on the sidewalk, including Jessica — the A-cup diva in the pink bustier with whom I'd been talking. If her target had been surgically enhanced, I'm sure Natalie would have had a snide remark for that as well. For teenagers, after all, snideness is its own reward.

Jessica, however, didn't bother responding. The 19-year-old waitress was busy giving me the dish on her outfit, part of which she'd bought — as I suspected earlier — at Hustler Hollywood.

"You're comfortable dressed like that?" I asked.

"A lot of people know each other, so we're comfortable with each other," she confirmed, friendly yet self-assured, ignoring her friends behind us who were acting like, well, boys.

Taking turns accusing one other of being gay, one claimed he had three inches of fury that he was going to use on the other. I would have remarked, "That's, like, soooo After School Special," but I was afraid the joke would be lost.

Natalie, though just barely old enough to know the entire history of the two-year running dance party, asserted her entitlement to an opinion: "I've been coming here since it was at Kalahari [the first location]. Then the sluts started coming and ruined it."

Wanting to be fair, I almost blurted that the sluts were just trying to win a "fiddy dollar bar tab." But suddenly I realized the irony of the prize: Few were old enough to use it.

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